Peak(s):  Trinchera Pk  -  13,517 feet
"Leaning North Pk"  -  13,100 feet
"Leaning South Pk"  -  13,203 feet
Pt. 12,955 - 12955
Date Posted:  10/11/2015
Date Climbed:   10/10/2015
Author:  rajz06
 Looping the Spanish Trench   

Starting Point: One mile past Blue Lakes CG, Elevation: ~11,200'
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Trinchera Peak (13,517'), Leaning North Peak (13,100'), Leaning South Peak (13,203'), Pt. 12,955
Route: Northeast slopes ascent of Trinchera, ridge traverse to Leaning Peaks, return over Trinchera, south ridge ascent of Pt. 12,955 and descent via road
RT Distance: ~8.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~4,000 feet (per Google Maps)
Group: Solo

The Sangre de Cristo range is geographically the closest from my residence, yet I seldom visit this range. The pucker factor induced by the ultra-rough 4WD roads in this area is one reason but I decided it was time to jettison that fear to savor the majesty of these peaks.

Trinchera was the chosen one today, one of many remote peaks in a seemingly endless linear ridge that goes all the way south to Culebra and beyond. In the process, I decided to add a couple of neighboring 13ers that are so unimportant that they haven't even been assigned a proper name.

True to the reputation of the roads leading to high trailheads in this region, the one heading past Blue lakes campground is not for the faint of heart. I still managed to make it a mile past the campground before the sound of my knees knocking forced me to park.

This road is best navigated on foot

In retrospect, parking at the campground would've only added ~2.4 miles to the round trip and I would've covered ground faster on foot on this terrain.

The North Fork trailhead is not far from this point.

Approaching the trailhead

The road goes all way to the saddle north of Trinchera at 12,800' but my goal was to ascend the northeast slope so I decided to abandon the road just below treeline.

Going off-trail,

As is my wont, my decision was premature. The inevitable bushwhacking (what's a hike without that?) ensued and then I followed a game trail into a basin below some bluffs and out of sight of the slope I needed to ascend.

Following a game trail

None of this was on the charter so I veered back toward the main road but had to climb a rocky ridge to do so. I tried to skirt around the bluffs, but without the surefootedness of some of the four-legged denizens of this area, I was forced to retrace my path.

Hoping to contour around this bluff

I didn't have to ponder this one for long

I contoured around the rocks and momentarily found a better spot to climb the ridge to the north, followed by a grassy slope.

One ridge to climb...

...and a grassy slope to ascend

The aimless meandering had consumed nearly an hour before I was oriented in the right direction with a clear view of the peak.

Northeast slopes

To the west, the road continued up to the saddle with Pt. 12,955; another unimportant peak and apparently unworthy of being named.

Saddle with Pt. 12,955

So I decided to add to this to the agenda knowing it would require a re-ascent of Trinchera and more importantly, a descent down its north ridge which looked more interesting than any other section of the ridge that I would traverse today.

North ridge promises some spice!

The hike up the northeast slope was straightforward and I was greeted by not one, but five prominent summit cairns.

Is that enough cairns for ya?

Through most of the hike, I had my back to the majestic West Spanish peak. Now I had an eye-level view of the peak, with Blue lakes campground also visible some 3,000 feet below.

Blue lakes CG with West Spanish yonder

Farther to the northwest, I had a clear view of the monarch of the Sangres and the traverse that is considered the most difficult in the state.

Blanca and Little Bear

I hadn't felt the winds on this hike so far, being sheltered by the ridge, but that had changed and the winds would continue for the remainder of my stay on the ridge. I looked over to the two peaks that were next on my agenda.

The next two on the cards

I believe these are worth climbing for the same reason that Grays and Torreys are worth climbing. Except, you won't have to worry about elbow room on this traverse. First up was the northern of the two and the unranked one, rising barely 200 vertical feet from the saddle. Short and sweet!

Leaning Peak North

From the summit of the northern peak, the ridge route to the one south was obvious.

Leaning Peak South

Unnamed though it might be, this one is ranked and rises just over 400 vertical feet from the saddle with its almost-forgotten neighbor. There are trail segments that go up this slope but it is easiest and most direct to just stay on the ridge.

Final pitch to leaning Peak South

From its summit, I surveyed my ridge route thus far; so gentle that the only reminder that this was in the Sangres was the unmistakable rosy hue of the rocks that adorned their slopes.

Reviewing the ridge route

The ridge, of course, continues south - the next prominent peak being Cuatro peak.

Cuatro Peak

I toyed with the idea of going for it but my late start and the need to descend via Trinchera's north ridge to climb the neighboring Pt. 12,955 meant this one would have to wait for another foray into this remote area.

I took one last good look at the southernmost 14er in the state before deciding to retrace my path.

Culebra to the south

The return didn't require a re-ascent of Leaning North, as a distinct trail stays low and aims for the saddle with Trinchera before petering out.

Skirting Leaning Pk

Final push to Trnichera's summit - again!

I was hoping to run into bighorn sheep as this ridge is frequented by them. No such luck for me today; the only critter I did spot was of the winged kind - hovering just above the peaks.

Hawk roams the skies

I was back on Trinchera's summit for the second time and looking forward to the north ridge descent.

Eyeing the north ridge descent route

This didn't happen immediately, as I ran into a fellow hiker just off the summit. He had started at the Blue Lakes and come up the road and then climbed the north ridge so we exchanged notes on our different approaches and chatted for a while. He was delighted that he could do a loop by descending the northeast slope, and I was delighted to...well, just be in the mountains!

I took the next shot during my descent from Pt. 12,955, to show a close-up of Trinchera's north ridge.

Trinchera's north ridge

From this vantage, the ridge appears a lot harder than it really is. There is a series of ledges that essentially zig-zag their way up the slope; each ledge ends at the crest and leads to the next. I tried to show this through the blue lines in the next shot but the path is quite apparent when you're on it.

Close-up of the ridge with the route in blue

A couple of points on the ridge have some exposure but nothing that you wouldn't expect in this mountain range.

Starting out on the north ridge

Also characteristic for this range is the solid rock that makes for easy climbing - up or down.

Towers on the ridge

Below the rock towers, the descent is an easy hike on steep grass.

Steep but easy descent

When I got to the saddle, my treat was waiting for me - my first 12er of the season - Pt. 12,955 which happens to be the 666th highest point in the state. Oh my...

Pt. 12,955

The view of West Spanish Peak from this summit needs no description. Prominence - this peak has that in spades.


Those who find these peaks too gentle and unworthy of this mountain range should consider other approaches; for instance, the west face of this entire ridge will give most rock climbers pause...

That should satisfy those needing spice!

Me - I'm just happy to gape at a beautiful Spanish "trench" while a spectacular Spanish Peak towers in the background. It doesn't get much better than this!

Yours Truly

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 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Comments or Questions
10/11/2015 19:02
Nice report. I did this one at the end in August after doing W Spanish the evening before. I felt too lazy to head over to the Leaning Peaks though. You make me wish I had!

Very nice!
10/12/2015 06:14
Great fall outing! Especially loved your shots of Culebra (#21) and Beauty (#32)! Gorgeous!

Geez, Raj....
10/12/2015 08:27
I did Trinchera a couple years back – going up more or less the way you did and my plans were to take the same route you did but a heavy fog kinda got to me while starting south to Leaning North. Heading down Trinchera’s north ridge didn’t look too appealing either as I really didn’t know what was in front of me so I ended up going back down the same way I went up. Now you go and show me what I missed so now I HAVE to go back down there and follow in your footsteps! Thanks! (I think.... )

Brian Thomas
the majestic West Spanish peak
10/13/2015 09:59
Pics #13 and #32 of this mountain (3,685’ of prominence, 12th most prominence in the state) once again proves that prominence > elevation. Another quality trip report here, sir.

I remember the cairns!
10/14/2015 01:46
Great ridge run in a beautiful area! I hear they might open a dispensery up there soon!

I think 12,955 is called "English Saddle"?

Enjoyed your report!
10/14/2015 08:36
This is one of my favorite areas. In fact, we own a cabin below Blue Lake and have been visiting this area for over 40 years. When we climb Trinchera, we usually drive up the 4wd road to treeline, then just go up the east ridge. I took my wife up to the saddle to climb the north ridge once and she started crying about halfway up due to the exposure. After a lot of encouragement, she reached the summit and felt very proud of herself.
That west face is indeed spicy, but unfortunately all of it is on private property. And yes, boudreaux is correct, Pt. 12,955 is called English Saddle.

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