Rito Alto Peak & Hermit Peak | Saturday & Sunday, September 4-5, 2021
After spending the last couple days hiking high points in Arizona and New Mexico, it was now time to start heading back home through Colorado, but of course I planned to hike at least a couple more peaks on the way back! As I followed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north out of New Mexico and into Colorado I thought it would be a good time to hike some peaks in that range since it’s been quite a while since I’ve spent any time there. Originally, I was considering continuing my quest of the The Four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo by hiking Blanca Peak, but didn’t think that would be a good place to find much solitude now, especially in the middle of a holiday weekend. I think I’ll save the last two Sacred Peaks for a little road trip next summer. Instead, I decided to head up the road to Hermit Pass near Westcliffe so I could not only hike some high 13ers, but also so I could drive up to a pass that I had never been to before. The road was not difficult or dangerous, but it was very bumpy, slow and annoying. I found a place to spend the night above Horseshoe Lake and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing at camp and watching the clouds move through the sky as sunset approached.
Driving higher into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Hermit Pass Road.
From my campsite above Horseshoe Lake I had a great view to the east over Middle Taylor Creek to the Wet Mountain Valley and the Wet Mountains beyond.
The Road to Hermit Pass
The clouds were moving quickly this evening and the light was constantly changing.
View From Above
Nice light on PT 12671
A view over Middle Taylor Creek from my campsite.
I liked the look of this ridge, especially when the light struck it.
There were a couple of small tarns below.
Warm light on Yahoo Mountain shortly before sunset.
Horseshoe Basin Sunset
Eureka Mountain Sunset
I got up early on Sunday morning and finished the drive up to Hermit Pass in the dark. I started to watch the sunrise from the pass for a little bit before I began hiking up the ridge toward the summit of Rito Alto Peak (13,794). It was still a bit smoky out this morning, but that made for an amazing sunrise!
Parked at Hermit Pass in the soft glow of the dawn light.
A view from the pass to Hermit Peak and Eureka Mountain.
The Earth’s Shadow was very vivid this morning.
Watching the sun come up over my Jeep at the pass.
Sunrise on Rito Alto Peak as I followed the ridge to the summit. It was a fun, easy and scenic ridge-walk.
My Jeep parked below at the pass with colorful light all around.
The light at sunrise was pretty amazing this morning, and there were even some low clouds in the Wet Mountain Valley below.
Hermit Peak at Sunrise
The top of Gibson Peak catching some light.
Spread Eagle Peak over Megan Lake and North Taylor Creek.
Looking back down the ridge to Hermit Peak and Eureka Mountain.
Someone had placed a flag on the mountain, but not at the true summit.
I continued up the ridge to the actual summit.
On the summit of Rito Alto Peak. If I don’t end up climbing a 14er next weekend, which isn’t looking good at this point, this might be the highest peak that I climb all year!
The Rito Alto Creek valley was hidden in the shadow of the mountain.
The view north along the crest of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains was pretty amazing!
Looking back to Rito Alto Peak as I made my way over to Hermit Peak.
Looking down the southwestern ridge from Hermit Peak over to Gibson Peak.
A view from on top of Hermit Peak.
Heading back down to Hermit Pass.
Here’s a shot of Horseshoe Lake I took as I started driving back down from Hermit Pass.
After driving back down the long and bumpy road I decided that I wanted to head home to relax for the rest of the weekend instead of climbing more peaks on Monday like I had originally planned, so I headed west on Highway 50 until I was home. It was a good way to end a nice little road trip through the Four Corner states.