Hunts Peak - 13,071 feet
Hunts Peak - 13,071 feet
Route: West Ridge
Length: ~6 Miles Round Trip
Gain: ~4,000 Feet
Participants: stevevets689, shanahan96, jamienellis
Personal firsts: hiking with intent to summit a peak during November, doing so off-trail. Glissading. Self arrest. Hiking in general with an ice axe. Losing feeling entirely in the tips of two of my fingers (my fault). Summiting a peak after lunchtime. Hiking after dark, without a headlamp no less (again, my fault). Hiking with mostly synthetic or woolen clothing. Hiking with two complete strangers who are 14ers.com forum members, shanahan96 and jamienellis. Having the strange feeling that many men in orange vests were looking at me strangely. And thoroughly enjoying myself during the duration of the event.
It was a good day when shanahan96 invited me to hike with him and jamienellis in the Northern Sangre de Cristo range, specifically Hunts Peak (13,071 ft.)
I had always noticed this peak when driving over Poncha Pass, and wondered about the approach to it. Finally, I would find out. Amazingly enough, my parents agreed to let me do this without even meeting those who would accompany me. I'm sure they now realize it was for the best anyway.
When the pair of Jamies drove up to the start of the 4x4 road where I was parked, I immediately suspected them as being a couple of cool people. My suspicions were confirmed when shanahan96 (Jamie, male version) started driving away after I had so graciously opened and closed a gate in the road. Even though a Red Wings fan to the core, he's a truly cool guy. And what can I say about jamienellis (Jamie, female version a.k.a. Beer Snob)? Just as cool. As for Crestone the Teddy Bear Hiking Buddy... suffice it to say that he provided a lot of laughs despite getting a little more fresh with me than I woulda liked. What happens on Hunts stays on Hunts.
So off we went in search of the right drainage to start in. As Ryan Shilling says in his description of the approach on summitpost.org, the roads are very confusing. In fact, we ended up in Yankee Creek basin, one basin South of where we should have been. This basin still leads to the same ridge, so it didn't pose as much of a problem. It's an old avalanche run that leads straight to Hunts' West Ridge. It's pretty steep but not terrible, just don't expect to come out of the trees anytime early in the hike; they grow past 12,000 feet here.
When we finally reached the top of the drainage, it was passed noon. We had to go over a couple of ridge bumps and then up the ridge to the summit. We encountered snow and did a bit of post holing, but it could've been worse.
The ridge is a good class 2 jaunt up to the summit. I discovered that I should probably be working my legs a bit more in the off-season, as I really slowed down going up this ridge. I suppose 4000 feet of elevation gain over 3 miles or so in November isn't a piece of cake, but next time I'm going to go a bit more fluidly.
Anyway, the Jamies patiently waited for me at the summit as I made my way up through the rocks and snow. It was about 3:30 when I arrived there, and it was windy and COLD! I spent about enough time up there to take a short break, admire the view somewhat, take a summit photo and eat a gummy worm. Watch the wind chill if you do this hike; by taking off my moderately wet gloves I lost the feeling in two of my fingertips for about 15 minutes.
Further down the route, well after my fingers had thawed, I got my first chance at glissading. Now that's some fun stuff! It wasn't a long or far slide, but I got the gist. Then it was back into the trees and down the steep drainage again. It got dark, but it didn't seem to be much of a problem. I found my way just fine by the lights of the Jamies' headlamps. I slipped and fell a bunch of times in the trees, but I caught myself more often than I hit the ground, learning some tricky dance moves and tree hugging skills in the process.
After a long while of night hiking we made our way back to the car. I somehow managed to make a phone call to my dad letting him know I was alive and well but wouldn't be home for about another hour and a half. Tired as we were, the Jamies and I chatted about climbing, climbing movies, food and other commodities on the bumpy road back to the highway. I was gateman again, and this time I didn't have to run to catch up to the Pathfinder. We got back to my car, I offloaded my stuff, wished the Jamies well, and drove home. I hardly remember crawling into bed that night...
I would like to send out my heartfelt gratitude to the Jamies for making this hike possible, plus all the complements and patience I received. You are a really cool couple of people, and I had a lot of fun with you guys. Here's to the Crestones for next summer! Oh, and speaking of Crestones, tell Crestone I said hi and that he should call me...
For more photos from this hike, please visit:
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