Humboldt Peak - 14,064 feet
Humboldt Peak - 14,064 feet
|Humboldt High Five|
Humboldt Peak - Making new friends and hanging out with my girl!
Time Up: 3:40
Time on Summit: about an hour
Time Down: 3:40
My history on Humboldt:
Adam (my husband), Grady (our golden retriever), and I hiked this mountain on August 31, 2008 and this was our second 14er ever. This mountain taught us a lot about the importance of preparation for 14er hikes. We were not adequately prepared for colder weather and especially the large amounts of hail...we had some long sleeves, but didn't even bring gloves (rookie mistake!). From the ridge to the summit, all of our pictures were of clouds and not any of the beautiful Humboldt summit views that we had expected. (Note: We realize now, we never should have summited that day, but we got lucky). Once below the ridge, the rest of the hike was pleasant, but this is one that I have always wanted to try again to be able to enjoy the summit.
Just me and my girl:
I wanted to do one more 14er before the marathon, but this particular weekend I was on my own. My hubby was working and I had broken my other hiking partner (see previous trip report for Mt. Yale), so I asked the next most logical hiking partner....my baby girl, Peyton (our german shepherd). She said yes, btw.
The drive to the new trailhead:
The trip from Colorado Springs to the new 4WD trailhead (last time I hiked Humboldt, the old 4WD road was still open) went okay, other than a missed turn at Colfax Rd. The turn seemed so obvious when I came back to it, but when you are leaving Westcliffe, make sure you start looking for the turn right away. I was a little nervous about the 4WD road since this was my first time on a road like this by myself, especially based on some of the trailhead reports from July. Despite my fears, I think I did pretty good with my Honda Pilot (and Peyton clinging to the seat in fear) making it up to the new trailhead. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I definitely don't recommend this in a passenger car, but it is doable in a pilot, the worst spot being about 1 mile from the trailhead. My main comment on the drive is that Westcliffe did not have any open gas stations when I went through there around 5am (hoping to stop at a bathroom), and there were no bathrooms at the trailhead either. I suggest stopping before Westcliffe, especially if you plan to drink coffee on your way to the trailhead (like I did).
Peyton and I left the trailhead around a little after 6:15am, expecting to go the whole trail alone. When we were at the sign, we happen to be starting at the same time as two other hikers, Parker from Colorado and Keith from North Carolina. During the long trip down the South Colony Lake Rd toward the old trailhead, we were going a similar pace, so Peyton and I stayed with them as we became fast friends talking about hiking, work, and other outdoor adventures. We ended up staying together the entire hike, which was unexpected, but great to have such wonderful company!
The hike (probably the part of the trip report everyone cares about!):
The hike on the road is not terribly exciting, and is a little hard on the feet with all the rocks. This was a part that I was considering running before I got there, and then realized it would not be worth it. Although we already started to see some wildflowers and wildlife along that seemingly endless road, the real fun started once we got to the old trailhead. We heard a pack of coyotes howling and yipping very loudly. We tried to spot them, but after we didn't actually see any, we just carried on. Along the first part of the trail was pleasant hiking, where wildflowers were taller than my waist, and we saw some neat animal life including a grouse, some deer, some marmots, and a Nutcracker. The marmots were in full force chirping angrily at Peyton, and although she was curious, she never tried to go after any of them. There were also several campsites set up along the way, including a large community of tents near the lower lake.
We stopped for a short break at the first open view of the lakes and the Crestones. Parker was able to get out his fancy camera, and take some pictures. We observed the clouds above the Crestones and on Humboldt and became worried that they were going to turn into storm clouds. We still went on, hoping they would burn off since we were still on pace to arrive at the summit well before noon.
We trekked on towards the saddle, where the trail became steeper, but still packed with flowers and marmots.
Side Note: We noticed that there were several work buckets and tools on the trail, which we later learned were part of the Rocky Mountain initiative. There was a large group of students that were earning college credit, but basically out there for a month to redo the trail up to the ridge. It was very noticeable on the parts of the trail that they had refinished. They were doing excellent work, and it is greatly appreciated.
Once we got to the ridge, we took a longer break, since the clouds started to break up. There were some great picture opportunities and I began to realize all of the views I was missing on my hike up Humboldt in 2008. Peyton and I replenished with some water and food. Marmots kept chirping, but Peyton was behaving great.
Once we started heading up to the summit, the memories of the scrambling started coming back to me. We began by going around the false summit to the left, but realized after the fact we should have stayed to the right. Peyton did a great job scrambling too, but it would have been much easier on her to go to the right. After some choose your own adventure to the false summit, the trip to the summit was not as difficult. This part seemed easier for Peyton than the portion to get to the false summit.
We made it to the summit almost right at 10am, and the clouds had dissipated behind Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle, and the sky on Humboldt appeared to open up. The weather was fantastic, where the temperature was not too cold, and the peak was not windy. I was very happy to be able to enjoy the summit and take in all the wonderful views. Parker was using his fancy camera to capture some amazing summit pictures. Peyton was also enjoying the summit, getting refueled with food and water and saying hello to anyone who may have brought extra snacks that puppies could enjoy (even though we don't feed her people food at home, she still acts like we do and has no shame begging!)
We got our share of summit pictures, and even did a high five at the top! We didn't have to share the summit with many others....only a few other groups came or went along after we got there.
After about an hour, we noticed the summit began getting windier and the clouds started to form. We felt a few raindrops and decided it was time to head down. As we headed down toward the false summit, a low ominous cloud appeared to be chasing us, so we had some motivation to get moving down the trail as quickly as possible.
It seemed as if we took the wrong trail again once we got to the false summit, and some of the jumps that Peyton had to make were not appealing to her. Keith and Parker were so helpful scouting out the best descents for her as we were headed down the summit and false summit. I realized once I took her backpack off and her hiking shoes, she was more readily able and willing to jump, even on some of the steeper and more difficult rock sections.
Once we were down the false summit section, the angry fog/rain cloud disappeared (woohoo!) and the sky seemed to clear again. We had stunning views of the Crestones on the way down. More marmots were chirping furiously at Peyton, and we were able to see a few Picas as well on the way down (Keith's favorite!).
We had a lovely hike down the trail, where our wildlife adventure continued. We came across a large herd of big horns, and were able to observe them for a while, where even Peyton stayed quiet. Parker had a close run-in with the alpha male in the herd, but was able to escape unharmed and with an amazing photo.
The rest of the trail was spent marveling in all of the wildflowers, and Peyton staying close to her new friends, Parker and Keith.
Once we got back to the old trailhead, the trail is not as exciting or as easy on the knees, but we made the most of it the rest of the way to the cars. It was nice to have company and there were plenty of wildflowers along the way. We made it back to the 4WD trailhead, around 2:40pm.
One note for the dog owners:
Although dogs can do this trail (both of mine have summited this mountain at different times), just know that the area up to the false summit and the final pitch can be difficult for them, so it is best to scout the best routes for the dogs. When in doubt, follow up your dog for what they feel most comfortable with. When I let Peyton go, she seemed to find the best route on her own. I did bring dog boots for the way down so her feet didn't have so much pounding on the rocks, but it impeded her comfort in jumping down on the rocks, especially with her pack on. Once I took her pack and boots off, it was much smoother sailing on the way down from the false summit. I would not recommend this hike for all dogs. I would especially think the little dogs would struggle on the choose your own adventure part (but of course I don't know that for sure, since I only have big dogs!).
Overall, this was a fantastic hike and I was relieved that the weather held out for us. I am grateful for making some new friends and having great company during the hike, especially since I was already mentally preparing for the hike being just Peyton and me. The trail was not very crowded, which was a nice bonus. Before getting to the trail, my intention was to run a little during the hike. This wasn't a great trail to run, but it was a great hike and was plenty fine for my training without running.
To my new friends:
Thanks again for letting me and Peyton tag along on your hike! It was a blast! Parker, you are an amazing photographer....my pictures don't even do the mountain justice! And even though Peyton is a little skittish, she really loved both of you!!
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