Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  10/15/2020
Date Climbed:   10/03/2020
Author:  Alpinefroggy
 So you want to climb one of the Crestone in one day.   

Another step up on my journey or experiences to somewhere. Not sure where. It’s funny because I feel highly intimidated by what others have done on this site but I suppose that is what learning to get better is all about right?

Still here is my relatively tame weekend on the Peak.

I missed the peak on labor day and wanted to come back before the year was out and complete the duo. Snow ended that idea in September as well. Or so I had thought. A warm and dry late september basically melted things off the Crestones again so alas I was back.

With my experience with cottonwood, I decided to go back and with a daypack and just dayhike Crestone Peak.

I left the Boulder area on 10/2 and arrived at a campground in the San Luis valley. It was cheap and I slept in Steve the Prius. Sidenote: I want to outfit him with a mattress pad in the back or memory foam. The back is long enough for a long lanky 6’1 gal like me.

Steve and camp


I ended up fake sleeping in classic fashion and left the area around 4 am to arrive at cottonwood creek at 445. I started around 5 and it took me about 2.5 hrs this time to get up cottonwood. Having done it before, the route finding was easy and the difficult class 2 and couple class 3 chimneys were wayyyyyy easier with a daypack.

At the cutoff I took out my bladder to pump and ended up clogging the filter and popping an o-ring. O joy, why does it seem like I have persistent water issues with these mountains.

Ain't nothing better than alpenglow.

From here it was a simple scramble up the red gully to the summit. Though it took me a good 2 hours. I ended up meeting two climbers, one who was finishing on this climb and one who was only missing North Eolus. I ended up passing them once on the way up. They were faster down the gully than me but then I passed them on the way down in the meadows below the peaks.

Up to the gully

Red gully time

Near the top!

The view from the peak is comparable if not better to the needle. I love, the way the needle arches back slightly and the rugged and shear dirtiness of the crestones. Little smokey but not too bad. I had the summit to my own for a while. Warm, windless, clear day. This was October?!

Needle and EC

Kit Carson and challenger

The descent took another 2 hours for me because I was alone and taking my time. The way back the car was quick. Less than two hours from the basin down cottonwood. I know where to go now. I ended up slipping out and slamming my ass in a creek crossing and also falling on some deadfall. I was hiking quick but I was ok. Fall colors were nice though.

Rugged and desolate

Red gully from one of the lower meadows.


When I got back to the car I had ran out of water completely. It wouldn't be until I got to poncha springs on the way back to Boulder where I bought two gallons of water guzzling half a gallon of water in the car. I was thirsty for sure and it seems my water curse continues for now. My legs were, as predicted, also absolutely friend and I looked like some weird waddling drunk chicken walking into the store after sitting in the car for an hour.

Overall thoughts. THIS. Via cottonwood is the way to do both the peaks. I think I recorded about 13 miles and 6k elev gain. A lot less distance than SCL and no BHP. And with my 2wd car, it is the way to go. The red gully sucks. It is just long, sloggy. And wayyyy looser than the needle. But the view is to die for. Very nice mountain.

I feel like the crestones have this well deserved view of being solid. That's true but that's not the case for the red gully. I was consistently sending down scree and a few fist sized rocks even when I was taking my time and trying not to send stuff down. Bring a helmet, especially for busy weekends. Perhaps the rockfall warning needs to be adjusted.

I have really enjoyed both mountains and will certainly be back one day when I have the experience for the traverse. These mountains are just too incredible!!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
10/15/2020 18:50
Nice work! Any day you‘re on the Crestones is a fantastic day. I haven‘t done that route from Cottonwood.

Excellent report
10/17/2020 23:33
Thanks for posting this. I still have both of the crestones left, and these reports are informative, and encouraging.
And whatever I need to do to avoid BHP, I'm in.

Approach to Cottonwood Lake
07/25/2021 14:24
Thank you for the details. I have seen maybe one other report using this approach, but very few details. Is the approach to Cottonwood lake from San Luis valley a known trail, and is so where is the trailhead? Are any other data (GPS) available? Thank you.

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