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Anybody been to the South San Juans or the Huerfano Valley

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Offline tornados_blow

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Anybody been to the South San Juans or the Huerfano Valley
« on: June 22, 2007, 02:51:57 PM »
Hi folks,

I haven't been on here much lately.  I apologize for that.  Fall is sort of my Big Bend time (When I dream about it).  Summer time is for areas with cooler climates.  Like Colorado...

I was just wondering if anyone had been to the Conejos Peak area in the South San Juans.  Some buddies and I are going backpacking there at the end of July.  We are also going to go over to the Blanca Group and climb Mount Lindsey.  It will be my first fourteener!  

Our plan is to hike the Three forks trail up to Blue Lake and set up camp.  We will camp there three nights and do day hikes up Conejos peak and over on the continental divide.

I just wondered if anyone had any tips or places we should see in the area.  Also, if anyone has climbed Mount Lindsey and has advice, that would be great too.

I'll post some pictures when I get back.

Would love to make it to the SA Bender tomorrow, but don't think I can make it.  July is looking busy for me too, but if I can make it in July I will.  Sounds fun and I go to the saucer once and awhile anyways.

Matt

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Offline tinneyr

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Anybody been to the South San Juans or the Huerfano Valley
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2007, 07:06:26 AM »
I'm heading to the Front Range for my 14ers when I get back to the states.  I found all of my Colorado resources from 14ers.com and SummitPost.org.  From what I hear, you're heading to a nice area.  I've done most of the Crestone Group but haven't been down to Mount Lindsey yet.  I look forward to the photos.

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Offline okiehiker

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South San Juans...
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2007, 11:15:43 PM »
The South San Juans and Sangre de Cristos are the only places that I have been more than BIBE.  I lived in the South San Juans May to September for eleven years.

Drop me a PM and I can give you any information needed about either Lindsay or the South San Juan.  

I would suggest a somewhat different itinerary for the Three Forks area.  

The Three Forks Trailhead is at 10,280.  The trail is dead level for two miles to Three Forks Park and the confluence of the South Fork, Middle Fork and El Rito Azul.  Your plan is to hike another three and a half miles up to Blue Lake at 11,465.  Conejos Peak at 13,172' is the third highest in the SSJ.  It is a nice hike, but is the least distinctive peak in the range.  Being directly above Platoro, and having roads that criss-cross its north side, it is the most easily visited.  

If you go to Blue Lake, I would recommend camping on a rise on the east side of the lake.  It will be due south from the outflow into el Rito Azul.

From Three Forks Park I would turn southwest and then west up the Middle Fork.  In a couple of miles you will come to Conejos Falls.  The first good campsite is in the broad valley just above the falls.  It is a magnificent place to camp.  Two other campsites sit up another mile or so, just at the edge of treeline.  One is on the lefthand (south) side of the valley, right on the Continental Divide trail.  The other is up on the north side of the valley.  It is a fairly well used packer's camp during hunting season.

Besides the falls, the focal point of the Middle Fork is Lake Ann, a stunning alpine tarn, ringed by rock walls.  Snow Peak at 12,815 is a wonderful hike.  I have done it a couple of times by moonlight.

From Lake Ann cross a divide SSE from the south end of the lake at 12,350.  Contour around to Gunsight Pass.  The west side of Gunsight Pass is a wonderful rock field.  Just below Gunsight Pass, catch the Fish Lake Trail to Fish Lake.  

Fish Lake is in a volcanic vent.  It is not spectacular in a conventional sense but has three remarkable attributes.  First, it is surrounded by a smooth green slope.  You are completely above tree line and the symmetry a verdant green is beautiful.  Second, at the outflow, and surprisingly easy to miss if you do not look around, are some of the most amazing hoodoos you will ever see.  Third, fish lake has the largest fish in the SSJ.  I have caught a number of 20 - 30" trout there.

You can return through Gunsight Pass or loop around by the headwaters of Augustora Creek and over a ridge due west of the lake.  You can catch a high point of the Continental Divide Trail just 200' below the ridgetop.

Although the area is called Three Forks, there are actually four.  Going south to north they are El Rito Azul, the Middle Fork, South Fork and the Adams Fork.  The North Fork is the most nondescript of the four.

As an overall itinerary I would suggest:

Day 1--Three Forks Trailhead to Three Forks Park, Middle Fork to Conejos Falls, camp above the falls.

Day 2--Dayhike--Lake Ann, Fish Lake

Day 3--move camp from the Middle Fork to the Adams Fork

Day 4--Dayhike--Summit Peak.  

Day 5--Hike down Adams Fork back to Three Forks Road.  You hit the road about a mile and a half down from your car.

On the second dayhike you have an easy hike up to Summit Peak.  At 13,300' it is the highest in the range, and the highest peak for miles.  If you have a clear day, it is in my opinion the best overall view in Colorado.  I have identified as many as 40 of the state's 54 14,000 peaks from the top of Summit.  

If you want a more challenging dayhike continue on north to Montezuma.  It is 13,150, but a more interesting climb.  It is a classic Colorado ridge scramble for the last 200 vertical feet.  

If you want a killer day, drop from the Summit of Montezuma down the amazing rock glacier on its north side to Crater Lake.  Crater Lake also has tons of HUGE trout.  I have never has as much luck fishing for them, but if you are good, the fishing is excellent.  From Crater Lake you can catch a trail back to the Continental Divide Trail and to camp at the Adams Fork.  There also is an unnamed 13'er between Summit and Montezuma.  It is easy, but few people ever manage to climb three 13'ers in one day.

Regarding Lindsey, It has been two years since I have climbed it.  My daughter and I made a climb in August of 2005.  Although not the best known of the Blanca group, it may be the best climb.  

Take the trailhead at the Huerfano River.  You will start out right at 10,000'.  The trail is straight forward for about five miles.  You will veer off to the right near a side creek at 10,800.  I recommend continuing on with packs up to a wonderful ridge at 11,800.  You are too high for a good campfire, but you have a great view in both direction.  

For the Lindsey climb, angle up to the saddle just south of Iron Nipple (climb this summit on the way back) at about 13,150.  From the prominent ridge, veer north and catch a fairly obvious couloir to the summit.  There can be a lot of loose rock in the couloir so be careful not to knock things down on each other.

Lindsey may be the best little-known 14er in the state.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline tornados_blow

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Anybody been to the South San Juans or the Huerfano Valley
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2007, 11:55:08 AM »
Thank you for all the great info.  We may just have to alter our trip a bit.  I like your suggested itenerary, however we are only planning on three nights camping in the SSJ.  

Summit peak sounds like a nice alternative to Conejos.  We may have to kick around the idea of hiking up the Adams fork instead of Three Forks.  

I personally would like to do a loop hike, however, I am not sure we are in good enough shape to handle lugging the packs that far.  

Do you think hiking up the Adams fork and camping for three nights would be a better plan?

You know, you should write hiking books.  You are a wealth of info on this site!  It seems that you have been everywhere.   I think I would speak for everyone on this site, if I said we were all jealous.

Again thanks for the info.  I'm off to research Summit Peak, oh and do a bit of work here and there.

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Offline okiehiker

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I'd do the Middle Fork
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2007, 05:07:04 PM »
For a shorter trip I would do the Middle Fork.  Conejos Falls, Lake Ann, Fish Lake, Gunsight Pass, Snow Peak and the Hoodoos are all amazing.  There will be plenty to do on dayhikes.

The dayhikes from the Adams Fork are longer.  The rock glacier from Montezuma to Crater Lake is an extremely rare phenomenon and well worth seeing, the NW side of Summit is quite rugged, but lots of loose rock.  The standard route is grass-covered and very easy (other than a little altitude and elevation gain.)  In any case you have a lot to choose from.

The South San Juans were almost completely overlooked until a guide book was published a while back.  I think you still will not be over run like a lot of the fourteeners.  Any of the four forks of the Conejos River will be beautiful.  The southeastern part of the wilderness area is also ineresting though not as dramatic as the part between Crater Lake and Fish Lake.

Have a great trip and give us a report when you get back!
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline tornados_blow

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Anybody been to the South San Juans or the Huerfano Valley
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2007, 12:43:21 PM »
Again, thanks for all the info and suggestions.  I will definitely post some pics when I get back in August.

After discussing the plans with everyone, I think we decided to stick to our original plan.  Camp at Blue Lake and do dayhikes over to the middle fork and gunsight pass and also up Conejos Peak.  We already have topo maps centered on this area.  Then on a future trip we will tackle the summit peak/ Montezuma peak area.

My big goal on this trip is to attempt my first fourteener, mount Lindsey.  Sounds like you really liked Mount Lindsey and so I am really excited to attempt it.  The SSJ sidetrip is to acclimate and take it easy.  When it comes time to climb Lindsey, we should be well acclimated, and assuming our muscles will allow it, climbing lindsey will be no problem altitude wise.

The nice thing about Colorado is, you really can't go wrong.  Pretty much no matter where you go, there will be something to enjoy.  And there is always more to see next time.

 


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