The beautiful Culebra Range to the south of Culebra Peak.
In May, I read about the access that would be available for the summer from the Cielo Vista Ranch, so I decided to get a group together for a Culebra climb. At the time, they were only accepting parties of 5 or larger, so I assembled a small group of about 10 people through the internet.
I phoned the ranch and talked to Carol, the employee of the Hills' who was taking reservations for climbing. I arranged a climb for July 21. The whole process was very easy and user-friendly.
Carol took my reservation, and let me know that she would send liability waivers and maps to me via email.
July 21, 2005
We decided to stay in the small town of San Luis the night prior in a hotel. I was under the impression that we were not permitted to car camp at the ranch gate the night prior, but it turned out that several climbers had done it anyway. The ranch employees didn't seem to care.
We arrived at the gate of the Cielo Vista ranch at about 5:45 am, and joined the growing line of cars. Just before 6:00 am, Carlos, a ranch worker, arrived at the gate and led us a few miles to his office at the ranch headquarters. Carlos collected our money, gave us some maps, and allowed us to proceed to the upper trailhead.
The road to the trailhead at "Fourway" was easy 4WD. Most notably, it was very steep with several high-center spots that might stop a lower-clearance vehicle.
We parked at Fourway with the other climbers and were on our way at approximately 6:45 am. The initial hike was on the remainder of the 4WD road until it took a hard turn to the south. From the turn, an old road / trail continues East toward the now visible ridge on Culebra.
There was some confusion here. The map that Carlos gave us was a little vague as to which route was the one we should have taken. Part of our group went directly for the ridge where the large cairn was, and the rest took the slightly longer route to meet the ridge where it began. It turned out that neither option had a good trail. We walked straight across talus and grassy slopes to the ridge, where we met the 6 foot tall cairn.
From what I understand, the ranch owners consulted CFI, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, had been consulted to assess the most viable and sustainable route to the summit. I think by next summer, the ranch will have a standard route for all to take.
From the big cairn, the rest of the route was obvious, but the summit was not in view. We took a break and then began to walk the long ridge toward a false summit that was blocking our view of the actual summit. The ridge didn't have a good trail, and some boulder hopping was required. The ridge was very enjoyable with great view of the Culebra range to the north and south.
Once we arrived at the false summit, the actual summit was a mere 15 minutes walk away. It went quickly, and we summited. Taking advantage of the great weather, we lounged on the summit for nearly an hour.
I wanted to wait for a guy I met on the way up who had climbed all the other 53 14ers, and just had Culebra left. He had been waiting for almost 5 years for access! What was more amazing to me was the fact that the guy had never lived in Colorado. He had climbed all the 14ers on trips from Ohio, beginning in 1980. Quite an accomplishment!
All in all, I was originally reticent to climb Culebra because of the $100 requirement. In retrospect, I'd say that it is totally worth it, even if you aren't trying to summit all the 14ers. The Cielo Vista ranch is absolutely gorgeous, and Culebra was a really fun ridge climb. Several other climbers said the same thing the day we climbed. I think it's totally worth it.
Background on Climbing Culebra
This section is an explanation of climbing Culebra as I know it. These conditions may change for next season.
- The Cielo Vista Ranch charges $100 for a climb of Culebra.
- They initially required a minimum of 5 per party, but later in the summer took reservations for singles or doubles.
- The maximum is 25 climbers per day.
- Access is from June through August.
- Access for this summer is totally booked, and there is a waiting list.
- For infomation, call Carole at 254-897-7872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations are taken from Texas - don't call any numbers in Colorado.
Looking north from Culebra's ridge. Carneros Lake is below and in the center.