Wait, you might say – Mount Elbert is the Colorado high point!
This was a different kind of high point for me.
My buddy Dave is the guy who turned me on to Colorado’s 14ers. Climbed the first 5 or 6 of them with me, then climbed Kilimanjaro with me. Look up ‘nice guy’ in your trusty old Encyclopedia Britannica, lo and behold – photo of Dave with a huge smile and a floppy hat.
Since nice guys never finish first, Dave also suffers from a degenerative eye problem. He is completely blind in one eye and legally blind in the other with only a 10 degree cone of visibility. And he’s going in for a major surgery on Tuesday which may help him out somewhat or leave him in a worse state than he’s already in. I’m such a pansy that I cry listening to his description of the surgery and his past surgeries. Put a bullet in me before somebody sticks something into my eye while I’m awake and have to see it. I’m crying right now thinking about it.
It’s like throwing a bachelor party before the poor guy gets put down – it’s time for one last hoorah.
Culebra Peak is the only privately-owned 14er. A huge ranching conglomerate called Mirr Ranches owns a smaller ranch called Cielo Vista, who owns 83,368 acres last sold for $105M. Cha-ching baby. After visiting, it’s well worth the asking price. Culebra is not the only prize on the property, there are also 18 13,000+ foot peaks. The eastern boundary of the property rides the Sangro de Cristo mountain range ridgeline for over 22 miles. An amazing chunk of America.
Cielo Vista limits the number of people who can climb Culebra to limit the human impact on fragile alpine landscape. They also restrict the season from January to July since they have hunting on the property in other months.
They also charge to climb – $150 per person. This certainly limits the number of climbers looking to climb, and as a result many people only summit this as their last 14ers climb out of the 53 total listed 14ers.
Dave is somewhere in the high 40s on the 14ers list, but with his rapidly diminishing eyesight and the high difficulty of the remaining climbs, the chance of him bagging them all is about the same as me winning the Powerball lottery – and I haven’t bought a ticket. He’s climbed in Africa, Patagonia, and all over the US – an impressive resume that many people could only hope to eclipse.
Why not cap off an amazing climbing career with the one that most climbers celebrate as their last – Culebra!
Cielo Vista accomodated us with little fuss – so many people out there complain about the staff or this or that – we found them only accommodating and friendly.
Culebra is also unique in that it has no official trail. There is a trail on 14ers.com and one on AllTrails.com, but it’s really every man for himself. Pick the peak, pick your footing, and blast up the mountain. Nice!
We took our time on the way up, no sense ending Dave’s hike with an injury, and soon enough we found the SuperCairn, with view of Culebra. From there it’s a low saddle and an easy although rocky ridgeline hike to the summit.
When we got to the Culebra summit, Dave was pretty wiped from the mental concentration required to keep his footing through the rocks, so I ran over to Red Peak to put a Centennial Peak on my list while he waited and enjoyed the view on Culebra.
When I got back to Culebra, weather was rolling in and we could hear thunder and see lightning out to the east. We scrambled down as fast as possible to keep below the ridgeline in case we had lightning strikes, but there was nothing to worry about as we made it back to the parking lot and all the way back to San Luis with nary a drop of rain.
After driving back to the Springs, we capped off the day with big bloody ribeyes and adult beverages – a fitting end to a final hoorah.