Snow and Ash on Hunts Peak: A Belated TR

      4 Comments on Snow and Ash on Hunts Peak: A Belated TR

White, black, and blue – the approach to Hunts Peak featured a rare blend of natural color contrasts, thanks to the Ox Cart Fire which scorched the area only a few months prior.

Still trying to get caught up on TRs from last year. In November Brian, Dillon, and I loaded up into the Jeep and made our way down to the Sangres with a less-than-stellar weather forecast looming over our heads. A more sensible group may have pushed the trip to a later date, but for some reason we got a wild hair and decided to try to stick it to Mother Nature on this particular weekend. Well as you may have guessed, the joke wound up being on us, kind of. After setting up camp and getting a fire going at the Horn Creek TH, IPAs in hand, the wind gradually increased from 10 to 50 mph as the night progressed. Around 2am we moved from the tents to the Jeep as the flimsy aluminum poles of our free standing tents simply couldn’t stand up to the beating any longer. With visions of flapping canvas and flying embers still dancing in our heads, we managed to get a few hours of something resembling sleep before heading into Westcliffe for some breakfast. It was the single windiest night I’ve ever experienced in the backcountry and my tent definitely paid a price for it. I think my stuff sack ended up in Kansas as well.

High winds battering the high peaks of the northern Sangre de Cristos, as seen from the Wet Mountain Valley.

After we regrouped and re-packed our gear, we drove around the north end of the range for an afternoon attempt on Hunts Peak from the west. Though the winds were still whipping up high, we figured we might just get lucky and catch an afternoon lull. The TH was somewhat tricky to get to as it lies at the end of a complex set of interconnected dirt roads, all of which seem to lead nowhere. I won’t bother trying to describe the directions, but they can be found on several websites if you look for them.

Brian, who got the worst night of sleep out of the three of us, decided to stay and relax at the car with a can of Pringles. Dillon and I, intent on getting some hiking done to offset the several thousand calories we consumed the night prior, set off up the road towards South Rock Creek. The area had seen a decent amount of snowfall in the day prior, up to a foot in some places, so we often found ourselves wallowing.

Dillon leading the charge towards Hunts Peak through deeper snow than we expected to find.

Higher up we got a good look at the full extent of the fire – blackened tree trunks extended in every direction as far as the eye could see.

Estimated burn area of the Ox Cart Fire (started from a lightning strike in June of 2013).

We followed the trail the best we could higher in the drainage before splitting off and contouring up a mini-ridge feature dropping off the north side of Point 12,042. Once atop this ridge the ground flattened out and Hunts Peak came into view to our east.

Dillon hiking higher up on the ridge with the northern San Luis Valley behind him.

Nature’s canvas – charred tree trunks with rime encrusted tops against a blue backdrop.

Back on the snow with the summit in sight.

The final few steps along Hunts’ ice coated West Ridge with the summit cairn in sight.

Being the northernmost 13er in the Sangres, Hunts grants unique 360 degree views of the Sawatch to the north and the Sangres to the south. The summit sits on the border between Fremont and Saguache counties, and is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the Arkansas, San Luis, and Wet Mountain valleys. You really get a good lay of the land from the top.

The bulk of the Sangre de Cristo Range as seen from Hunt’s summit – a unique vantage point.

Views down into Salida and the southern end of the Arkansas River Valley.

After a celebratory high five and a short summit stay, Dillon and I high tailed it off the summit and down the West Ridge. As we worked our way down lower we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the San Luis Valley. We decided to stop and admire the view for several minutes, but with the temps taking a noticeable nose dive we didn’t linger for too long. Once off the ridge we were able to follow our tracks the mile and half back out to the road. Fifteen minutes later we met up with Brian at the Jeep, after which we motored up to Amica’s for some much anticipated pizza and IPA.

Still high in the alpine with the sun waning over the western horizon.

A shot from the night before, before things turned ugly.

An interesting cast of characters on the wall mural at Amica’s.

Wind, cold, and destroyed gear aside, I had a great time. Thanks for making it a fun one fellas!

4 thoughts on “Snow and Ash on Hunts Peak: A Belated TR

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Brandon! Yeah they turned out really well, all of the best ones are Dillon’s anyway. The combo of the charred tree trunks, snow/rime, and blue sky was one I don’t see too often.

      Reply
  1. Dillon

    Ben, you kicked in your 12th gear on the way up this one man. I was toast when we hit the summit. I like this report a lot. From West-gape base camp, to winter tornados, to the greatest banana bread of all time and choose your own ipa, even Motel Wrangler… add in great company and some amazing summit views, this had everything. You forgot a picture though! haha.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Haha nice recap Dillon! Totally agree, this was one of those where you look back and only remember the good stuff. I thought about including that photo but decided the FS might not approve…

      Reply

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