San Luis Peak
I looked at a map of 14ers, one mountain always stood - literally - alone
in the middle of Colorado: San Luis Peak. When I read about it, phrases like
"isolated, simple walk-up and remote" were used over and over. In
my quest to climb all the 14ers, I knew I had to experience San Luis one day
and mid July 2009 was the time along with a few other climbs in the San Juan
range of southwest Colorado.
The journey started with a long drive to just east of Gunnison where I took a turn south on 114 for about 20 miles then a west turn on dirt road FR 794 for another 7 miles to reach the Stewart Creek trailhead which was in the middle of - well nowhere. There was one car at the trailhead on this Wednesday afternoon but no people. I set up my tent and cooked my dinner before retiring as the sun went down. The birds woke me up as the first hints of sunrise drifted across my camp and after a few minutes I was on the trail.
As always, I am amazed at the quality of the trails on 14ers in Colorado and this one was no exception. It was well trodden but not overused and followed Stewart Creek for a few miles into a high basin. I lost count but the beaver dams were stacked up for at least two miles each with their own hut perched in the middle of a pond. I heard a few tail slaps but never got a glimpse of these natural engineers.
I knew San Luis was a large brown hump and not a pointy mountain so I kept my eye out as I climbed higher. Soon a huge brown hump appeared but a quick check showed it was Organ Mountain at 13,801' and the trail drifted south around her high slopes.
After a short walk higher, the trail revealed the route to the summit of San Luis which followed an ever increasingly high ridge line. Once again, I was impressed with the quality of the trail. It was an easy high altitude walkup - just as advertised.
I made the summit in good time and enjoyed the rare solitude of standing on a 14er summit completely alone. I saw a small party headed higher from another valley but felt the isolation that early pioneers must have felt as they explored the great US West.
The views were excellent as usual and I looked carefully for my next goal, Sneffels to the west but never found the highpoint on the ridge outside of Ouray.
The return to camp was swift only interrupted by my continuous picture taking of the beaver dams. Wish I would have seen one!
San Luis was everything advertised and more. I would highly recommend it to anyone as their first or last 14er. But one word advice - take your time.
This approach is up there with the best of them and the solitude unparalleled. It just goes to show that climbing Colorado 14ers does not have to be an epic. Sometimes a nice walk is more than enough.