Peak(s):  Spread Eagle Peak  -  13,423 feet
"Peak of the Clouds"  -  13,524 feet
Rito Alto Peak  -  13,794 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2014
Modified:  06/30/2014
Date Climbed:   06/19/2014
Author:  DavidLeVan
 A Loop Around North Taylor Basin   

Trailhead: Gibson Trailhead
Peaks in order of ascent: Spread Eagle Peak, "Cloud Peak" (Pt 13,524), and Rito Alto Peak
June 19, 2014
Recorded distance: 14.19 miles
Total ascent: 7,199 feet

We've hiked to Lake of the Clouds a number of times, and I've been very interested in summiting the surrounding mountains for years. There are not many other trip reports on this hike, so I was very appreciative of the ones posted, especially the one from IHikeLikeaGirl and MennoGuy. Thanks for the guidance. Unfortunately, I did not follow the guidance very well on a number of occasions during the

I left the Gibson Trailhead at 0630 but opted not to follow the Rainbow Trail around to the ridge. First tactical error. Instead, I went straight up Gibson Creek and, by 0655, had lost the trail. I was able to find the north ridge not long after, but I was not able to find an easy route up. The trailblazing was challenging since there was never an easy and consistent route. I found myself zigzagging up the mountain. By 0725, I was in a dead tree forest, and it was slow going with many downed trees that I had to climb over and around. Here is picture of some of the area.

A bunch of dead trees

Followed by a shadow selfie of me.


At 0910 I had waded through the forest and reached treeline at the north ridge at 11,660. I angled over to the southern ridge. Here is a picture of the ascent over treeline.


At 1020 I reached the false summit at 12,900 and twenty minutes later reached the Spread Eagle summit. I spent 20 minutes at the summit before moving on to Cloud Peak. Here is a picture of me with Cloud Peak and Rito Alto in the distance.


At 1110 I reached the summit between the two peaks, and I summited the peak at 1145. Here I am at the top of Cloud Peak looking back to Spread Eagle Peak.


I spent just 10 minutes on this peak and then kept moving. At this point there was still quite a bit of snow on the Rito Alto, as I could see from the distance. It was the only mountain of three that had any significant snow fall still on it.


I reached the saddle at 1225, but the route up Rito Alto was much more challenging than the previous two mountains. There was quite a bit of bouldering up the mountain, and at that point, I was pretty tired. Here is a picture of the boulders up Rito Alto.


I reached the summit at 1310 for a total elevation gain of 7,199 feet. Fortunately, I had beautiful weather the entire day. My standard rule of thumb is to be off the summit at noon, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky; it was nothing but blue in all directions. And it was an amazing view with Pikes Peak to the east, Decalibron to the northeast, the Sawatch to the north, the San Juans to the west, and the Crestones to the south. I could see for miles and miles.

Here is a view looking back down the route I had just come up from the saddle between Rito Alto and Cloud Peak.


I was not very interested in returning this route, which was one of the primary reasons that I chose (poorly) to continue down the south side of Rito Alto Peak and connect with Hermit Road for the hike back. Plus, Hermit Road seemed so inviting, so I took it. Here is a view of the road along with Horseshoe Lake.

Horseshoe Lake

That was another mistake. Other trip reports suggested heading down the basin between Rito Alto and Cloud Peak, pass by Megan Lake, and then find the North Taylor Creek Trail and descend that route. I'm sure that would have saved me considerable time, but as my grandmother used to say when I did things wrong, "dumb, dumb, dumb." I reached Hermit Road at 1420 and still had not seen another person since I began the hike. Eight hours of just me and miles and miles of nature. And here is my last picture because my phone died soon afterwards. I also forgot my battery charger which was another mistake I made on the hike. I finally encountered my first people driving up Hermit Road.

Hermit Road

The rest of the day was just a trudge down the road. Walking, walking, walking. I finally reached the car at 1720. The recorded distance was 14.19 miles, but that does not include the full distance after the phone died, so the hike was most likely more than that. As you see on the map, the straight line indicates everything after the phone died, and I didn't hike like the crow flies.

Overall, it was a great hike, but I should follow the advice of my fellow hikers and take the suggested route down the mountain. My hike down Hermit added a bunch of distance and a bunch of time, and it wasn't that great of a walk down. But it was still a pretty intense loop with a lot of miles and a lot of elevation.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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