(G & M: #328)
Baldy Cinco is one summit in a group of four 13ers located on the north end of Snow Mesa - a vast, high altitude plateau east of Spring Creek Pass. The four 13ers can all be easily hiked in a single day from the Spring Creek Pass. Baldy Cinco is basically a Class 1 ascent that utilizes a section of the Continental Divide Trail. The trailhead is located at Spring Creek Pass and is accessible to all passenger vehicles on CO149 from either out of Creede or Lake City.
Baldy Cinco NW Ridge Route
From the main intersection in Creede where CO149 reverses direction after crossing the creek, drive 33.0 miles SW, then north to the uneventful summit of Spring Creel Pass. The Snow Mesa/Continental Divide Trail heads out from the east side of the highway. On the west side of CO149, you can drive in on pavement and there's a small parking area for trail hikers with a vault toilet. The road continues to a circle where there are some picnic tables and another vault toilet. This use to be a campground but is now technically closed to camping. There's no water available here. The Continental Divide Trail also continues to the west and heads up onto Jarosa Mesa.
If coming from Lake City, drive south from town on CO149, remain on CO149 when the turnoff for Lake San Cristobal comes in on the right, and begin the long, steep climb to the summit of Slumgullion Pass. CO 149 then descends south from the pass winding through beetle-kill forest that has been cleared back from the highway and open, attractive meadows. Farther down are nice stands of aspen. The highway then makes one short gain to reach the summit of Spring Creek Pass. From Lake City, it's 17.3 miles to the summit of Spring Creek Pass as described above. It takes a good half hour to make the drive from Lake City.
There are three national forest campgrounds close by. They are: Slumgullion - at the top of Slumgullion Pass; South Clear Creek Falls and North Clear Creek. The South Clear Creek has been closed for some time but reopened recently from what we could tell. The Slumgullion is located in the midst of a lot of beetle-kill mitigation. A little farther drive away are the Rito Hondo CG at Rito Hondo Reservoir and Bronw Lakes, which is a state park area. South of Spring Creek Pass is your best chance to locate primitive sites.
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Though LoJ classifies this summit as Class 2, in our opinion, it's really only a Class 1 walk-up. The only reason we can think of for calling it Class 2 is the overall mileage.
From the trailhead parking area on the west side of CO149 at Spring Creek Pass, walk across the highway to locate the beginning of the trail up to Snow Mesa. This is trail #787 and is a section of both the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail system. The well-maintained trail leads up through fairly open, beetle-kill forest. The first 1,000 feet of gain are moderate and the next 400 feet of gain are steeper as the trail mounts Snow Plateau. The plateau is a vast stretch of tundra that continues both east and south for a significant distance at an average elevation of 12,200 ft. The north end of the plateau is where the 13ers are located. The south slopes of all the 13ers are more gentle as they drop down to the flatter plateau. The north edge of the peaks and the entire plateau drops off markedly with cliffs and broad valleys leading north. Once on the plateau, the trail is clear at times and vague at others but usually marked with stakes, etc.
When you find yourself SSW of UN 13,313, break off from the CD/Colorado trail and head north across the tundra toward the first destination of the day. Contour around the Cebola Creek basin to avoid elevation loss and continue north, heading straight up the lush, grassy tundra for the next 1,100 feet. Once on the summit, the west face drops off in dramatic cliffs while a more gentle ridge heads north toward Tumble Creek. You may see trails from both game and domestic sheep grazing. The valleys north of and below the north edge of the plateau seem to offer prime elk habitat. See if you can spot any. If doing a family hike with younger ones, you may want to consider calling this summit a day. If you're a committed peakbagger, head on over to Baldy Cinco.
Year Climbed: 1997
Baldy Cinco is the second in a sequence of a four-summit group of peaks. One wya mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Baldy no es Cinco. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
From the summit of Baldy no es Cinco, descend along the ridge to the NE to about where it turns more to the north, then take a right and head downhill to the SE to a saddle at 12,900 ft. From the saddle, there's a well-defined game trail. Continue a little more easterly and steeply to the summit of Baldy Cinco. The entire traverse is almost all tundra with one modest section of rubble/talus on the way up to Baldy Cinco. Enjoy the continuing expansive views in all directions.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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