Peak(s):  Baldy Alto  -  13,698 feet
Stewart Pk  -  13,983 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2020
Date Climbed:   09/03/2020
Author:  greiher
 Pika - 1, Me - 0   

Since I haven’t been traveling for work – I have actually been able to knock off several 13ers this summer. For this latest trip to the San Juans – I settled on Stewart, Baldy Alto and Organ. Had I followed advice from when I was younger – I would have climbed these peaks all together with San Luis, but I didn’t listen and now I keep returning to catch the 13ers surrounding the 14ers.

There are only a few good camping spots near the Stewart Creek TH and I was surprised how busy it was for a Wednesday afternoon. I backtracked up the road a bit and just before the first switchback going up the road there is a good camping spot to the south. I pulled out a chair in the beautiful weather and read a book until dusk. I finally settled into the Jeep for the night around 9PM.

Made it to about 9:15 before I could hear something making noise in the wheel well. This unfortunately reminded me of a trip to South Colony Lakes years ago, back when you could drive all the way up to the lakes. I was there in the middle of the week and no one else up there. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke to hear something scraping my Jeep. Scrape, scrape, scrape – over and over. Something strange about being completely alone in the dark and your mind races. The scraping continued at different spots on my Jeep. Not sure how long I laid there before getting my headlamp on and rolling down the window to see what was making the scraping noise. Bear, mountain lion, goat… nope porcupine. Apparently, it was after the salt on the wheels and its tongue was scraping the salt off the rims. I managed to chase him away – without getting stuck and had a good climb of the Crestones the next day.

Back to the present. I immediately thought porcupine, but there was no scraping. It was more of a pinging sound. I banged the wheel well and it stopped. A few minutes of silence then more pinging, me banging and so on. I eventually got up, put the head lamp on and got out and was staring at a pika perched on my tire. He was apparently trying to get into something within the wheel well. He ran off and I thought I was done. I had 15 minutes of quiet and then ping. By midnight I was really frustrated and tired. So, I started the Jeep and moved it across the campsite to hopefully frighten the pika away. Again 15 minutes of quiet, then more pinging. I had thoughts of driving back up the road a ways but was concerned about only having a quarter tank of gas (this Jeep really guzzles it) and decided against it. I thought about just hitting the trail but with zero sleep to this point, decided against it. Somehow made it to 5 – not knowing if I really slept much at all. The moon was nearly full so there was plenty of light even at that hour.

I got dressed and was on the trail a little before 5:45AM. I could feel the lack of sleep and had already formulated that I would climb Baldy and Stewart first and then see if there was anything left in the tank for Organ. I cruised up the trail quickly and was pushing up the ridge to Baldy Alto when my watch informed me what I had already guessed – 45 minutes of total sleep. Ugh… That solidified my decision that Organ would have to wait for another day. The morning went on slower than I would have liked but found myself on both summits and back down the trail – spooking a couple of moose along the way.

Organ, Baldy, Alto and San Luis
Beautiful and large
Parting shot

Not sure if anyone has had any luck with coyote urine to keep critters away but I seem to recall this being a deterrent. After the pika impacted this trip I am willing to try almost anything - except trying to gather the urine myself.

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

I Can Relate
09/11/2020 09:01
I crashed at the trailhead in my car on a Wednesday night in August and I had a couple of mice kept me up all night. I was wondering if anyone else ever had similar issues? It also surprised me how many people were camped along the drive in & out. Got to the top of San Luis there was 4 other hikers and 2 dogs. I was thinking this surely was not the solitude that I had read or heard about. lol

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