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Know the West

Climbing is the easy part


To scale a "fourteener," it helps to possess the body of a goat and the nerves of a test pilot. To climb 14,047-foot Culebra Peak in southern Colorado, you also need to join a club.

Culebra Peak is part of the 77,000-acre Taylor Ranch near San Luis, Colo., which was sold last year to Lou Pai of Western Properties Investors (HCN, 8/16/99: Taylor Ranch sells). Pai changed the name to Culebra Ranch and also denied automatic access to climbers. While ranch manager Jim Barron says access to the peak "is still being defined," he adds that the nonprofit Colorado Mountain Club will handle all requests. According to club members, Barron may allow just one climb in July for a limited number of climbers, and all must belong to the club, which charges about $50 for membership.

The ranch has a long and controversial history. Originally part of the Sangre de Cristo land grant, it was considered common land for hunting and fishing by San Luis residents for generations. When the ranch was bought by Zachary Taylor's father, Jack, in 1960, access was closed off and decades of local protests and lawsuits followed. Another blow to residents near the ranch occurred in 1994, when Zachary Taylor allowed logging on the ranch.

To check on how climbers are selected, and when to scale Culebra Peak this summer, call the Colorado Mountain Club at 303/279-3080.

Copyright © 2000 HCN and Marcia Darnell