Colorado’s 4th highest peak towers over the San Luis Valley, at 14,135 feet. This is one of the more frustrating peaks for climbers, not for the trail but for the fact it requires climbers to walk up Lake Como Road, justifiably known as Colorado’s roughest road. Most SUVs can only get 3 miles up, which still requires 4 miles of walking. But it’s worth it, because to stand on the summit is to be on the highest point for 100 miles. Look out in wonder at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at your feet and the San Luis Valley, the largest alpine valley in the world, stretching to the horizon.
I am forever indebted to Jess Caton, an Alamosa mechanic, for giving me a lift where few vehicles can go. In a souped-up buggy he built himself, he gave me a ride to Lake Como so I could experience for myself just how rough this road is. It took two hours to go 7 miles, as he deftly negotiated rock obstructions and steep drop-offs, just to reach the lake. There was no time for climbing the peak, but the expressions on the faces of hikers miserably slogging up this road was worth it. There was a snap on the ride down, which we later learned was the axle breaking. This road is not for the faint of heart.
- Don’t try to push it on Lake Como Road, which is littered with parts from vehicles that tried and proved unworthy. No stock vehicle can make it past the four rock obstructions known as “Jaws 1-4.” Bring an overnight pack and plan on camping near the lake the night before attempting the summit.
- Bears have become a serious problem around Lake Como, as some have learned that bags hung in trees contain goodies. Rent a bear canister for your trip.
- If camping around Lake Como is crowded, climb a little higher into the next basin for more solitude, though there is less shelter.
Recommended season(s): Late spring-early fall.
—R. Scott Rappold