Peak(s):  Cottonwood Pk A  -  13,588 feet
Eagle Pk A  -  13,205 feet
Lakes Pk  -  13,375 feet
Thirsty Pk  -  13,213 feet
PT 13,123 B  -  13,123 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2013
Date Climbed:   08/02/2013
Author:  bergsteigen
 Curse of the Misty Mountains  

Eagle Peak A, Lakes Peak, Thirsty Peak, 13,123 B, Cottonwood Peak A

Trailhead: Rainbow Lakes Reservoir
Mileage: 12.29
Elevation Gain: 5,311'
Partner: Solo
Time: 8.5 hrs

After a long and nasty bumpy drive up the road, I manage to find the campsite next to the Rainbow Reservoir in the dark. It's not well marked, so you may want to set a waypoint on your GPS. I quickly set up my truck for sleep, and hope the rain ends by early morning.

But then, the curse of the Misty Mountains happens - AGAIN! Last time I was in the northern Sangres, my alarm didn't go off, since my phone died. This morning, my phone alarm was muffled by the sleeping bag. So I woke up thinking, why is it light out? Look at the time - 5:18am - OH CRAP! I kicked it into high gear, and got ready and on trail asap. Followed the path down to the Reservoir and made my way up the steep treed slope to magically find a trail that took me up the ridge. The weather was forcasted for ~3pm, but I don't like taking my chances with long ridge runs!

Morning at the Reservoir

Slope up Eagle

Looking north towards Bushnell & Hunts

Once on Eagle I can take a short break to catch my breath. So far it's clear!

Pano west from Eagle

I had thought to possibly drive up the road farther, and just do an out and back on the ridge from Eagle to Thirsty. Looking at the ridge now, I'm glad I didn't do that. The first half of the ridge is easy, but the second half is more rocky and there is some minor route finding to do in the rougher sections.

Looking back at Eagle

Ridge to Thirsty gets rocky...

Rough ridge to Thirsty

You can bypass the unranked summit of Thirsty on the SE face easily. From there, it's a pretty easy ridge over to Lakes Peak.

Looking at the ridge to Lakes

Once on Lakes, I get a nice view to the south, and peaks for the future. Then I turn around and look north, at all the ridge to go over, on the way to Cottonwood. Better get started!

View south from Lakes

Pano north from Lakes

Only a short break on Thirsty to take a photo or two. Silly unranked but named peaks!

Looking at Eagle from Thirsty

Ridge to Pt 13,123 B and Cottonwood

By the time I get to 13,123 B there is some mist building up from the San Luis valley. The puffies around me are starting, but as yet, not threatening. Still, I'd rather be on the last peak heading down. I never trust a forecast in the Sangres...

Summit cairn on 13,123 B with Eagle behind

Cottonwood with some mist

Once on Cottonwood, the last peak of the day, I can take a much longer break. Ridge run done, weather looking misty to south, little puffies to north. I had looked for the trail between the saddle with 13,123 B, but it didn't stand out to me. Whereas the NE ridge looked far more pleasant than backtracking (into the mist), and there was a nice grassy slope that will take you down to the lake. I was sold.

View north from Cottonwood

Going down the NE ridge of Cottonwood

A white mushroom

Once at my descent saddle, all the mist had dissipated and my rushing seemed to be unwarranted. But again, I never trust the weather in the Sangres - it seems to turn quickly!

Looking back up the NE ridge from saddle

View of Thirsty and Pt 13,123 B from saddle

Cottonwood from upper lake

After the lake, I follow the old mining road back down to my truck. Along the way, I pass by the rotting mining town of Cloverdale. There is a sign by the upper most cabin talking about preserving history and don't take anything etc. Another sign talks about how the mine is responsible for preservation, while other cabins have the property of US government on them. So I go inside, or peak in.... Nasty nasty nasty!!! This is "preserving"? Everything is rotting, molding, weather and animal effected. After seeing a dead mouse, I turn around to leave asap. Then I see the dead moldy mouse - I run out! Bleh!

At the old mining town of Cloverdale

That vehicle couldn't make it up the road now...

Nasty "preserved" cabin

EEEEEEEEeeeeeeeewwwwWWWW - Note dead mouse...

Another cabin

This is "preserving history"?

After the mining town ruins, it's just a rough road descent back to my truck in the hot sun. Happy that I don't find a flat on my truck. The road looks even worse in daylight, and I'm still surprised I didn't blow at least one tire. There is no way to pick a line to avoid scraping your side walls. The road is a minefield. All you can do is try to avoid the pokiest ones!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

 Comments or Questions

08/06/2013 17:17
One man's junk is another man's preserved history? Nice route, tho - one I will have to do (LOVE ridge runs). But I guess I'll pass on the history display.


The road from hell
08/06/2013 17:59
Yep, I hate that road! So freakin bumpy! I made it all the way to the mine in my Pathy, but it paid a price that made it not worth it.


Long Road Back
08/06/2013 18:04
That road back to Rainbow Lake after Cottonwood is NEVER-ENDING ! Me, Valerie, Kate, and Bob did the exact trip, except we slept at Ballman Reservoir and finished the trip up to Rainbow Lake early in the morning. The road is NOT fun. I was Valerie's spotter when she was driving her Liberty down (don't ask me to spot after one beer, because everything is funny......even when you scrape the bottom).


08/07/2013 14:33
You're braver than I am, my nose caught one whiff of the pungent odor eminating from the cabins and I decided these were not cabins to explore. Nice TR, we almost got blown off the ridge from cottonwood to wulsten last week.

Chicago Transplant

Nasty cabins!
08/07/2013 16:43
Certainly not much worth preserving in those cabins! Yechh!

PS - Kiefer and I did this group from the west (Garner/Major creeks) a few years back, provides 2WD access but it was a really long day (I think over 18 miles and 7k?). If you have the right vehicle, your route is definitely the way to go! Just thought I would toss out the alternate for people who can't make it up the road.


No sense of smell
08/08/2013 18:23
... at that point in the day, so I didn't get a whiff of anything in the cabins.

Jay521 - Yeah, those cabins are best to stop at the door, or just pass on by!

Jed - I'm glad I never have to drive that road again!

Vicki - Noted. No beer for Vicki if I need a spotter!

mennoguy - I thought about those 12ers, but I wanted off the ridge.

Chicago Transplant - Funny how access varies by group from west to east on which is closest/easiest.

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