RT Length: 11.05 miles
Elevation Gain: 5461’
This was my 4th attempt at Peak of the Clouds. Not because it’s a difficult peak, but because every time I was in the area I was thwarted by the elements; snow conditions, or a fast-moving storm coming in. Today had a great weather forecast, so I figured today was my day.
Unlike my previous stays at the Gibson Creek trailhead, this time it was packed. Probably because it was a Saturday over 4th of July weekend. There were RVs set up everywhere, and every parking space in the lot was taken. Knowing I was going to spend the night in my truck I just waited for someone to leave and then backed into their spot.
I was sitting at the trailhead, just appreciating the sounds of the birds chirping and insects humming, and then the sun comes out and lights up each individual blade of grass and all I can think is how lucky I am this is my life. It was a perfect night, and the last one I’d be spending in this particular vehicle, as my new truck was waiting for me at the lot and I was picking it up Monday. I wanted to enjoy tonight.
I’d been gone for a few days, and I also wanted to get back home to see my kids, so I made it an early morning. I was on the trail at 3:45am. The trail starts at the north end of the parking area, and follows trail 1456 west.
The trail starts out nicely defined. Stay straight at the Rainbow Trail Crossing. This sign has been broken for years. I wonder if they’ll ever replace/fix it?
Here’s where it gets tricky. After hiking for .4 miles, and at 9400’, leave the trail and cross Gibson Creek. It looks like there used to be a good trail here at one time, but it’s no longer well defined. In fact, someone placed a tree trunk over the way you’re supposed to go.
After crossing Gibson Creek, the trail picks up again.
The trail goes through various conditions, from being well-defined, to being covered with downed trees, to barely being a trail at all. It also crosses Gibson Creek several times.
The main thing is to just keep following Gibson Creek west/southwest
I followed the trail for about 2 miles, to when the trail abruptly ended where a tree had fallen over the trail. Here I crossed the creek one last time, and bushwhacked southwest, up the mountain. It’s important to note here something the topo map doesn’t show: Apparently, somewhere Gibson Creek was to my right, but a much larger creek was to my left (this creek is not shown on the topo map, and could just be an error in CalTopo, as the creek was always to the south of me, but on the map it’s shown as being north). Gibson Creek pretty much fizzled out here, so keep the creek you can see to your left as you ascend the hillside.
This is a steep hillside with some bushwhacking involved. It seemed to go on forever. I took a different way down than I did up, and I’d recommend taking the way I went up, directly aiming southwest towards the ridge, as it avoids the large section of willows to the northwest.
I made it to the ridge as the sun was coming up
Once on the ridge, it’s a straightforward, class 2 ridge hike to the summit.
Here are some step-by-step pictures of the ridge
As I was nearing the summit, I looked towards the summit and thought I saw a bighorn sheep. When I looked again I realized it was a coyote: the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen! He was chillin’ on the summit.
I summited Spread Eagle Peak at 7:15am. The coyote was nowhere to be seen.
Spread Eagle Peak:
It was an absolutely beautiful day! I headed south, down the ridge to the Spread Eagle/Peak of the Clouds saddle.
This was a straightforward trek, with just one short class 3 move. I stayed right and downclimbed this section.
Then followed the ridge to the saddle
It was a simple, class 2 ridge hike to the summit of Peak of the Clouds
Here are some step-by-step pictures
Here I saw some elk (they didn’t stay long)
Looking up at the ridge to Peak of the Clouds
As I was hiking up, a marmot rushed down past me. I wonder where he was going?
The last part of the ridge was rocky. I stayed to the left.
I summited Peak of the Cloud at 8:20am
Peak of the Clouds:
Here’s a look at the ridge to Rito Alto Peak (in case anyone is looking to do that one as well)
I sat for a minute and enjoyed my time on the summit. It was a beautiful 4th of July in the Sangres!
I was making this an out and back trip today, so I turned and looked back at Spread Eagle Peak
Here are some step-by-step pictures back to the saddle
This is how I accessed the ridge
And then followed the ridge north
The short class 3 section was easier to upclimb than downclimb.
Then it was an easy ridge hike to the summit
I turned and headed east down the ridge, back to treeline. I saw elk here as well.
Once near treeline I headed back toward Gibson Creek, but as I said before, I encountered a lot of willows and it was slow going. I’d recommend following the ridge as it slopes up a bit and becomes treed, and then heading northeast.
Yes, there’s bushwhacking and route finding involved.
I made it back to the creek, and followed the trail back as it curved northeast towards the trailhead
I crossed Gibson Creek one last time, and was back on the well-marked trail.
I made it back to my truck at 11:45am, making this an 11.05 mile hike with 5461’ of elevation gain in 8 hours. Now, time to drive home, wake up my daughters, and grill some steak!