Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
August 27, 2011
11.7 miles RT, 5340' gain
From S. Crestone TH (8440')
I haven't been to the Sangres since an epic assault on Challenger back in Jan, so it was high time to return. I couldn't find any partners for Sat, so I decided to hit a couple easy 13ers in the South Crestone drainage near Mount Adams. I tried to get these at the end of a long ridge run on the Willow Lake side a few years ago, but the weather had other plans. The trip up South Crestone Creek is well worth it and rivals the busy Willow Lake trail with the views. I took off at 6am after all the 14er day hikers had taken off.
Life has thrown me many curve balls in the last couple years, and I've always enjoyed solo hiking on seldom climbed peaks during those times. The peace and tranquility that this hike offers is just what the doctor ordered, drawing me close to my Creator. This hike shares the same trailhead as the Willow Lake trail and splits off to the left after a short bit and is signed.
The Forgotten Peaks
The hike to South Crestone Lake is a bit under 4 miles and is very efficient. There are a couple series of long switchbacks, but for the most part the trail is pretty direct. The approach to the lake goes fairly quick even though my legs feel a bit heavy from a long hike the day before. 13546 towers above the lake.
I decide to go around the lake on the south side, which is pretty tedious as you have to weave around slabs, inlets, and willows. I don't know if the north side would be any better as it is loaded with willows. The view up to 5th class unnamed 12740 was inspiring. I will return for this bad boy!
The routefinding to the upper basin is fairly straightforward beyond the lake as it's easiest to stay right and avoid the willows. There is a short cliff band that is breached by a gully to the right of the drainage. Once above this, I headed left up the steep, grassy slopes of 13153 to the southwest ridge.
My route is on the far right on grass:
The easy but steep climb up grass and sections of stable talus went fairly quick and I topped out at 9:30. The Kit Carson massif and The Crestones popped into view on the climb up the ridge.
I enjoyed a long break soaking in the views. I dropped down the s.e. ridge for a bit, then contoured down to about the 12500' level. The climb to the Adams/13546 looks very steep and loose from afar, but it wasn't bad as it looked. I stayed on the right near a rock band, which wasn't as bad as the middle of the gully.
The north face of 13546:
From the saddle, I hung a right up the n.e. ridge of 13546 skirting a small tower just above the saddle. Above that, it was smooth sailing and the views were outstanding on the summit as this summit is situated smack in the middle of these two spectacular drainages.
The spectacular upper Willow Lake drainage:
The Crestones & Kit Carson Group:
I topped out around 11am and took a long break, but clouds were starting to build around the 14ers. Looks like those dayhikers that started at 4am are gonna get caught! The descent down the ridge and gully went quick. The bushwack down the drainage was straightforward. This time I stayed higher above the lake to avoid some of the weaving around the inlets and slabs, but it wasn't any easier and a stiff willow bash topped it out getting back to the trail. Brute force won! I only ran across one hiker on the way down and was back at the car at 2:30, enjoying some light showers. The heavens unleashed just as I got down and most of the 14er baggers were still up there. Perfect timing! A great day in the heart of the Sangres.