Peak(s):  Colony Baldy  -  13,705 feet
Date Posted:  04/03/2013
Date Climbed:   03/30/2013
Author:  Rainier_Wolfcastle
Additional Members:   geojed
 Wet Mashed Potatoes Anyone?   

If you've read one of my trip reports, then you know I never start out writing about the actual climb...this report is no different!

Failed attempt on Mt. Adams:
On Saturday 3/16/13, I drove down to the Sangres to make a solo attempt on my lone remaining Sangre Centennial, Mount Adams. There was very limited beta, so I figured the chances for success were questionable.

I started at the Horn Creek TH, located on the Sangres' East Side, @ 9,080 ft of elevation. This TH is a short drive from Westcliffe, well marked, and it has an outhouse.

From the TH I cruised 0.5 miles West/SW to meet up with the Rainbow Trail, here I turned right towards the Horn Creek Trail:

With maybe 60% of the trail snow covered, I was cruising without floatation. After another 0.2 miles I hit the Horn Creek Trail (5 miles to the Horn Creek Lakes):

Here I strapped on the snowshoes, but the sweet weather and sunrise gave me optimism.

It had snowed heavily a week prior, and apparently I was the first person to venture up this trail.
First two miles: 1inch of crust over 5 inches of sugar.
Third mile: 2 inches of styrofoam (big whoomps) over 10 inches of wet sugar. Optimism fading.
Fourth mile: 18 inches of wet mashed potatoes. "Well, I can at least get up to the lakes and get a look at Mt. Adams."

My last 3/4ths of mile: 2-4 feet of wet mashed potatoes. "Let's try going left....son-of-a! Maybe it is easier to the right...hey super, I'm swimming in wet snow! Just put your head down and plow." After 45 minutes and maybe 200 yards, I called it! I was past 11K, and maybe 0.25 miles from the lakes.


The next weekend was my first inactive one this year, the snowstorm kept me inside watching March Madness. Of course sitting on my arse, only jacked up my need to get out on Saturday 3/30. On friday, I noticed that Jed (Geojed, or as Ed Viesturs calls him: Jeb) was looking for Colony Baldy partners. This would again be from the Horn Creek TH, but this time I would be on a ridge, instead of in a valley...surely this will not be a wet mashed potato sufferfest. Plus I can finally get a look at Mt. Adams!

We had corresponded a little in the past, but had never met. Jed volunteers to drive, sweeeeet!

Okay, here is the trip:

Who: Shawn (Rainier_Wolfcastle), Jed (Geojed)
When: 3/30/2013
TH: Horn Creek TH @ 9,080 ft
Peak: Colony Baldy @ 13,705 ft
Times: 7:40am start, 10:00am depart Rainbow Trail for Ridge, 12:20pm hit treeline, 2:10pm summit, 6:55pm car.
Stats (estimated): 12.5 Miles & 4,850 ft Elevation Gain
Route: Rainbow Trail, Colony Baldy East Ridge.

A 2wd would have no trouble getting all the way to the TH. As we arrive the sun has broke the horizon and conditions are warm. There is a hair more snow than there was 2 weeks ago.

We leave the snowshoes on our packs and head out. We cruise (with some delayering to base layers) the first 0.5 miles to the Rainbow Trail. Same turn as two weeks ago, only this time I'm taking a left towards the Macey Trail.

After another half mile or so, we hit consistent soft snow. We strap on the bear-traps (copyright: DancesatMoonrise). We have another 3 miles of rainbow trail to cover. The trail gains some elevations, but there are moderate ups and downs. The essence of the trail is that it working its way in and around the toes of the various ridges, as you try to make your way south. You hike 3.5 miles to maybe go 2 miles south.

Depending on whether you are on the south or north side of one of the toes, you maybe on 2 feet of snow or bare trail. We float on 2/3rds of our steps, post-hole on the other third....which is always fun...

Finally we hit the Macy turn-off (to the right of the missing bridge in the photo below). Colony Baldy is in the background.

From the pic above, you continue south (over the missing bridge) on the Rainbow Trail until you start working around the next toe...this toe is actually the start of the main ridge east ridge of Colony Baldy.

Once you have the ridge in front (or to the right of you), you just pick your line and start the bushwack to gain the start of the ridge. This part was moderately steep in really crappy 2-3 feet deep wet mashed potato snow. The snow did nothing but hinder your grip, so many times we had to use trees to push ourselves upwards. Here is where we really started alternating trail-breaking duties often...but Jed certainly led the two hardest sections...thanks buddy!

You on the ridge, in the trees for maybe 1.25 miles (felt like 5). We tried to stay on the ridge proper, or just to the south. It was a fairly even mix of flat, 5%, 10%, 15%, & 20% grade hiking. Postholing was closer to 75% of the time now. There were a few bare patches, but mostly it was 2ft of snow (+/- a ft). And may I say, this was the WORST SNOW CONDITIONS EVER! If my snowshoes weigh 2 lbs a piece...the wet snow made it feel like 5-10lbs. When you broke through, you did it to the ground every time....same with my poles, even with disks. In fact the disks would just scoop up like 4 ounces of wet snow with each step.

Can you spot the Jedi?

Going was slow and can it be noon and we are not even at treeline?

Starting to open up:



Treeline kind of sneaks up on you, but what a joy! We take our first real break of the day, and revel in the grass slopes above us! 2,200 feet to go, no problem!

From here, as you follow the ridge, you just move from far point to far point...above is the first point. This first slope is the steepest part. So happy!

And of course the sweet views start appearing...Humboldt:

Many 13ers to the north:

Next point on the ridge...I was cruising at this point, but Jed was going at 2K per hour pace.

Two bumps to go:

Jed beat me to the summit by maybe 15 minutes. A head wind had really kicked up and made me stop to put on my down insulation, mittens, hat, etc.

Here are my "pano" shots of the surrending area...starting south with Humboldt & the Crestones:

Crestones & KC/Challenger:

Adams & friends:

Rito Alto, Horn, Spread Eagle, Etc., Etc.:

"Hey Shawn, I'm going to run over the ridge to Obstruction Point really quick."

Sweet pic, thanks Jed!

For a half hour, we completely forgot about the crappy snow...

Around 3pm, we started down...trying not to think about what was ahead of us.

Hey, there are some pretty neat couloirs to the bad they are south facing and would require more nightmare approaches.

Once we hit treeline, the suck kicked in full gear. Every step went all the way to the ground, scooping pounds of wet snow up with every step. Steep sections guaranteed I would be on my arse soon.

My feet were toast, every step hurt. Jed was feeling a little better, he broke any trail that had not been trenched on the way up.

He took this pic of Colony Baldy as we said goodbye:

After a hair over 11 hours, we were back at the car. Jed led us to Chappy's in Westcliffe....sitting by the open gril, eating a 20+ ounce T-bone, drinking my happy, just like hitting that open ridge above treeline all over again!

Thank you Jed, you were a great climbing partner and are a super nice guy!

Thanks for reading!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
04/03/2013 18:54
Looks great (except for that nasty postholing stuff in slop) - dig the pics. Congrats and thanks for sharing!

Way to persevere ...
04/03/2013 18:56
In the land of mashed potatoes. Beautiful photos. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

The neatest summits...
04/03/2013 19:00
... are the ones that you have to work so hard to get. Looks like CB was a pretty neat one for you guys. Love the pics and the narrative.

04/03/2013 22:24
You're kicking butt! Keep it up!

Thanks Shawn
04/09/2013 03:33
Even though those were some heinous mashed potatoes, at least we had some AMAZING gravy on top with those views! I had a great time. Great Trip Report.

P.S: C'mon we TOTALLY could've bagged Obstruction Peak!

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