Easy days in the San Juans

I have been resting up for the Solstice 50 on Saturday while bagging two easy peaks in the San Juans: San Luis and Uncompahgre. Lake City is a nice place to spend a few days, with moderate weather, a nice public park, and a library with wireless and a friendly cat. You can even use the wireless from the park.

San Luis (4h30, 13mi, 3600ft)

If San Luis isn’t the middle of nowhere, it’s close. Located at least 30 miles into a maze of dirt forest service roads, this rockpile has little to recommend it as a climb. On the other hand, climbing it takes you to a seldom-seen corner of Colorado, and one of the forest roads turned out to be a shortcut to Lake City, my home for the next few days.

It was 30 degrees in the car when I woke up, so I was slow to get on the trail, giving the two women who had arrived late the night before a good head start. The creek along the approach is blocked by many beaver dams, and the trail is crossed by a couple of paths where beavers have dragged downed trees to their lakes. The climb felt much longer than 6.5 miles, partly because of the long traverse along the ridge to the summit. San Luis being a rockpile, the USGS marker was placed not in solid rock, but in a foot-tall rectangular rock that formed part of the summit cairn. I took in the view of Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre, hiked back down to treeline, and jogged the rest of the way back to the car.

Uncompahgre (3h, 5mi, 2900ft)

I felt somewhat guilty doing Uncompahgre from the Nellie Creek 4WD trailhead, since doing so turns climbing Colorado’s sixth-highest peak into a short morning stroll. This high, close trailhead, along with Uncompahgre’s distinctive shape, make it a popular summit. I passed a large group of Texans in jeans on the way up. The weather was perfect other than the strong wind along the ridge, and I was up, down, and back in town by 11:00, relaxing at Lake City Auto while they fixed a slow leak in my tire.

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