LoJ: #239 (G & M: #240) / 13,524' UN 13524 Peak of the Clouds

Quadrangle › Rito Alto Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 07' 02.52", W 105° 39' 27.24" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Garrett & Martin list this as UN 13524 B. Lists of John assign the name "Peak of the Clouds" to help distinguish it from UN 13524 A, found on the Pole Creek Mountain quad.

If you have a sturdy 4WD, high clearance vehicle, "Peak of the Clouds" can be part of a multi-summit, mostly Class 2 day from the Hermit Pass Road. Typical Sangre de Cristo scenery and lots of tundra hiking.

Peak of the Clouds/Megan Lake Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Hermit Pass Road: 4 mi / 2,600'
  • Trailhead
    • Hermit Pass Road Trailhead

      From the Town of Westcliffe and the intersection of Highways 69 and 96, drive south on 69 a few blocks (about .3 mile) and turn west onto Hermit Road (CR160). Drive 6 miles to an intersection where you should stay left. From this point, it's about 9 miles to the summit of Hermit Pass if you can make it. The road quickly becomes a rough 2WD for the next 1.25 miles and then degrades even more to 4WD, high clearance advisable, if not required. The higher you go on this road, the rockier it becomes with a section or two near and above tree line that crosses through talus slopes of rubble. For our suggested climb of Spread Eagle and Peak of the Clouds, park at the coordinates provided which will be a wider spot in the road at about 11,970 ft. elevation and directly below a saddle to the north that lies between Pt. 12818 and Pt. 12,671. There will be a few remaining trees here. Additional parking can be found just a little farther at the tight turn at 12,060 overlooking Horseshoe Lake. The highest we have ever made it is another saddle at 12,620 ft., just west of Pt. 12,818 and about .6 mile east of the pass. 

      A little history here: In November of 1989, we drove this road to climb Rito Alto and found the road to be in surprisingly good shape. We breezed right up it. We returned in 1996 to find that it had degraded some, but still managed to drive it with no problems in a Jeep Cherokee Sport. Our next visit to here was not until 2009 - 13 years later. In that time, the road had degraded extensively. It had become a very slow seven miles of driving on what seemed like endless rock of varying sizes. That same trip, we also drove the South Colony Lake Road all the way to its end. Between that road and the Hermit Pass road, we had to replace the complete set of shocks on our Toyota T-100! Those two roads had wiped them out. Moral of this story - drive this road at your own risk. It grants access to a large number of 13ers, but you'll have to decide if the potential price is worth it.


      Camping

      Once the Hermit Pass Road gets onto national forest land, there are several primitive, campsite locations all along the drive up, especially at the lower elevations. The nearest designated campground with facilities is the Alvarado CG a little further to the south out of Westcliffe. On weekends, because of close proximity to the Front Range, competition for campsites makes it more difficult to find an open spot.

    Peak Icon Route Map

    Route Info Peak of the Clouds/Megan Lake

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1996

    From the trailhead parking spot, ascend on tundra slopes with just a few trees to the saddle directly north at 12,180 ft. Drop down on the other side losing about 600 feet elevation as you head for Megan Lake. Follow tundra benches created by the underlying tilted, sedimentary strata gradually dropping to the left towards the lake. Avoid willows for as long as you can, but eventually you'll have to slog through a few. At the lake, there are some very nice campsites in the trees. Once at the lake, there are really several options depending on your overall objective for the day. The south facing slopes of Spread Eagle and Peak of the Clouds are covered with a lot of tundra. We decided to first climb Spread Eagle Peak and then follow the connecting ridge over to Peak of the Clouds. To do this, at Megan Lake, you can clearly see a pronounced "rib" of rock & tundra that descends from the Spread Eagle/Peak of the Clouds saddle to the north east end of Megan Lake. This "rib" is easily identified on the USGS quad. Cross the creek just below the lake outlet. Simply follow this rib to the saddle amid a collection of ancient Bristlecone Pines that are twisted and swept into all kinds of interesting shapes by centuries of being blown by the high winds that often sweep across this range. For Peak of the Clouds, turn left at the saddle and proceed SW to the summit over easy terrain of mostly tundra with some rubble and embedded rock.

    Return by the same route if this is your only summit for the day or, hike on over to Spread Eagle (Class 2+), or head south along the ridgeline to Rito Alto peak, a little over a mile away. That ridge yields easily with just some minor rocky sections to contend with. If you've already done Rito Alto, and think you could bypass the summit by contouring on the east side, don't waste your time. The terrain may easily lure you into thinking this would be an easy bypass, but once well onto the east face, you'll find some difficult gullies to climb in and out of. In the final analysis, we decided that going over the summit of Rito Alto would have been easier and quicker even though we had done the peak before.  

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