Humboldt Peak: 14,064 ft, 14er Rank #37/53

Humboldt Peak

Humboldt Peak - featured on Colorado 14ers Map 12 of 16 - is one of the easier fourteeners to climb in the Crestones area of the Sangre de Cristo Range and sees more hikers than any of the other 14er peaks in the range (according to Colorado Fourteener Initiative's 2015 use estimates), though still far fewer than the Sawatch and Front Range peaks.

Humboldt Peak was named by German immigrants in the Wet Mountains Valley after Alexander van Humboldt - a German naturalist and explorer active in the first half of the 19th century. Best known for his wide-ranging scientific expedition to South America between 1799-1804, he laid the foundation for the field of biogeography (distribution of species and ecosystems through time) and furthered knowledge in many other areas of science. He never went to Colorado, but he did visit the United States one time in 1804 to visit the then-President Thomas Jefferson, himself a scientist. Having assisted Jefferson with information about the recent Louisiana Territory and spending many hours regaling him about many other topics, Jefferson called Humboldt "the most scientific man of the age."

Alexander von Humboldt by Friedrich Georg Weitsch 1806

Alexander von Humboldt in 1806 - painting by Friedrich Georg Weitsch

Numerous place names are named for Humboldt including the Humboldt Ranges and Humboldt river in Nevada, Venezuela's second-highest peak Pico Humboldt (which is 16,210' elevation - so Humboldt Peak in Colorado isn't even the highest peak named for him!) among others.

Accessible from the South Colony Road approach to South Colony Lakes (as described in the blog entry on The Crestones), the standard approach to the summit is a Class 2 (more difficult hiking) hike up to and along the west ridge.  From the lower South Colony Lake at the turn-off towards Broken Hand Pass and the Crestones, one must hike northeast a 3/4 of a mile up to the higher South Colony Lake (at 12,029' elevation).  From there the lake, the route heads 1.4 miles north up a series of switchbacks up to and east along the ridge to the summit.

Humboldt Peak from Kit Carson Peak

Humboldt Peak from Kit Carson Peak, by Adam Ginsburg - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Humboldt Peak is a great introduction to climbing 14ers in the Sangre de Cristo Range (where many of the harder 14ers in the state are located), but the relative ease of the route compared to its surrounding peaks shouldn't make one complacent about the dangers here. One of the most beloved members of the 14ers.com community - with significant 14ers experience - tragically lost his life on this mountain in 2007, so as with any high alpine environment, great caution must always be exercised. Always respect your limits, stay hydrated, watch the weather very closely, be ready to turn back even if near the summit and don't forget your 14ers maps and compass. Humboldt Peak is one of the five fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Map 12 of 16.

Directions to Trailhead:

Staring in Westcliffe, drive south on Colorado HWY 69 for 4.6 miles and turn right/south on County Road 119 (Colfax Lane) and follow this road due south for 5.6 miles where it dead-ends into South Colony Road (County Road 120). Turn right/west onto South Colony Road and follow for about 1.5 miles to the 2WD trailhead on the right. For 4x4 vehicles, continue 2.6 miles to the 4x4 trailhead before the gate.


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