(G & M: #485)
Leaning South Peak
UN 13,203 (Leaning South Peak) is a Class 2 summit located on the ridge that connects Cuatro Peak with Trinchera Peak. If combining those two summits together, then you will be hiking over Leaning South Peak. The hike can begin at the Blue Lakes Campground which is reached from Cuchara Pass and a drive up along the Purgatoire River in any passenger vehicle. A 4WD or higher clearance vehicle can save a couple miles of road walking and get you to higher starting elevation. This hike offers some outstanding views and wildlife viewing.
Leaning South Pk North Ridge Route
This trailhead would be primarily used for access to Trinchera and Cuatro summits. From Walsenburg, drive west on US 160 and take the turnoff for La Veta, on SH12. Drive through the quaint, small town and continue south toward Cucharas Pass. This very pleasant road takes you through gambel oak terrain, into ponderosa forest and eventually more typical higher elevation aspen and conifers. If you do road bicycling, this is a great ride! Drive on through the little townsite of Cuchara, past the turnoff for the old Cuchara Valley Ski area and just under 2 miles before reaching the summit of Cucharas Pass, turn west (right) onto FR422 and drive the steep, graded dirt road to the Blue Lakes Campground. At the 4-way intersection where you can turn down into the campground, turn left onto FR436. Drive a few yards and find a place to park if in a passenger car. Or, you might inquire with the campground host to see if there's a better parking option.
From Alamosa, drive east on US160 through Ft. Garland and over La Veta Pass. About 15 miles east of the pass, watch for the SH12 turnoff to the town of La Veta. Follow the directions as above.
For another longer but possible access to Trinchera & Cuatro, see the trailhead titled "Mt. Maxwell Trailhead." This access could also be used to reach summits like Mariquita and De Anza B.
There are two designated, Forest Service campgrounds; the Blue Lakes and the Bear Lake, just a few miles beyond Blue Lakes. Both are accessible by passenger cars. Just a short distance up FR436 from the Blue Lakes CG, there may be a couple of primitive spots if the FS has not closed them. Further up FS436, if you have 4WD, there are more primitive sites.
RT: 4 mi / 1,100’
Blue Lakes-Trinchera Approach
For those with 4WD, you can eliminate two miles of walking by driving up FR436 from the Blue Lakes CG and parking at about 11,650' at these coordinates: N 37° 17' 48.55" W 105° 08' 59.04". These are approximate at best. You can probably drive farther, but this area provided some good parking amidst trees and you wouldn't have to drive onto tundra to park out of the way. A little over a mile up from the campground, the road approaches a saddle at 11,380 ft. A trail that cuts south into the headwaters of the Purgatoire River goes by here. There's a good campsite at this location. Bearings are: N 37° 18' 01.09" W 105° 08' 19.60". We drove this 4WD track in 2000 in a Jeep Cherokee Sport with little or no difficulty. Some higher clearance passenger type vehicles may be able to manage this road.
If you don't have 4WD, you'll have to walk these two miles of road.
Purgatoire River Camp
N 37° 18' 01.09", W 105° 08' 19.60"
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Class 1 / 1.0 mi / 1,900’ One-Way
Trinchera Peak NE Ridge
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If you've followed FS436 to tree line at 11,600 feet., continue following the same road up the first two switchbacks and then depart the road and begin hiking up the fairly broad NE ridge or Trinchera. You could keep following the road, but it leads to a pass directly north of the summit and a steeper ridge climb. The hike up the NE ridge is easy on tundra for much of the way with typical embedded rocks. The last few hundred feet steepen and become more rocky for the summit finish. When you arrive at the summit, if the winds are blowing too hard (not a surprise for this range) you can hide behind some of the large cairns. The summit view offers a panorama of surrounding great valleys, plains and forest, with rolling, mostly gentle mountains that stretch into New Mexico. Watch for wildlife - particularly herds of elk and bighorn sheep which we saw twice.
Once you arrive at the summit of Trinchera, it would make little sense to not go ahead and include Leaning South Peak and Cuatro Peak, about 2.5 miles south along the central ridge, in your plans for the day. The ridge walk is easy. Mt. Maxwell could also be included, but it is unranked.
Bonus Points: Another option to consider is to summit UN12,955, about one mile north of Trinchera. The descent off Trinchera north may involve a little bit of Class 3 work at a notch along with more difficult Class 2+ talus & rubble according to a report on LoJ by "Furthermore."
Year Climbed: 2000
UN 13,203 (aka: Leaning South Peak) is sequenced with Trinchera Peak and Cuatro Peak. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Trinchera Peak. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the entire sequence. The direction of the sequenced route progresses from north to south.
From the summit of Trinchera Peak, walk south, descending to a minor bump at 13,250 ft. Turn SE and head down to a saddle followed by another short uphill walk to an unmeasured point, (13,120 ft. appx.) gaining about 140 vertical feet. Turn directly south again, drop to yet another saddle, then make the final 400 feet of gain to the summit of Leaning South Peak. There is a game trail that can be taken to avoid the 13,120 point which contours on the west side and leads over to the next saddle. The entire walk from Trinchera is on tundra, tundra with embedded rock and some minor swaths of rubble. This is a pleasant, high ridge walk. Keep your eye out for game, especially elk and bighorn sheep. We suggest continuing south from here to Cuatro Peak, however, our descent route begins here on the summit of Leaning South Peak. So if you go to Cuatro, you may be returning to this summit to commence the descent.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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