Saturday June 28, 2008
From Cielo Vista Ranch
After working all day Friday, my friend Kevin and I picked-up my Sonoma from the repair shop (A/C repair…$$!!) and got on the road heading south just after 4:00PM. The traffic wasn’t too bad as we left my house in Louisville and proceeded out route 93, to route 6, to route 470 and on to I-25 south where things stacked-up a bit. The congestion soon cleared and we made pretty good time to Pueblo where we stopped for some fuel and $5 foot longs at Subway which we took to go.
It was smooth sailing to Walsenburg where we exited and headed due west out route 160. The weather was perfect and the traffic remained light as we drove over La Veta Pass and on down into the little town of Fort Garland. Here we turned left and headed due south on route 159 to the equally smaller town of San Luis which holds the distinction of being the oldest town in Colorado.
Culebra Peak is on private property and access is quite limited; our group (26 people) would be the first of the 2008 season. Kevin and I had signed-up with a group headed-up by “comin2getcha” (Lance) on 14ers.com and many of these people had posted that they would be camping at Sanchez Reservoir for the night, and some others had stated they would be camping at the locked main gate leading to Cielo Vista Ranch. A smaller group had planned to meet for dinner at a little place in San Luis at 7:00PM.
It was just after 8:00PM and our plan was to camp at the locked gate leading to the ranch. We turned left at the Phillips 66 station from route 159 and east out of San Luis via road P.6, then left on L.7, then right on 25.5, and then left on M5 until we reached the gate at 8:37. There was a lone pickup truck parked but nobody around. We carried our gear through the fence to the right of the gate and had our tent pitched just as it was getting dark.
After a little while the pickup truck pulled out and many more cars arrived with headlights shining through the dusty dirt road. Several did the same as we had and camped inside the gated property. Kevin and I shared a short snack and a couple of beers before bedding-down for the night; pretty well beat.
We awoke to my watch alarm at 5:00AM after an OK sleep, the couple in the tent nearest us “chitty-chatted” all night which made it tough. Oh well, up the crack of dawn, broke camp, and ate a short breakfast of instant oatmeal, black coffee and Gatorade just before the hired hand (Carlos) opened the gate right at 6:00AM with clear dawning skies all around. Carlos took roll call as each vehicle passed through the gate and on up the dusty road to ranch “headquarters”.
Everybody mingled, signed their paperwork (liability disclosure), shelled-out their $100.00 each and piled into their vehicles for the drive up the steep, rutted, bumpy, blinding dust dirt road to the parking lot where the hike would begin. Kevin and I actually drove a little further on to another smaller parking lot right about at tree line.
It was after 7:00 before we started hiking and immediately went about a ¼ mile the wrong way looking for the “Roach” trail which we never found. We then doubled-back to the trail where everybody else was heading up along a small creek. The hikers broke into small groups, couples and singles as we all made our way up this grassy/rocky southwestern side of the mountain. There wasn’t any defined trail and everybody just kind of follows the leaders up over the grassy ridge and then up to the left where a very tall cairn is perched that draws all the hikers like some magnet.
From this cairn the saddle/ridge approach to what appears to be the summit can clearly be seen. Kevin and I had gotten separated coming over the grassy ridge and I now proceeded right of the cairn and over a large rock outcropping and down to a rocky saddle leading to a steeper rocky ridge running up to an immense high point; false summit #1. I climbed up and over this first false summit and looking back I could see Kevin coming across the saddle.
I now proceeded to another rocky ridge connection to the next highest point. The trail was non-existent and staying on the highest ground or just to the right or left of it seemed like the best passage along a scrambling run up to the next large rock outcropping; false summit #2. I should have stayed to the right of this false summit instead of climbing to the top of it as there was a more gradual approach to another grassy saddle leading up to the true summit ridge ahead with many people collected on top.
Beyond the grassy section was indeed the much anticipated ridge to the actual summit. About half way up was a very visible shiny section of smoother rock and as I climbed it shown bright with mica and looked a bit out of place compared to the other rocks comprising the summit ridge. I clambered up onto the small crowded summit at 9:18.
I immediately signed the summit log and then began the exchange of pleasantries and photographs with all my cohabitants; an equal mix of guys and gals. Perfect weather and awesome views all around with the Spanish Peaks dominating the view southeast, the Blanca Massive in the distance to the southwest and closer smaller snowy peaks in all directions; quite beautiful. Kevin reached the summit about 20 mins later and we took a good rest before heading back down as clouds were now building rather rapidly as we made our exit.
The route down was the same rocky, stumbly scramble to find the best route and we were both glad to get back to the ledge with the cairn on our right. We bushwhacked our way back down through the grassy/rocky ridge section and then found a traversing line back down the southwest slope heading down to the creek. We could see my truck parked down below and made the best passage in that general direction. Finally one last short traverse back and forth, across the creek and over the trail back to the parking lot at 11:50. Our first 14’er of the 2008 season and my 35th overall and Kevin’s 2nd…………sweet!