Peak(s):  Montezuma Peak  -  13,150 feet
"The Unicorn"  -  13,020 feet
Summit Peak  -  13,300 feet
Conejos Peak  -  13,172 feet
Bennett Peak  -  13,203 feet
"Huerfanito"  -  13,081 feet
Date Posted:  06/19/2021
Modified:  08/23/2021
Date Climbed:   06/17/2021
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Yesterday's Gone and Tomorrow's On Its Way   

Monday, June 14, 2021. Randy and I decided to visit some seldom-climbed peaks in the southeast San Juan Mountains, along with a peak we'd orphaned in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The informal name of the orphaned peak, Huerfanito, translates as "little orphan boy."

We drove via Walsenburg and Monte Vista to a few hundred feet before Forest Road 243 ends at the Treasure Creek trailhead. After dinner, we walked to the trailhead to locate the informal trail that heads toward Montezuma Peak. A pickup was parked at the trailhead with the liftgate on the camper shell open, so we made it a point to be quiet, as we didn't want to wake up the occupant(s) in case they were asleep. We later learned member Tufftommy-BV and his dog were the occupants.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021. We followed the informal trail as it climbed west on the north side of Treasure Creek.

One of several falls along Treasure Creek

The "trail" stays above Treasure Creek as it climbs through the pine beetle-devastated forest

At about 11,500' we began climbing northwest toward a 12,516' ridge point ESE of Montezuma Peak. The only signature in the register from 2021 was that of Tufftommy-BV earlier this morning.

We climbed to the ridge at the center of the photo and then turned left toward Montezuma Peak's summit

Montezuma Peak from the ridge in the previous photo

Summit Peak from Montezuma Peak's summit. Below (north of) Summit Peak, the Continental Divide Trail is mostly buried under the snow

The ridge to The Unicorn (left of center) and a 12,969' ridge point from the summit of Montezuma Peak

Initially, Randy and I planned to continue along the ridge to The Unicorn, but corniced snow convinced us to follow the Continental Divide Trail to a point east of The Unicorn.

We climbed to The Unicorn's south ridge and followed it to the summit. We tried to dry out the soggy summit register, but it was still too wet to sign

Summit Peak from the summit of The Unicorn; we are looking forward to testing our weight against the firmness of the snow below Summit Peak

Looking back at Montezuma Peak from the summit of The Unicorn

We descended to the basin east of The Unicorn, prepared to posthole our way south toward the east ridge of Summit Peak.

We aimed for Summit Peak's east ridge a bit left of center; then turned right and climbed the ridge to the summit of Summit Peak

A frozen pond north of Summit Peak; unsurprisingly, I was unsuccessful in convincing Randy to test the strength of the ice by walking on it

Apparently, no one told Summit Peak that the first day of summer is only five days away

Once we got across the vast snowfield, it was easy going on rock and tundra to Summit Peak's east ridge

Looking up the east ridge of Summit Peak

Even our boots enjoyed the view from the top of Summit Peak

We found three 1936 U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey benchmarks on Summit Peak but no summit register

The Unicorn and Montezuma Peak from the summit of Summit Peak

We descended the southeast slopes of Summit Peak and picked up the Continental Divide Trail and the Treasure Creek Trail (No. 710), which in theory should take us back to this morning's trailhead.

A rock formation near the trail looked like a capstan

We lost the Treasure Creek Trail (No. 710) in the snow and bushwhacked the last 1/2 mile to the trailhead

Once back at the Treasure Creek trailhead, Randy and I drove via Forest Roads 243, 380, 250, and 105 toward the Tobacco Lake trailhead (the starting point for Conejos Peak). Unfortunately, someone's 1970s International Scout had died, and the owner abandoned it in the middle of the road. There was not enough room on either side to get around the Scout, and the owner was nowhere in sight.

After pondering our options, we rolled the offending Scout a short distance downhill to the side of the road and left it parked securely.

Shortly after resuming our drive to the Tobacco Lake trailhead, Randy and I saw Tufftommy-BV as he drove down the road following his afternoon climb of Conejos Peak. We found a place to camp near the trailhead, where we had the place all to ourselves.

(Note: the Tobacco Lake trailhead is no longer at a switchback at 11,300' on FR 105. Instead, it's on a side road about a mile further up FR 105.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Randy and I followed the pleasant trail toward Tobacco Lake.

When you reach this unmarked intersection, stay right.

A collapsing snow bridge below Tobacco Lake

Tobacco Lake, with Conejos Peak (far left) and a 13,044' ridge point (center) visible above the scenic lake

After going around the north side of Tobacco Lake, we climbed a snowfield toward the north ridge of Conejos Peak

The morning sun is reflected in Tobacco Lake (Photo taken from near the top of the snowfield)

A single-engine plane circled the basin three times as we headed toward Conejos Peak. The pilot dipped his wings to say "hello" to us

From the markings, identified the plane as a 2009 Rans S-7S Courier based in Monte Vista. It is classified as an experimental plane because it was built from a kit

Trail segments lead toward the summit of Conejos Peak (left)

We'd never before seen a culvert like this one on a trail

On the summit of Conejos Peak, we found a USGS benchmark but not a summit register. Summit Peak, "The Unicorn," and Montezuma Peak are seen in the background to the left of the summit cairn

Randy and I returned to the trailhead and drove via Forest Roads 105, 250, and 280 to Blowout Pass. The Blowout Pass road was surprisingly decent and, in our opinion, is Subaruable.

Trail No. 700 starts at Blowout Pass, and ATVs are allowed on the trail. Unfortunately, the ATV riders seem unable to stay on the trail consistently

After about 3/4 of a mile, we turned left onto Trail No. 850, which continues all the way to the summit of Bennett Peak (left)

The flat, nondescript summit of Bennett Peak included a massive cairn but no summit register.

Bennett Peak's summit did, however, have some nice views

The trail to the summit of Bennett Peak was hot, dry, and dusty, so for a faster descent we headed south from the summit and picked up the trail about a mile from Blowout Pass. We then drove north from Blowout Pass on FR 329 and County Road 14 to Del Norte.

Next up: Huerfanito (13,081'). We drove through Alamosa and Fort Garland to about two miles west of North La Veta Pass and headed north on a dirt road that took us to County Road 550 near Red Wing. In about a dozen miles we found a nice campsite.

Thursday, June 17, 2021. Randy and I drove about two miles to the Lily Lake trailhead, which is also the trailhead for Lindsey Peak.

After about a mile, we reached the crux of today's route: crossing the Huerfano River. Yes, you get to balance your way across the river on fallen trees

Huerfanito from near where we left the trail at about 11,900' and climbed to the 12,600' saddle right of center

Randy's climbing the snow toward the 12,600' saddle (Photo credit: yours truly; all other photos by Randy Mack)

Looking up toward the Blanca Peak - Huerfanito ridge from the 12,600' saddle

Blanca Peak (14,345') and Ellingwood Point (14,042') from the 12,600' saddle

Looking north from the 12,600' saddle

Climbing the Blanca - Huerfanito ridge toward Huerfanito's summit, with Blanca and Ellingwood behind

A closer look at Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point

California Peak (13,849') seen from Huerfanito's summit

Lily Lake, with Unnamed (UN) 13660 in the center and UN 13577 on the right

Looking down at the basin we crossed earlier

Huerfanito has three high points, and two of them appeared to be the same height. We climbed all three to be sure but didn't find a summit register anywhere. After having a quick lunch, we decided to descend east from the summit and then contour to the Mt. Lindsey - Huerfanito saddle. This would avoid the snow we'd ascended, as it was softening in the sun a bit too much for our liking.

Our traverse route across the east side of Huerfanito to the Mt. Lindsey - Huerfanito saddle (right)

Along the way, we were surprised to meet fellow member Ian Krammer (IamIanIam), who was on his way up Huerfanito as part of a multipeak tour. Ian suggested following some ledges, and that worked out fine.

Looking north from near the Mt. Lindsey - Huerfanito saddle; we returned to the trail (hard to see in the photo) and headed back to the trailhead

A mine prospect just above the creek (which Randy emphatically referred to as "very dumb")

We returned to our car, pleased with having gotten all six peaks we'd targeted on this trip. More adventures await.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Thanks for...
06/20/2021 14:39
... moving that Scout! Would have been harder doing it alone. :-). Wasn‘t sleeping , should have introduced yourselves. Now it‘ll have to wait until this Friday! TT

Yet another nice one...
06/22/2021 08:01
You do certainly write some nice reports and the pics are great as always. I am fascinated by the wooden culvert. Like you, I have never seen anything like that. Someone had to haul those boards quite a ways to put that together...

07/09/2021 14:09
Tom: You're welcome, and I'm glad you were able to get all the Cielo Vista Ranch peaks you wanted.
Jay: Thanks as always for your kind comments.

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