Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Date Posted:  06/15/2010
Date Climbed:   06/13/2010
Author:  DrewR
 Humboldt Peak - West Ridge  

Summit Fever and I set this date to climb Humboldt's West Ridge route back in December. As this weekend approached the weather report for the area looked very questionable. Not wanting to reschedule we decided to give it a go. It rained consistently from Denver to about Penrose. I was so excited take in the view of Humboldt from Westcliffe then felt my heart sink as we dropped into the valley to a wall of clouds covering the Sangres.

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View of Humboldt from WestCliffe



We drove up to the new trailhead and hit the trail, which starts at the west end of the dirt parking lot just to the left of the new trailhead signs. A nice big bridge is under construction and offers safe passage across South Colony Creek. The road has two switch backs shortly after crossing the bridge. This serves as a marker that the hike back out is almost over.

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Bridge of S. Colony Creek near parking lot


The hike from the new trailhead up to the old 4x4 trailhead is reported to be 2.7 miles and is currently completely snow free. From the 'big red gate' to the lower South Colony Lake there are 8-10 snow field crossings. None of these require an ice axe or snow shoes. We crossed them all with 50 lb packs in the mid-to-late afternoon hiking in and out without any issues or post-holing.

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Old 4x4 trailhead gate


The end goal becomes readily apparent early on as Humboldt Peak stands tall to the north. The east ridge route is definitely a shorter climb but cheats you from the up close views of the Crestones. We followed the road to the base of Broken Hand Peak, hung a right, and followed the trail back into the trees. It took us ~30-45 minutes to get from the bend in the road to the lower lake.

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Humboldt Peak from old 4x4 trailhead


As you get close to the lakes the trail hugs the south edge of the creek's mouth just below the lower lake (see picture below). It is at this point you will see a stunning view of the Needle and a nice campsite on the north side of the creek. A dual log bridge provides dry passage across to the campsite. It is a nice spot with good tree cover (next time!).

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Crestone Needle from just below lower South Colony Lake


We reached the lower lake at about 7:30-8:00, set up camp, ate dinner and hit the hay. It rained overnight but the new tent kept us dry. As day broke we were treated to a reasonable view of the Needle but Crestone Peak was still heavily covered by clouds. After a quick breakfast we were on the trail by 7:45 AM.

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Crestone Needle at sunrise from camp


The trail crosses South Colony Creek just below the mouth of the lower lake. The rocks that create the bridge across were visible and dry, which made the cross easy to the snow field on the other side. After a brief trek through some willows the trail opens up and ascends the south face of Humboldt's west ridge. The ascent is somewhat steep but very well maintained with rock steps much of the way.

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Point 13,290 west of Humboldt Peak


From the ridge Crestone Peak, the Kit Carson group and everything to the north was covered in clouds. I was beginning to wonder if Crestone Peak and the rest of Sangres would ever reveal themselves. As we ascended the west ridge the clouds lifted and the majesty of the Crestones appeared.

The view of the lakes and Crestones was breathtaking. Down past the lakes you can see the snow fields on the approach up the road before it bends to the right. The snow appeared to be melting at a descent pace, which should make the snow crossings even shorter next weekend. Our camp was just east (left) of the lower lake in the picture below.

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South Colony Lakes approach


To the north we could now see Colony Baldy (13,705). It too was pretty much snow free.

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Colony Baldy (13,705) from Humboldt's west ridge


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Crestone Peak (14,294) finally hit with sun


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Crestone Needle (14,197)


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Obstruction Peak (13,799) with Kit Carson & Challenger Point beyond


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Broken Hand Peak (13,573) from Humboldt's west ridge


Most of the way up the west ridge has you are looking at Humboldt's false summit. Once you crest that point Humboldt's summit and impressive north face reveal themselves. Humboldt is much more impressive from the north. I look forward to the view of Humboldt's summit when I climb Colony Baldy sometime in the future.

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Final ascent up Humboldt's west ridge


We reached the summit at 10:45 AM, which was almost exactly 3 hours from when we started. The weather was nice so we hung out for about 30-45 minutes to soak up the view. A quick walk over to the east end of the summit brought a great view of the east ridge route. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Blanca group to the south.

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Humboldt's east ridge


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South Colony Creek Approach


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Mt. Adams (13,931) to the north


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Blanca Massif to the south

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Crestone Needle (14,197) and Crestone Peak (14,294)

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Descent from west ridge down to upper lake

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South Colony Creek crossing point

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Humboldt, Crestones, and Colony Baldy on the drive out


If you are considering climbing Humboldt I highly recommend the west ridge route over the east ridge. It is longer and may require an overnight camp (always fun) but the views are worth the extra distance.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Summit Fever
Killer Marmot
06/20/2010 12:24
DrewR,
I like your trip report, but am a little biased. I think the report would have only been better if you had mentioned the Killer Marmot that chased Steve down the trail.

Summit Fever



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