The Humboldt Stair Stepper: A Late Winter Treat

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Mar 6, 2010
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The Humboldt Stair Stepper: A Late Winter Treat
Created On: Mar 7, 2010
Last Edited On: Mar 7, 2010


Humboldt Pk (14064')
Via East Ridge
12.3 miles RT, 5500' gain
From CR-120 & 121 (8600')

Participants: Steve, Jeff, Drake, Patrick, & Kevin


My friend Steve Mueller invited me for a winter day hike of Humboldt, and I decided to join at the last minute. I was pleased to find out that he had recruited three other poor souls for this long winter 14er, including my friend Patrick Thornley, who I hadn't hiked with in awhile. Jeff had yet to climb Humboldt and I'm not sure what Drake's motivation was, and I'm sure he was questioning it at the end of the day!

As expected, we were only able to drive to the intersection of CR-120 and 121, which is about 3 miles or so below the new 2WD trailhead near the Rainbow Trail. We set out at 6:05am with a temp of 15 degrees and there was enough of a north breeze to get your butt moving. It was looking like it was going to be a bluebird day, which is a huge plus on this route in winter since you spend a long time above treeline heading northwest, straight into the teeth of prevailing winds. There were old tracks that we followed for awhile sans snowshoes, then we put them on when we started postholing.

Sunrise over the Wet Mountain Valley:

The Stairstepper to Treeline

We made good time up the road as there was an old sled track all the way to the Rainbow Trail junction. I plotted a waypoint in my GPS at 10200', where it looked like there would be a "less steep" line heading n.w. to treeline. The logical way to climb Humboldt in winter is via the east ridge as it doesn't make sense to wallow all the way up the basin. It's better to get out of the trees as soon as you can. The bearing I took from the road was more of a n.n.w. line instead of n.w., so we ended up getting on some steep slopes!

Initially progress was good as we found areas of firm snow to take advantage of, but when the terrain steepened, the seemingly endless stairstep wallow commenced. Progress was very slow, some areas only a few feet per minute! I was lucky to be the lightest guy in the group!

I was beginning to wonder if we could pull this off, as we had 1600 feet to climb in the trees! Luckily the terrain laid back around 11000 feet and the snow conditions were great above that other than it was getting quite warm and our snowshoes were balling up. We finally broke treeline and took a much needed break at a cool bristlecone. Steve said he felt like this tree after the wallowfest. Bring some Peeps next time, Steve!

A seriously stunted bristlecone and Marble:

The East Ridge & Descent

We kept our snowshoes on all the way up to 12500 feet, weaving our way up firm snow. The east ridge of Humboldt is a pleasant surprise, highlighted by a cool catwalk with big drops on the north side.

Jeff, Steve, and I pushed on to the summit, as the weather was great and the views were gorgeous.

Jeff on the catwalk:

The final 200 feet to the summit steepens and from a distance looks challenging, but it can always be kept at class 2. We topped out at 2pm, and I was excited to get the reward of climbing Humboldt in winter, a priceless view of the Crestones.

There was barely a hint of a breeze on the summit and it was a pleasant 24 degrees, probably the warmest winter 14er summit I've been on this year. We headed down after a long break and made great time back to our snowshoes, plunge stepping on firm snow when we could.

Jeff about to descend a step on the ridge:

Steve descends a vast snowfield:

We were all not looking forward to the steep bobsled run back to the car, but it wasn't quite as bad as I feared. Maybe the knees are getting used to this stuff! The road seemed to be twice as long as the hike up, and we were all pretty beat at the end of the day. I got back to the cars at 5:35 and the Westcliffe Subway never tasted so good!


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Viewing: 1-2 of 2

EricChu - Mar 8, 2010 6:21 pm - Voted 10/10

Good trip report!

The photos are impressive!


LadyWawa - Feb 8, 2011 2:47 pm - Voted 10/10


Nice trip report! Great photos!

Viewing: 1-2 of 2

The Humboldt Stair Stepper: A Late Winter Treat

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