|Peak:||Humboldt Peak (14er)|
|Range:||Sangre de Cristo|
|Date of Information:||01/25/2012|
Conditions for this peak and approach are similar to my 1/10 report of the east ridge route. The trench below treeline still exists (photo #1) and for the most part represents the path of the Christmas crew. Near 11‘000 the path changes, veering slightly too far North. Here the recent snow must have made the trench ill-defined, as mentioned in the previous conditions report. After 11‘000 the path is less-packed, but still manageable without snowshoes. There are many junctions thereafter, but most mock trails are short-lived and can be identified without having to choose and double-back. However, near 11‘400 (photo #2) the path clearly divides. I chose the more westerly route, with the intentions of gaining back the ridge. The other tracks seemed to continue north. I followed deep foot prints only for about 100 feet or so; the tracks stopped. So close to treeline, I decided to continue and establish a path the remainder of the route. I was without snowshoes, and was postholing terribly. Less than 0.5 mile of trail breaking took an hour. The powder was so deep, even with snowshoes it would be energetically draining and time-consuming. After treeline I met up with the windblown ridge for relief from the snow (photo #3). Here the wind was blowing reasonably, but not overwhelming, ~25-30mph. Before I reached the catwalk, the wind (thankfully) subsided. That was the last of the wind for the day. I completed the summit push (photo #4) seven hours after having started. My RT time was just shy of 12 hours, including an hour of hiking in the dark on return. 12.8 miles and 5‘400 gain. I‘m whooped.
Being without snowshoes was only disadvantageous for the short but time-consuming postholing near treeline. Because I was also solo, breaking trail took more time. Snowshoes are certainly not necessary up to 11‘400, nor at the start of the ridge (11‘800). As-is, I would not bring them.
Early in the hike I met up with a group of 3 from Wisconsin descending near 10‘500. They said they hadn‘t much experience with winter avalanche terrain, but out of precaution were turning around due to fracturing of the snow. I thanked them very much for the warning, and proceeded with caution (on the very stable trench) to assess for myself. I came across an animal trail that seemingly carved through the snow. Surely that couldn‘t be it. I continued with peeled eyes. The Sangres did receive recent snow (I heard 6"), so instability in that respect is not out of the question. I continued until I realized I was no longer following their snowshoe prints. Because the snow off the trench was deep but stable (the trench itself well consolidated) I continued. My guess is that the small animal trail through the top, recent powder is what unsettled the three wisconsiniites.
Photos (click for slideshow):