Standing at 13,517 feet, Trinchera (“trench”) Peak is the northernmost thirteener in the Culebra Range of the Sangre de Cristos.
Trinchera Peak is located near Cuchara where the Culebra Range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains creates a north striking ridge. This ridge formed when flat lying sandstone strata were thrust into a vertical orientation by uplift, faulting, and block rotation events dating back to the mid- to late Miocene.
The following is an account of hiking Trinchera Peak:
We chose a beautiful Saturday morning in mid-September for our first climb, and the weather was magnificent. We left town at 7 am headed west on Highway 12, the Scenic Highway of Legends. After crossing Cucharas Pass (9,995′), we went down the hill to where the Cucharas River emerges from the hills and drove four miles in, just past the Blue Lake Campground. One-quarter of a mile up the road on the left we parked in the parking area and began the walk up.
There is a reasonably drivable jeep trail that goes up for three miles to the crest of the mountain ridge (approx. 12,500′ in elevation) between Trinchera Peak and the high ridge to the north. At that saddle, there is an incredible view down into the valley on the west side of the Sangre de Cristos and across the San Luis Valley. However, it was harvest time in the valley, and the dust layer in the atmosphere below us to the west obscured a lot of the view.
There is no real trail from here to the top of the mountain, but there are footprints in places and the rock faces that fall away on both sides of the mountain forcing everyone to climb through the same small notch in the cliffs and rocks in order to reach the top. Once you are over the notch, the backside of the mountain opens into a huge, rock-strewn meadow that goes all the way to the top. The top itself is a pretty wide-open ridge with a large rock cairn at its highest point.
The view was spectacular. We shot some film, ate lunch, toasted life, and then started down. But we chose to go down on the south side of the peak to avoid the rock faces and cliffs, or so we hoped. We soon found ourselves on all fours going down a 45 to 60-degree slope. And it went down like that for one thousand feet. We stopped regularly and enjoyed the views. That’s when we started to see the bighorn sheep all around us. But we couldn’t get close to them. Just as well.
We only met half a dozen people on the mountain, all of them in one group. Trinchera Peak was, in some respects, a harder climb than the West Spanish Peak, and it seems to be somewhat less popular. The presence of the bighorns more than made up for the lack of other climbers.
This is a good climb from late spring to early fall. We do it at least once a year. And since that first trip, once we reach the summit, we either head south down the ridge to Cuatro and Maxwell or we turn around and go back down the same way we came up.
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