Peak(s):  Spread Eagle Pk  -  13,423 feet
Date Posted:  08/20/2017
Date Climbed:   08/19/2017
Author:  rajz06
 Perched Atop the Eagle  

Starting Point: Gibson Trailhead: ~9,180'
Peak Climbed: Spread Eagle Peak (13,423')
Route: East ridge
RT Distance: ~6.4 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~4,226 feet
Group: Solo

When your hiking is essentially restricted to one day of the week, waiting for perfect weather can be a losing proposition. The recent wet spell in most of the state had derailed my plans to get high for six consecutive weeks, so the time had come to make the best of what the weather had to offer.

Trail goes straight into the woods

Years ago, my attempt to climb Spread Eagle Peak had been thwarted by - ahem - weather. We had summited Rito Alto from Hermit Road and continued on to Peak of the Clouds before being pelted with grapple and forced to beat a hasty retreat.

Early look at the east ridge

With Spread Eagle Peak being the only one on the agenda today, I chose Gibson trailhead for the most direct approach. "Direct" is an understatement; staying true to the creek whittled my ascent mileage down to a mere 3.2. Never mind that I had to climb nearly 4,300 feet in that distance. Most, if not all, the trip reports using this approach bypass the creek at some point between 10,000' and 10,400'. I didn't have too much trouble sticking to the creek, thanks to a trail that stayed within 50 feet of the creek for the most part.

Trail segments stay close to the creek

The slopes on either side of Gibson creek are steep and there were spots where I had to abandon the creek for safer terrain higher on the hillside but I never strayed too far and was able to find broken game trails to return to the creek.

Steep slopes on both banks

I crossed the creek a total of five times on the ascent, all entirely uneventful as the creek was narrow enough for me to scale in one leap if needed; and I'm certain I didn't set any records for the long jump back in my days as a wannabe Ninja Warrior.

Not much of a creek crossing but there were five

Looking down into the valley

Of course, some bushwhacking was inevitable but it was minimal as my route finding skills were surprisingly keen today.

Interesting waterfall

I took the next shot around 10,600' along the creek showing the first look at the north east ridge of Spread Eagle Peak. The going to that point had been alright but it was about to get steep. Between my vantage point and the east ridge was a mere 0.8 miles covering 2,000 vertical feet. I wanted "direct". I got it!

A glimpse of the northeast ridge

The creek petered off around 11,200' making the terrain a bit easier.

Creeks ends here

Steep climb up the basin

This captures the steepness of the basin

I passed the last of the pines and aimed for a notch on the ridge ‘ where the northeast and southeast ridge appeared to merge.

At treeline

When I got to this station, I knew I had another 1,000 vertical feet to climb. I skirted around the rocky bluff aiming for the peak that was now in sight. This was just a false summit.

Skirting the ridge

I continued skirting around the ridge to reach a broad saddle and made the easy trudge up to the top of the false summit.

Looking back at the skirt

That's not the summit

Another 400 vertical feet separated me from the true summit and more skirting around the ridge was in order.

That's the summit

More skirting

I had already planned on staying on the ridge crest on my return so I was content with this approach. In all, the ascent took me three and a quarter hours which was a good bit more than I'd anticipated. Clearly, the lack of high altitude conditioning was showing.

Be that as it may, I was high in the Sangres again, so it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. A couple of unnamed 13ers in the background of the next shot bisect the ridge between Peak of the Clouds and Silver Peak.


A large cloud was casting its shadow over Rito Alto Peak:

More peaks

Some 1,800 feet below, the cool waters of lakes fed by Swift Creek:

Lakes in Swift Creek basin

Farther down the range, in the distance, the unmistakable silhouettes of the Crestones:


Clouds were continuing to build above me and I knew my descent wouldn't exactly be speedy given the steep terrain and the tippy rocks lining Gibson Creek drainage.

Threatening clouds

On my descent I stayed on the crest of the east ridge but other than a small tower I didn't encounter any of the characteristic ruggedness of the range.

Short scramble

North east ridge

Southeast ridge - Spanish Peaks yonder

I was content to savor the ruggedness from a distance. For now...

The views will do!

Elevation profile

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 27

 Comments or Questions

Very nice, Raj!
08/20/2017 18:17
Killer view of the Crestones (#21)! Thanks for sharing!


Nice Summit
08/21/2017 09:23
Well-written Trip Report too. Thanks so much for posting the quality 13er route beta consistently Raj. Excellent work with reaching this cool Sangre de Cristo peak. Information on these types of Colorado mountaineering lines is quite wonderful. Keep climbing safe, smart, and strong


08/21/2017 21:59
Thanks, Doug! Ah...the Crestones. Need I say more?
jasayrevt: Thanks! I enjoyed your recent RMNP adventure. Hoping to see more soon.


Nice one, Raj!
08/22/2017 11:19
But where is that trademark "serene selfie" ??


08/22/2017 20:27
...Jay! I thought my selfies were too...well...self-serving, but you're not the first one to ask so perhaps they'll make a comeback on my next TR!


Sure Raj!
08/23/2017 15:03
Appreciate your good words my friend. I've merely gotten started in our great, motivating hobby. So, I'll write about my excursions at a steady pace!


There are a few good ones
09/01/2017 05:33
like you and your reports that give good info on their TR's that I look forward to reading, even if the particular peak isn't on my bucket list. You're like the Bruno Mars of reports, can't help but wanna get up and dance after reading. Thanks for the inspiration and GREAT reports as always.


Thank You!
09/01/2017 17:11
blazintoes: That's high praise, especially coming from you, and very heartening to know that I've been able to inspire with my narratives. Thank you.

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