Peak(s):  Blanca Peak  -  14,350 feet
"Huerfanito"  -  13,081 feet
Date Posted:  06/30/2022
Date Climbed:   06/29/2022
Author:  SuperK22
 Blanca - Hamilton Combo Attempt - Please read for access info   

Blanca Peak, Sisnaajini, or the sacred white shell mountain of the East has always been a special peak to me. While I have hiked up Como road over half a dozen times, accessing the Blanca massif from the Huerfano basin is a truly unique experience. I was fortunate enough to climb Mt. Lindsey back in 2018 before the access changed, and I’ve also hiked California peak, Ellingwood and Little Bear too. I can never seem to get enough of this area. With these past experiences mind, I set out to add a new route to my collection.

I’m a big fan of solo hikes and non-standard routes. I really enjoy my solitary time in the mountains. In this case I was looking for a non-standard Blanca route. I was interested in the Gash ridge but didn’t feel comfortable attempting this route as a solo hiker. I am fairly comfortable with class 3 routes, but the class 5 Gash Ridge was going to be stretching my skills too far. This is when I came across a class 4 route (20R2 V) outlined by Roach. He describes “this important variation avoids the Gash Ridge and provides the easiest route on Blanca from the Huerfano Valley”. This sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

I was aware of the large Trinchera ranch owned by billionaire Louis Bacon to the south and knew this route would come very close or even just cross over the property line. I was using this map from the beau of land management as my reference. It looked like if I contoured close to the ridge I would only briefly pass through the uppermost area of the ranch. This post on only furthered my belief that this brief passage would be acceptable. Plus, the route description came from the Roach Bible, what could possibly go wrong?

Dubious beta

On Tuesday June 28th I departed my home and drove to the Huerfano TH. I arrived shortly after noon and began my trek into the basin around 1:00p. I reached the upper Huerfano basin around 2:45 and began to set up camp just past the old mining operation. Less than 5 minutes after setting up camp a light rain began to fall which turned into a brief spell of pea sized hail.

Huerfano TH views

The following morning, I awoke around 4:30a and made some coffee and breakfast. By 5:45 I was heading up the gulley towards a gap in the ridge near a sub peak called “Huerfanito”. There were at least 5 cairns in this section of the route. I reached the gap just before 7:30 and was treated to an awesome view of Mt. Lindsey and the Spanish Peaks. At this point I descended to a point described by Roach (37.5738 -105.4708) before contouring over to the uppermost Winchell Lake. Again, I noticed a series of cairns along this route and many more around the lake (which I understand are certainly not markers of land ownership but seemed to reinforce the idea of some degree of limited access). At this point I noticed two newly built structures just below the east side of the lake.

Lindsey and the Spanish Peaks

I then made my way towards the class 4 gulley or “ramp” feature which would take me up to Blanca’s south ridge. I even thought I could bump over to Hamilton peak if I had the time. As a solo hiker I am always balancing the risks and rewards of any decision. As I made my way towards the imposing face the risks began to stack up. I dawned my helmet and cautiously made my way toward the next Roach point (37.5686 -105.4818). As I neared the top of this ramp I was feeling good, it was challenging but within my skillset. I largely stuck along either side of a huge quartz vein that split the ramp. However, as I reached the top of the gully around 9:30a, I found I could go no further. I could not seem to find a connection between the top of this gully and the ridge without a spicy class 5 move (which I was not prepared to attempt). Not looking to push my luck I decided it was safest to turn back. I’d rather climb another day than bounce all the way back down that steep gully.

Top of the class 4 ramp
Getting above my pay grade here
A safe descent is a good descent

Upon reaching the base of this ramp I noticed two people over by the new structures. As I rounded the lake one of them made their way over to speak with me. This gentleman told me he worked for the Trinchera ranch as the naturalist or wildlife management or something along those lines. He also informed me that I was trespassing. I gave him my name and contact info and asked about the ownership and access. Apparently, the BLM map I was using is not correct and the ownership exactly follows the ridge, so everything south of that “Huerfanito gap” was private land. He really was quite understanding all things considered.

-> He wanted me to make it clear that:

1) Everything south of the ridge is private land.

2) Ranch personnel are in the area, and they are patrolling.

He said there wouldn’t be any charges pressed in this case but wanted me to make these two points above so you could all be aware of this issue.

Pretty bummed about the whole situation I zoomed back over the gap, packed up my tent and flew back down to the TH arriving just after 1:00p. Regardless of the failure to meet my goal and the access issues I was still able to enjoy the beauty of the Huerfano basin and have many other future hikes to look forward to.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Thanks for the beta
06/30/2022 16:40
Thanks a lot for checking this out, I have been wanting to try that route myself for quite some time, really a shame that is all private land. Nice you didn't get charged for trespassing though.

07/01/2022 08:55
Any chance you took a photo of the structures near the upper lake?

People and structures
07/01/2022 10:20
I'm rather surprised that any people, let along structures (were these like cabins or weather equipment?) would be in that basin. My impression from looking around at maps was that there was basically no development at all in this area. Especially above treeline like you mention, I'm really curious as to why anyone would be up there in the first place, let alone building cabins. I guess there's hunting operations on this ranch?

Poking around at satellite a bit more, I can see what looks like a small cabin at 37°33'54.2"N 105°27'05.9"W, and it looks like there is a trail that continues into the forest from there. The ranch has a road that goes up to an area marked "Burro Park" on the USGS map, but the road definitely ends. No semblance of a trail anywhere above treeline, at least around Winchell Lakes. I do see a weird line of cairns at 37°34'27.6"N 105°27'42.1"W, could that be the lake OP is talking about? Seems much too low.

I'm hooked now. What's going on in this area?

07/01/2022 11:07
I did not go over to the structures or take any photographs of them. I only really saw the new-looking roof(s) from a distance. Not sure if they are fully walled or just a lean-to style but he did mention that a german carpenter was hired to build them. Here is the appx GPS location: 37.57000 -105.47607. I'm actually not totally sure if it was one or two structures, they seemed to be rather small but certainly built within the last couple years. Probably just shelter for their hunting / fishing tours. I was focused on other issues at the time.

07/01/2022 11:33
Using the historical imagery tool on Google Earth, there are no structures at 37.57000 -105.47607 in the 9/2013 image but one structure appears in the 10/2017 image and afterwards.

07/01/2022 12:33
I've done that ridge out to Hamilton and seen a small building by the lake. I'll see if I can find the pic I took and post it.

07/01/2022 14:25
Looks like there's one main building and a couple smaller structures nearby.

07/01/2022 17:00
I can't find specifics on the Trinchera Blanca conservation easement, but many conservation easements prevent the construction of buildings

07/17/2022 14:29
I feel somewhat responsible for your interest in the route, as I am the one quoted in your screenshot (and did the route a few weeks later!). But since then, the landscape of access there has changed, and very obvious signs have been erected on the trail to Lindsey, as has CFI been in contact with the ranch.

By what a bomb that route is. That's one of the worst gullies I've ever been in. I was sure I overshot the "actual" route, but it seems that that is the route in Roach's book. I wish it was removed, especially now with access being questioned. It's worse than C2 to Ellingwood - and I'm not the biggest fan of that one, either.

Gash Ridge proper is absolutely stellar. Get a partner, give it a go. Getting back is always a problem, but consider a shuttle and traverse the range. I haven't found a great way (back) over the Blanca/Ellingwood ridgeline that doesn't involve some loose steep stuff or scrambling that's just as hard as Gash Ridge itself. The subsidary ridge from California Peak to Lost Lake, then down to the trail is "OK", but certainly not a destination route.

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