| Brutal Winds in the Southern Cristos.
October 23, 2010
Trailhead: 4WD road ~2.4 miles from Blue Lakes Campground
~3.6 Miles, ~2,000 Elevation Gain
With somewhat poor weather forecasted across the state, climbing options were limited. The southern Sangre Cristos looked the best. I met up with Al in Colorado Springs on the evening of the 22nd, and we made the drive to the Blue Lakes Campground located off of Colorado 12, just south of the town of Cucharas.
Expecting to only make it about ¼ of mile up the 4WD from Blue Lakes Campground, we were pleasantly surprised on how far we could drive up the road. We followed the road for ~2.4 miles, but due to the blowing snow above treeline we decided to camp lower on the road just in case a substantial amount of snow fell. We camped at ~10,800 feet off of the road and we woke up at 6:15 AM, and made the quick drive back above treeline where we started hiking up the snowed in 4WD road at 7:15 AM. There was only a small dusting of new snow. In the summer, we could have certainly driven farther up the road.
Within ten minutes of hiking up the 4WD road from where we parked, we were greeted by some hunters on a 4 wheeler. I was happy I packed my orange as a 7 MM mag bullet would certainly have been a show stopper. Unfortunately, the weather didn't look like it was going to cooperate. As we hiked higher up the road, the wind increased and the visibility went down. At times hiking up the road, we had to stop as the wind had sharp bite.
Sunrise climbing upward.
At the end of the 4WD road, we did a northeasterly traverse to try to gain the saddle between Trinchera and 12,955. Since the visibility was poor, we gained the north ridge of Trinchera before the saddle and once we hit the ridge, the wind was horrendous. We debated at that point to turn around but 12,955 certainly was close.
Masochists that we were, we decided to give 12,955 a try and headed north to the Trinchera-12,955 saddle. At the saddle, the tempest winds were brutal and as we climbed the south ridge of 12,955 we were able to avoid most of the wind by staying below the ridge crest on the east side. We arrived on the summit of 12,955 at 9:00 AM. The wind seemed to have died down but the visibility was poor. After a quick break, we discussed our options and decided to head back to the car and skip Trinchera; however, as we descended back to the Trinchera-12,955 saddle, it "seemed" that the wind was dying down and that the visibility was improving.
Change in plans. Let's climb Trinchera. We started up the north ridge, again, staying below the ridge crest on the east side. The climbing was slow going on the snow covered talus. As we climbed higher, the winds increased. About 2/3 of the way up the north ridge, we encountered a short notch which required a few class 3 moves to bypass. Without snow, good visibility, and some route finding I think it could have been kept at class 2. Once above this notch, the wind became unbearable but we continued to move slowly upwards.
The easy part of the north ridge of Trinchera.
The one notch on Trinchera.
The one notch on Trinchera.
Al finishing the short scramble.
We arrived on the summit of Trinchera at 10:15 AM, and hid behind the large cairns on the summit to avoid the wind. Originally, I was hoping to climb "Leaning South" and Cuatro Peak, but we were not up for getting slammed with harsh winds for another few hours. Plus, we wanted to see something.
Nearing the summit of Trinchera.
From the summit of Trinchera, we descended directly east down snow covered talus back towards our car. Around ~ the slope eased up, and it was a more enjoyable hike back to the car as we could actually see something. East and West Spanish Peaks were clear of snow, but it sure looked like they were getting hammered with the same wind we experienced. We arrived back at the car 11:15 AM and started our drive back to town. Near the bottom of the 4WD road we encountered some incompetent gumbees trying to turn around on the road. My patience was running thin with extremely poor driving abilities. Eventually, they let us pass, and we were on our way back to town.
Descending back to the car.
West Spanish Peak on our descent.
Clearing over West Spanish Peak.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):