A Summit and Some Beta

3-4 Jun 2006 - by T Colorado

We wanted to do some reconnaissance for a Memorial Day multi-peak trip next year (2007) and figured this weekend was as good as any to climb a peak and gain some beta. Access for this trip would be from the Rito Alto Creek Trailhead which is one of the few drainages we have not accessed from the west side of the Sangre de Cristos. After arriving at the trailhead at 7:00 p.m., we quickly changed into our hiking clothes, fighting the typical desert distractions of bugs, heat and dust. On the trail at 7:30, we had an hour of good light to go in a couple of miles and set up a temporary camp. The trail is pretty and meanders up and down along the creek, gradually gaining elevation. We were up early on Saturday and continued in another 3 miles (or so) to a great campsite before the trail junction. Rito Alto Peak looms in front of you the entire way and looks very climbable from this side (regardless of whether you access Hermit Pass first or not ... of course, all of the editorial comments are based on each person's individual ability and level of comfort). At this point (due to the terrain and ability to ford the creek to our south), we hypothesized that this campsite would be a good access point for climbing Unnamed 13,062, Unnamed 13,060 and Unnamed 13,028 next year. We pitched our camp, ate some food, and donned our daypacks for a leisurely hike up to the pass between Unnamed 13,513 and Unnamed 13,490.

At the trail junction (the right fork goes to Rito Alto Lake and eventually climbs to Hermit Pass; the left fork goes to "Cotton Pass" and eventually descends down to Cotton Lake), we took a left and hiked up to Cotton Pass. From this pass, we got great views of Rito Alto Peak, Unnamed 13,524 and Unnamed 13,490. We will be back to do Unnamed 13,490 and Unnamed 13,122 from this pass; it will be much more challenging than doing it from Wild Cherry Lake. We hung a right at the pass and walked up the gentle ridge to the top of Unnamed 13,513. We were the first ones to sign in this year! That's always neat. As we sat there taking in the views of Spread Eagle Peak, the Crestones, etc., we could see people struggling their way up to the summit we were on from Lakes of the Clouds (that is the most popular way to climb this peak). Actually, we saw no entries in the register from people climbing Unnamed 13,513 from the Rito Alto Creek Trailhead. Our views of the low unnamed 13'ers to the south, for climbing next year, were unobstructed and confirmed that our initial instinct to climb those from the camp we had for this trip would be best (with a descending bushwack to Rito Alto Lake and hike back to camp).

Before the climbers from Lakes of the Clouds arrived, we departed, heading back down the way we came. We arrived back at our secluded camp, had dinner and hit the sack. On Sunday, we lounged around camp, sipping on margaritas and soaking up the sun. We had not seen people the entire trip (except the ones we saw from the summit), and this luck continued for us all the way to the parking lot at the trailhead. There were people parked there with their fishing poles and talking of fish in Rito Alto Creek. Overall, it was a successful trip and will bode well for next year's adventures. Happy Trails!

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