Baldy Cinco Group Overview
Although on the map, Baldy Cinco labels just a single 13,383-foot summit, when the name was given it was meant to refer to entire western bulwark of the La Garita Mountains. Five summits comprise this massif, hence the "Cinco", and the highest peak in the group is PT 13,510. How it is that the name became attached specifically to the 13,383' summit is unknown to me. This page covers the four thirteeners of the group: PT 13,510, Baldy Cinco, PT 13,313 & PT 13,162 (ranked 248, 329, 379 & 511 respectively). I haven't yet been to the fifth, PT 12,783 (ranked 793).
These peaks have the most to offer hikers during the winter and spring months. Outstanding access and relaxed topography make this one of the easiest places to enjoy the San Juans while they're draped in deep snows. Climbing these peaks gives you a taste of the La Garitas' volcanic origins, and the distant views of mountains such as Rio Grande Pyramid, Half Peak, and Uncompahgre Peak will delight you.
Baldy Cinco lies just east of Spring Creek Pass, where SH-149 crosses the Continental Divide. Just north of the pass you might have noticed a roadsign pointing out "Mount Baldy Cinco", one of several roadside peak signs in Colorado with a comical typo (another favorite is the "Mount Quandary Peak" sign near Breckenridge). Bad signage notwithstanding, this spot is a prime place to scope out the conditions on the peaks.
The easiest point of access to the Baldy Cinco group is Spring Creek Pass. The only other reasonable place to begin is the Tumble Creek Trailhead, but this TH is inaccessible during the snow season. From Spring Creek Pass, the Colorado Trail (which doubles here as the Continental Divide Trail) takes you to Snow Mesa, a massive, eight-square-mile undulating surface that lies at the feet of the Baldy Cinco group. The Colorado Trail transects Snow Mesa on its way toward San Luis Peak, the sole fourteener in the La Garita Mountains. During the summer, Snow Mesa is a huge expanse of tundra, in fact one of the largest in North America. In the winter, the mesa's top is covered in deep snows, which attracts snowmobile enthusiasts. Because the La Garita Wilderness's southern boundary is the Continental Divide, all terrain south of the Divide, including Snow Mesa and the southern slopes of the Baldy Cinco group, is open to motorized vehicles. The snowmobilers' presence was something of a mixed blessing when I visited these peaks. While their noisy engines shattered any pretense of a wilderness experience, they left packed snow in their wake, which allowed me to traverse almost all of Snow Mesa without donning my snowshoes.
Red TapeBaldy Cinco is located on the border of the La Garita Wilderness, although three of the peaks in the group (PT 13,313, PT 12,783 & PT 13,510) lie fully within the wilderness area. Typical wilderness restrictions apply north of the Continental Divide. Contacting the managing agencies (see 'Mountain Conditions') is the surest way to get up-to-date information.
Mountain ConditionsMost of this hike within or on the border of Rio Grande National Forest. Contacting the Divide Ranger District Ranger District in Creede (719-658-2556) will help you determine current snow conditions and other information. That said, the short portions of this hike north of the Continental Divide are within the La Garita Wilderness in Gunnison National Forest, of which the Gunnison Ranger District at Lake City (970-944-2500 or 970-641-0471) is the best contact. This station could be a better source of information, given that Lake City is closer to Spring Creek Pass than is Creede.
For weather information, the National Weather Service is a good place to start:
Baldy Cinco experimental point forecast