Peak(s):  Organ Mtn A  -  13,801 feet
Electric Pk A  -  13,598 feet
Lakes Pk  -  13,375 feet
Cottonwood Pk A  -  13,588 feet
PT 13,123 B  -  13,123 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2018
Modified:  10/17/2018
Date Climbed:   08/04/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack, d_baker, rijaca
 Miles From Nowhere   

Randy and I had made plans for Organ Mountain (near San Luis Peak) and Electric Peak and Cottonwood Peak in the Sangre de Cristos when I received an email from Darin (d_baker) inquiring about doing a climb together, possibly with Ricky (rijaca) as well. Darin and I had exchanged messages, emails, and forum comments over the past few years, occasionally trolling each other in the process, but had never met. Because Darin hadn't done Cottonwood Peak yet, Randy and I made plans to meet up with Darin and Ricky after our climbs of Organ Mountain and Electric Peak.

Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 Randy and I left our home and headed to the southern parking area of the Eddiesville Trailhead. Getting to this trailhead requires driving 28 miles on unpaved roads, but the roads are easily passable by passenger cars. Several approaches exist for Organ Mountain, and we settled on taking the lesser-known Canon Hondo Trail. When we reached the Eddiesville Trailhead, we had the place to ourselves except for someone's partially assembled tent in the parking lot. After we cooked dinner and headed into our tent, the owners of the other tent arrived, packed up their tent, and drove off in a Honda Accord. It felt like we were miles from nowhere, especially with the occasional coyote howling during the night.

Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 We'd had the foresight to locate the start of the unmaintained Canon Hondo Trail the previous evening, and it was actually very easy to find. Take the Continental Divide Trail/Colorado Trail as heads WSW adjacent to a fence for a couple hundred feet. Shortly after the CD/Colorado Trail makes a sharp left turn to the SSE, a cairn containing a post indicates where the Canon Hondo trail angles off to the right (SW). The trail stays on the north side of the creek to timberline where it fizzles out at about 11,900', but you don't need a trail above timberline.

This is about where the Canon Hondo Trail fizzled out. We headed SW (right) to gain the ridge behind the pine beetle-killed trees. (Photo taken on the descent; all photos in this trip report were taken by Randy except as noted)
A hazy view looking back toward where we climbed above the trees. We know where the haze came from. You will too, after the next photo.
An easy tundra stroll toward Organ Mountain's summit (far right)

After ascending west up grassy slopes, weaving through some willows along the way, we headed SW toward Organ's summit. The climbing was easy, which was a good thing because we both felt a bit out of shape. From the summit of Organ Mountain (13,801'), we had a nice view of San Luis Peak, though surprisingly we didn't see anyone on it. The view of the surrounding mountains was somewhat marred by haze from wildfires as distant as California. We didn't find a summit register on Organ's summit.

San Luis Peak seen from the summit of Organ Mtn.
Stewart Peak from the summit of Organ Mtn.
View to the south from the summit of Organ Mtn. "Phoenix Peak" can be seen on the left.
Looking over the distinctive rock formations to the south of Organ's summit.
The long, gentle east ridge of Organ Mtn.

After an early lunch on the summit, we headed back to the trailhead the same way we'd come. We didn't see anyone on the trail, but the dirt roads were surprisingly busy as we drove back to pavement.

Organ Mountain route via the Canon Hondo Trail from the Eddiesville Trailhead

Tomorrow's goals were Electric Peak and Lakes Peak from the Major Creek Trailhead in the Sangre de Cristos, but we set up camp at the Hot Springs/Garner Creek Trailhead because we'd agreed to meet Darin and Ricky there tomorrow evening.

We had the place to ourselves until a small RV arrived. After we finished dinner, the RVers brought us some chocolate cake for dessert. Thanks! It was tasty.

Friday, Aug. 3, 2018 We drove the short distance (3/4 mile) to the Major Creek Trailhead and followed the trail as it ascended to the Lakes Peak - Electric Peak saddle. For the most part, the trail was easy to follow (and definitely better than the Hot Springs Canyon and Garner Creek Trails, as we would discover tomorrow).

The Major Creek Trail (right), just below the saddle between Lakes Peak (left) and Electric Peak (out of sight to the right)
Looking SW down the Major Creek drainage toward the San Luis Valley from just below the Lakes Peak - Electric Peak saddle

About a mile of hiking SE up the tundra and rocks on the ridge brought us to the summit of Electric Peak (13,598'), where we found a summit register left by Alyson Kirk in 2015. It was windy and the skies weren't looking especially friendly. The forecast called for a 70% chance of afternoon rain, and we got about 20 minutes of light rain while we headed back to the saddle.

Gibbs Peak, De Anza Peak, and Mt. Marcy from the summit of Electric Peak. These four peaks combine well from Cotton Creek.
Lakes Peak as seen from Electric Peak's summit. So close and so tempting...
Randy and Eddie on the windy summit of Electric Peak

At the Lakes - Electric saddle it was decision time: do we head down and orphan Lakes Peak, or continue to Lakes and probably get rained on? After a few minutes of deliberation, we headed up the rocky ridge to the summit of Lakes Peak (13,375') and signed the makeshift summit register.

Eddie on the summit of Lakes Peak with Electric Peak in the background

Because of the threatening clouds, we soon headed back toward the saddle. We were about halfway to the saddle when rain began. The rainfall was fairly hard for an hour as we descended the Major Creek Trail, but we were glad we'd gone ahead and tagged the summit of Lakes Peak. I did discover, however, that the old boots I was wearing were no longer waterproof. We also discovered that some of the deadfall had been cleared off the trail since we'd been hiking today. It was definitely nice to have fewer downed trees to step over.

This was a long day (about 6800' of elevation gain), so we were rather tired when we returned to the trailhead and drove back to our campsite. We were just finishing dinner when Darin and Ricky arrived in Darin's new 4Runner. (Sweet ride!) After introductions and discussion about tomorrow's plans, we turned in for the night. A good night's sleep was interrupted by late-arriving campers, plus a nearby coyote who howled around 3 AM for about 20 minutes straight.

Sunset from our campsite at the Hot Springs/Garner Creek Trailhead

Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 The four of us headed up the pleasant Hot Springs Canyon Trail as it followed the canyon bottom through the trees. At times, the trail became sketchy and the vegetation encroaching on the trail was wet from yesterday afternoon's rain. It didn't help when the trail was annoyingly close to the creek.

Can you find the Hot Springs Canyon Trail? It's in there somewhere.

Eventually, the trail disappeared, and we headed around trees and up the grassy slope to the north. In hindsight, we should have angled more NNE than north so that we would have reached Cottonwood Peak's west ridge a bit closer to the summit, but either way the climbing was easy Class 2.

Looking back at Hot Springs Canyon as we climbed out of the trees toward Cottonwood Peak's west ridge
Looking north from Cottonwood Peak's west ridge (Photo by Darin)
Ascending the west ridge of Cottonwood Peak with irrigation circles in the San Luis Valley visible in the background (Photo by Darin)

Once we reached the ridge, it was smooth sailing ENE toward Cottonwood Peak's summit. One oddity: a fanny pack on the ridge at about 12,800' that was in good shape so it didn't seem like it had been there very long. Given that sometimes climbers deliberately cache items for later retrieval (and get plenty upset if a well-meaning person packs out the 'lost' gear), we left the fanny pack where it was. We certainly didn't want to be accused of being thieves like the fiendishly evil creature (Bucky the Marmot) who stole Darin's SPOT a few years ago in the Weminuche Wilderness.

The lonely fanny pack (photo by Dave Mattingly on 8/14/18)
The ridge bumps on Cottonwood Peak's broad west ridge aren't significant, and the hiking is easy
Ricky and Darin ascending the grass and rock on Cottonwood Peak's west ridge
Looking north from the ridge
Randy and Eddie heading up the ridge with the San Luis Valley in the background (Photo by Darin)
Another view up the west ridge shows that this is far from a difficult climb
Eddie, Darin, and Ricky on one of the minor ridge bumps

We continued steadily up the ridge and were on the summit of Cottonwood Peak (13,588') by 11 AM, where we did not find a summit register.

UN 13,123', Thirsty Peak, Lakes Peak, and Electric Peak from the summit of Cottonwood Peak
The view north from the summit of Cottonwood Peak
The view to the east from the summit of Cottonwood Peak. Eagle Peak is visible on the right

After taking a break to recharge, we descended SE and then east to the Cottonwood Peak - Unnamed 13,123' saddle. From here it was only a 303' ascent to the summit of the just-barely separate Unnamed 13,123', where we signed the makeshift summit register.

Cottonwood Peak from the summit of Unnamed 13,123'
The unusual summit cairn on Unnamed 13,123', with Eagle Peak behind
The view south from the summit of Unnamed 13,123'

We headed SE to the Unnamed 13123' - Thirsty Peak saddle, where we began descending SW on the Garner Creek Trail. Everything went fine until we lost the trail somewhere around 11,200' and had to bushwhack toward Garner Creek until we found the trail again. The trail got better as we descended, and again we found that some of the trees across the trail had been cut earlier today.

We were half-expecting a death march in the sun the last few miles to the trailhead, but happily the cloud cover kept the temperature reasonable. These would be good peaks to tackle in the fall for those wanting to ensure cooler temperatures. The only change I might have made to this trip would be to schedule Electric Peak and Cottonwood Peak so they're not on consecutive days.

(Note: After returning home and recording these ascents in my copy of Garratt & Martin's "Colorado's High Thirteeners," I discovered that my dad and I had climbed Electric Peak and Cottonwood Peak on consecutive days in 1994, which would seemingly make me a slow learner.)

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