Archuleta County Highpoint Trip Report

Summit Peak (13,300 ft)

Date: July 1, 2005
Author: Layne Bracy

The three county highpoints for Conejos, Archuleta, and Rio Grande each require easy to moderate hikes but are fairly remote, requiring lots of driving on unpaved roads. I decided to try to get all three with a loop from South Fork.

The total time, round trip, from South Fork was 15 hours.

I left South Fork at 3:30 am, heading west on Highway 160. Turned on Park Creek Road (FR 380), taking that to FR 250 through Platoro to FR 105. FR 105 is signed "Lake Fork Ranch". As I neared the TH, I passed a sign that said "Trail Closed" so I kept driving until the road got too sketchy. By this time, I had already seen many elk, including a calf or two. I would see 40 or so this day, on all three hikes and along much of the drive.

From the Conejos County highpoint, I drove back along FR 380 to the Lake De Nolda turnoff, taking this road to its end. Started hiking up Treasure Creek at 10:12 am. This was the most beautiful hike of the three. I was quickly greeted by gorgeous cascades and waterfalls. The stream was flowing quickly. I crossed at about 11,400 feet, where the stream divided in two. A log took me across one half and a hop across the other. As I reached the upper basin there was a lot of snow, though it presented no special challenge. Eventually I started veering south away from the creek and towards Summit Peak.

Summit looked very formidable from here, with a vertical north face and much snow. The route stays east of the north face and winds around to the south, where I was greeted by gentle tundra slopes and little snow. As I ascended Summit, I began getting tired and started to rethink my plan. Originally, I had hoped to also summit nearby ranked 13ers "Unicorn" and Montezuma. Now I wondered whether I could do these and still get Bennett this day. Reached the top at 2:18 pm.

From here, I could see that the ridge down to the saddle with "Unicorn" was steep and loose, maybe even impossible for me to do safely. After weighing options, I decided to forego the other 2 13ers here.

On the return I saw two hikers traversing the snow slope on Summit's north face. They may have been backpacking the Continental Divide Trail. These were the only hikers I saw all day.

Reached the car at 1:41 pm.

Climb statistics: 6 miles round-trip, 2,300 feet of elevation gain, 3.5 hours duration.