14er Fever: Culebra Peak

  • July 5, 2013 · 7:00 PM

Plan Overview

Meet and camp at the upper trailhead on Friday July 5.  Hike to the summit on July 6.  Return to Albuquerque on July 6 or 7.

Culebra Peak is the only Colorado 14er that is privately owned and all hikes require advanced booking with the Cielo Vista Ranch. Hiking is open to a maximum of 25 persons each day from late June through August. A $100 per person fee is also charged by the ranch.

Getting to the Trailhead

From Alamosa or Walsenburg Colorado, take U.S. 160 to the town of Fort Garland. Turn south on Highway 159 toward San Luis. Drive just over 15.5 miles to reach San Luis. Then follow the remaining directions to reach the north gate of the Cielo Vista Ranch:

  • Near a Phillips 66 gas station, turn left on the P.6 Road (4th street) and drive 4.0 miles to Chama.
  • In Chama, turn left on the L.7 Road.
  • After 3.5 miles on L.7, cross a bridge and immediately turn right on dirt road 25.5.
  • Drive 0.5 miles on the 25.5 Road, stop, and turn left on the M.5 Road.
  • Drive 0.9 miles on M.5 to reach the North Gate of the ranch.
  • The gates are normally closed and ranch representatives will meet you for an escort to the ranch headquarters.
  • Once through the north HQ gate, continue 2 miles to the ranch headquarters for check-in.
  • Begin measuring mileage and leave HQ on a dirt road (easy 4WD to the upper trailhead).
  • After 0.1 mile, stay right and continue up the steep road.
  • Near 2.5 miles, the road goes through some great meadows (~11,000’).
  • Reach "Four Way" at 3.4 miles. Plenty of parking.
  • Reach the highest point on the road at 4.4 miles. This is the upper trailhead and there is parking near a stream.

A pdf file from 14ers.com giving a complete blow by blow description of the hike can be found in the Files folder.  It can be downloaded by hovering your mouse cursor over “More” on the Meetup page tool bar and selecting “Files”.

If weather conditions deteriorate, the trip may be canceled. The weather forecast can be seen at the link below:

Weather forecast at trailhead

How to find us: Upper Trailhead

Drive Time to Trailhead: Approximately 4.5 hrs. from ABQ

Trip Rating:  Strenuous

Trail Length:  3.5 miles one way, 7 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 3200 ft

Elevation Range: 11240 ft to 14047 ft

Please Note: Anyone attending our trips must have a signed Waiver & Release Form on file with us.  This covers all trips and activities so you only have to sign it once. If you have not already signed this form, it can be downloaded from our "Pages" section and turned in to the organizer when you arrive for the trip.

If you RSVP “Yes” for this trip please plan on attending. Please read our "RSVP" Policy located in our "About" section.

Be Prepared

Climbing Colorado 14ers does not require technical rock climbing skills if the appropriate routes to the summits are selected.  The climbs do require very good physical fitness and several of the mountains require rock scrambling.  Several climbs involve breath taking exposure requiring careful hand and foot placement to prevent life threatening falls.  The 14er in this description is NOT known for dangerous exposures along the climb.

Weather changes on the mountains can happen during any season and can be rapid and extreme.  Come prepared for all types of weather conditions: intense sun, heavy rain, high and low temperatures, wind, snow and ice.  Bring gear for all these conditions.

  • Sun: wide brimmed hat, sun screen, sun glasses
  • Rain: waterproof outer layer of clothing
  • Heat: thin layer of clothing, plenty of water
  • Cold: an insulating layer of clothing, insulated head cover, gloves, face cover
  • Wind: windproof outer layer of clothing which may be the same clothing for rain
  • Snow and Ice: traction devices for your boots, trekking poles, same gear listed for sun and cold
  • Other Gear: compass, map, headlamp, knife, fire starter, emergency shelter, whistle, signal mirror, first aid kit, portable water purification, insect repellent

Your first aid kit should include aspirin and ibuprofen for treating the symptoms of mild Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Symptoms include headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance.  A recent study found that people who took four 600 milligram doses of ibuprofen over a 24 hour period in which they ascended to 12,570 feet above sea level were less likely to experience altitude sickness than people taking a placebo.  There is some evidence that an 80 to 120 milligram dose twice a day, beginning five days before ascent and on summit day, of the herb Ginkgo Biloba may reduce the chances of experiencing AMS.  Symptoms of dehydration can be confused with AMS, so drink plenty of water during the climb.

Even though the climb is only for the day, you should be prepared to stay out for a night should an unforeseeable situation arises.

A pdf file of my 14ers backpacking kit checklist can be found in the Files folder.  It can be downloaded by hovering your mouse cursor over “More” on the Meetup page tool bar and selecting “Files”.

Lightning Safety

  • If you are in mountains and climbing high, the primary way to ensure safety from lightning strikes is to get an early start.  Thunderstorms are much more likely to develop during the afternoon, especially in mountainous areas.  So if you’re planning a hike at higher elevations, try to be off of the trail before noon.  Follow the summer-in-the-mountain rule: "Up high by noon, down low by two" to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms the generally occur between 2 and 6 P.M.
  • Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the thunderstorm. If you can see or hear it, you are close enough to be a target.
  • If you're in the open or on a ridge, retreat to a sheltered area. Shallow caves or picnic shelters aren't good enough. Lightning can bounce around and strike you. Enter the forest, but do not choose the tallest tree in a stand of trees for shelter. Avoid isolated trees and water. Stay away from lakes, streams and marshy wet soil, as water is a good conductor of electricity.
  • If you cannot find shelter, make yourself as small a target as possible. Crouch down with your heels together.  If lightning hits the ground, it goes through the closest foot, up to your heel and then transfers to the other foot and goes back to the ground again. If you don't put your feet together, lightning could go through your heart and kill you. Put your hands over your ears to protect them from thunder.  Do not lie down as doing so creates a larger target for lightning. Crouching on your pack does not lessen your chances of being struck.
  • Do not place your campsite in an open field on the top of a hill or on a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. A tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  • If you're in your tent, get out as the poles attract lightning.
  • Toss away metal objects (backpacks, cameras and tripods, crampons, ice axe, trekking poles, tent poles, climbing gear).
  • Hiking partners should stay at least 15 feet away from each other.
  • Watch out for danger signs. If your hair begins to stand up on your head, arm, and the back of your neck; your skin tingles; you hear clicking sounds, a lightning strike may be about to happen.  Run like hell or crouch down in the “lightning crouch” position.
  • Lightning can strike before or after it has stopped raining.
  • How far away was that lightning? Count in seconds, you know how, one thousand one, one thousand two, etc. Each five seconds is one mile.
  • Danger from lightning may persist for more than 30 minutes after a storm has passed or after the last known lightning strike. This is often called "blue sky" lightning and is just as deadly.

Join or login to comment.

  • Eric K.

    This southern most Colorado 14er makes #52 on my tick list. The alpine country around the summit was beautiful! This was EJ's second 14er and he has the fever. He was already making plans to conquer the Sawatch Range with someone he met at the summit. It was Mandie's first 14er. Great job!

    July 7, 2013

  • Chris

    Eric, I am going to drop out. The 100 dollar fee is weighing heavlily on me right now. If there was no fee, it would be great, but I would rather save that money for another big hike/climb.
    Please plan future 14'r hike and climbs that nontechnical and technical.
    Thank You

    June 21, 2013

  • Eric K.

    Soon I will be calling the ranch to make reservations for our group. Please verify your attendance and that you understand that the ranch charges a $100 per person fee to climb Culebra.

    June 21, 2013

  • Ryan C.

    I don't want to get into a debate here, but $100 fee to access a non-technical 14er, that's 3,000' ft. gain and 7mi r/t seems pretty expensive. How established is the route? (I'd imagine it's very defined, no?) Is there anything included with the entrance fee like ayce buffet or jacuzzi tub near trailhead? Pardon my sarcasm, I think the trip sounds rad, I'm just a little bummed it's that pricey.

    June 20, 2013

    • Eric K.

      Yes, all the peak baggers think this fee sucks. But what can you do. It is privately owned and they can do what ever they want. At least they let people climb it. I am almost done bagging all the Colorado 14ers (50 out of 54) and decided I want this one too despite the outrageous fee.

      June 20, 2013

    • Ryan C.

      Eric, I agree and I'd be in the same boat. Hope to hike with you soon. Enjoy the ride.

      June 21, 2013

  • Chris

    Fee is worth the experience, ok, as we get closer,lets exchange numbers, I am coming from Abq and want to make sure I find you. I am going to bring traction just to be on the safe side as well.

    June 8, 2013

    • Eric K.

      I will email you cell number. Yes, it is a good idea to bring traction just in case.

      June 9, 2013

  • Chris

    Just to confirm - we meet at the upper trailhead at 7pm?

    June 7, 2013

    • Eric K.

      Actually, the particular time is not important. It is just a target time. If my car cannot make it all the way up to the upper trailhead, I will pack up. I will post a Meetup sign, probably on my tent and in the car window to indicate my presence. I will be driving in from Northern Colorado rather than from Albuquerque. By the way, I want to make sure you saw in my posting that there is a $100 per person fee charged by the ranch that owns Culebra. I don't want any unanticipated surprises when you get there.

      June 8, 2013

  • Chris

    Is this hike technical - as in belay/ropes any climbing gear needed?

    June 4, 2013

    • Eric K.

      This is a non technical climb. In fact this is one of the easy 14ers to hike up.

      June 4, 2013

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