Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,196 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Kit Carson Peak  -  14,167 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,086 feet
Columbia Point - 13,980 feet
"Kitty Kat Carson" - 13,980 feet
"Obstruction Pk" - 13,799 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2018
Date Climbed:   07/04/2018
Author:  Conor
 Sangres 6 pack - or 7 pack???   

"Steep climbing on sound rock - this is the ideal of the rock climber" - William Bueler Roof of the Rockies

I shipped my family back to the Motherland, or should I say Zion? Either way, I found some semblance of bachelorhood, the celibate version. With the completion of the Mayflower traverse and Little Bear/Blanca/Ellingwood Point while my family was out of town, I had one final day with no work to fill in my schedule. No pressure to be home by noon, no "herding cats" when you're trying to pack and most importantly - no knees to the groin area when kids are jumping on you while you're trying to go to bed early. With three daughters, I often wonder what life would be like if my dream of having all boys would have come to fruition? Sure, I would spend a lot less money on toilet paper each month, but I can't imagine what the exponent would be on knees to the groin area.

Packing in to South Colony lake was fast, a little under 2 hours. I hauled my huge hilleberg up, as I wanted to practice setting it up and checking out the space for an upcoming trip. A little heavy, but palatial. Not knowing what the next days' antics would entail, I hit the sack sooner than later. The alarm went off some 6 hours after I set it on my phone, and by 2 am I was walking.

Not completely sure of my goals for the day, I began to prioritize. 1) Kit Carson & Challenger, 2) Crestones, 3) humboldt. And in the 45 minutes it took me to get to the saddle of humboldt, I used my little brain to select which goals I would undertake. Once at the saddle, I hung a louie and headed off towards KC/Challenger, still nervous about the North Buttress on crestone peak.

The scrambling along the ridge to Bear's Playground is pretty simple. If Kelso ridge is class 3.1, this is 3.1-. I did get a little twisted up and headed towards North Colony lake, but soon realized my mistake and wallowed around in the dark for a bit. Quickly, I hit the bear's playground and headed north toward obstruction. Screw obstruction. What a crappy mountain, false peak after false peak. I finally stood on what I thought was the summit, but since I hit all the "points," I covered my bases. I could see some headlamps down by Willow Lake, I was hoping it wasn't Yogi the Bear.

The climb to Kitty Kat Carson is pretty easy in the day light, in the dark it poses a little more of a challenge. I couldn't really locate the "bowl" to climb up the climber's right side. So, up it was and it is pretty straight forward, steep class 2 hiking. On the way back I confirmed just about anything goes. And if anything goes from the east up to Kitty Kat, you'll crush the 2 mins it takes to walk to Columbia point.

The crux of the entire route from South Colony is getting off of Columbia. I started in the dark and ended in dusk, which eased the difficulty. Read the route description, but the cliff notes are: head southwest until you find a gully that looks like it goes, scramble down heading skiers right when it makes sense veering to a tower, climb over the tower and continue to descend down the gully, again working skiers right when it makes sense, from top of the col, locate notch and head through and up to Kit Carson (loose, steep, what I would call class 2 terrain.) If you opt to descend below the rib, it looks looser. Or more loose. Maybe loosest?


First light poked out on my way up to Kit Carson. I slowly picked my way up the slope and eventually found my way to the summit - the place all good slogs lead to. I "turned and burned" off the summit and took the first gully down to Kit Carson Avenue. Solid rock is to be found with steep stepping and the avenue would be difficult to blow by. Easy hiking on the ave and up to Challenger's summit - a quick and short add on in my opinion. Two women were on Challenger's summit and they had started at 1 am from Willow Lake TH. And yes, they said they turned a corner by the lake and the bear was 5 ft from them. And they confirmed, I saw their headlamp, or they saw mine, which ever.


The trip back to Bear's playground went pretty quickly. The scrambling up to columbia was fun, especially since I now sort of knew the route, or at least had traveled it once. Looking across Obstruction's south slope, it doesn't look like goes, but it does. I found it well marked, pretty cruiser and to be way worthwhile. The picture below is from Kitty Kat's East (or southeast?) slope and skirting of Obstruction doesn't look like it goes very well. As you head east and descend to the saddle, you'll notice a notch in the top of the first rib, head towards that and you'll start to see cairns. Also, the picture below has a nice view of Crestone Peak's North Buttress.


I plucked away at the terrain and decided to have lunch at the base of the north buttress - flatbread, brie (triple cream) and summer sausage. Oh, and the world's best energy gummie - Albanese gummie bears. The view was not too shabby from my lunch spot either.


I normally don't get too spooked by scrambles, but this day I had a few butterflies. A new route - with known 5th class sections - tacked on to some mileage & vert, doesn't make this the easiest. But, I made the same promise I always make myself - that I'll turn around if it looks too sketchy. Of course this requires a constant analysis if one can down climb the terrain. The north buttress starts out easy and gets progressively difficult - class 3, then 4, then 5.easy. Unfortunately, no crux down low, just when you're aired out near the top - sort of like crestone needle's headwall.


The climbing was fun, and it got steep at the top. But, I went into that state where you just climb and enjoy it. One of my big worries turned out to be a non-factor, as the route finding seemed pretty intuitive. And again, the views aren't too bad. The picture below was taken near the top. And yes, I buy my gloves from costco.


The crux is around the corner and is a descending traverse to the NW gully. I stopped to put on my rock shoes and got after it. The climbing on the conglomerate was awesome, engaging and fun. From the NW gully (aka "red gully" from the other side) you take the short ridge over to Crestone peak's summit. I relaxed, changed my shoes and crushed a red bull. I also reflected on taking the same route Ellingwood & Davis took in 1916 for the first known ascent on this "unclimable" peak. But the last of the "unclimables" lay ahead, reserved only for the "more energetic" of the Ellingwood/Davis party.

I found the Crestone "traverse" to be less engaging than I had hoped. It's the antithesis of everything I enjoy about scrambling. You're not on the ridge and thus are not awarded by awesome views and exposure on all sides. You have a lot of loose gullies and rock ribs to cross. But, the headwall is pure fun. A traverse it is by the loosest definition. But a great traverse, I don't know about that.

I didn't find the "5.2 move," I think I went higher and crossed the ridge on the "more exposed" variation. Nothing more than class 3 in my book. The headwall, again, pure fun. I got a little spooked as I pulled a handhold out and listened as it fell down the gully. It's safe to say I didn't have the same experience Ellingwood did when he said the rocks "felt as if they had roots 10ft deep."

Once on the summit of the needle I relaxed, kicked my feet up (11 hours on my feet by now) and took a snoozer. The weather was more than kind to me.


Finally my solace was broken by a party summiting via the arete. My second shared summit of the day, the other being Challenger. I've been watching youtube videos on the rule of thirds, so those people got awesome pictures. Maybe not for instagram....These smart climbers who came up the arete slept in until 7:30 - I was so jelly. We both talked about how awesome it was going to be to have the other show them the way down. Turns out, it was the blind leading blind. I never found the "cross over" point, but I stayed skiers left every chance I got. There was some fun down climbing, as well as me doing el crangrejo. The loose antics at broken hand pass didn't have me laughing, but it was short lived and I was soon on my trail of tears to the lake.

I slowly put away camp, soaked my feet and rehydrated. I drank my last liter on the summit of the Needle, but it was now getting hot at 3:30. I finally dawned the pack and quickly trudged the 4 miles down to car in ~100 mins. A mountain bike would make sense for this part....

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Comments or Questions
Cygnus X1
Awesome loop!
07/06/2018 07:56
That's quite the challenging outing, Great job!

Just curious, four of us were hiking out on the 3rd and about 4pm I stopped to talk briefly to a lone hiker headed up. I noticed rock shoes hanging on his backpack and commented something to the effect of "looks like you're planning to do the arête." Did that happen to be you?

4 people....
07/06/2018 13:43
I saw 4 people hiking out about 0.2mi from trailhead. I had my shoes well packed though, but I did ask how far it was to south Colony.

Cygnus X1
Probably us if...
07/06/2018 22:08
3 male, 1 female, and the response you got was "about 5 miles." We got to the parking lot close to 4:30

Anyway, congrats again on a fantastic link-up!

07/07/2018 11:45
Nice work, congrats.

Just did the same!
07/09/2018 08:17
I literally did the same exact route yesterday, only car to car from the TH instead of camping at the lakes. Funny to come back and see your TR. What did you think about the downclimb from NE Crestone? I did NOT climb down the notch on the east side that everyone has pointed out, but rather the west-ish side. I will post up the TR in the next couple of days. Also realized that maybe I didn't see your cruiser at the TH parking bc you were out there 2 days before me, unless you were hanging out there until yesterday evening. My brain was pretty fried from being moving for like 13 hours, wasn't thinking about the 2 day offset.

07/09/2018 23:22
BTW, it's 4 miles from the TH to the lake.

@handonbroward - yes, you did not see my cruiser at the TH. I'm interested to see your reroute!

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