Illuminated clouds above Eagle Peak
Peaks: Cottonwood Peak (13,588, R195), PT13,123B (R549)
Elev Gain: 2400'
Time: 3:30 (4:30AM - 8:00AM)
Took my wife and two boys (2y.o. and 4.5y.o.) down to Westcliffe to experience the Sangres for 6 days last weekend. Stayed in a really nice cabin in Rosita. It was cloudy and rainy for the first 4 days we were there with only occasional glimpses of the peaks. Highlight of the trip for my boys was all the chances they got to fulfill their RDA of throwing rocks in any creek or lake or sand dune we could find for them. I might have joined in and threw maybe one or two...hundred rocks or so along with them...
The last 2 days the weather finally cleared up somewhat, at least for the mornings w/ afternoon thunderstorms. My wife kindly let me escape to climb a couple peaks I'd been salivating over in the Northern Sangres that I could bag quickly and get back by mid-morning.
Got up at 2AM and headed towards the 4WD road ( FR198 ) that heads up to Cloverdale Basin. Driving a 4WD road in the dark is an interesting experience to say the least. This road is incredibly bumpy and rocky. Not too technically difficult as 4WD roads go but rocky as all get out. Plus, when the Forest Service came through and cleared the fallen trees, they only cut the trees just barely wide enough for my Pathfinder to fit through. Talk about the need for precision driving!
Arrived at the old mine buildings along the road about 4:30AM and walked up the road to the TH by moonlight. Good thing there was moonlight as I thought I had packed my headlamp but couldn't seem to find it anywhere. Found the trail up to Silver Lake, which is an old mining road with HUGE 4' high hills dug in it when they closed the road. Cruised up to Silver Lake by 5AM and then up grass and dirt slopes to the saddle between Cottonwood Peak and Wulsten Baldy. The pre-dawn light was just incredible.
Beautiful morning light
Cottonwood Peak’s East Ridge was easy Class 2 with mixed grass and rock and I made excellent time up to the ridge crest in the quiet and serene morning light.
Cottonwood Peak's grassy East Ridge
The North Ridge of Cottonwood Peak was mixed grass/rock and I made quick progress towards the summit where the sun finally caught me and cast its golden and warming glow on the beautiful world around me.
Cottonwood Peak's North Ridge
Here comes the sun!
Golden glow on the crest of the Sangres from summit. Crestones and Blanca visible.
While it was clear down in the valley when I left the cabin a cloud layer had now formed at 10,500’ and filled the Wet Mountain Valley but hadn’t formed in the San Luis Valley. So it gave the appearance that the Sangres were a sort of a “cloud dam”. I could also spot peaks in the Sawatch all the way up to Harvard/Columbia.
Sangres Cloud Dam. Sawatch 14ers visible.
I spent about 15min on the summit soaking in the awesome views to be had in every direction and then headed down towards the saddle with my next objective, PT13,123B. Nice soft tundra led to fairly stable Class 2 talus at the saddle
On the way down to saddle w/ 13,123B
Looking back at Cottonwood Peak
Basin above Silver Lake
The climb up PT13,123B was quick and easy and I reached the summit around 6:45am.
Easy talus to PT13,123B
View South from 13,123B summit
Interesting summit cairn on 13,123B
Hung out on the summit for another 15-20min and then headed down to Garner Pass.
Here I found a nice trail down into the upper part of Cloverdale Basin where it disappeared. I couldn’t stop looking at the spectacular view of unranked Thirsty Peak’s North Face as I traversed the lush, green basin.
Thirsty Peak's North Face lords over upper part of Cloverdale Basin
I avoided the willows as much as possible and traversed along the willow-talus boundary back to tree line.
Talus-Willow interface. Talus is preferred.
The forest was nice and open allowing easy navigation back to the TH where I followed the road back to where I parked.
I stopped and looked at the Cloverdale Mine buildings across the valley below the impressive cliffs of Eagle Peak. They were in surprisingly good shape probably due to the cliffs actually protecting them. Arrived back at the car around 8AM.
What a sweet and wonderful quick sunrise hike in the beautiful Sangre de Cristos.