Archive for August 5th, 2008

CO 14’ers

Just a little mountain sticking up, right? Sure. This is the view from CO 150 (on the flat plain at 8000′) looking at the Blanca group of peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in Colorado. This group contains three peaks that rise over 14,000′. They’re almost as high above this road as NC’s Mt. Mitchell is above Shackleford Banks! We parked at the bottom and climbed to the tops!

Don and Brian on top of Little Bear Peak - 14,037'

Executive Summary:

Day 1 – Friday, July 25th, 2008; Drove 45 minutes to eastern Johnston County to pick up Lauren from Girl Scout camp. Returned home. Drove 3 hours to Boone, NC to meet my cousin Brian. Loaded our gear in his Subaru Impreza. Brian and I left Boone at 9pm and started driving. Drove through Tennessee.

Day 2 – Drove through Illinois. In St. Louis, Missouri, we saw the Arch through the morning fog. Drove through Missouri. Drove through Kansas. Continued driving through Kansas. It’s quite flat, treeless, and monotonous in western Kansas. Drove through a paint-stripper thunderstorm near a huge windmill farm. Drove into Colorado. Eastern Colorado is flatter than western Kansas. Drove through Pueblo, Colorado about sundown. Found a trailhead for the Lewis Trail in the San Isabel National Forest, between Pueblo and Westcliffe, and pitched our tents in the parking lot. Crashed about 11 pm, after 28 hours of driving.

Day 3 – Got up at 6 am and drove into Westcliffe, bought a few more groceries. Most of the town was still asleep at 6:15 am on Sunday morning. Drove to the trailhead for South Colony Lakes. Drove the AWD “Soob” up the 4WD road for several miles. Parked, packed, and then hiked the remaining 4+ miles up to the lakes. None of the high-clearance vehicles passing us offered us a ride. At the lakes, we pitched our tents, then climbed Humboldt Peak to summit our first fourteener of the trip! Who needs to acclimatize? Climb high, sleep low, breathe deep, rest-step a lot. Returned to camp and enjoyed finally being in the CO mountains. Met Matthew, a Lutheran pastor from Denver. He had dropped his kids off at a camp near Westcliffe and was spending a few days hanging out in the mountains. He pitched his tarp beside our tents and cooked dinner with us.

Day 4 – Got a late start – 8:30 am, climbed up and over Broken Hand Pass and along the traverse to Crestone Needle. Went up to the base of the gullies, where the Class 3 climbing starts, but decided against climbing because the clouds were obscuring the top of the mtn. Returned to camp with plans for an alpine start the next day. Watched the clouds thicken. Retreated to the tents when the rain began. Felt the temp’s drop into the 30’s. Watched the rain turn into rain/hail/snow. Napped through the two hour storm. Had dinner. Off to bed early.

Day 5 – Got an alpine start – up at 5:30 and hiking by 6:15 am. Climbed up and over Broken Hand Pass again, climbed the gullies and summited Crestone Needle, our second fourteener! Returned to camp, packed up, realized our packs were way too heavy, hiked back to the car. The road had been stretched since we hiked in – it felt much longer going down. Washed up in a stream (ice-cold) behind the parking area we used. Drove into Westcliffe and had dinner with Matthew at Poag Mahone’s Bar and Grill. Left an Adventure Family sticker in bar. Drove south from Westcliffe, found a local character and a dirt road and got stuck behind a cattle drive. Drove to the Lake Como trailhead, arriving just after sunset. Pitched tents in the parking lot on a very flat desert plain and crashed.

Day 6 – Got up, repacked to get lighter packs. Drove the “Soob” another quarter mile up the access road/trail. Starting hiking at 9 am. Five miles, 3600′ of elevation, and five hours later, we arrived at Lake Como. Pitched tents. Rinsed and dried some of our clothes. Probably not worth the effort – they were less salty and dirty, but just as stinky. Retreated to tents at 7:30 pm when the sun disappeared behind the trees and the mosquitoes took over.

Day 7 – Alpine start at 5 am, hiking by 5:21 am. Climbed up Blanca Peak to summit our third fourteener! Traversed/climbed down, over and up to Ellingwood Point to summit our fourth fourteener! Returned to camp at 2:30pm. Ate oatmeal and napped. Retreated to tents at 7:30 pm when the sun disappeared behind the trees and the mosquitoes took over.

Don on Little Bear with Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak in the background.

Day 8 – Alpine start at 5 am, hiking by 5:21 am. Climbed up a stepp gully full of loose dirt and rocks to reach the crest of the West Ridge. Traversed along the ridge to the base of the “Hourglass”, a steeper, water polished gully that led to the upper summit ridge of Little Bear. Dodged falling rocks in the gully, climbed even steeper rock on the sides to avoid the fall zone. Finally made it to the top of Little Bear Peak, summiting our fifth fourteener! Returned to camp a little after noon. Packed up while cooking and eating a quick bag of pasta. An hour after returning we began hiking down. Met a club from Texas coming up the “trail/road” in heavily modified Jeeps. Three hours later, we arrived at the “Soob”. Changed into less dirty clothes. Drove to Wendy’s in Alamosa for Frosties. At 5:15 pm, we started driving out of Colorado. Drove through New Mexico. Drove to Amarillo, Texas and discovered there may be “fast food” restaurants open at 12:40 am, but they are not “fast”. Drove through Texas.

Day 9 – Drove through Oklahoma and Arkansas. Drove into Tennessee and in Memphis we took a right turn and went 5 miles to cross the Mississippi state line. Turned around once Brian acknowledged his visit to his 49th state (he only has Alaska to go). Drove through Tennessee. Arrived in Boone at 10:45 pm after 27.5 hours of driving. Ate. Showered. Crashed.

Day 10 – Reviewed pictures on Brian’s laptop. Got back in my truck. Drove 2 hours to Burlington and had lunch with my folks and sister. Drove 1 hour home. Grossed out all three of my girls with 10 days of scraggly beard. Moved furniture. Unpacked bags. Ate. Crashed.

Googlemaps of the drives:

Drive out Drive back

Googlemaps of our trail routes in the two areas:

South Colony Lakes trailhead and the Crestones

Lake Como trailhead and the Blanca Group

Pictures are posted here!


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