Humboldt Peak, 14,064 feet
Class 2 bushwhack with snow
Distance (round-trip): abt. 8 miles
Elevation Gain: abt. 5,000 feet
Cold and restless, I woke up at 0430 and could not get back to sleep. So, I got ready to hike and by 0535 I was walking uphill on the rough dirt road. The moon was bright, so I didn't bother to use my flashlight.
I continued steeply uphill, bushwhacking my way through the timber, assisted by a number of well-defined game trails. Once I reached flatter ground at the top of the ridge, I turned right (west) and continued gaining elevation.
I came to timberline suddenly at 11,500 feet. The sky was mostly clear, but the valley to my south was totally shrouded by snow-filled clouds. I could not see the mighty Crestones, and as I steadily marched uphill, the clouds of snow began to engulf me as well.
An exact repeat of last week's hike on Huron, I could see nothing but the terrain immediately in front of me as I continued upward. The snow was not very heavy, but it was joined by a thick fog and fierce winds. As I was walking westward, the wind was howling against me the whole way.
Terrain-wise, however, this was actually one of the easiest sections of walking. The long and narrow ridge-line was almost level and easy to walk for a good distance. Eventually it did get a little steeper, with mounds of talus and steep dropoffs to the north edge. Also the snow was deeper near the top, but there was no more than a few inches and it really didn't impede my progress.
I exited via the standard West Ridge Route, which is well marked with cairns and easy to follow. However, this was the toughest part of my hike, as a fresh layer of fine, slippery snow coated all the talus. It was almost like sliding down a bumpy hill made of ice.
So, after about two hours of standing around and unsuccessfully trying to coax the fog into disappearing, I began down the switchbacks to the South Colony Lakes. These are beautiful lakes in an incredible setting, and I stopped often to take pictures as I descended the trail toward the dirt road.
Once on the dirt road again, I continued downhill to the 4WD parking lot, where a jeep and a truck were parked. I had seen some fresh footprints in the snow, but I did not see another human all day. What I did see from here, finally, was a clear view of Crestone Needle. The fog had lifted just for a moment, and I was able to snap some pictures of an incredible mountain. I plan to go back to this area next summer to tackle the Crestones.
As I rounded one of the turns, two deer, a doe and a fawn, ran just a short ways into the timber. I sneaked into the woods and was able to snap a picture of the doe before the deer got too nervous and bounded off into the forest.
I arrived back at my jeep at 1525. The drive out was actually easier than the drive in had been the night before.
Conclusion: I very much enjoyed my first visit to the Sangre de Cristos, and look forward to returning as soon as I can. The weather was unfortunate, but the forecast was questionable and I was prepared for that. Bushwhacking my way up Humboldt Peak's East Ridge was a fun experience, but I can't wait to try some of the more difficult challenges the range has to offer. I'll be back!