- Date: October 6, 2018
- Partner: Matt Odierna
- Height: 14,064 feet
- Range: Sangre de Cristo
- Route: West Ridge (Class 2)
- Overall Distance: 11.00 miles
- Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet (TH to summit)
- 14ers climbed: 28 separate climbs
- 14ers remaining: 25
- Road Condition to Trailhead: The road to the South Colony Lakes trailhead is a 2.5 miles goat path strewn with boulders, ditches, and pipes. My buddy Matt had to get out of the car several times to line out a path for my Jeep Cherokee. A few times, I bottomed out. You’d be taking a big risk if you took a 2WD on here.
With fall in the air, my climbing partner Matt and I decided to tempt fate and sneak in one last “summer” 14er trip and try to beat the snow in the high country. At this point of the season, the options become a little bit more limited, so we choose the southern Colorado 14er known as Humboldt Peak.
We left Denver at 5:00 AM for the 3-hour drive down past Westcliffe. The skies were overcast and there was a low cloud ceiling … frankly, a little bit dreary. Once we got to the national forest, it was a slow, slow slog of a drive up to the trailhead and it wasn’t until 9:00 AM that we set off on the trail.
The first 2.5 miles of the trail was actually an easy, ascending, closed forest road. By the time we finished this section, the clouds had lifted and the sun was now shining. The temperature was crisp and somewhere in the 40s. At South Colony Lakes, the closed road now officially became a trail and headed north into a wooded valley. Crestone Needle came into full view and the trail ran along the lakes for a little while before reaching the west ridge of the mountain.
Once at the ridge, there was a lengthy climb up onto the saddle on a section of nicely constructed trail. On top of the saddle, we saw we had about another 1.5 miles (?) to go to ascend the west summit ridge. Unfortunately, the wind was now seriously picking up.
The trail was not well defined and it seemed like we were doing more route finding and Class 3 stuff than what we had believed going into the climb. If you are reading this and decide to try this climb, stay to the right, not the left, as you ascend the ridge.
After about 30 minutes, Matt and I managed to get separated in the boulders. I came across two other climbers hunkered down in the rocks to get out of the wind. When I asked them if they had seen Matt, they pointed for me to veer to the right. I veered to the right and crested out on a false summit. Now the wind was a steady 30 mph gale and, with the wind chill, the temperature was in the teens. I saw no sign of Matt so I continued across a brief, flat plateau, down-climbed to get around some rock pillars, and then scrambled up onto a small rise to a breastwork marking the summit.
By now, I was shivering and cold and sat down behind the rock wall. I took a few pictures and Matt came up in a few minutes to join me — he had been sucked into some nasty terrain on the northern side of the west ridge. I pulled out the last remaining outer garment I had, my Patagonia Micro Puff, and put it on. There was no big summit celebration; we knew we had to keep moving to stay warm.
On the way out, we blundered onto a much nicer defined trail on the spine of the west ridge. Clearly, this was the “official route”. Hence, we were down to the saddle relatively quickly compared to the ascent. From here, it was a matter of a simple descent off the saddle, walking back down the trail to the road, and a leisurely hike back to the car. Now being out of the wind and warmer, it was a very nice way to wrap things up.
In the words of Matt, Humboldt Peak put up a bit of a fight this day 🙂 I’ll give it a 5 out of 10 on a scale of 14er difficulty with the understanding that this was more a function of the big winds and cold temperature. Not surprisingly, we did not see big crowds here due to the location of this mountain range and the time of year. The Sangre de Cristo mountain range has become my favorite mountain climbing spot in Colorado so far.