Culebra Peak, 14,061'
~8.5 miles RT; 4300' elevation gain
Red Mountain "A" 13,908'
[camera used: Nikon D5100 DSLR]
One of the largest ranches in Colorado is Cielo Vista Ranch (translated- sky view or heavenly view). It's 77,000 acres and borders New Mexico on the southern edge of the state. This is no ordinary ranch, it contains one of Colorado's 14ers Culebra Peak, and also contains 13ers Red Mountain A, Vermejo Peak, Purgatouire Peak, Alamosito, Cuatro Peak, and others. To say it's pristine is an understatement; it's also one of the premier wildlife preserves in the country, hosting deer, elk, bear, bighorn sheep, and all sorts of other animals. The land is remarkably undeveloped when compared to public lands. Many of the roads and trails on the property are slowly being reclaimed by nature.
The ownership of this prime piece of property over the years could fill a book. It's currently owned by a large corporation from Texas and they allow access to their mountains... for a price. In my case, that price was $150; which is a lot of money. Many people ask- what do you get for your money?
We came through the gate at 6AM, went to the ranch office to pay, and talked to a friendly man named Carlos who laid down the ground rules. The road up is very smooth and well maintained, but 4WD is required to minimize wheel slippage on the steep sections.
Here's the rough route we took. Unlike most other hikes I do, there is no defined trail on this peak, not an official one anyway. They encourage you to spread out and minimize impact on the environment. We chose to take the "Roach Route", pioneered by Colorado climbing legend Gerry Roach. It turned out to be most excellent.
|Our brave team has reached the "upper" parking lot. Some people cheat and start at 11,600'|
|We quickly put distance between ourselves and the upper parking lot vehicles|
|Joey waits for us. We ascended the area above her head.|
|Early sunlight panorama|
|I like our shadows going down the hill|
|Panorama of the same shot|
|Jeff takes some pictures|
|Little Bear, Blanca Peak, and Mt. Lindsey center, crestone group distant right|
|What trip report of Culebra would be complete without a picture of this large cairn?|
|Scott gaping at the cairn (photo by SZL)|
|Turning around, this photo shows the pathway to false summit alpha|
|Vermejo Peak, "Alamosito", and Purgatoire Peak|
|False summit alpha looms ahead|
|The marmot shall show you the way!|
|Joey coming up the ridge past the false summit|
|West Spanish Peah and Spanish Peak|
|Summit Panorama looking North/East|
|Summit Pano 2- Same view, slightly lower|
|Summit Pano- looking South; Red Mountain on the left, Vermejo and others beyond|
|All it takes to climb Culebra is right here (Photo by SZL)|
|Group on Culebra summit: Dan, Joey, Jason, Scott, Sarah!|
Culebra is a mere 3/4 mile away from Red Mountain, which is a Centennial 13er. It's the 92nd highest mountain in the entire continental US. Since I plan on eventually climbing Centennial peaks, it was prudent for us to tackle this peak as well. We felt that it was a little more effort than we anticipated, and the "round trip" from Culebra was close to 90 minutes with a 15-minute break at the top of red.
|The summit push on Red Mountain. There are some braided trails.|
|Looking back on the saddle between Culebra and Red Mountain|
|Summit pano from Red Mountain looking South/East|
|Summit pano of Culebra Peak from Red looking North/West; Spanish Peaks at right|
|Why did I do this? On the Red Mountain summit|
|Culebra Summit 2: Spurge, Kay, Bill, Jeff, Dan, Scott (L to R)|
|When Marmots Attack|
|They are multiplying|
|Scott looks over the valley, false summit alpha behind him|
|Jeff surveys the scene just beyond the massive cairn|
|Massive 8-shot panaorama of the valley to the North of Culebra's snaking ridge|
|Cool butterfly, these guys were everywhere around 12,500'|
|Jeff comes down from the ridge|
|Looking down from the same place|
|The clouds are building in strength|
|Quick road-hike back down to the truck; 1 mile was under 20 minutes|
|Pano looking back from the "Four Way"; Culebra at extreme left|
|Panorama: about 1 mile down the road from the ranch gate; Culebra center|
As we drove away from the ranch, my truck was bombarded with the largest raindrops I've ever seen. We had just missed out on getting pelted, I'm pretty sure everyone was going to stay dry that day.
|The Blanca group as seen from the highway|
I think the primary question people ask about this experience is: "It costs $100 to climb, that's a lot of money, is it worth it?" I think the answer to this question is an individual one. For some, they will never do it again. For others, they are so enchanted with the unique experience that they absolutely desire to return at a later time. Some have refused to climb only this 14er, stating the price as the reason. You are free to take a stand on principle, but realize that you are missing out on an interesting experience.