San Luis Peak
Descent Route: South Ridge
San Luis Peak
South Ridge
April 29, 2006

San Luis Peak was one of those fourteeners I?m happy to have behind me. My team and I have been so lucky to have such great skiing and weather on so many peaks over the last month. Not that our luck ran out, but San Luis was less than interesting to be sure. Cold, dry, and wind-swept, San Luis juts up into the sky on the far eastern side of the San Juan Mountains. In general it is a non-descript mountain, its only saving grace, from a skier?s perspective, is the west facing classic Yawner Gullies. These gullies were my objective.

After our hugely successful day on the Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre, we slept in at Capitol City and made the monster of all breakfasts. By noon all our gear was sorted, dried, and repacked for the drive over Slumgullion Pass to the mountain town of Creede. I?m a bit embarrassed to say that in seventeen years of living in Colorado I have never driven this road, or been to Creede. Highway 149 lead us south over Slumgullion and Spring Creek Passes, over the Continental Divide and into the Rio Grand River basin and the Weminuche and La Garita wilderness areas. If there is a more beautiful place in the State of Colorado I have yet to find it. Thick coniferous forests and sprawling Aspen groves cover these mountains. The rivers that feed the Rio Grand snake there way out of deep valleys and provide some of the most epic fishing in the West. We had to pull over many times to take in the views and ponder the immensity of this area. The road meandered around the east and led us into the town of Creede, a quintessential nineteenth century Colorado mining town. Creede?s main street looks like something out of a Hollywood Western, with colorfully painted false-fronted stores and rough-hewn buildings lining a narrow main street. We stopped on Main Street and immediately notices two things: everything was closed, and there was no one around, not a single person on the street. Turns out Creede basically shuts down in the winter months, and then booms with tourist season in the summer.

With the Equity Mine trailhead on our minds, we continued through town and up the Willow Creek Road. This road is one of the steepest, narrowest, and scariest canyon roads I have ever seen. Having no idea what we were getting ourselves into, we drove the RV up this road, in the dark, in a snowstorm. In first gear the RV barely crawled past old mill structures and mine ruins. At one point we felt like we were going to flip over backwards, the road was so steep. We finally made it up to a flat zone and parked in the first good spot we could find. Ben and Jon drove the truck farther up the road to scout the trailhead, and we began making dinner and gearing up for our climb and ski of San Luis.

The team was up at 5:00 a.m. and we drove up to the trailhead at 6:00 a.m. We were hiking up the trail at 6:45 as the sun came up. This is by far my favorite time of day in the mountains. The air is still, fresh, and ripe with the scent of spring. The snow on the hillsides and peaks reflects the morning light into soft pinks and oranges, and your body and mind wakes up to it all. For some reason time flies by in the early morning, and by 10:30 we were climbing the South Ridge of San Luis. As I said earlier, my goal was to ski the west facing Yawner Gullies. As you can see in the photos, these gullies had no snow in them this year, so we were forced to ski back down our ascent route of the South Ridge. This descent was straightforward but boring, basically a low-angled ridge traverse. But it got us the complete ski descent from the summit, and at noon we were lying in a meadow 11,900? having lunch. The last week was definitely catching up with the team and I. Nick Devore, Will Cardamone, Danny Brown, Jon Hagman, and I sat in this meadow eating our lunch in silence. Within minutes of finishing, we were all asleep. The sun was warm on our clothes, and we were all so tired that sleep came easily. For twenty minutes we all lay there in silence. Then Nick sat up and said, ?We might as well get going?, and we all slowly stepped back into our skis and continued our journey back to the trailhead. We were back in the town of Creede at 3:00 p.m., and had our first meal out of the RV in a week at a local restaurant.

As I write this update we are camped in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, getting ready to hike into Como Lake for an attempt on Ellingwood Peak and Blanca Peak, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Lou Dawson has joined us for this leg of the trip, and we are all really excited to go ski our first fourteeners with the legend.

Thanks,
Chris





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