Crestone Peak  
Condition Updates  
Route: Crestones Traverse
Posted On: 2022-06-18, By: jmg11
Info: 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. Timeline: -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 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2022-06-11, By: sk8rat843
Info: Started at Cottonwood Creek TH. Ascent: Summer conditions from the TH at ~8400' until ~13400'. First snow patch was at ~13400', and we avoided it by going climbers left. Second snow patch around ~13700, near the turnoff for the Crestone Traverse. We stayed climbers right and walked through maybe 20' of snow. Third snow patch while gaining the Crestone saddle, but we stayed climbers right and summited East Crestone first. That completely avoided the snow. All of the snow was pretty slushy, but it was holding. It was melting incredibly fast though. Didn't use crampons, and pulled out the axe just in case for the snow crossings. Descent: Similar path to the ascent and only crossed maybe 30' of snow. There was a solid waterfall starting in the Red Gully. We saw a 2-person party who came from South Colony Lakes. They didn't have any snow gear, and made it to the summit. They said there was a decent amount snow gaining Broken Hand Pass. From the summit of Peak, we saw people on the summit of Crestone Needle and Kit Carson. ~13.4 miles, 6053' gain, 7.5 hours car to car 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2022-06-05, By: klawil
Info: Did the Cottonwood Creek approach so don't have any info on Broken Hand Pass. The trail from Cottonwood was pretty well defined. We lost it a bit between where it splits off for the valley between Crestolita and Pico Aislado and where it branches for Cretone Peak and Needle. The south face was pretty snow free (or easily avoidable snow) until ~13,400. We switched to crampons at that point and kept them on until we hit the saddle. From the saddle to the peak was almost completely snow free (although there were 2 spots that required walking across a bit of snow). We were out of the Red Gulley by 0900 and I wouldn't want to be there any later. We were starting to posthole in spots on the way down and any later would have been sketchier. 
8 3
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2022-04-23, By: Marc Kenney
Info: The road to the trailhead was passable to about 1.5 miles from upper TH. The last section of the road was fine in boots in the morning, post-hole on the way out w/o snowshoes. Past the upper TH temps were warm and snowshoes were required to avoid post-holing. Lots of snow, which was pretty frozen and solid in the upper sections/chutes over the pass by Crestone Needle. The other side of the pass had a bit of bare ground and the wind was whipping. The "Red Gully" was full of snow and in full sun by the time I got there. The snow got softer and softer as I climbed the red Gully and I finally bailed just below the top-out. I was nervous about the return trip and soft snow. Snow was a lot softer on the way out and even post-holed a few times with snowshoes. I FOUND A PHONE in the snow on the trail a ways above the TH. Looks like it's been there a long time. If you lost it text me a description at nine-seven-0-four-six-2-seventy-twenty-5. 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2022-04-14, By: KyaCav
Info: 4/08/22 Started from Cottonwood Creek TH. Dry from trailhead until about 2 miles in. Patchy snow from about 2-2.5 miles. Started skinning at 10,200 and skinned all the way to bottom of Crestone Peak's south couloir (a few short booting sections mixed in depending on route finding). Very challenging approach in complex terrain with variable snow depths the entire route. South Couloir had one unskiable cliff band 2/3 of the way down. Horrendous breakable crust on the upper south face and throughout the couloir. Was still transitioning to consolidated spring pack after most recent snowstorm. 
Route: Cottonwood
Posted On: 2022-01-17, By: Hjelmstadlt
Info: TH to the first waterfall (approx 3 miles) is now cleared of all downed trees, 59 to be exact. Makes for a much more enjoyable stroll up to the Slabs. I did notice the trench fell off the main trail once, next to the last large boulder before the waterfall (approx 2.75 miles). Please don't follow the trench here, and stay on the main trail that should now have my tracks going through it. I did not climb the peak today, I'm sure conditions up high are no different from the previous post. Here are some of the bigger trees I nabbed today. 
4 14
Route: Cottonwood
Posted On: 2022-01-17, By: angry
Info: Not sure why this approach received such disdain in previous CR, but I thought it was great. Booted from TH to gully. Crampons from gully to summit, no prior tracks as everything was wind blown. 
3 5
Route: South Face via Cottonwood Creek
Posted On: 2022-01-13, By: supranihilest
Info: Cottonwood Creek approach is arduous. There's not enough snow to warrant flotation but what snow there is is all sugar. Many downed trees across the trail. Four or so miles in is where the slabs begin. Route finding through them is devious, especially in the dark. They're covered in sugar snow and sometimes ice. To describe a route or show pictures through them would be almost impossible, just know that the difficulty of scrambling never rises above Class 2+. Descending them wasn't much fun: ice under the snow and water from today's melt caused several slips and slides above cliffs. Microspikes were very useful for the slabs, but not a guarantee against slipping. To exit the slabs we climbed up a steep, grassy slope on the west side of the drainage that drains Cottonwood Lake (photo 1). This drainage is west of "Crestolita". Lots of downed trees on this section as well, which gave way to loose talus and boulders, then snowy willows (photos 2 and 3). We didn't find the trail in this section. We climbed to the upper basin through a break in the rock to climber's right of a frozen waterfall above treeline (photo 3). From there we sidehilled until we were west of the lake. The red gully looked intimidating from below (photo 4) but wasn't all that bad in reality (photo 5). We took a snowy ramp into the bottom of the red gully (photos 6 through 13), which was largely melted out. As we climbed the gully held more and more snow. Down low there was plenty of Class 3 scrambling. Eventually we were able to stay purely on snow, which ranged from icy, to merely firm, to soft, slushy, and unsupportive. Stability was great. The few hundred feet below the saddle with "East Crestone" were the steepest, but nothing crazy - I'd say 40-something degrees. The Class 3 ledge scrambling to the summit was snowy and exposed, but the rock good quality (photos 13 through 15). Down climbing the red gully was much faster but by the time we descended the snow was becoming unsupportive and dangerous - every step was shin to knee deep slush. We therefore did not attempt the Needle, but overnight freezes should help shore up the wet snow problem. Again, be very careful on the descent from treeline through the bottom of the slabs. This was probably the slowest part of our day. Route finding and commitment on this approach are very significant. Flotation not needed (hopefully the inch or two of snow tomorrow will not change this). Ice axe mandatory. Traction mandatory - microspikes were useful for the slabs and crampons for the red gully. You can get by with just spikes but I recommend crampons for the extra security. 
15 12
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-12-29, By: paulbarish
Info: Sorry for the late update! Since the Sangres seem to be the safest place to play right now I figured better late than never. On Dec 21 I hiked in and set up camp at a bench near a big boulder around 11,200'. There was a creek with running water nearby which saved a lot of snow melting! The was some fresh tree fall getting up to that point but overall easy travel, used snowshoes the last 1,000 vert before camp. The red gully was super dry and safe with some hard packed snow. I also summitted Northeast Crestone and East Crestone. Both dry and straight forward. The downclimb to approach NE Crestone was easy class 4 probably. NE Crestone felt straightforward and with routefinding was able to keep it at class 4ish as well, maybe a hint of 5th but its hard to say with heinous wind lol Hope this is helpful for someone! Pics will be added once I figure out how to do that. 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-10-08, By: Grisel
Info: Route was dry except for the top portion of Broken Hand Pass which held a little snow/ice. Microspikes would make it easier but manageable without. 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-09-29, By: warpig79
Info: Weather was cold, windy and foggy. I made it within 100 fr of summit and had to turn back because the rocks were frosted over and very slippery. Fog burns off around noon. 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-09-27, By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: All clear and good condition all the way up from upper trailhead to Broken Hand Pass to Red Gully. Straightforward route finding. Busy Saturday with 15-20 people heading up the gully and on the summit. Aspens from upper trailhead to basin were starting to turn too! 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-09-21, By: Troyister
Info: Very busy day on the mountain. Someone accidently broke loose a boulder about the size of a 5 gallon bucket from the very top of the red gully. It went down the whole gully with 20-25 people climbing and descending, very lucky no one got hurt. Route finding is very easy. The hardest part is climbing back over Broken Hand Pass at the end of the day when you are tired. Very fun climb. 
Route: NW Couloir
Posted On: 2021-09-17, By: thurs
Info: Some fresh ice in the NW couloir, but navigable to/from the Bear's Playground exit. 
Route: Crestones Traverse
Posted On: 2021-09-09, By: denverfromdenver
Info: Labor Day weekend was packed as expected. Upper lot was full, so ended up parking near Rainbow Trail junction. Route up Crestone Peak, NE Crestone, and the traverse is still all dry and in summer conditions still. The S. Colony rd has greatly improved since the grading recently. Still high clearance, but there were subarus a plenty. 
Route: Cottonwood Creek to South Face
Posted On: 2021-08-24, By: wanderingsteve
Info: The approach from Cottonwood Creek is okay for the first three miles (albeit with a lot of downed trees), but not fun after that. From the first waterfall near 10,400, it's difficult to follow the trail and some parts are challenging with a big pack. I would not recommend camping above 11,400, because after that the trail is steep, still hard to follow, and there are some sections of scrambling required. The Red Gully is fun: solid rock, long, not super difficult, and wide enough to avoid any water. The Class 3 sections on Crestone Peak may be long, but I don't think they should intimidate you if you have some Class 3 experience. 
Route: Crestones Traverse
Posted On: 2021-08-09, By: e_ad_
Info: Summer conditions. Arrival (F150 - big truck required) to the TH parking lot at Saturday - 1 spare spot, but on arrival to Lower S Colony Lk, a number of camping spots available. Early AM wayfinding can get tough up Broken Hand Pass - huge cairns to try not to miss, but we somehow missed them and went low-then-high, still ended up OK. Does get a bit soupy by Cottonwood Lake but no spare socks needed. Some water on the Red Gully up to Peak, but avoidable for the long slog. Traverse is easily navigable using guidance. Put on the climbing shoes from the 5.2 move under Black Gendarme, and from there, for me, feeling confident meant focusing on the rock in front of me, testing every hold, three points down, and focusing on improving my feet. Some light breeze and no sun on the route meant cold rock. I didn't have good gloves to climb in so had to keep warming hands - FYI. Personally, my friend and I both thought that the exposure on the headwall was NOT overstated and in fact he froze up midway up the headwall and I (surprisingly, as I was more concerned going in) jumped in to lead the final pitch. The exposure + no pro can get to even an experienced climber (he's more experienced than me and had even climbed the needle arete) so don't underestimate the headwall, even if the climbing itself is straightforward 4+ any fall after ~ the 5.2 move would be dangerous or deadly and the air under your feet can absolutely get to your head. Staying left is definitely easier climbing -- there's a pretty clear route about 3 feet right of fully left, but you're also the most exposed over there, and you still want to stay left of the crux move which is a little crack overhang about 40 feet up, and that's REALLY exposed. stay focused on each move and you'll be fine, if you can keep calm! PS don't sleep on the downclimbing from the Needle which in our estimation did reach some light class 4 and is tricky. 
Route: Crestones Traverse
Posted On: 2021-08-07, By: Lordofthegnar
Info: Summer conditions the entire way. Decent amount of water flowing through the middle of the Red Gully, but easily avoidable and frankly quite pretty. Trail got a little soggy around Cottonwood Lake but also not too tricky to avoid. NOAA weather forecast breezy conditions with winds 15-20mph with gusts high as 30mph, so that made me a little nervous. Mountain weather indicated 10mph sustained throughout the day. The night prior to the climb, the wind howled while camping at South Colony Lake, but upon ascending Crestone Peak, I found the winds to be pretty mild. Went for the traverse and all was well! If you're worried about the wind, hit Crestone Peak and see how it is from there. A note on the crux wall: I feel like all the GoPro shots I watched made it seem way gnarlier. I was surprised how short the steepest part was, and while it got my heart rate up, I thought the class 4 ridge on Kit Carson was more intense. My two cents though - of course do your homework and come prepared I went way left and then moved back to the right a few feet. It is more exposed on the left but honestly you're going to be in trouble if you fall left or fall right, so I'd stick to the left as it's less steep. The right part of the wall looked terrifying but the left wasn't too bad minus one or two sketchy parts where I didn't like my foot holds. In line with others about the Needle - it is very tricky to stay on route and I found the steepness to be light Class 4 in some places. 
Route: Crestones Traverse
Posted On: 2021-08-06, By: ktfoote628
Info: Quite wet when we set out to backpack and do the Crestone traverse about 4 PM on Wednesday. Was surprised to see only a few open spots at the lower and upper trailhead, even on a Wednesday and spots were completely full PM on Thursday with lots of backpackers heading up. I think this area will be packed this weekend. Lots of water on the roads and trails that dried up a bit by the time we got back. The worse part was after descending BHP in the trails in grass around Cottonwood Lake (4" so inches on those trails). Red gully was also flowing very quickly with multiple streams but quite avoidable. Red Gully may be my favorite gully of the 50+ 14ers I have dne. It took us about 4 hours to get to Crestone Peak from a camping spot near the old Crestone mine (dodging puddles slowed us down a bit as well as got a bit turned around in the camping area/ Humboldt connector in the dark), 2.5 hours for the traverse and maybe 4-5 hours to get down from Needle. I thought the traverse was straightforward but we definitely got lost coming down from the Needle, since neither of us had gone up it, so study that part carefully! Overall, fun, beautiful, slightly smoky day. Bring waterproof shoes and a change of socks! 
Route: South Face
Posted On: 2021-08-01, By: Msbaker
Info: Complete summer conditions. No snow on Broken Hand Pass and no snow in the red gully along the route. We backpacked in from the 2WD trailhead the night before (the road is awful - only trucks/tacomas/and 4 runners were at the 4WD trailhead). We camped near the "Crestone Needle Standard Route" sign (7 miles in), where there is ample running water to refill. We were the first ones up Crestone Peak in the morning (we left our campsite around 4 AM) and had the summit to ourselves with the sun rising. The red gully was manageable and for the most part solid rock. Although, the potential for rock falls is there with enough people in the gully at once. Views were unreal from the top! 

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