Trip Report – California Peak (13,849’), Point 13,660A and Point 13,577’
The next morning I awoke at 6:00 AM to climb California Peak. Within five minutes of waking, three hikers passed me on the road. It was none other than Ryan Schilling, Erin Burr, and Ken Nolan from 14erworld. They too were headed to California Peak! However, they were approaching from the Lily Lake Trail and intended on climbing a couple of other peaks as well. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough energy to climb any other peaks so I started out from the Zapata Trailhead.
Quite honestly, there isn’t anything special to describe about the hike up California Peak. This is really an easy, class 1 hike. There is significant elevation gain to think about, but the ridge is so long that the elevation gain is spread out nicely. There were a lot of wildflowers on this ridge, and I imagine in a few weeks, this whole place will just be covered in them. I especially like the alpine-forget-me-nots and stopped whenever I saw a large clump of them.
It was still windy, but not nearly as bad as the previous day and I found a delicious spot on top of California Peak out of the wind. I sat, took some pictures, made a video with my digital camera and then contemplated my future. Quite honestly, I felt pretty good. A long summit break and some food had reenergized me so I committed to climbing the other peaks. I descended south, traversed to the west of the subpoint and slowly made my way up Point 13,577’, the 205th highest peak in Colorado. About ten minutes previous, Ken, Ryan and Erin had reached the summit and I was greeted by them at the top.
They said the ascent had been difficult for Ken because he was still healing from rotator cuff surgery!! Yikes, Mr. Nolan is one tough cookie! After signing the register, Ken headed towards California Peak and Ryan, Erin, and I made our way west towards Point 13,660’. The ridge up to this peak is a lot of fun and nice Class 2+ hiking. The ridge was pretty narrow but, not a great deal of exposure.
I thoroughly enjoyed the company and conversation and the ridge went quickly. This is a unique climb since you get to climb a centennial, a bicentennial, and a tricentennial peak all in one day! We were all delighted with the views from atop Point 13,660’. The north face of Blanca and Ellingwood tower over the valley and seem dark and brooding. In comparison the view over to Twin Peaks seemed light and sunny. A future trip to these peaks would be a lot of fun.
Not wanting to tarry, we left the summit and descended back to the saddle. Here Ryan and Erin left me (sniff, sniff) and traversed over towards California Peak and I reascended Point 13,577 so that I could descend their ascent route. After a relatively mellow morning I should have known that my descent wouldn’t be easy.
It was not clear to me where exactly to descend off Point 13,577’. I knew that Roach’s guide said to head south down steep talus slopes towards Lily Lake. At the top of the ridge, the slope was dominated by large boulders, but as I continued my descent, the boulders gave way to softball and volleyball sized talus and the angle became steeper. Soon enough I found myself surrounded by long linear rock buttresses interspersed with gullies filled with loose material. My sphincter tightened down a notch and I started to downclimb one of the rock buttresses.
To make a long story short, this descent is one of the loosest, scariest things I’ve ever done. The rock buttresses which looked solid were anything but and the piles of loose talus all had designs on either crushing my ankles or sending me into the abyss. It took me a full hour and a half to descend from the ridge to the lake. Yikes. I think Roach might want to add some sort of note in here, that ascent of this crap is MUCH easier than the descent. Even at the lake, a clear line up to the ridge was not evident to me.
My reward for the treacherous descent off the ridge was the delightful Lily Lake Trail. This portion of the valley is by far the prettiest and nestled up against the Blanca nordwand, I felt like I was in the Alps. I saw a fox run across the trail with a chipmunk in its mouth. I tried to snap a picture, but it didn’t turn out. I cruised down the trail, passed the upper trailhead and was back at the car an hour and a half after leaving the lake! What a great trip, and getting the chance to meet some people from 14erworld was great (especially a living legend like Ken!). I got back in my car and made the drive back to the Springs for some dinner with my ma!
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