Lost Creek Wilderness {November 2011}

Monday, June 6, 2011

Humboldt Peak {14,064'}

Lesson learned: Even on climbs that appear straightforward, STUDY YOUR ROUTE!

It never crossed my mind that to reach the summit of Humboldt, a fourteen-thousand {plus} foot peak in the Sangre de Cristo range, we would have to bushwhack our way up the east ridge without the guidance of a trail. Thus, as a consequence of getting somewhat disoriented, we likely added an additional four miles on top of the round-trip eight .... and our day was completely consumed with frustration and exhaustion from climbing this mountain. Yet, sweet summit success and a checkmark next to #16!

My boy, my pup, and I drove south from Denver at 2:30 Friday afternoon to the Sangre de Cristos, near Westcliffe. Although it was nowhere on my radar (nor my original list), we chose Humboldt because it was least likely to have significant snowpack this early in the season and it's one of the easier peaks, comparatively, (which was beneficial for two out-of-shape individuals and an 11-month old pup's first 14er attempt). The road up to the Rainbow Trailhead was a bit rough; I probably wouldn't recommend it for 2WD cars. We chose a perfect campsite and, since June is somewhat early to climb mountains, we really didn't encounter any people. Following dinner, a game of bocce, some guitar playing, and several shots of rum (Justin's contribution from Grenada), we were all fast asleep.

I thought that printing the route description out and bringing it along would have been enough to keep us on track .... however we soon ended up two miles too far on the Rainbow trail; apparently we missed our unmarked cutoff. I didn't even know it was unmarked! Turns out, I really didn't do a good job of researching the route at all. Instead of backtracking the entire way, we began our steep and rather sideways ascent of the northeast ridge. Eventually it connected to the east ridge and, after passing through several snowfields, we made our way above treeline. Our next goal? A massive grassy incline, at the top of which we finally had a view of the summit (so damn far away, as always).

In reality, it didn't take too much time to gain the summit from this point. We did descend a bit to the left of the ridgeline in an effort to avoid snowfields on steep terrain, which resulted in a pain in the ass (literally) climb up near the end. It was so windy on the summit that we probably lasted 15 minutes before starting back down {enough time for Kona to take a nap, and for Justin and I to share a victory amber ale before snapping a few photos}.

The Crestones
Kona's first 14er!
Despite having a clear view of the east ridge that would lead us back to the Rainbow Trailhead and our car, we managed to complicate the situation. Somehow, we hiked much further south than intended ... and seriously struggled to return before darkness set in. During the ordeal, I may have shed a few tears of frustration, my sunglasses succumbed to the South Colony Creek, we were forced to cross the damn water three times (after arriving on an island by mistake), and my feet and legs were ridiculously sore from navigating over rocks and becoming ensnared in brambles and thorny bushes. All this time, unbeknownst to me (thank God), Justin was worried about disturbing unsuspecting moose in their swampy territory. Finally .... finally .... we stumbled across the trail and, soon after, our car; a most welcome sight. It was completely dark by this point. I am happy that our efforts paid off in summit success, but lesson learned: Even on climbs that appear straightforward, STUDY YOUR ROUTE!

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