Culebra Peak and Red Mountain from the Cielo Vista Ranch
After putting it off until nearly the end of our Fourteeners, Jason and I finally gave in and hiked Culebra Peak. Since we were there we also did Red Mountain. I reseved all 25 available spots for the day and filled them with people from church, work, and off of 14ers.com.
This trip turned out to be a lot of fun. Many of us drove down the day before and had dinner together in San Luis and then camped together at the ranch gates. It was fun to have a chance to talk to so many other Fourteener addicts. Finally, people that speak the same language I do.
Thanks to all who attended I had a great time. Hope to see you all again on other 14ers.
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The camping turned out to be a little less than what I was expecting. It's just a port-a-potty in the middle of a sage brush field. Pretty dusty and dry. The gate to the ranch was also very non-descript. Just a couple of big steel green gates. Nothing even identifying the ranch name.
The road beyond the ranch headquarters is not for cars. High clearance and either plenty of power or a low gear is required.
This was the worst spot, but it's only a couple hundred yards beyond the headquarters and would stop any car I know.
The rest of the road is in pretty good shape, but steep at times. Some rocky terrain and a few water diversion ditches in the road also necessitate the high clearances.
The entire group drove up to the upper trailhead. I think we all agreed there wouldn't be much point to hiking a road.
The ranch asks that you don't walk single file and take different routes. This made for a weird shotgun start to the hike.
We got a pretty late start since we didn't get let in until 6:30 and then had to go through the process of turning in waivers and paying. We weren't on the trail until after 7.
The weather was great from the beginning. There was a little frost on the ground near 13,000 feet, but that disappeared quickly.
The group really got spread out quickly, Caleb and Chris took the southern ridge.
The group also broke up based on speed. I stayed with the rear and watched as hiker after hiker disappeared over the ridge.
The ascent up the ridge is in a beautiful tundra basin, but many of us really struggle with the hike all over the place method. It seemed like it was going to have a huge impact on the plant life.
Tom and his brother Josh got a later start than most of the pack, but caught up by the time we reached the ridge.
Once you reach the ridge you are rewarded with some great views into Carneros Basin.
You can also see the rest of the route to the summit. The summit actually just to the left of what appears to be the summit in this photo. Even though it appears shorter.
By the time we reached the ridge there were several people on the summit.
We took the opportunity to rearrange clothing layers, get a snack, and take a short break.
After descending to a saddle and beginning up to the false summit, Carneros Lake comes into view.
The ridge also becomes very rocky at this point. With no trail it was time consuming working our way through it. Denise got pretty good at it though.
The views south really opened up as we ascended. Somewhere in this photo is New Mexico.
I also notice that Jason was summiting Red Mountain well ahead of me.
A closer look.
It works best to skirt to the right of the false summit, easier walking and less elevation to lose. The true summit is on the left and Red Mountain is on the right. The saddle between is pretty easy hiking, as long as you don't mind doing lots of rock hopping.
I ran into Geoff again as he was coming down from the summit. It was great to get to hike with him again.
Fortunately I had my tripod with as I wound up on the summit of Culebra alone.
Jason and I passed on the Culebra/Red Mountain saddle and I passed the camera off to him. This is my Red Mountain summit shot.
Not long after he got back up to Culebra, Denise was on her final approach to the summit.
Tired from the journey, but success on her first Fourteener! Congratulations Denise.
She rested a bit, but unfortunately getting to the summit is only half of the trip.
So back down the ridge she goes.
The weather held up fantastically.
Light clouds formed but nothing too threatening. Haze from forest fires partially blocked the view of the Blanca Massif, but it was still impressive.
The long descent took its toll on the knees, but everyone made it in good shape.
It was a great day of hiking.
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