Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,055 feet
San Luis Peak  -  14,023 feet
Mt. Sneffels  -  14,155 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  08/04/2020
Modified:  08/05/2020
Date Climbed:   08/01/2020
Author:  eyoder3
 An Introduction to Class 3   

An Introduction to Class 3's


At the end of July/ beginning of August, my dad (Steve), younger brother (Olin), and I (Evan) venture out from eastern Kansas to tackle some Colorado 14ers. We started with Pikes back in the summer of 2013, and have continued hiking more 14ers each summer. All the peaks we climbed up to this summer have been Class 1/2 with little to no exposure; however, this summer we decided to take on more of a challenge and begin class 3 14ers.

This year, our church pastor (Matt) joined us for our hikes. All four of us embarked on a week and a half long journey, exploring 14ers all around the state.

7/24: Mt. Lindsey (NW Gulley)

We began our week with Mt. Lindsey. We camped at one of the campsites just past the ranches, and drove up to the upper trailhead to begin our hike around 5:00 AM. Most of the day it was rainy, cloudy and cold. Overall, it wasn't an ideal day on a 14er, but still proved to be a lot of fun. We reached the summit around 10:00 AM, which was slow due to weather. The peak cleared off for an hour or so once we had descended off it, but that was the only bit of sun for the day.

Socked in
Brief Sunshine
Rainy in the basin

The rockfall on this peak is not exaggerated when the snow melts from the gulley. The whole thing is a bunch of loose rock, and even if you stick to the sides of the gulley where the rock is more solid, it can still rip out on you. If I were to do this hike again, I would take the ridge due to the more solid rock; however, there is more exposure.

9 mi, 3600 vf

7/26: San Luis Peak (South Ridge)

After Mt. Lindsey, we drove all the way to South Fork to an Air BnB. We took a day off, and planned to hike San Luis Peak from the south, which is outside 45 minutes or so north of Creede. We got on the upper trailhead pas the mines around 6:00 AM in my 2003 Subaru Forester. This hike also was somewhat cloudy and rainy, but proved to be a beautiful day on the mountains.

The hike is relatively flat, excluding the first .5 miles and last 1 mile on the ascent/descent. We reached the top in 3 hours, hiking at a steady pace. San Luis Peak is a very unique 14er, as there are no other 14ers around it for miles. San Luis is a great class 1 14er with small crowds and great scenery. If you are looking for an easy 14er that's secluded, I would recommend San Luis.

Beginning of the hike
On the way up
From the summit

11.5 mi, 3400 vf

7/29: Mt. Sneffels (Blue Lakes Approach, SW Ridge)

We took two days off before Mt. Sneffels because the weather forecast was best on 7/29 instead of 7/28. We began our hike of Mt. Sneffels after camping at the Blue Lakes Trailhead. We elected for the non-standard route on this one as we read the views from blue lakes could be incredible. After starting at 3:00 AM and hiking most of the way in the dark, we got to see one of the best sunrises I've ever seen in Colorado.

On Blue Lakes Pass, looking into Yankee Boy Basin
On Blue Lakes Pass, looking over Blue Lakes

We summited Mt. Sneffels in a very long 6 hours. The Southwest ridge took much longer than anticipated, but we all made it! The southwest ridge is a bit exposed on the last bit to the summit, so be prepared for that. The exposure isn't terrible, but if you aren't used to it, it may catch you off guard.

Some exposure on SW Ridge
Kissing Camels
From the Summit. Far right is Wilson Group, middle is Telluride ski slopes

We came down the standard route, which is terribly loose. Although the class 3 is minimal (if any) on the standard route, the rock is much more loose. If you are comfortable with exposure and enjoy a bit more climbing and solid rock, elect for the SW ridge route. The views are also better from the SW Ridge.

14.3 mi, 5200 vf

8/1: Crestone Peak (Cottonwood Creek Approach)

After originally planning on doing Blanca and Ellingwood via Zapata Creek, we backed out and explored other options after how incredibly annoying the loose rock on Lindsey was and how Blanca and Ellingwood was supposed to be much of the same. I posted in the 14ers forum about class 3 in the Sangres, and got excellent feedback from many hikers (s/o if you posted). We decided to do Crestone Peak.

It was just Olin and I on this hike, as my dad (Steve) and Matt took a group from our Church that had come out to Colorado up Pikes Peak. We decided on the Cottonwood Creek Approach as the South Colony Lakes upper trailhead is much harder to get to than the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead.

We began our hike at 4:30 AM, and sumitted at 10:00. Route finding from Miles 3-5.5 (From the waterfalls until you meet the standard trail) is incredibly hard. I recommend having some type of GPS (All trails, Sat phone) in order to keep you on track. There are points where carins lead you in different directions since hikers mark their route, which may not be the right route. This trail is not maintained. Before taking this route, do your research and make sure you have decent route finding skills so you don't get lost.

The cottonwood creek trail is nice because you don't have to re-ascend BH pass and you won't see as many people, but it starts at a lower elevation than South Colony and you gain all the elevation on the way up. It is about the same total elevation gain as the standard route. The trailhead only has parking for about 5-6 cars, so make sure you get there before they fill up.

Sunlight peaking over BH Pass. Yes, you do hike through the willows.
First view of the Crestones

The red gulley on Crestone Peak isnt that exposed, but be prepared, it is taxing. It requires you to be in great aerobic shape is it is straight up. The final moves to the summit are somewhat exposed, but if you aren't super sketched out by exposure, you'll probably be ok. It's only about 50 feet as well.

The Red Gulley
Climbing the Red Gulley
Descending back to the Red Gulley

14.0-5 mi (got lost a few times), 6100 vf.


This year was by far the most memorable and difficult year of hiking in Colorado. If anyone has 14ers they would recommend for next year (can be any class/ difficulty), leave them in the comments! You can find the full list we have done in my profile.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Class 3 rec's
08/06/2020 10:05
Based on your list I'd recommend you check out Longs Peak along with Wetterhorn as the strongest recommendations as those are 2 of the best peaks in CO and have solid Class 3 climbing. Seems a natural extension from crestone peak / lindsey. Also it looks like you've done Grays and not Torreys so you could do Kelso ridge on Torreys.

Contrary to the consensus, I also really enjoyed North Maroon - but maybe save that one for if/when you're comfortable on the elk style terrain by doing the castle/conundrum route.

I'm going to just start recommending C2 couloir route on Ellingwood from Zapata as well because I thought it was just so great and I'm not sure why it's not more popular.

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