Peak(s):  "Obstruction Pk" - 13,799 feet
Columbia Point - 13,980 feet
Date Posted:  03/20/2016
Date Climbed:   02/28/2016
Author:  moneymike
 Winter in the Sangres   

Obstruction Peak

RT Distance: 16 mi
Elevation Gain: ~5000'
RT time: ~10 hrs
Partner: Jeff Rutter

The plan was to skin up to the saddle to the west of Humboldt, and take the ridge to the base of Obstruction peak. A ski descent of Humboldt on the return, was also on my mind, but I knew I'd have to assess it as we went along.

The Banff film festival, a late night, and Jeff's long drive from Golden, forced us to accept a slightly late start. We drove a short distance past the 2wd trailhead and parked on the side of the road with a couple other 4x4's. We hit the trail at a quarter to eight and made quick work of the snow covered road.

In about two hours, we reached the end of the road at 11,000', just in time to see the cloudy skies turn blue.

Breaking tree line beneath Humboldt

Although we were moving fast and feeling good, we could see that there wasn't enough snow on Humbolt for a ski. Not to worry, Obstruction would still be a worthy goal.

Jeff and the Needle

Jeff on Humboldt's standard route, making our way to the saddle

We made adequate time to the saddle to the west of Humboldt, but our pace immediately slowed as we began our traverse of the ridge towards Bears Playground. Jeff and I found ourselves making many third class moves along the ridge, however, we both agreed that without the snow, it would probably be a 2+.

Me and Crestone peak. Photo: Jeff

Jeff and Humboldt

Jeff on the ridge

Jeff with Obstruction Peak in the background

Beyond the ridge, it was a simple skin and boot up to the top of obstruction peak.

Jeff charging his way to the summit ridge

We made our way to the easternmost "possible" summit, and then worked our way west to a couple more bumps that could also be the summit. We just agreed to keep moving west until we were sure we were at the highest point, or until we came to a summit register. We were pleasantly surprised to come across the summit register on the snowiest hump.

Jeff, four steps from the summit

Me with Humboldt in the background. Photo: Jeff

Jeff skiing off the summit

Obstruction Peak

Instead of going back over the ridge, we decided to ski a couloir back down into the South Colony lakes drainage. We picked the least horrible looking couloir, but it was still steep and icy. Very unpleasant.

Columbia Point

RT Distance: 20 miles
Elevation Gain: 5500'
RT Time: 12:30

Looking at a picture I had taken from Crestone peak, two years ago, I could see that Columbia appeared to have a south facing couloir. I wasn't sure if it was continuous near the top or at the bottom, but I figured I should go have a look for myself.

Columbia seen from Crestone Pk 3/31/2014

Although the South Colony Lakes trail is significantly longer than the Spanish Creek trail, I chose to approach Columbia this way. The snow covered road is quickly and easily skied up and down. It's also an hour closer to my home (allowing me more time to sleep in).

I left my house at 4:30 a.m. and began skinning from 9,000' elevation at 7:00 a.m. In an hour and fifteen minutes, I reached the end of the road at 11,000' (fifteen minutes quicker than the day of Obstruction peak).

Having learned my lesson about not taking the ridge past Humboldt, I made my way to the end of the basin to take a couloir to Bear's Playground.

Backcountry-ski bunny

Where I'm headed


Upper South Colony lake

With all the glop, I was glad to take off the skis at this point

I topped out of the couloir and into Bear's playground at 12:00, two hours earlier than on the previous mission. From this vantage point, just above 13k', I couldn't see the base of the south couloir. I headed west down the Spanish creek dranage until I caught my first view of a possible entrance.


I dropped down to 12,619', switched to crampons and followed the ramp shown above, into the south couloir. The cramponing was excruciatingly difficult. I sank deep in places and accumulated glop with every step (when I say "every step," I don't mean every other step...I mean Every. God. Damned. Step!).

Approaching the south couloir

Rounnding the corner, into the couloir propper

Up I go

Columbia point is kind of a misnomer. It should actually be called Columbia points (plural). There are two peaks that are purportedly the same height. There is an east and a west peak. I assumed that the west peak would be the one that would have the most direct line into the couloir. As I neared the saddle of the two summits, I couldn't see the east summit since the snow wall to my right was too steep to see beyond.


Looking toward the west summit

From the saddle, there was some exposed third class rock climbing up the ridge to the west summit...or at least what I thought was the west summit. As I approached, it appeared that a higher point existed further to the west. If that was the true summit, I was screwed, becacuse there would be no way of skiing off of it. Just when I was about to lose all hope in life, I turned around and looked at the east summit...


Clearly, the east peak is the one I should ski off. It was already 4:15 p.m. by the time I hour and fifteen minutes past the time I had hoped to summit. The soft snow was in the process of refreezing, and I wasn't likely to make it to the exit couloir from Bear's Playground before dark if I wasted any more time. But I had come this far, I couldn't descend such an ungraceful descent when a much better one was only a half hour away. I geared up, side stepped off what may or may not have been the west summit and skied to the saddle.

Instead of wasting time switching to crampons and then having to switch again on the summit, I just side stepped my way up to the east summit. After a couple quick shots, I made my way down.

Look how far past Humbolt this is. It's like doing two Humboldts!

Looking towards west Columbia and Kit Carson beyond


Looking up at the saddle

The crux of the descent was a narrow fifty ish degree section (the choke in the second to last image).

I was in a bit of a rush trying to ski down pure ice, and didn't want to waste time taking pictures, so I don't have any more. Sorry about that. The light was low, so they would have been crappy anyhow.

I made it to the low point, and then skinned and hiked up to the exit couloir that leads to upper south colony lake just as it became dark. Skiing the icy couloir by headlamp was not too difficult (last time I brought my Manaslus, which are loosing their edge, and had a terrible time. This time I brought my Shucksans, which are full cambered skis and have edges like swords).

The ski out was fairly quick, and I made it back to the car at 8:30, for a 12.5 hour day (two hours longer than I had anticipated).

Thanks for reading...


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Really great photos!
03/20/2016 21:05
Looks super cool. Loved the ones with the ice, and the Needle, and the bunny.

03/21/2016 10:33
Rad and Gnarly. Cowabunga! Very Nice Trip Report! Great photographs too. Love the shot looking towards west Columbia and Kit Carson beyond. Thanks for putting this together. Fantastic work with getting two awesome 13er summits. Quite an inspiring and impressive feat in endurance. Straight Ballin'. Making dos extremely high quality peaks look super easy, peasy!

04/06/2016 14:58
SnowAlien and jasayrevt

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