Peak:  Crestone Peak (14er)
 Route:  Crestones Traverse
 Range:  Sangre de Cristo
 Posted By:  jmg11
 Date of Info:  06/12/2022
 Date Posted:  06/18/2022

Sorry for the delay in posting, haven't had time to sort through the pics and videos all week.

Hiked up from South Colony Lakes 2WD TH on the 11th, started hiking towards the Peak around 5am on the 12th. Great day and my 2nd of 4 Grand Traverses now complete. El D to Mt Wilson felt like a cake walk compared to the exposure on this traverse!

S Colony Lakes TH info..the road makes for a quick approach but don't underestimate the ruts and size of rocks. This is a road for pickups and high clearance 4WD vehicles. A couple lower clearance SUVs made their way up a mile or so but the stress on your vehicle for such a small gain is NOT worth it. Came across a couple in a Honda CRV that was overheating and throwing codes a mile in. Next day it was still there broken down. Don't risk it! Road up to and through the old 4WD TH is clear of snow, then 3-4 easy spike-less snow crossings and a half dozen downed trees between that old parking lot and S Colony Lake.

Approach and descent from Broken Hand Pass was rough. Around 4 snow crossings but the only one that required spikes and axes was near the final approach of the saddle (2 ahead of me attempting Needle only used axes). There I postholed at 5am, and slipped at 3pm. Had it not been for self-arrest I would've lost control and slid into rocks below. Honestly this descent was the toughest move of the day.

Trail past BH Pass to Cottonwood Lake was well-defined and free of snow. Main red gully up to Peak was wet but straightforward. There were 4-5 snow fields where I chose to don crampons and hiked straight through with axes vs traversing to the left or right to avoid. That said, in hindsight they were avoidable and crampons would not be needed.

Final approach to C Peak was free of snow and easy to navigate, just some exposed ledges to work up.

Dropping down the red gully to look for the first set of cairns to start the traverse required constantly checking pics from the site to ensure I didn't miss it around 13700. I hit it a bit early but luckily was able to drop down into it. Traverse was extremely well-cairned and straightforward, just follow the pics from the site. 5.2 maneuver through the gendarme was easy. Just feel for larger, more solid rocks above and hoist yourself up. The small knife edge at the top of the following gully is basically a 180 turnaround to get over to the final ledge and ascent to Needle. Final approach/crux to Needle I stayed closer to the ridge. More exposure but great holds the whole time, even with 20mph winds. It IS as steep as the pictures show. I had a couple moments where I had to stop, breathe and refocus. It took 11min from the base of the ledge to the summit so it's not a quick walk in the park. It's 10min of sustained Class 4. Do not attempt this traverse if you're not mentally prepared for that crux.

Climb down from Needle using the standard east gully route was steep but easy. I'll admit I got upset because I worked my way down the east gully to a split and went to my right (looker's left) because I saw a cairn below. Followed 2 more cairns before almost cliffing out above Cottonwood Lake. Had to traverse back up and over to the left to regain the main trail back to BH Pass. Why people decide to make their own cairns just because that's the route they chose will always baffle me. If it's not a defined route, you're just asking to put a less-experienced hiker at severe risk.

Hiked down to my tent at S Colony Lake (tons of dispersed camping spots, fire pits at most), packed up, and was back to my car around 7:30pm.

-4:30pm-7:30pm approach from 2WD TH to campsite at S Colony Lake, lights out at 9pm
-5am-10am tent to C Peak with probably 45min worth of bathroom and water breaks (slow)
-10am-11am nap on C Peak
11am-1:20pm Grand Traverse
1:20pm-1:45pm Needle hangout
1:45pm-4pm Needle back down to tent (slow)
4-5pm nap in tent and pack up
5-7:30pm tent to 2WD TH

Total hiking time ~11.5hrs

Photos (click for slideshow):
#1) Hiking through snow crossings up to Broken Head Pass. I only wore spikes for the last section#2) Look back down at snow up BH Pass. Behind me about 100’ elevation gain to the Pass#3) Looking up at Red Gully to Crestone Peak#4) Climbing up snow fields in the gully. Snow between 13400-13900ft#5) Ledge-y final approach to C Peak#6) Midway on traverse#7) View of gendarme and 5.2 move#8#9) View of Humboldt at top of gully with Knide Edge#10) Gaining the ridge on the final approach and crux of route#11) Needle summit looking back at Peak#12) Exposure pics on Class 4 crux#13) Exposure pics on Class 4 crux, looking down and to my right at Cottonwood side#14) Humboldt on right, Kit Carson and Challenger on far left#15) S Colony Lake- one last look at the Needle

Comments or Questions
06/30/2022 12:18
Excellent post. Thanks for the beta.

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