Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Humboldt Peak 11/1/2010

Total Mileage: 12.25 miles
Elevation gained: 4200 feet
Staring point: South Colony Lakes Trailhead (upper)

This picture was taken from and shows roughly the route I took.

I set out for the town of Westcliffe, CO at about 4:30am on Monday morning. The trailhead is about 10 miles from Westcliffe and I got there at about 6:55am. I had to wait until about 7:20 to get started because it was still too dark to get going when I got there. ( I should get a headlamp.) The dirt road to the trailhead was free of snow and it was pretty simple getting my Suburu Impreza wagon to the upper trailhead. I was alone on this hike and I probably will insist on company for any further winter hikes I participate in. I never felt unsafe, it just would have been nice to have some distraction from the cold. The thermometer keychain I keep on my backpack said 18 degrees Farenheit when I left. By the time I reached the summit at about 11:20am it had warmed up to about 30 degrees.

The first 3 miles of trail is the old 4WD road to the old trailhead. Pretty uneventful really. As I got higher and higher in elevation on this road there began to be little patches of snow and ice on the trial. Pretty soon I found myself walking on sheets of packed snow and ice. Coming down this road later in the afternoon when it warmed up a bit was a little tricky. I kind of had to hike in the brush alongside the trail to avoid the slippery patches of ice. Sometimes little stones about the size of my shoe or smaller would poke up out of the snow and provide stepping stones for me to avoid the ice patches. There were a couple of cool small waterfalls that had neat ice formations around them.

I didn't take a lot of pictures on this hike because I didn't want to stop and take off my gloves and risk getting too cold. I realized during the first few water breaks that I was getting significantly colder sitting down for too long. Keeping active and moving helped me a lot on this hike.

So I got to a point where the trail splits off the 4WD road and onto a real trail that dives into the trees. With about 5-6 inches of hard packed snow on the ground the trail came and went it seemed. I got to a point where I had stopped and looked 360 degrees and realized there was no trail in front or behind me. It made me laugh a little so I took a picture.

I knew from my map that I would run into the South Colony Lakes if I just headed north from where I was. I took out my compass, found north and starting blazing through the forest. After about 7-8 minutes of that I hooked back onto the trail and continued upward. Before too long I was at the lakes and began the trek up to the saddle between Humboldt and the Crestones. Right at about that point the fog lifted and I got a good shot of Crestone Needle.

One of the more impressive 14ers in all Colorado in my opinion. I plan on climbing the Crestones next spring or early summer. I was in a hurry to take this picture because you never know if a good view will become available again. It began to snow about then, and it got really foggy again. The wind picked up when I hit the saddle and I got really cold really fast. The ridge from the saddle to the summit of Humboldt runs roughly east/west so I stayed on the south portion of the ridge and that provided a good deal of protection from the wind that seemed to be coming from the north. Halfway up the ridge the fog lifted, the wind died down and I saw great views of everything all around me. I was at the false summit before I knew it and snapped a quick shot of the final 1/4 mile up the ridge.

This ridge kept on going for what seemed like forever. From the saddle to the summit took me one hour and fifteen  minutes. I was happy to finally see the end and happier to get there. I had warmed up a bit by the time I reached the summit so I relaxed comfortably for about 25 minutes on top before going back down. An interesting "first" for me that's worth mentioning is that I never saw one human being on the entire trip. It kind of makes winter hiking even more appealing to me than spring and summer hiking. Anyway, I took a quick auto-timed photo with the awesome Crestones in the background and headed back for the car.

I can't wait to climb the Crestones. Such impressive mountains. The hike down was quick and uneventful. I had a great hike to kick off the Winter season. I'm looking forward to more winter hikes which I hope to be planning soon. This was my 11th 14er in 2010 and I'm hoping to hit 20 before 2011.

Notes to Self:
-get a headlamp
-get partners for winter hikes especially
-bring handwarmers to shove into my gloves


  1. looks like fun....Steve

  2. this was the first i've seen of these pictures. after reading this i definitely don't feel better about you hiking alone. please go with a buddy next time.

  3. sounds frekkin cold - but pretty.

  4. Brady, I'm so impressed by your hiking and writing abilities! I honestly considered buying you a headlamp for Christmas--that was before deciding on the REI gift card.