Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Date Posted:  12/25/2014
Modified:  12/26/2014
Date Climbed:   12/24/2014
Author:  goingup
Additional Members:   FireOnTheMountain
 Slogging in the Sangres  

There are a few mountains I would like to climb this winter, Humboldt is at the bottom of that list but since the whole state was flashing red with avy danger it seemed like the obvious choice. Also, Humboldt's summer appeal is eh for me. Every trip report I read about winter ascents involved 90 mile per hour winds, so if I was going for a slog at least it came fully equipped with the chance of being blown over....cause that's always fun.

13.7 miles
5,700 gain
2WD trailhead




I had a wonderful birthday on the 22nd, slept in on the 23rd, spent the rest of the day making burritos, and Abe and I headed towards Westcliffe around 4 pm. We decided we did not want to sleep outside, we wanted to take my civic (much better gas mileage), and we wanted to park at the winter closure (which is not actually closed) to get more mileage and more vert. We stayed at the Westcliffe Inn, the owners are lovely people, it was reasonably priced, a nice room, and there were christmas movies.

One of the reasons I climb mountains in the winter is because it is so uncomfortable. All of the ridiculous gear, the cold, the overheating, the shorter days, the animal tracks that make me wonder if I am dinner, the heightened sense of risk, and the fact that it is SO much more work. I love to hate it but mostly it toughens me up and I need that. Abe and I laughed about the night we slept on top of Lizard Head Pass in a full on raging blizzard before climbing Wilson Peak this time last year. That was my first and only time "winter camping" and it was hell. I did not get one minute of sleep. The point to this tangent is I will get there with the whole sleeping in the freezing cold thing but for now the inn was lovely and warm.

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It was a balmy three degrees on this Eve O' Christmas when we started up South Colony road around 5:45 a.m. in a clout of darkness. There was no moon to guide our way just my annoyingly bright handheld Nathans light. I purchased this handheld light to trail run with because well you try trail running with a head lamp, I do not understand how people do it. It is perfect for running at night but not so perfect for winter mountain hiking. Abe yelled at me to turn it off as we made our way through the early morning darkness using his dimly lit headlamp. The road became snowy about 0.3 miles after the 2WD parking area. We made quick work to the Rainbow trail cut off. As of December 24th the road up to Rainbow trail is driveable if you have 4WD and a competent driver. If you don't want to risk it the hike in is not bad although I was thankful I would never have to do it without snow...Oh wait, I still need Crestone Peak.

Druid2112 had left a conditions report on 12/20, six new inches of snow had fallen since, covering up his tracks. The Rainbow trail is easy to follow. We located the rib of Humboldt's east ridge but waited until Rainbow trail began curving around the northeast side to gain it (southwest (or left) off of trail). This is the smart way to do it as we avoided deadfall and a gnarly bushwhack. Once on the ridge it's cruiser with cairns. The sun was coming up and it was beautiful. The lighting was like nothing I had ever seen. A neon golden orange hue blanketed the forest as we meandered along the narrow ridge. I felt peaceful.

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I was reluctant to bring snowshoes but Abe took his turn being the voice of reason and we lugged them in. Around 10,600 feet we stashed them in a tree and continued on through the forest. Conveniently enough the snow became much deeper but it was easy to travel through and I feel snowshoes would have been a nuisance. We never used them. I donned microspikes because underneath the new snow was a layer of icy snow and my boot traction was crap. Every step I took up I would slide two steps down. Eventually the cairns ended and the forest thickened but we had zero issue ascending to tree line. I accredit our phenomenal route finding skills, really though, it's pretty obvious where you should go.

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I have yet to figure out how to dress myself for winter climbing so I overheated all day. I hate stopping so I sweat it out, except for cursing at my neck warmer until finally I ripped it off.

Tree line was eventful. We met a rabbit that Abe stalked and photographed for ten minutes, Abe dropped a glove, we got in a fight about picture angles, and we found the deepest snow of the day to get our lower bodies stuck in.

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The cutest bunny in all the lands. (Photo Abe)

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As expected there was no snow on the upper ridge, high winds from previous days had blown it off. Where was that wind I was expecting to knock me around? That wind I had dressed for. That wind I mentally prepared for. It didn't show and I wasn't complaining, except for the whole overheating thing.

It was time to go from 11,800 feet to 13,240 feet in a half a mile (1,440 foot gain at altitude). This summer I spent all my time above tree line and in turn my body beefed up my red blood cell count resulting in a more efficient transportation of oxygen to my needy muscles. This of course made me fast and awesome. This fall I spent all my time studying Organic Chemistry and in turn my body beefed up the size of my brain. This of course served no purpose as I dragged my slow sad ass up up up Humboldt's east ridge. This section of the route was the hardest, I could see the top of 13,240', I could see my feet moving one in front of the other but it never grew closer until suddenly I was there.

It went a lot like this.....



But really looked like this....

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Torture with a view.....

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Finally Humboldt came into view and all I could think of was the Loch ness monster. The ridge line looks exactly like its spine. In my half delusional state I expected a head to poke up.



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We stayed ridge proper until the summit except for one time I dropped down into hip deep snow to make more work for myself since I was feeling so good. Actually I was feeling terrible. I have always struggled with altitude, getting sick nearly every time I go up high. If I train up high it goes away but the lack of large mountains in my recent life brought back the rush of dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache, coughing, and muscle fatigue...oh my!

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Looking north towards Mount Adams.

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This route gives such a beautiful and unique perspective of the Sangres I did not care if I was taking five steps and having to rest. I was also ecstatic to be climbing in winter on such a nice day. We enjoyed the summit for about thirty minutes before I knew the only way to start feeling better was to descend. Abe enjoyed one of my burritos. I gagged down a few bites.

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Needle and Peak

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Challenger and Kit Carson

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Looking towards the Northern Sangres (a bunch more snow)

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Looking towards the Southern Sangres (Milwaukee Peak, Pico Asilado, Music Mountain)

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We goofed off a bunch on the descent and with every foot of altitude lost I began feeling better. By the time we were at 13,240 we were able to jog trot back to tree line where we picked up our tracks. As we entered tree line the wind arrived and the snow tornadoes began. Perfect timing.

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The elusive Abe.

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The elusive Abe Part 2.


The rest of the way out was fast and easy. Although this is a big day vert wise and sans altitude sickness, Abe and I both agreed this is a very pleasant route. The approach and deproach were most enjoyable unlike the winter Cottonwood Creek nightmare to Crestone Needle.

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Life is a highway.


It was wonderful to spend christmas eve in the hills with a great friend and my favorite partner in crime. I welcome winter 2015 with only one goal, to sleep outside in the freezing cold. Till next time, thank you for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.

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Goodbye Humboldt.

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Artistic cow shot.





"My favorite words are possibilities, opportunities, and curiousity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities."

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Yikes


nice report
12/26/2014 03:39
You still have 53 more opportunities to sleep outside in the freezing cold. I was confused about the "overheating" since I was frozen solid on Blanca, but then I realized there was sunshine in your photos; one big advantage of an east facing route. Congrats on the summit.


Stevo

Awesome Pics
12/26/2014 03:57
I especially like the picture of the cows for some reason.

Way to go, excellent report!


d_baker

huh?
12/26/2014 19:10
With all of your topless summits, one would think you’re conditioned for the cold. ??


goingup

One would think Darin
12/26/2014 20:48
The things I go through so my boobs can have a nice view.

Sometimes I feel like they are so ungrateful.


d_baker

well...
12/26/2014 21:45
...you must be doing it wrong. ;)

Good luck with the rest of your winter goals. I’m heading south for the winter where it’s warm.


moneymike

Great write up, goingup...
12/26/2014 22:10
and great shot of the bunny, Abe. Those little guys never let me get anywhere near them (except for, maybe, the ones that I never spot)


dillonsarnelli

well done
12/26/2014 23:58
Kay, did I ever tell you that i won’t jump in most alpine lakes because the loch ness monster lives in one of them!

Merry Christmas Kay and Abe!


goingup

No Dillon
12/27/2014 00:07
you have not because we STILL have not hiked together


Jay521

Slogging?
12/27/2014 17:16
Only you can make slogging seem like such fun. Thanks for yet another fun report, Kay.


globreal

Nice trip report Kay!
12/28/2014 06:44
Quite entertaining.
Way to go on this winter 14er. But you cheated. You didn’t carry a overstuffed backpack full of tons of winter gear like most of us do.

Congrats to both of you Abe & Kay.


FireOnTheMountain

confucius say
12/29/2014 00:46
sometimes, ya just gotta slog it out.

A fine outing indeed!


Shawnee Bob

Good stuff
12/29/2014 01:19
I can relate to the struggle at altitude, though I’ll bet my struggle is just a little more common! Great report, Kay.


jbchalk

Love those Christmas Eve 14 outings...
12/31/2014 16:14
We skied Elbert on Christmas Eve back in 2007 and it was one of my more memorable Christmas Eves. Well done, Kay (& Abe)! Happy New Year!


Altitude High

Just wow
11/24/2020 20:00
Great report. Love those photos!



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