Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  06/06/2011
Modified:  06/07/2011
Date Climbed:   05/28/2011
Author:  SchralpTheGnar
 Crestone Peak and Humboldt   

The annual Memorial Day trip was in full effect this year, originally we'd wanted to go up Holy Cross, but campgrounds were closed, streams were flooding and the Tigiwon road was buried under 30 foot drifts of snow. Impassable by all accounts. Not sure what to do I called up my brother climb2ski. I said, "Hey brah, what about the grahs." He replied, "Sure brah, the grahs are sick brah." To which I replied, "I concur."

So we made some plans to attempt Crestone Peak, maybe the Needle if we were feeling up to it and it was in, and then Humboldt all from a base camp somewhere around the new trailhead for South Colony Lakes. We took along three of our buddies, who wouldn't be climbing or skiing, but chilling, eating and drinking. It adds a nice dynamic to have a diverse crew along for the ride.

After a relaxing evening of backgammon and brandy at a nice campsite just below the trailhead, we set the alarm fro 12:30am and went to bed for a nice night of no sleep.
Crestone Peak from South Colony Lakes is a big day if you're out of shape and only ski 10 days a year. It comes in around 5,700 vertical and 13 miles from the new trailhead. We hit the trail at 1am and began the slog up the road, after following a myriad of tracks in and around the old 4wd trailhead we found ourselves quickly off route as usual. Eventually we came out around south colony lakes and were traversing frozen snow in the darkness.

Languidly the eastern glow made its appearance known on the horizon as we climbed up above Lower South Colony Lake.

We slowly climbed up towards Broken Hand Pass, making it there around 6am. A solo climber was quickly progressing up the Needle, it looked good for climbing but too thin for skiing. Making the ski descent down past Cottonwood Lake, we were greeted with the first glimpse of the route.

We skirted the lower cliff band on the right as the views down Spanish Creek Valley started to open up.

Higher still...

You need to make sure you bring technical gear in the Crestones, if for no other reason that you can take pictures of your technical gear.

climb2ski approaching the rock crux, getting ready to get after it.

climb2ski just past the crux, taking a much deserved rest.

climb2ski setting the bootpack in the main couloir, snow conditions were variable but overall good for climbing.

After the main couloir the route heads left and we had to negotiate some rocks.

The rock move just below the summit, we skied from about 10 feet below this spot.

climb2ski making the move, just seconds below the summit.

Obligatory summit shot, the Crest whitening strips work really well at altitude.

We reversed the route off the ridge and began the ski from the high snow point on the ridge. Let's go!

The snow in the upper part of the couloir after the traverse was fantastic.

climb2ski keeping it honest

We skied down to the crux and had to downclimb through the rocky section.

Once past the crux there were many more turns to be had, getting to make turns in such settings is a large reason why we do what we do.

Looking back up the route, if you look closely you can't see any tracks.

It had been a long day up to this point, I think we'd been going for around 11 hours already and we still had to climb back up Broken Hand Pass. We persevered up to that saddle and made some turns, it was late to be up and skiing the pass so we had to tread carefully looking out for wet slides. Just below the pass you get a good view of Humboldt.

The ski from the lake down to the old 4wd trailhead was less than pleasant, gullies ran out of snow and turned into waterfalls, tracks lead to massive downfalls and drudgery. Eventually we made it back to the old trailhead where we threw the skis back on the pack and made our way down the road, arriving back in camp thoroughly exhausted at 5pm, 15 hours later. The rest of the team had the fire ready and the beers chilled, a solid team effort for the day.

We took a break day on Sunday and Monday headed up Humboldt. The winds were forecasted to be in the 50's that day, but we were optimistic that it wouldn't apply to us. Finding the gully through the woods was challenging skinning through dirty snow, dirt patches, downed trees and whatever else you could imagine.

Eventually we made our way to the gully, and up above the trees. The winds were strong, I thought about turning around a couple of times but climb2ski convinced me otherwise. This would be the last time we saw the sun.

The winds picked up but my Marmot Leadville softshell with GoreWindstopper was up to the task.

If you look closely down valley in this picture you can't see our campsite.

climb2ski steeling his flesh for the upcoming rock climbing season

Once we climbed out of the gully up to the summit ridge proper the full force of the wind made its presence known, gusts around 80mph forced climb2ski to climb to the summit on his hands and knees. I'd been to the top before so I decided to just wait below. When we got back from the summit he had to fix his helmet because I think it was a little crooked after all that wind.

We booted up and managed to get some horrible skiing in some frozen snow, mostly painful turns as the sun never softened anything up. Nevertheless climb2ski made the most of it.

It's a long run down that gully, probably close to 2,500 vertical, I'd imagine in good corn that it would be enjoyable. We slogged out the road yet again, back to camp, ate some food, drank some beer, enjoying the last of what continues to be a highlight of the year. Memorial day weekend is camping, hiking, climbing, and skiing all with great friends in sublime surroundings. We treasure the freedom granted by those who fought and paid the ultimate price; I like to think that trips such as these are the best way of saying thank you.

Comments or Questions
06/06/2011 19:00
Looks like fun, I might be heading up there next week. Thanks for the info.

06/06/2011 19:11
Great TR as usual bro.

06/06/2011 20:11
Looks like you had a solid trip. Well done on Crestone Peak. Conditions don't seem to have changed much above 12k in the last 2 months. I still can't see your ski tracks in that one pic or your tent in the other... I'll keep looking.

A fun read!
06/07/2011 01:28
Freakin' hilarious and informative at the same time (and a nice tribute at the end, too)! Great TR, thanks for the info!

Way to schralp it!
06/10/2011 02:39
Nice pix too. Reminds me of an old Monty Python skit: ”In this picture there are 27 people. None of them, of course, can be seen.”

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