Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2021
Date Climbed:   08/06/2021
Author:  TBro221
Additional Members:   Burazin19
 Great 4 in 84   

My good buddy Adam Burazin and I had been throwing around the idea of a multiday project of doing the 4 Great Traverses of the Colorado 14ers in 4 consecutive days. Adam and I have both completed the 4 Great Traverses over the past years as I completed the 14ers, and as Adam also ticks away at the 58. Over the past year we had gotten more serious about the project, and upped the challenge to 3 and ½ days, or 84 hours. We figured this way it put a time crunch and more logistical strategy into the project. We then dubbed the project “The Great 4 in 84”. I am very excited and stoked to say that we were able to complete the project this past week starting on August 6th and finishing up on August 9th!

Our trip totals were as follows:

  • 63 miles
  • 25,056 feet of gain
  • 39:18:46 of time on trail
  • 12+ hours and 570 miles of driving
  • Less than 84 hours

We decided to implement our own set of “rules” for the project, we would start the clock on day one when we left the first trailhead and would have 84 hours to get back to the trailhead of the fourth traverse.

We started our quest on August 6th at 4:45am at the South Colony Lakes 2WD trailhead, after being turned back by the impassable (for our vehicle) conditions of the road. So, Day 1 of our quest added on an extra ~ 5 miles and ~ 1K of gain that we had not anticipated. Nothing like a little curveball on Day 1! We started our watch and plugged away up the road towards the South Colony Lakes Trailhead on Friday. We pushed our way up and over Broken Hand Pass and up the South Face of Crestone Peak’s Red Gully. We had the summit to ourselves but turned and burned quickly to make sure we kept to a good schedule. We made our way back down the Red Gully and to the ledge system marking the beginning of the traverse. It is quick and easy terrain to the “Bulge” where the difficulties begin. The first time on the traverse, we attacked the headwall to the middle and right side which we both agreed was way steeper and more challenging, this time however we made our way to the far left, where described is indeed way more exposed but the climbing is much easier and much lower angle. After a quick gummy snack break on the Needle, we made our way down the standard route of the South Face of Crestone Needle. After slipping and sliding down the steep scree filled Broken Hand Pass, we made the longer than needed trek back down to the 2WD trailhead, where we were greeted by both of our girlfriends and amazing support crew Renae and Katelin. We doffed our trail runners and donned our Crocs as we ate a prepared lunch at our packed cars before we headed our way Lake Como Road. In total we did 21.66 miles with 6,821 feet of gain on Day 1. One great down…. three to go!

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The following morning, we made our way up Lake Como Road in our vehicle to about 8,800ft, which seems to be the pretty standard starting elevation for these peaks. We started off at just after 3:00am and plugged away up Lake Como Road. The first time we were in here, last year, we wandered around in the dark trying to find the gully that safely leads to Little Bear’s West Ridge, so this time we were a bit more diligent on not getting lost (which we still ended up doing…sort of). Unlike last year, there were a few parties making their way up the gully, so we were able to aim for their bobbing headlamps in the distance. Adam and I made good time up the gully, catching up to and passing both parties. We were the first party to get to the bottom of the Hourglass Gully that leads up the south west face of Little Bear Peak. This is not a place where I would choose to be below another party, as the top is loaded with loose rock that all funnels into the lower part of the gully. We weren’t far ahead of a couple of the guys we had passed at the top of the first gully leading above Lake Como, so we asked if they wanted to stick close to us just to shorten the gap between possible rock fall. The summit once again came and went quickly as we headed off towards the long ridgeline connecting Little Bear to Blanca Peak. The initial descent of Little Bear is in my opinion the most imposing section of the entire traverse. This traverse is by far my favorite of the four, the constant exposure, narrow catwalks and relatively solid rock, lends it to be an exhilarating quest. While none of the individual moves are hard, it does always require your full attention, where one false move on almost any section would ensure a very long tumble. I was once again very impressed by our quick moving and how overall our bodies were feeling. Besides a little IT band pain here and there (more to come) I was feeling strong and confident for our coming days. The descent of Blanca was smooth, and we once again made good time until we got back to the long hellish road down to the valley floor. I swear that road never ends, and the large rocks never allow you to get into a flow with hiking, always imposing the risk of a rolled ankle. It was down this road where both of my IT bands were causing extreme pain in my knees, it was becoming frustrating, as my legs muscular wise felt amazing and strong, but the nagging pain was starting to set it. We got back down to the packed cars and the girls who had spent their day at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Day 2 we had put another 15.81 miles and 6,257 feet of gain. Now came the longest drive of the project, the long trek to the San Juans, our destination, Woods Lake Recreation Area, where we would start our hike the next day for the El-Diente-Wilson Traverse. Ohhhh we’re half way there!

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I awoke on Day 3 with both my knees being very tight and uncomfortable, I took some Ibuprofen, which I had been popping like candies the past few days (not recommended), and we set off from the trailhead. I slowly fell into a rhythm and the agitation in my knees seemed to go away. Adam was moving smoothly as he always does, with no complaints of soreness or tiredness. We knew that this day was going to be the longest day, before our added miles on the Crestone’s Traverse. It was a long 7.5 miles to the base of El Diente Peak where we would take the Class 4 North Buttress Route to the summit. While I have not done the standard North Slopes, the North Buttress is an excellent and fun way to find your way to the summit without the looseness that I am sure comes with the North Slopes. Linking this with the traverse is the ultimate way to combine El Diente and Mt. Wilson. It was on this ascent where my IT Bands began to give me the most pain I have ever experienced in my knees, I could hardly put any weight on my left knee, but being in Class 4 terrain, I was able to take some of the weight of with my hands during scrambling. Adam and I had a serious conversation on whether we should proceed. As we were already ¾ of the way up El Diente’s North Buttress, I in no way wanted to descend that terrain with that much pain in my knees. The annoyance also came in waves and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I would just bite down and push on. We climbed the final pitches to the summit on extremely fun Class 4 terrain. Knowing that there was the real possibility of slow moving for the rest of our day we pushed on over the summit and onto the traverse. The El Diente- Wilson Traverse has sections of very fun climbing and scrambling, as well as narrow catwalks, but the loose rock always keeps you on edge, I found some of these sections to be sketchier than any spot on the Little Bear-Blanca Traverse, for this reason alone. The final moves to the summit of Mt. Wilson were by far the most exposed and exhilarating moves of the day, truly makes you earn the summit with some boldness! It is here where I will say, and I know Adam will agree, getting off Mt. Wilson has got to be one of the worst of the 14ers. I do feel that both times I have come off it, I have not been on route, but either way it is miserable. We made it down into the basin, and surprisingly the descent of Mt. Wilson had not exploded my knees…that was to come. The first two days we were coming in hours ahead of schedule, and today, we were about an hour or so behind our anticipated timing. It was a long and painful haul out for me, which left me questioning whether I could withstand the pain of another entire day of pushing it in the mountains. Frustration and annoyance set in and I voiced my thoughts to Adam about maybe not being able to proceed to the final day. I told Adam that either way I wanted him to go for the Bells the next day even if I couldn’t. He responded, in true Adam fashion that “We either succeed together, or we fail together”. This confirmed how much Adam truly is an amazing human being and a loyal friend/partner. He was willing to give up on OUR project because of that reason exactly…it was OURS. This was enough to tell me that, damn it, I am getting this thing done with him through the pain, even if I had to limp my way through the Elks. Another 19.61 miles and 6,586 feet onto our totals. One.More. To. Go.

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We treated ourselves to a hotel in Aspen for our final night before our last day push. This may have been my savior. I don’t know if it was the ice bath, Aleve, CBD, Bengay, or the comfort of an actual bed, probably the cocktail of them all, but I awoke with no pain in my knees. Being dropped off at the Maroon Lake Trailhead, we started off on our last day of our Great 4 in 84 project. We moved swiftly and painlessly as we made our way to the eastern slopes up Maroon Peak. I had a fire in my soul to get up this mountain with no pain, and I did just that. I set up at a cruiser pace, or as much of a cruiser pace one can hold when climbing the steep eastern slopes of Maroon Peak. Looking back Adam stayed in stride with me, never faltering. No matter when I think that I am going to push Adam to his limits he is always right there behind me, stride for stride. Up the south ridge we made our way to the summit climbing through the loose choss that makes up the Elk Range. From the summit we glanced across our final objective, the fourth Great Traverse in four days. We had done this traverse 6 years earlier. I had wrapped Adam up in doing the traverse as his 2nd and 3rd 14ers, we were both in way over our heads, but this time with countless of hours of mountain excursions under our belts… we felt right at home. We made our way down to the notch of the Bell Cord Couloir following carins effortlessly. One spire after another we climbed Class 3, Class 4, and Class 5 sections fluently, laughing and joking around like two friends do. Confidence floated us across our final traverse. We still had the descent to do, but we knew we had just completed something special. We sat atop North Maroon and embraced in a hug, taken aback on what we had just done over the past 3 ½ days. Once back down to the trail junction above Crater Lake we met up with the girls who excitedly embraced us and hiked with us the last 2ish miles out to the Maroon Lake Trail Head. We walked gleefully slapped the sign in under 84 hours from our departure of the 2WD trailhead in the Sangre de Cristo range outside of Westcliffe. The Great 4 in 84 was completed! Day 4 13.55 miles and 5,410 feet. Bing, Bang, Bong, Done….4 for 4 in (less than) 84.

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Adam and I have been working on a small film project/documentary about our process leading into, and now completing this project. We got a lot of great footage during our 4 days of the traverses, and we hope to produce a worthy video that we hope you will all check out in the following few months! We will be sure to keep everyone updated on the process. We both love pushing ourselves in the mountains and find a lot of inspiration from others in the mountains, and we hope that we can do the same for others!

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
pgres
Nice Work!
08/12/2021 06:45
Congrats guys! That's a huge a achievement


greenonion
User
That's pretty cool!
08/12/2021 08:24
enough said.


tygr
Must Watch Video
09/13/2021 08:17
Wow, incredible accomplishment. Congrats. Please post that video when you've completed that project. Would love to see it



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