Culebra Peak
Colorado 14ers
14,051 feet, 4,282 meter
Rocky Mountain National Park |
Anatomy of a Storm
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In early August 2008, Patrick, Robert and I found ourselves in southern most Colorado to climb a couple of peaks: Culebra and LIndsey. We had competed Lindsey the day before and now were ready for the southern most 14er, Culebra which is only 8 miles from the border with New Mexico. We had read that it was 'pristine' since it was on private land thus having less traffic than other 14ers - and they were right.

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Culebra has quite a history since it has mostly been on private ranch land. For years the owners did not allow anyone to climb it thus thwarting the desires of climbers to summit all the 14ers in Colorado. But through the Colorado Mountain Club small groups were allowed to climb only after they had completed all the other 14ers.

Today there are new owners, Cielo Vista Ranch, who are more flexible - for a price. They charge $100 per climber for Culebra and another $50 for the nearby 13er, Red Mountain. The limit is 20 climbers per weekend day. Patrick had made reservations a couple of weeks in advance and we joined 9 other climbers on Sunday, August 10.

We had climbed Lindsey the previous day so we pampered ourselves with a night at the San Louis Inn and a fine dinner of cheeseburgers at Claudine's - supposedly the "best restaurant in town." The locals welcomed us by throwing a full beer can at us as we crossed the street. What a waste of a good beer.

click to enlargeAfter a less exciting evening we arrived at the ranch gate at 5:45 along with several other vehicles. Carlos soon arrived to let us in and we caravanned to the ranch house to turn in our legal waivers and crisp $100 bills. I guess it is a sign of the times. With the formalities complete and a short pep talk from Carols we drove the few miles to the end of the road. One justification for the $100 is to maintain the dirt road. It was in great shape and much smoother than many county or forest service maintained roads.

There are two starting points. One at 11,240' and the one we took at 11,650'. There is not a strong trail since the traffic is so low however the route is easy enough starting up a wide open field with grass and wildflowers all around. It leads to the 'snake-like' ridge that goes to point 13,400. Once there the full route becomes clear.

From the ridge the San Louis Valley is quite a sight. This day it was covered with a layer of white fluffy clouds. The entire area was still quite green, a tribute to the recent rains. Also the marmot population seemed out of control with big ones and moms and their little ones all around chasing one another and ignoring us.

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We continued along the ridge line and came upon one of the largest carins we had ever seen. It was quite the spectacle and in sharp contrast to the 'pristine' atmosphere advertised. We lost a little elevation then began the final climb along a high ridge line to the summit. Even near 14,000' the ground was green with tundra ... and marmots.

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The view from the summit was obscured this day with a layer of low clouds formed by the moisture in the air. We still enjoyed some time at the summit and shared some stories with the other climbers two of which had now completed all 58 14,000' peaks in Colorado with this summit.

I enjoyed Culebra quite a lot. It was pristine. The area was a sharp contrast to the brown of the Sawatch or Front Range. The route finding was easy and the climb never over Class 2 even when we chose to do some ridge line hiking. While I don't like to pay for climbing a mountain, especially in my own state, this one felt OK and worth the price.





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