Peak(s):  Stewart Pk  -  13,983 feet
Baldy Alto  -  13,698 feet
Organ Mtn A  -  13,801 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2009
Date Climbed:   07/11/2009
Author:  scotthsu
 La Garita weekend   

Who: scotthsu and Nice Axe
Day 1 (7/11/09) itinerary: Cebolla TH (11500') to Stewart Peak (13983') to Baldy Alto (13698') back to TH, ~10 miles RT, ~4000' climbed, car-to-car time 6.25 hours
Day 2 (7/12/09) itinerary: Eddiesville TH (10320') to Organ Mtn (13801') and back, ~8.4 miles RT, ~3500' climbed, car-to-car time ~5 hours

Other than hiking San Luis Peak many years ago, we hadn't spent any time in the La Garitas. Add in two Roach classic routes, and this turned out to be a wonderful weekend exploring an area new to us with the bonus of three new summits! (Roach's 13ers guide is a good reference for these hikes.)

On Friday afternoon (7/10/09), we drove from Los Alamos, NM to the Cebolla TH (via Alamosa, Monte Vista, Saguache, and finally miles of gentle but beautiful dirt roads). We found a nice meadow a few minutes east of the TH on forest road 790 and parked there for the night. Mosquitoes were active so we hid in the car watching a DVD for awhile before turning in.

Day 1 (7/11/09):
It was a clear night and we didn't get up until 6:30am. We drove to the TH and were hiking just before 7am. There's a sign-in register a few feet from the road, and the obvious trail starts zig-zagging immediately up the slope on the east side of the creek. The trail was easy to follow, and we reached tree-line (~12000') in under 30 minutes. In front of us was a vast sea of willows with wooden poles marking the way through. Unranked Baldy Chato (13401') is visible from here. It was a long walk up through the willows and then onto the NE shoulder of Baldy Chato. Amy looking back at the sea of willows and treeline far below:

Soon we crested the NE ridge of Baldy Chato and got our first view of Stewart:

Shortly, we ran into a solo woman hiker from Grand Junction also on her way to Stewart Pk. She was taking her time enjoying the views and spotting wildlife in the amazing escarpment to the east. Here's Amy looking down the escarpment (remnants of a volcanic caldera, according to the solo woman hiker), with Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre visible in the distance:

From here it was an easy walk on grassy slopes toward the 13540' saddle west of Stewart Pk. We heard squawking in the distance and saw a HUGE herd of elk, but they were too far for good pictures. Amy walking the grassy slopes toward the 13540' saddle west of Stewart Pk:

From the saddle, it was steeper but still easy hiking to the summit. View of Organ Mtn (13801'), Phoenix Pk (13895'), and Baldy Alto (13698') from just west of the summit of Stewart Pk (13983'):

We arrived on the summit of Stewart Pk at 9:25am. On the summit of Stewart (thanks to member summitwolf for taking the photo!):

We had a quick snack on the summit, chatted with summitwolf, and then headed back down so we could summit Baldy Alto before the clouds started to threaten. From the 13540' saddle, it was more easy walking across grass and then some talus hopping. Amy in front of Column Ridge:

Shortly, we descended a steep slope (class 1+) to the ~13100' saddle between Stewart and Baldy Alto. Looking up the ridge toward Baldy Alto:

We arrived at the summit of Baldy Alto at 10:40am:

We saw some sheep on the way down:

These flowers were all over the place:

We pressed on to the 13540' saddle and kept going since clouds were starting to build. View of Baldy Chato:

We skipped Baldy Chato due to the dark clouds and hurried back down through the willows to treeline as lightning flashed 2-3 miles away. Amy about to reach the safety of treeline:

We were soon back to the car around 1:15pm, and rain drops started falling as we drove away. This was a really pleasant hike that stayed above 13000' for most of the trip. We both thought that the Roach classic rating was well-deserved.

We drove over to the Eddiesville TH and found a nearby spot next to the road overlooking Stewart Creek to camp for the night. We spent an hour intermittently sitting out on our camp chairs swatting mosquitoes and diving into the car due to passing showers. Finally, we got sick of the mosquitoes and passing showers and hid in the car to watch another DVD, sweating our asses off when the sun would come out. We both thought that we needed to spend more time hiking that day instead of sitting around all afternoon. After some dinner and a few more Battlestar Galactica episodes, we finally turned in around 9:40pm. It rained on and off all night. I woke up several times to the rain patter on the roof of the car.

Day 2 (7/12/09):
The alarm went off at 6am, but it was rainy and overcast, so we kept sleeping. Finally a little before 7am, the clouds started to part and we got motivated, getting on the trail at 7:23am. Following Roach‘s description, we found the start of the Canon Hondo trail (~50‘ to the north of the creek), which is the key to an easy ascent up this valley. We got to treeline around 11900' in about 1.25 hours and then headed up the slope toward the ridge:

Soon we saw this herd of elk making time up toward the ridge that is N-NE from Organ Mtn:

We would later descend the same grassy slope on the way down. The elk made it up that slope (~700') in ~5 minutes! This would give Jason Halladay a run for his money

When we got to the top of the ridge, the elk were nowhere in sight but we had a nice view of Organ Mtn:

From here it was easy pleasant walking to the summit, which we reached at 9:50am making for a ~2.5 hour ascent. View of Baldy Alto and Stewart Pk from the summit:

After snacking and relaxing on the summit for 30 minutes, we started heading down, but not before scrambling on top of and peering over into the impressive "organ pipes":

We walked back down the NE ridge of Organ and then descended the long grassy slope (on which we saw the elk earlier). We found the trail with no problem (around 12000') and started making time back to the car. Amy found this cool jaw bone with teeth and all:

We were back at the car around 12:15pm and got the hell out of dodge before the mosquitoes could feast on us any further. Another nice hike and summit, although we both felt this Organ east slopes route was slightly less deserving of the Roach classic rating than the Stewart north slopes route.

A view of Organ (left) and Stewart (right) during the drive out:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Comments or Questions
Nice Axe
La Garitas
07/14/2009 14:35
Great TR Scott. This is a spectacular area, lush with wildlife and wildflowers (at the right time).

Great meeting you guys !!
07/14/2009 16:55
Awesome trip report. Those elk were really something, huh? I ended up climbing Organ Mtn just in time before those thunder storms hit. Glad you both made it down safely. I ended up descending the Canon Hondo route as well. It was a long but stellar day.

Congrats on a great weekend of 13ers. We should meet up for a climb in the future !

07/14/2009 23:52
thanks for the comments everyone! It was indeed a relaxing low-stress weekend of hiking Flora and fauna were both a real treat.

summitwolf, glad to hear you made it to Organ. We were wondering how you did with the storm clouds building, especially cause I don‘t think we saw your name on the Organ summit register the next day. We‘d love to meet up for a hike/climb, stay in touch!

Jason, yeah they do have that 4 leg advantage don‘t they. I still think you‘d give them a run for their money despite the 2 leg handicap.

Matt, LOL. Hell yeah to Rio Grande Pyramid! Let‘s figure out dates.

Nice Axe
07/15/2009 22:44
Hey del Sur-second that hell yeah! Been oogling that one for a while.

summitwolf-very nice to meet you. Glad you had a great day and got Organ too! Congrats on finishing the 14ers! Hope to see ya again.

07/17/2009 20:28
gotta start bringing a pen with me for these 13ers. Seems like many of the summit registers on the 13ers are sans writing utensils

7 A.M. start?!!!
11/30/2010 17:28
What fun is it if you don't start 5-hours before sunrise? I laughed when I saw that your car to car times for Saturday and Sunday COMBINED was still 2-hours less than our day on the Bells. You can call me Captain Slow! Awesome photo of the elk running up that slope. Enjoy the mosquito bites.

Jason Halladay
so green
11/30/2010 17:28
That area is beautiful out there! Good stuff.

” The elk made it up that slope (~700') in ~5 minutes! This would give Jason Halladay a run for his money.”

But they have four legs! Give me 10 minutes and I‘ll keep it close.

7 a.m. starts...
01/19/2011 03:38
...and class 1+ slopes. It‘s a wonder you made it
Thanks for posting this TR. I‘d like to hit these up later this summer. Any interest in Rio Grande Pyramid, you two?

02/05/2011 00:22
trip report and thanks for posting. I really like that area for solitude and really need to get back again for some unfinished peaks.

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.