I had whirlwind trip the past few days. My climbing partner Hieu Nguyen and I took a trip down to southwestern Colorado to the San Juan Mountains to climb San Juan Peak (14,022′). Of all the 14ers I have done so far, I am most happy to get this one done because it is so remote; even the trailhead is remote. San Luis Peak sits by itself just off of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in some of the most wild, beautiful country in the lower 48 states. Necessitating a 14 mile-hike with 3,600′ elevation gain, a climber is well-served to either backpack into the area and split the climb up across two days or camp at the trailhead, get an early start, and try to do the climb in one long day.
Hieu and I arrived at the trailhead at roughly 4:30 pm, donned our backpacks and set off. The first couple miles were a flat, easy stroll along a 4wd road, which paralleled a stream down in a valley. The trail then made a big ascent up out of the valley to meet the CDT where San Luis Peak come into full view. It was beautiful!
We chugged along with our full backpacks across Bondholder Meadow to the east encountering streams, wildflowers, and occasional patches of snow. After going up and over a ridge, we entered into another vast, expansive alpine meadow and decided we would set up our camp here for the night. A fitting reward for the end of the day was about as fine a sunset as one could see. The temperature dropped with the fading light and we quickly ate our camp dinner and settled into our sleeping bags to try to catch a few hours of sleep.
At 5 am, we arose, quickly ate a light breakfast, and headed off for the mountain summit. We accessed the headwall spine just as the sun was rising. A wind started to pick up and my hands were cold. The remainder of the hike was a gradual walk-up ascent over scree and talus, occasionally passing big cairns to mark the trail. All told from camp, it took us a bit over an hour to get to the summit. The sky was blue with a few clouds and we paused for a few minutes to take in the 360 views of the wilderness below us.
The remainder of the morning was spent heading back down to the camp, repacking our backpacks, and then slowly hiking back out to the trailhead. We were able to get back to the jeep by noon.
If you are looking for a true outdoors adventure in what I can honestly say is one of the prettiest parts of the US I have ever been in, then give San Luis Peak a try. This was my 16th Colorado 14er so far. If I am lucky, I still have 37 more to go, but I just know San Luis Peak, and this trip, will retain a special connection with me.