July 4, 2009 - Ascent via Northwest Ridge from summit of Culebra Peak
Before starting into the narrative proper, a Thank You is in order for the owners and staff of the Cielo Vista Ranch. But for their willingness to offer the climbing community access to the ranch, the opportunity to climb Red Mountain would not be available to the vast majority of folks seeking to climb the "centennial" peaks. For the doubters, I'll readily and strongly opine that the fee for the climb is more than reasonable, given the superior quality of the resource to which climbers are granted access. That said, I'll say Thank You to the Cielo Vista Ranch, Bobby Hill, Carlos, Carole, and all the other individuals and organizations, whose efforts allowed me the chance to climb both Culebra and Red Mountain.
My ascent of Red Mountain was combined with my climb of Culebra Peak, beginning at the summit of Culebra. My climb of Culebra, my last 14'er is covered in detail in the Culebra narrative, which provides a description of the trip as a whole and the approach and retreat from its summit. At present, the only route to the summit of Red Mountain, excepting routes requiring trespass across other ranch lands, is the Northwest Ridge.
Our group of five stood atop Culebra for no more than five or seven minutes before moving off to traverse to the slopes of Red Mountain. The clouds were not yet an issue but the day had all the ingredients for thunderstorms, perhaps sooner than later.
Red Mountain and Culebra are very different peaks. For every ridge aspect of 14'er Culebra, Red Mountain has an opposite hulking mound characteristic. The ridge from Culebra's summit drops, steeply at first, and then more sedately until intermediate point 13,599 must be climbed or skirted before the drop back down to 13,460 to begin the climb to the summit of Red Mountain. The climb, unlike the neighboring 14'er, has a very distinct trail from the saddle to the summit. The mountain's characteristic scree seems to lend itself to a sustained trail as compared to the more "talused" nature of its 14'er neighbor. The ascent came easy for our group though my legs were complaining that I'd gone down enough for them to think down was going to be the order for the rest of the day. Such was certainly not the case as not only did I have to summit Red Mountain, but I also had to cross back over the Culebra to get back to the truck.
The summit of Red Mountain is a rounded ridge that, without a short walk, would appear to have two summits of nearly equal elevation. The second high point is in fact an illusion that is clearly apparent if you take the extra minute to walk to the "other high point" only to turn around and see that the rocky wind break and summit register are indeed at the high point. The five of us stood about a bit, long enough to eat some trail mix, summer sausage and cheese before hefting the packs for the trip back across the connecting saddle and intermediate hump. The first trip from summit to summit had taken 38 minutes but the return would be a bit longer as we had more climbing to do to regain the 14k mark. The clouds were also starting to build and we figured that even though we all had both summits in hand, we needed to keep moving to ensure a safe descent.
We dropped back down the flank of Red Mountain and again crossed atop Pt. 13599 and then started on back up Culebra's flank for the second arrival at its summit. A bit of fatigue was showing here and there as our group spread out a bit over the course of the ascent, but we all arrived at the summit within a minute or two from first to last. The trip back took a bit longer but I'd say that our whole trek to and fro Red Mountain took little more than 90 minutes. Overall, a good solid group, no doubt about that. If you choose to climb Culebra, I'd add Red Mountain onto the trip, it is a Centennial, a peak of different character, and it lengthens a climbing day that might otherwise come and go in 4 hours. Our plan was to be off the two by the noon twitching hour and, even with a 6:30 start, there was plenty of time for both peaks.