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West Spanish Peak
Elevation: 13,626 feet
Climbed: Aug 30, 2014
Mountain Range: Sangre de Cristo Range
Colorado Rank: 183rd
Class Rating: 2
Latitude: 37.375588
Longitude: -104.993396

Trip Report

Aug 30, 2014
Climbing the Spanish Peaks, or at least one of them, had been on my radar since early 2013. Unfortunately, I never made time to climb at all in 2013, which helped explain the sorry condition I was in for this climb. I decided to tackle West Spanish Peak primarily because it has a more established trail and is less strenuous, despite being almost 1,000 feet higher than neighboring East Spanish Peak.

I left for the West Peak trailhead after work on Friday. I drove south from Colorado Springs to Walsenburg, then took Hwy 160 to Hwy 12. After driving through the small town of La Veta, I continued on Hwy 12 until I reached the summit of Cuchara Pass. From there, I left the blacktop and turned left onto dirt, driving for several miles until I reached Cordova Pass. I parked here and spent the night in the back of my Xterra. It rained during the night, but by morning, the scattered clouds began to dissipate.

I was on the trail just after sunrise, beginning my hike at 6:30 AM or so. It was chilly enough for a jacket and light gloves at first, but these were soon stashed for a later appearance on the summit.

Luckily, the approach was an easy class 1 trail that didn't gain much altitude, so my poor conditioning was not a factor at first. When the class 1 trail ended at treeline and became class 2, the route headed straight up the mountain. I was working hard during this stretch, pausing often. I surprised a large herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, or more accurately, they surprised me. Ewes and kids numbered 20 or more, I expect. They moved from north to south as I climbed higher; the herd finally disappeared over a ridge to my right. I discovered that the rain at base camp the night before had left behind a light coating of ice and snow on the talus at higher elevations. I kept climbing toward a summit which remained out of sight. After reaching the upper ridge, the true summit was finally visible and very close. I stopped here to apply sunscreen and take a few photos.

I reached the summit at about 10 AM, which confirmed my slow pace. However, I still had not seen anyone else above treeline during my tortoise crawl up the class 2 stretch of the climb.

The view from the summit was very nice. East Spanish Peak rose just to the east of me. I walked over to a sub-peak of West Spanish Peak to get a better view of the traverse between the two mountains. It looked much longer and less straightforward than I expected.

I took some photos and ate a Lärabar while hunkered down behind the summit cairn. A tattered piece of cloth on a stick jammed into the cairn flapped wildly in the stiff breeze. I put on my jacket and gloves to counter the chill. I had the summit to myself for the entire hour that I stayed on top. I started down at 11 AM. I finally encountered quite a few hikers heading up the talus slope toward the summit, including two separate parties of father and child. At least I assume the men were the fathers of the children; I would hate to think that there are men evil enough to abduct children and force them to climb tall mountains. <smiley face>

My lungs were much happier on the descent than during the climb up the mountain, but my right knee kept talking to me. Nevertheless, the descent went well. A huge cairn at treeline marked my entry point back into the trees. The trail instantly because pleasant and solid again. I descended quite a few switchbacks before the trail became a rolling path through the forest.

I reached the trailhead and my Xterra at about 1:45 PM, with my GPS showing a total trip distance of 8.61 miles. My vehicle was one of only a few when I left in the morning, but by the time I returned, there were too many vehicles to count.

West Spanish Peak is the lowest "destination" peak I have climbed. Matterhorn Peak was slightly lower, but I climbed that in combination with Wetterhorn Peak, not as a singular destination.

Despite its elevation of "only" 13,626 feet, West Spanish Peak, along with its companion, East Spanish Peak, is a prominent feature of southeastern Colorado. Other than Pikes Peak, the Spanish Peaks are the only high mountains which I can see from Colorado Springs. As I catch sight of them while driving around town on a clear day, it will be nice to remember a very nice climb on a late August day.


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