Usually when I set my alarm for the crack of dawn it's to catch a flight to a race, but today was different. I had an exciting adventure in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness ahead of me and the 4:30 AM wake up was made easier knowing this. The objective? Summit three 13'ers over approximately 17 miles (according to my topographic map).
My research consisted of picking three peaks that I was previously not familiar with that had challenging contour lines. There would be limited trail and I was going to be relying on my own navigation skills much of the day.
I respect remote backcountry wilderness and understand the need to have prior knowledge of the terrain to be covered, as well as a backup plan. Today would be slightly different, however. I was after the thrill of the unknown, and wanted the mission to unfold along the way as much as possible.
I left the car at 4:45 AM, approximately 2 hours before sunrise. Hiking alone in the woods at night is a bit of a spooky experience, but I enjoy being on foot in the wilderness and watching the day come to life. I only saw one set of eyes glaring back at me and I'm just going to assume it was a deer!
I was familiar with my first stop of the day from my map review; Lake of the Clouds. My goal was to reach this point just before sunrise in hopes of capturing some nice pictures.
From here I was going to be navigating without a trail to the first summit of the day - Cloud Peak. Thankfully I brought snow shoes as there was 1-2 feet of snow in areas.
I reached the saddle between Point 13,165 and Cloud Peak just before 8:30 AM and was greeted with what I would estimate to be 60mph wind gusts. Prior to this point I was protected by the face of the mountain. These winds didn’t subside much throughout the day but luckily I found short shelter breaks behind rocks.
The rest of the day went smoothly and I was treated to some amazing views and fun terrain on which to scramble. By noon, I had summited all three peaks. I enjoyed some leftover pizza atop Spread Eagle Peak while soaking in the views.
From the Sangre de Cristos you are treated to views of just about every mountain range in Colorado. I could see Pikes Peak, Mount Sneffels, some of the Sawatch Range, as well as some of the Elk Mountains. Hiking doesn’t give me the same type of rush as mountain biking, but I thoroughly enjoy the long, drawn out efforts required to reach alpine summits.
I eventually found my tracks from earlier and worked my way back to the car. I returned to the trailhead around 2 PM, a little over 9 hours after setting out.
The day was a success! I caught sunrise at treeline, bagged three new-to-me peaks, fulfilled my quest for adventure, and left with great memories. It was great to get out there and escape from technology for the day.
Until next time Sangre de Cristos.