Peak(s):  Colony Baldy  -  13,705 feet
Date Posted:  10/13/2013
Modified:  10/14/2013
Date Climbed:   10/13/2013
Author:  Hoot
Additional Members:   Crestoner
 Colony Baldy from Horn Creek   

Colony Baldy (13,705'. Colorado #143)
Date: 13 October 2013
Climbers: Dave and me with Kiefer
Trailhead: Horn Creek
Distance: 12.86 miles round trip
Elevation gain: ~5000' total
Time: 8:40 round trip, 4:56 up, 3:40 down

When my planned trip to Yankee Boy Basin didn't pan out, Dave and I decided to climb the Colorado bicentennial peak Colony Baldy, just north of 14er Humboldt Peak. The forecast temperatures and chance of precipitation looked favorable. The forecast winds did not look favorable.

We left USAFA at 5:30 am Sunday morning and took the familiar route south through the Wet Mountains to Westcliffe. Along the way we stopped to take pictures of a beaver next to the road on Highway 96. Driving across the Wet Mountain Valley, we were treated to the spectacular views of first light on the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It took us almost exactly 2 hours to reach the Horn Creek trailhead adjacent to the Horn Creek Ranch. This trailhead has easy access for 2WD passenger cars. We decided to leave our snowshoes in the truck and that was the right decision for today. I probably should have worn gaiters like Dave, but I got by okay without them.

Dave and I started hiking at 7:40 at the "Rainbow Trail 0.25" sign. It was actually almost 0.75 miles to the junction of the Rainbow Trail. Once on the Rainbow Trail we crossed Horn Creek on a foot bridge and then followed the mostly snow-covered trail about 3 miles south to Macey Creek. The bridge at Macey Creek was gone and it appeared that a new bridge was under construction. We easily crossed the creek on rocks, but in the spring, crossing might not be so easy without a bridge. A little south of Macey Creek, I wasn't watching my GPS closely and we passed the turnoff to Colony Baldy's northeast ridge. It took about 15 minutes before we were back on track. We didn't see anything marking the turnoff of the Rainbow Trail. There may have been a faint path, but if so, it was obscured by snow. I led the way bushwhacking up the ridge, occasionally checking my GPS to make sure we were headed in the right direction. We followed the ridge in the trees for about a mile until we reached treeline. Just below treeline the snow was about a foot deep, the deepest we encountered along the route. Well before we reached treeline, we could hear the wind howling above us. At treeline, two beautiful bristlecone pine trees served as sentinels for the route.

The wind became fierce once we were out of the trees. Hiking up the northeast ridge was slow going with the wind in our faces. At about 12,200' the gusts of wind almost knocked Dave and me down several times. With over a mile to go along the ridge and 1500' of climbing we briefly discussed whether or not to continue. Of course, we pressed on. The slope of the ridge was actually quite gentle and not at all exposed which made hiking into the strong wind reasonable. There were a couple of false summits along the ridge, but my GPS confirmed that we were slowly closing in on the true summit. As we made our final push to the summit, we were pelted with graupel. We reached Colony Baldy's summit at 12:36 pm after 4 hours and 56 minutes of hiking. We only stayed on the summit for a few minutes. Dave pulled out his small anemometer and measured wind gusts of 54 mph with sustained winds at about 35 mph. Unfortunately, clouds moving in from the west obscured our views of the Crestones and Kit Carson, but Crestone Needle was briefly visible.

While hiking down the ridge with the wind at our backs was easier than hiking up, it required a lot of care and was exhausting. The hike out became much more pleasant when we finally reach treeline, got out of the wind, and moved quickly in the beautiful soft snow through the trees. We followed our tracks most of the way down the northeast ridge, but lost them in a dry section a little before we reached the Rainbow Trail. Once back on the Rainbow Trail we made good time hiking fast. Along the trail, we found my pair of gloves that I had set down next to the trail on our way up. We returned to the Horn Creek trailhead at 4:19 pm after hiking for 8 hours and 39 minutes. Despite the brutal wind above treeline, both Dave and I really enjoyed the hike and the great scenery along the way.

Colony Baldy from Horn Creek Trailhead

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Comments or Questions
10/14/2013 18:07
Good TR, this has been on my ”todo” list for 3 years...but the wind has kept me off of it thus far. Glad you had a good day!

Reaping the WIND!
10/14/2013 18:29
Yep, there is NO protection from the wind on this ridge. The view from the top is worth it though. Too bad clouds obscured CP.

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