Sunday, October 18, 2009

San Luis Peak - 14,014

The Southwest Face of San Luis Peak and the Yawner Gullies - September 13, 2008

They call San Luis Peak the 'shy fourteener' for good reason. Only from certain anlges can it be seen at all, there just a few miles up the Willow Creek drainage outside Creede, Colorado. It took Jake Hunner to call it out of hiding.

Jake is a man who likes to come prepared. From the cooler full of beer for the end of the day to his massive Army surplus mummy bag to the sack of flour tortillas he produced on the summit, I can safely say that if I had carried half of what he brought along I never would have made it to the top. Jake was in his final semester in the Mechanical Engineering Department at UNM where I work. For him I expect San Luis was a welcome break from studying. For me it was my first chance to have a partner on a 14er since Crestone Needle with Jay Evans. We motored up past the Equity Mine trailhead late one night in mid-September 2008, two weeks after my bike ride up Bross and Lincoln, in the darkness driving right past the trailhead. After attempting to navigate a steep rubbly hill in my 2-wheel-drive Ranger, and finding this was not possible, we camped where we parked which happened to be right at the trailhead.

The breezy night gave way to a brisk dawn. Another vehicle pulling in woke us up, their clamor and headlamps forbidding any further sleep so we were up and on the trail behind them right at 6 AM. We wore every piece of warm clothing we'd brought following the trail that crossed the wide basin of Willow Creek before heading up to a saddle at 12,300 feet, from where we had our first view of San Luis to the east.

Jake and San Luis Peak from near the first saddle.

A drop-down of several hundred feet is unavoidable here, leading to a contouring traverse through two basins before attaining the South Ridge of San Luis. It was quite populated by now. The ridge climb seemed endless with one false summit after another.

Jake on the South Ridge of San Luis.

But the summit was well worth it. A leisurely lunch was eaten at midday in the company of perhaps a dozen other climbers, one of whom was kind enough to take our picture.

Jake and me on the summit.

On the hike out Jake shot out ahead while I gingerly picked along with my damaged feet and knees. The beers back at the truck gave me the hiccups, but a cup of coffee in Creede made for a welcome end to the trip before heading back to Albuquerque that night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mount Bross - 14,172 and Mount Lincoln - 14,286

Lincoln from just below the summit of Mount Bross

Eager for a change of scenery after Lake City, I turned my attention in August 2008 to the trio of 14ers in the Mosquito Range near Fairplay. Hearing that Mounts Bross and Lincoln could be done on mountain bike I decided to give it a shot. I'm always a fan of coasting wherever possible, even if it meant postponing Mount Democrat, which had no MB track to its summit. I'd wanted to do it on skis, anyway, and did, finally.

On a Saturday dawn after sleeping in my truck parked at the Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area, featuring some of the oldest trees on the planet, I set off up this steeply switchbacking mining road up the east flank of Mount Bross. Though early on I had the road to myself, later on the descent I would be dodging SUVs. I stopped to take some photos of a bunch of ptarmigans cruising behind a mining shack, but the birds blended so well they can hardly be picked out of the talus. The road ended within a hundred yards of Bross's expansive summit, where I touched base and turned without delay toward my second goal of the day. The trail to Mount Lincoln proved more passable than I'd dared hope, though both summits now thronged with the Kite Lake hikers whom I also had to dodge upon occasion. They had a tendency to pop up unexpectedly on Cameron Point midway between the two peaks before heading off in their chosen direction.

Bross from midway to Mount Lincoln

Several hundred yards shy of the summit I dropped my bike and went on foot. After topping out I remounted for the ride back to Bross, then down the road again. I practically wore out my brake shoes on the descent but made it down in one piece. A girl who saw me loading up my bike asked the obvious question, and seemed duly impressed to hear that I'd indeed biked to the top of Bross and Lincoln.

Not a bristlecone and not a ptarmigan, but pretty gnarly nonetheless.

Wetterhorn - 14,015

Wetterhorn - August 16, 2008

Five years was certainly long enough for me to recover from my foot surgery (as described in the previous entry), not to mention the recently repaired acromio-clavicular separation (shoulder blade detached from collarbone in MB mishap) I'd carried with me up Redcloud and Sunshine. It was just over a year ago, in fact, that I'd turned my attention back to the Wetterhorn. Leaving my truck at the high parking I headed up the Matterhorn Creek trail at daybreak. A hail storm discouraged many that day, such that I arrived at the shoulder of the Southwest Ridge without seeing anyone, but it was not to last. By the time I began the ridge a virtual river of humanity streamed nonstop up behind, dogs and children included. The 400-foot summit buttress gave some pause, but nearly everyone summited and then came back down, some heading off to Uncompaghre making for a more energetic day than I had planned. I would get to Uncompaghre eventually - though not before Bross, Lincoln, San Luis and Democrat.