Peak(s):  Colony Baldy  -  13,705 feet
Date Posted:  05/21/2018
Modified:  10/17/2018
Date Climbed:   05/04/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Colony Baldy via NE Ridge   

Randy and I hadn't tackled any peaks since October but decided that April would be a good time to get back in the swing of things. We zeroed in on Colony Baldy because Randy is working on bicentennial peaks (only 63 more to go), and Colony Baldy's NE ridge isn't avalanche-prone.

Unfortunately, a winter storm advisory (yes, in springtime) caused us to reschedule our trip. After we did, Randy caught a cold and we had to cancel again. Finally, on Thursday, May 3, 2018, we drove to the Horn Creek Trailhead about six miles south of Westcliffe and set up camp. Snow fell while we cooked dinner and continued for at least an hour.

On Friday, May 4, Randy and I got up to a full moon and followed the trail SW about a 1/3 of a mile to its intersection with the Rainbow Trail (Trail No. 1336). We headed south on the Rainbow Trail for two or three miles to the Macey Lakes Trail (Trail No. 1341). When my dad and I climbed Colony Baldy in 1995, we took this trail to the southernmost Macey Lake and then climbed east almost directly to the summit of Colony Baldy. Today, however, Randy and I continued S and SE on the Rainbow Trail to about 10,160' where the trail crosses the lower portion of Colony Baldy's NE ridge.

We left the trail and began hiking SW up the ridge. It didn't take long until we encountered snow, but not yet enough for snowshoes or microspikes. We followed an informal trail in places but often simply chose the path of least resistance.

Randy's dodging some deadfall as we headed toward Colony Baldy
Plenty of trees on the lower portion of Colony Baldy's NE ridge block the view toward Colony Baldy
It was nice to hit the occasional open area

The snow got deeper and the ridge got steeper, so we put on our snowshoes for the remainder of the way to treeline. Finally, we were out of the trees at about 11,600' and could see much further up the ridge, though the summit was out of view.

Looking SW up the ridge near treeline
Looking north toward Westcliffe from near treeline (taken from the same location as the previous photo)

We stashed our snowshoes and began heading up the ridge toward Colony Baldy. I had only gone a couple hundred feet when one of my thigh muscles began tightening up. After stopping for a break and hoping it would get better, I set out again but soon realized I would be slowing both of us down. Given that I'd already climbed Colony Baldy, we decided that Randy should continue to the summit while I headed back to treeline and waited for him.

Randy, heading up the ridge shortly after we parted

Looking down the ridge from the same location as the previous photo

The ridge broadens above treeline, and it's a relatively gentle (though long) stroll to the summit. Unfortunately, there are a couple of pseudo-false summits to help make the ridge seem extra long.

After lots of fresh snow the past few days, the weather today was quite pleasant. Until Randy was about halfway from treeline to Colony Baldy's summit, that is. Clouds rolled in, and then hail began that followed him all the way to the summit of Colony Baldy (13,705'). On the plus side, there was never any threat of lightning.

Randy enjoyed the views of the surrounding peaks from the summit, even though clouds and hail partially obscured the view. At least the winds were relatively light (perhaps 10 mph). There was no summit register on Colony Baldy, just a broken canister.

The Crestones (center) and Humboldt (left). The reduced visibility is due to the hail that was falling at the time
View to the northwest from Colony Baldy's summit, with Kit Carson Mountain (14,065') visible on the left and Mt Adams (13,931') right of center
View north from the summit toward Westcliffe
View east from the summit
View west from the summit. Someone who shall remain nameless thought it would be funny to stick his ugly mug into the middle of the frame
Looking west with the summit cairn in the foreground
Looking to the northwest from the summit. Mt Adams (13,931') can be seen prominently just left of center

After about 15 minutes on the summit, Randy headed back down the ridge. Happily, the hail stopped about a half hour later, and Randy then had clear sailing to where I had been waiting for him. I was disappointed not to have made the summit but at the same time happy that Randy did.

We put our snowshoes back on and headed toward the Rainbow Trail, taking the snowshoes off when we were no longer in danger of postholing. After weaving our way through the deadfall, the trail was a welcome sight. Our pace quickened, and soon we were back at the trailhead and then on our way home. I considered the trip a success despite not reaching the summit. What's not to like about spending time in the mountains?

NE ridge route on Colony Baldy via the Rainbow Trail from the Horn Creek Trailhead; green = Rainbow Trail and blue = off-trail

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
welcome back
05/21/2018 08:28
Nice work!

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