09 April 2013

Humboldt Peak

Sunrise from Lower South Colony Lake

20 September 2008

We did it! We climbed Humboldt!

It was a perfect day. Not too windy, not too cold. Not even too crowded. We did get a few clouds, but rain didn't begin until The Lizard and I began heading home.

Mike and Kim are such delightful hiking companions. It is so awesome to see a couple who've been together for 28 years so in love. It's refreshing.

My back hurts. But I made it. Slowly. Very, very slowly.

This was the first 14er we've climbed since Columbia, about a year ago. And it was a sheer delight compared to Columbia. This was a fun mountain, and the scenery was spectacular. I'm hoping we can go back many times.

This was the first time either of us have hiked on this side of the Sangres. This side is as steep as the west side. The morning light made the eastern slopes much more beautiful, though, because you get no light in the early morning going up from the west side.

South Colony Lakes in the early morning sun with the orange Crestones towering in the background grace the cover of what probably is the most popular 14er climbing guide. I've always wanted to see that view and get my own version of that shot. We missed the alpen glow atop Crestone Needle because I was so slow, but the sunrise we partially observed from dense cover was spectacular nonetheless.

The Lizard took more pictures than ever the entire hike. That's pretty darned exciting. I shot 266 pictures. I got one shot of a fish catching a fly on the water. Awesome!

The four-wheel-drive portion of the road to the trailhead is 5.5 miles long. When they close that section of the road next year, Humboldt is going to have one heck of a long approach. I'm so glad we did the peak when we did because I wouldn't want to have to walk that road.

I also wouldn't want to drive that road. The Lizard did it, and he did a magnificent job. It wasn't the worst road I've ever been on, and we didn't need actual four-wheel too much. But it is one heck of a bumpy road, and it does need clearance.

The water bars had the potential to bottom out the car. But The Lizard walked the 4Runner over them gently and although it always threw stuff around, the ride was not bad at all. I'm so thankful he was driving and not me.

South Colony is a beautiful valley I would like to return to often. Maybe by lengthening the approach, the valley will stay pristine the way it was while we were there. It probably sees a lot more feet during the summer because Humboldt is a mountain just about anyone can climb and because so many people want to tackle the Crestones, which are accessible via the same trail.

Even though we saw lots of fish in both lakes, they don't appear to get too many fishermen. Not that I have anything against fishermen and tourists. But Colony Lakes were a lot cleaner than some of the lakes I have visited closer to the Front Range. I love that. I'm going back next month for autumn pictures.

I made another bear during the long drive home. When The Lizard held my bear, which still had two strings attached because I hadn't woven them in yet, he said my baby still has her umbilical cord attached.

The Lizard and Mike admire the Crestones from high on the Humboldt trail.

Mighty Women!

Upper South Colony Lake and autumn colors on the tundra

Crestone Needle from Lower South Colony Lake

A cutthroat devours a real fly on Upper South Colony Lake.

8 October 2008

I am back at the South Colony trailhead, and I am alone. The Lizard wasn't able to get time off for this fall leaf trip.

This means I had to drive. I had to four-wheel. Alone. In the dark.

I am so exhausted and strained, I could fall asleep in the driver's seat, still holding tightly to the steering wheel. This road is an absolute nightmare. I'm relieved I'm parked now, but I'm so stressed and shaky from the experience, I dread what's going to happen tomorrow when I head back down. I can't stand this road. I wouldn't want to walk up it in the dark, either, but I sure hated driving up it.

I had a big long list of things I was supposed to do today before I left, and I did them all, except for finishing my next little bear. I thought I might be able to finish it tonight after I park.

Not a chance.

I'm worried about going out alone tomorrow. I used to do this all the time. But now I'm scared stiff. Literally. I guess it's because the four-wheel drive portion of the road was so frightening.

I'd better get some sleep. Dawn is going to come pretty darned fast.

Crestone Needle Glow

One day some friends and I were talking about the most unusual things we've seen people take up a 14er.  I've seen birds in a cage being carried up and poodles in backpacks.  Since this was just a photo expedition and not a genuine ascent, I could afford a little extra weight.  Who else has ever carried a bag of bears up to Upper South Colony Lake!?!

Humboldt Bear

9 October 2008

I got up at 5, and it took me 30 minutes to talk myself into hiking up the trail. I prayed a lot. I was so scared. Everything was fine, but for some reason, I really had the heebie jeebies. Maybe because it was an area I didn't know. Maybe because no one else seemed to be there. Maybe because we saw a real bear last week.

The wind was furious. The temperature was fine. I got the sunrise. YES!!! I shot to my heart's content without the pressure of getting up a peak. That was somewhat enjoyable.

The wind really hampered bear shooting. My bears kept taking wing. At one point, my whole bag of bears flew. Yes, I was a batty woman hauling a shopping bag of bears up to a premiere fishing hole and climbing spot.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my cheap Wal-Mart fleece gloves. I decided not to go back and look for them. I had no idea where they might be; I'd been too many places. I decided to hope that meant someone else might need them more than me. I'll just pick up another pair next time I'm at the store.

I dreaded that downhill four-wheeling so much, I would have paid someone to drive my car down for me if there had been anyone else at the trailhead. But I was totally alone.

I did okay. But I was an absolute wreck. Well, I was a wreck without a wreck! Fortunately, my 4Runner is just fine.

I explored some dirt roads after I got down, mostly looking for aspen I could shoot with the peaks in the background, without success. I shot some bears. I had to go fishing for a blown bear through strands of barbed wire. That was fun. NOT!

The funniest part of the entire day was shooting a big white bear and a little bear in front of Blanca Peak and Little Bear Peak. I think the shot would make a terrific poster!

Little Bear and Blanca Bear


  1. Well at least a wreck came without a wreck, and look grand on top of the world haha

    1. On top of the 14ers, I truly do feel on top of the world, Pat. But the wildlife and wildflowers are the real reason I go! Well, plus the challenge of seeing if I can make it...

  2. I just adore that look we did it moment! Congrats on your Humboldt climb as well. Thanks for sharing such awesome photos again too!

    1. Thanks, Karen! That is indeed a great photo by my husband! I don't often like pictures of me, but that one's a keeper!

  3. Ooh, my gut is clenching thinking of that drive. I get very nervous too when driving alone in dicey circumstances - can't imagine four-wheeling in the dark ... in the mountains.

    Thanks for including the fish photo - I was dying to see it! What a glorious place. The autumn tundra colours are beautiful. The bears look pretty friendly too. :)

    1. This place is so unique and beautiful, Sue, I can't wait to go back. I've got one more bear shot up my sleeve if I can get my body in shape for the long descent on the return...

  4. Haha, I am not sure if I did understand it right: Blanca = white...so your bears fit to peaks perfectly :)

    1. You got it right, Neferi! That was a huge laugh for me then. I thought I was being so clever!

  5. Great story! I know that feeling of the heebie-jeebies but not knowing why I have them. I'm glad that you had a wonderful trip! I love the photo with the peak reflected in the dark water.

    1. I'd wanted to duplicate that shot for years, KB, so this was an especially rewarding trip, with great friends and wonderful views!


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