Ascent of Great Dune on 2014-08-09

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Marc Holder
Date:Saturday, August 9, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Great Dune
    Elevation:8690 ft / 2648 m

Ascent Trip Report

After having been forced down from Lake Como in the Blanca area, before we were able to successfully get our second 14er (Ellingwood Point) because a black bear ate half of our food, we took the next day off and simply enjoyed the National Park nearby and wanted to see these amazing 700 foot sand dunes right next to the mountain range we had been hiking the day before. Parking at the lot by the creek away from the Visitor Center there was kids and families playing in the boundary creek and you could see hikers like an army of ants working their way up the various sand piles.

They say it takes 4 to 5 hours to bag the highest sand dune in the park but I found I could move quickly without an ankle brace on finally and tagged the top in 50 minutes. Marc Holder was about 10 minutes behind me and we took photos and then ran down the slopes like kids skiing down a mountain enjoying the plunging steps in the soft sand. What took nearly and hour to obtain upward was rapid coming back. I would estimate I ran back and over the creek in 15 to 20 minutes. I did see others struggle in the sand but it was all about finding the hard packed sand on the correct side of the wind drifts and hardpack where there was some moisture - otherwise each step slid back half the distance.

Some of the bowls between the ridges were very deep like over 100 feet deep. The drift patterns were a fun challenge to guess the most efficient path to the summit. We grabbed the Star Dune on the front ridge along the way to the clearly tallest peak in the park and beelined back to the parking lot in the most direct line we could find. Daniel did not complete the peak with me as his duct tape covering his blister opened up and the adhesive on the tape became full of sand rubbing in his open wound and making the ascent to discomforting to complete. The others (Hernan and Miguel) also chose not to find the tallest peak (and instead stood on top of the Star Dune) but Marc, needing a victory after the Blanca ordeal the day before followed me to highest dune and HP the National Park.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Next to the mighty 14,000 peaks of Blanca and Ellington, the great dunes have very tall sand formations to climb (hikers in background) (2014-08-09). Photo by William Musser.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:800 ft / 243 m
    Total Elevation Loss:800 ft / 243 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Grade/Class:1, 2
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Stream Ford
    Weather:Hot, Windy, Clear
Hot and breezy 72F
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:770 ft / 234 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 650 ft / 198 m; Extra: 120 ft / 36m
    Loss on way in:120 ft / 36 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:meander dunes and ridges
    Start Trailhead:Parking Lot  8040 ft / 2450 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:680 ft / 207 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 650 ft / 198 m; Extra: 30 ft / 9m
    Gain on way out:30 ft / 9 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Route:straighter bearing across ridges
    End Trailhead:same  8040 ft / 2450 m

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