|Peak:||Culebra Peak - 14,047 feet|
Before I get into the story of 9 14ers.com members making a memorable summit, I must hand out some props.
First and foremost, I on behalf of the crew would like to thank Cielo Vista ranch for letting us have this wonderful opportunity to climb this mountain in Spring. On top of thanking the Ranch, I would like to give props to Carlos, the most hospitable ranch hand in the world. Thank you Carlos!
I would like to also thank all of the other climbers in the group for all making it an awesome trip and especially to Mad Mike, who was the one who scored us this gem of a trip. He was the one who coordinated the whole thing and put out the offers on this site. Great team you put together Mike.
Sorry for those who decided to bail due to the adverse weather. Maybe next time.
Mountainmicah83.. - ski
The following info was compiled by mad Mike:
Distance...5200 feet, 15 miles (for all but Micah and Jake)
Total 14er Ascents...484
Total 13er Ascents...47
Total 14ers Skied/Boarded...41
Distance for Micah and Jake was 19.1 Miles and 6200 feet +
We all pretty much took the Roach Route on the Ascent, and all but Jake and I took that for the descent. Long story short, Jake and I took the wrong finger south down to the Vallejos River drainage and had to make our way back up and out to the upper parking area and down to the car about four hours later than the rest of the crew.
The weather came in to Colorado unexpectedly strong towards the end of last week and it got the crew antsy. As the day progressed on Friday, several areas had already received over a foot of heavy wet spring snow and several roads were closed. Anticipation grew through the team while we all wondered how long it would take before the ranch called off our adventure because of the weather. I think we were all expecting it because it happened to the winter group for much less of a storm.
In the end, one of the group members contacted Carlos and told him that the group was all experienced winter mountaineers . Carlos said we could still climb but there would be no refunds for non-summitters and with the weather there would be no view.
I left Colorado Springs at around 5:30 PM on Friday in old blue (my '74 VW Beetle) expecting to encounter some pretty horrible snow conditions and was specifically dreading La Veta pass. I had dry roads all of the way until the back side of the pass where I ran into heavy blowing snow. At this point, it was a race to the gates of the ranch between me and nature. After fishtailing my way up the road through 8" of fresh snow, I barely made it to the gates by about 9 PM and Jake was the only one there.
I awoke in the morning to a total of about 1' of new fresh snow at the gate. All climbers were present when Carlos showed up and opened up the gate for us to drive the next few miles to the headquarters buildings of the ranch. Old blue stayed at the Gate and I rode with Jake.
All paid up and about 6:30 AM and we were starting to wonder if we would actually have a good weather day.
All 4 snowshoers were out pretty quick while the 5 skiers stuck the skins to our sticks. By 7 AM, we were all on the trail
Bean making his way up:
(photo courtesy of Carl)
For the first couple of miles, we were following the pre-cut snowshoe tracks (thanks guys). Eventually, we caught them and told them that we would share with some of the trail cutting work. For 75% of the rest of the day, JakeK was the Hoss that was cutting all of the trail through the 1-2' of fresh wet stuff. He managed to grab this picture of me following closely behind. A few times, Jake was kind enough to need a small breather and let me do a small bit of trail cutting.
(Photo courtesy of JakeK)
While we were marching up into the dark clouds, I noticed that the San Luis Valley was looking pretty crisp.
As already mentioned, Mr. Hoss doing his thang cutting trail:
Eventually, I realized that I was going to get too tired if I stayed near the front of the pack and I already wasn't feeling too hot. To be honest, I may have turned around by about 12,500' if I didn't pay $100 to climb the mountain. This is the point that I must stop to say that the beauty out there was worth every penny of the money. Cielo Vista puts that money to good use to maintain the pristine conditions, and nice road, and top-notch hospitality of the staff.
Shortly before 4 way, Jake snapped this photo of me
Finally, at about 9 AM and 3.5 miles or so up the road, we all reached 4 Way. I think that sign is usually about shoulder height in the summer!
(courtesy of Carl)
After taking up the rear, I snapped a nice shot of "the train"
Prior to passing the upper parking area, everything was just kind of cloudy and foggy but most of us weren't even wearing our shells or any layers but the base layer. After the upper parking, visibility pretty much stayed 50' or less until about 5:30 PM.
We relied on modern Technology to guide us to the summit. BAUMGAURA and Mountainmicah83 pointing the way.
Here is the party making our way to the ridge hoping to celebrate on the summit with umbrella drinks in the sunny weather
Bean got this pic of the Rime taking over my hair:
A field mouse decided to chase the team for a while
Bean making his way up:
(photo courtesy of Carl)
Eventually, around 13K we made the ridge Proper.
Edit: jf32 headed up the ridge
JakeK heading up the ridge
Wesley shot this of Bean in a moment of Clarity.
ngoodnight Excited to be on the summit
(Photo courtesy of JF-32)
Meanwhile, I was a good ¼ mile behind the group still working the ridge and not feeling well at all. I knew I had a summit and return in me though or I would have just waited for the group to come back.
Mike and Carl chillin' on the Summit
Where are those umbrella drinks? Come on, 30 MPH winds and negative 10 feet visibility.
Skiing off of the true summit:
Me barely able to smile on the summit.
Notice I was wearing Mountaineering boots and was planning on skiing. Bad place to test this method. DO NOT EVER USE MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS FOR SKIING! They work alright for the ascent but you get no edges on the descent and no front and back support. Attempting to ski down was a nightmare with that rig. In the week prior, there was talk of skiing the north face from the summit and making the rap in the middle of the descent like last year's spring crew. With the weather we all decided to leave our climbing gear at the vehicles and I went with the mountaineering boots.
Jake at the summit:
Shortly after departing the summit, the group got split up in the poor visibility. I yaked up all over and was heaving blue Gatorade on my hands and knees when I hear Jake calling my name. "Where did everyone go?" The group had gotten split up. Jake and I had decided to stick together for the remainder of the descent. He could have hung with all the rest of the skiers but I think he was worried about me and my crappy idea that mountaineering boots could work for skiing at angles under 40 degrees.
Meanwhile, the other skiers pulled some descent turns:
Jake and I made our way down the ridge that we thought was the route. Here was one of the few times I was standing on skis during the descent:
At about 12,400', Jake and I began to realize that we were off route. We never had to reclimb that hump on the ridge at around 13K. The skies cleared for a brief moment and we realized where we were. We were on the south finger ridge going into the Vallejos River Drainage. The black route was our descent route that cost us 4 hours and over 1000' of extra ascent.
At least the sun finally came up for a while and Jake and I got to see some rare sights of terrain that is seldom traveled.
We continued to traverse across and over towards the upper parking area.
Luckily, Jake and I both have good heads on our shoulders and descent athletic bases. This enabled us to keep calm and make it out no matter what. We knew if we didn't make it out, search and rescue would be looking for us on this private property. Not to mention the expensive bill we would have had to pay. It got dark about 45 Minutes before we got pack to the upper parking area (where you can hike round trip from the car from in the summer time).
I snapped this photo of the sun setting on the San Luis Valley and the snow on the trees:
No photo shop here, this is just a natural Colorado sunset. From there it got colder and colder as expected. Jake and I made the upper trailhead sometime after 8 and were able to cruise most of the way down on the ascent trail of the group. Sometime after 9 PM and several crashes on the skis later, we made it back to Jake's jeep. Finally! I was so exhausted. We signed out and drove down to the gate where we found the keys missing. Luckily, Jake had 1 bar of Verizon service and he was able to call his girlfriend and told her to Call Carlos to come let us out. He was already on his way up with the snowmobile with Search and Rescue close behind. They get worried when you are supposed to be out by 6 PM and not out til almost 10. He was able to call the sheriff and let them know that we were safe. Carlos let us out and then led the way back to Chama where I parked my bug to sleep off the long day.
Thanks again to all that were involved! While Jake and I made a wrong turn in the clouds, everything turned out alright because we were diligent in figuring out our current location and where we needed to go.
Culebra in the Evening:
See you at the top!
Disclaimer: I apologize if I gave wrong credits to any photos or if I called someone by the wrong name of if any information was off. Please feel free to leave a comment correcting me.