Peak(s):  "Medano Peak"  -  13,153 feet
Mt. Herard  -  13,340 feet
Unnamed 12,925'
Date Posted:  06/26/2021
Modified:  06/27/2021
Date Climbed:   06/25/2021
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Black Clouds and Silver Linings   

Thursday, June 24, 2021. Randy was part of a group of 15 (yes, 15) scheduled to meet at Cielo Vista Ranch on Friday, June 25, 2021, to climb the northern 13ers on CVR the next day. Unfortunately, a black cloud arose in the form of an unfavorable National Weather Service forecast (80% chance of showers and thunderstorms), which caused the trip to be postponed.

A poor weather forecast seemed to rear its ugly head no matter where Randy and I looked for alternative climbs. Finally, we settled on a trip to the Sangre de Cristos to visit Medano Peak, Mt. Herard, and Unnamed (UN) 12,925', where Friday's weather forecast called for a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11 a.m. (Yes, that's the best we could find.)

We drove through Walsenburg and Gardner to County Road 559, which took us to Medano Pass and the entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. In another 3/4 of a mile, we reached the Medano Lake trailhead. Well, almost; we were stopped by a deep mud-filled rut in the road shortly before the trailhead.

It's deep enough to lift the left rear tire of Randy's 4Runner off the ground. That's when we decided to back up...

...and set up camp at a nice site (complete with a bear box and picnic table) a couple hundred feet before the muddy rut in the road

Friday, June 25, 2021. The trail to Medano Lake begins by crossing Medano Creek (the same creek that eventually flows past the sand dunes). The bridge that used to be here is long gone, but we had no trouble walking across Medano Creek on some well-placed rocks.

The creek crossing at the Medano Lake trailhead

Every fallen tree on the scenic Medano Lake trail had been recently cleared. Thank you, National Park Service!

The trail to Medano Lake climbs steadily, so it's easy to keep a decent pace. We reached the lake in less than two hours.

The scenic Medano Lake

Mt. Herard (left) from Medano Lake

Our route up Medano Peak headed toward its east ridge. Medano Peak's summit is out of view behind the high point you see here

Once we were on the east ridge of Medano Peak, winds were a steady 20+ mph

Medano Peak's east ridge never exceeded Class 2

Looking west toward Medano Peak's summit (just behind the high point left of center) from Medano's east ridge

Almost to the summit of Medano Peak

Mt. Herard from the summit of Medano Peak

Views from the summit of Medano Peak did not disappoint

We did not find a summit register on Medano Peak. Due to the strong winds, we quickly continued south along the Class 2 ridge toward Mt. Herard.

It's getting foggy on Mt. Herard

Mt. Herard's summit cairn

The summit register on Mt. Herard

Seeing signatures from Ross and Bryan less than six weeks ago caused me to reflect on how they undoubtedly were having a great time that day, just as Randy and I were today, and then on June 19th disaster struck in an instant on Pico Aislado. I wonder how many of us, myself included, have been on the verge of things going completely sideways but never realized it. Be careful out there, everyone. And RIP, Bryan.

After a short break, we headed east through the clouds toward UN 12,925, keeping to the left of the snow...

...because it was rather steep

UN 12,925's true summit is to the left (north)

Medano Lake from the ridge between Mt. Herard and UN 12,925

Medano Peak from the ridge between Mt. Herard and UN 12,925

The ridge to UN 12,925 includes gentle tundra

Looking southeast at UN 12,925's lower summit from its true summit

On the summit of UN 12,925, we were surprised to find a CMC register left by the late Roger Linfield in 2010. The register was wet, and we did our best to dry it out.

Mt. Herard from the summit of UN 12,925

Looking northwest at Medano Peak (left) and the Crestone group (right of center) from the summit of UN 12,925

The sand dunes are visible from the summit of UN 12,925

We descended UN 12,925's NE ridge almost to treeline and then bushwhacked left to the Medano Lake trail

Looking back up the gentle northeast ridge of UN 12,925

Mt. Herard (left) and Medano Peak from our descent route off UN 12,925's northeast ridge (taken from the same location as previous photo)

About a half mile's worth of bushwhacking through the pine forest...

...brought us back to the Medano Lake trail on the north side of Medano Creek

Despite the forecasted 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11 a.m., light rain didn't begin until we were less than a half hour from the trailhead. Today's scenery was beautiful and represented a silver lining to the black cloud of Randy's Cielo Vista trip being postponed. We very much enjoyed the day.

(Photo credit: all photos by Randy Mack)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Sand Dunes
06/29/2021 15:48
I've been wanting to head up that way to take in the Sand Dunes view. I don't think the Corolla is going to make it very far up the road.

its gotten worse
07/12/2021 12:00
The road washout is even worse now. About 3 feet deep on one side. But it is an easy extra walk.

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