West Spanish Peak P2K

Sun, Jul 26, 2020

With: Tom Becht
Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

Continued...

West Spanish Peak is a P3K, a Wilderness HP and the highpoint of Las Animas County in Colorado. Despite the stats, it was nowhere on our radar until we started looking at the weather forecasts the day before. We had hoped to get to some more 14ers in the Sangre de Cristo Range, but the forecast was horrible, with flash flood watches and heavy rains in the mix. We settled on West Spanish Peak because it has a trail going to the top and we could do it in less than 4hrs. The stats are about 7mi roundtrip and 2,700ft of gain. Along with its little sister, East Spanish Peak, the pair sit on the east side of the Rocky Mtns, well off the main crest of the Sangre de Cristo Range, towering ancient volcanoes reaching to 13,600ft. We spent the previous night parked near Cucharas Pass off SR12, at a scenic overlook that made a fine campsite. We had made plans to leave at 5:30a, but when I looked over at Eric's car at 5:22a, all was still and dark. Impressively, after waking him up, he was up and ready to go in 8min. We left two cars and drove my jeep 5.5mi up to Cordova Pass at 11,248ft. There is a campground located at the pass and TH, $7 is required for day use parking.

We got started just before 6a, heading north and northeast. The well-signed West Peak Trail starts off gently through forest and then open grass slopes where one gets a first view of West Spanish Peak and the nearly 2,000ft of talus that characterizes the upper half of the mountain. At 11,300ft, a trail junction is reached, the right fork becoming the Apishapa (stinky water) Trail that begins a descent to the southeast. The sharp left fork is the continuation of the West Peak trail that continues up through more forest to about 11,700ft. The trail quickly transitions from forest to alpine meadow to rocky talus in a few hundred feet. Beyond this point the trail becomes a braided use trail making its way up the mountain's steep Southwest Slope. Ducks and cairns of all sizes abound, some of them perhaps useful. If one thread of the trail doesn't look good, there's always another option. The views are outstanding. Because of our early start, we were climbing in the shade nearly all the way to the top. Once the summit ridgeline is reached, there is a short, 1/6mi traverse along the ridge to reach the open highpoint. It was cold and windy, so we crouched down on the northeast side to get out of the wind and found conditions tolerable, but not exactly pleasant - it was still pretty cold. We put on extra jackets and took a short break, marvelling at the views stretching out across the Colorado Plains and the luck we were having with the weather holding off. The summit had been socked in the evening before, but there were no threatening clouds nearby now. A few hours later it would be socked in again.

We'd spent two hours in reaching the summit. I had reached it about five minutes before the others, and five minutes after they arrived I was growing cold and ready to head down. I told them to take their time and enjoy the summit as I packed up to take off. On my way down, I came across two parties making their way up. The second was a dad with son and dog. The dog was spooked by my presence and started back down the trail before I got near. The young lad had to chase it down and get a leash on it before I could go past them. Dad commented that it was the pups first trail hike with them, and apologized for holding me up. I told him not to worry, I had nowhere in particular to be. The weather held up and actually improved with plenty of sunshine and warmer temps before I was back to the TH by 9:30a - just over 3.5hrs roundtrip.

The others were back within half an hour, leaving us with the dilemma of what to do for the rest of the day. We spent hours trying to find something reasonable to do before the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms arrived, but in the end called it a day. We spent a few hours in Walsenburg near Interstate 25 getting groceries, gas and some to-go from a mexican restaurant, one of the few that were open on a Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, we drove out towards the TH for Mt. Lindsey, an easy 14er we hoped to climb the next day, knowing we again had a small weather window for hiking. We found a nice campsite about 6mi short of the trailhead at a wildlife refuge, complete with picnic benches, a bathroom and flat spots to park our vehicles. We had enough time to shower and eat our lunch at a leisurely pace before the rains started up around 4:30p. Hopefully, they wouldn't continued until our wake-up time 12hrs later...

Continued...


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