Peak(s):  Comanche Peak A  -  13,277 feet
Spring Mountain  -  13,244 feet
Venable Peak  -  13,334 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2013
Date Climbed:   06/21/2013
Author:  DavidLeVan
 Comanche, Spring, and Venable summits   

I had first hiked Phantom Terrace in 2003, one of my first sustained and difficult hikes up into the mountains. It had been a solo day hike, but it was one of the first times I had stood on the ridge of a range and was able to look at the Wet Mountain Valley to the east and the San Luis Valley to the west. Remarkable. For the last 10 years, I have brought new hikers, including both of my young children, up these basins to experience Venable Lakes, Venable Falls, and Comanche Lake; they are comforting hikes, and I thought a return trip was in order, with this time including summits of Comanche, Spring, and Venable. My son (and hiking partner) Will was at camp climbing Pikes Peak, so the great dog Sadie and I tackled the mountains alone.

We arrived at the Venable-Comanche TH (9029 ft) at 0645 and took the Comanche loop, reaching the Rainbow Trail shortly after at 700. The hike up the Comanche Trail was quiet and peaceful, with no one else in sight. Sadie did flush out two wild turkeys which were a pretty sight to see. We crested the ridge into the basin at 0815, and GPS Motion X put us at 2.68 miles. We hit the lake shortly after at 0850 at 3.90 miles and 11,680 ft.

Here I am in the morning sun.

My shadow in the early morning sun

The creek just below Comanche Lake.

Late June snow

Here is a lovely view of Comanche Peak towering over the high mountain lake.

Comanche Lake and Comanche Peak

And Sadie playing in the snow.

Sadie in the snow

We made the summit ridge at 0950 and 5.33 miles and 12,470 ft. The hike up was peaceful, but when we crested the ridge we felt the full power of the strong winds coming from the west. Off went baseball cap and on went the ski cap, the gloves and the windbreaker. I actually wondered if the wind and cold would keep me off the summits. It was that much of a shock, but after a quick snack we pressed on, reaching the summit at 1025 at 5.67 miles and 13,261 ft. Here is a nice view from the top of Comanche Peak.

Looking at Horn Peak

Here I am at the top.

At the top of Comanche Peak

We were back to the Comanche ridge and the trail by 1050 but we quickly bypassed the trail and headed up Spring Mountain, reaching the summit of 13225 ft at 1125 after 6.52 miles. Here is a picture of Sadie resting at the top with Westcliffe and the Wet Mountain Valley in the background.

Sadie at the top of Spring Mountain

After the summit, we continued north reaching the sign at the top of the ridge to Venable basin at 1210 at 7.12 miles at an elevation of 12,805. At this point I was getting a little tired, and I thought about how easy it would be to just start down the trail to Venable Lakes, especially considering how I did not see a clear trail up Venable, but when will I come back this way? When will I be this close to Venable Peak again? So I started walking up. It was slow going, and I was tired enough where I stopped every 25 steps, but I reached the day's third summit (13,333 ft) at 1240 which put my hike at 7.42 miles and a total elevation gain of right around 6,000 ft. Not bad for a day's work.

At the top of Venable Peak

I enjoyed lunch on the summit by myself. In fact, we had been alone the entire day, just us and our thoughts (I assume a dog has thoughts). A day like this makes one realize just how small we really are. These mountains will last much longer than we can imagine, and we will pass away, but in spite of this fact, we do matter, at least to those we know and love.

The hike back to the TH was a pretty quick jaunt. I left the summit at 1305, made it back to the summit sign by 1340, the top lakes by 1350 and then the old cabin by the bottom lakes at 1410. It was at this point I saw my first people and dogs of the day. I hope you all had a nice hike up as well. I reached Vanable Falls by 1450, the national forest sign by 1530, and the TH by 1545, just at 9 hours round trip. Motion-X GPS put the hike at 13.21 miles and just at 6000 ft of elevation. It's a good day.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Camping around Commanche Lake?
02/20/2020 13:57
I did the Venable Peak north side of the loop last year with a small group of friends. We would like to go back and do the south Commanche side this summer. We like to backpack in just below treeline, camp, and then summit the next day. Are there any good camping spots in the trees around or just below Commanche Lake? We go in late July. Thanks for any input you may have.

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