Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  08/16/2021
Date Climbed:   08/14/2021
Author:  hockeyfan39
 Crestone Peak - South Face Adventure   

Hello! This is my first trip report, so please be gentle! But we encountered enough "issues" that we thought a report would be helpful to others. That said, will try to keep things brief!

Crestone Peak - August 14, 2021 (from 4WD trailhead, Colony Lakes)

Start time 4:30 am / Finish 8:00pm (WHAT?? will explain...)

Suffice to say that this peak took WAY longer than we expected! Specifically because of the technicality involved. My wife & myself aren't fast hikers, but we're not slow hikers either. So while the timeframe we list may seem long, I would definitely say plan on this taking 10-12 hours. Everyone we talked to at the top of the trail agreed that this was definitely one of the harder 14ers that any of us have done to this point. I'm sure others are likely harder (like Capital?), but if this isn't in the top 5 or 10 I don't know what is.

Broken Hand Pass - up until this point, it felt like a pretty typical 14er. And even this pass wasn't a great challenge - especially if you're good at scree-walking. The challenge with this is section is that it is pretty technical on the north side, with enough loose stuff to make you cautious. And when you descend it on the return trip, and your legs are rubber, doing the elevation re-gain of the pass then back down, it definitely makes for a challenging descent!

Red Gully - Oh My Gosh Y'All! this gully is no joke! Serious route-finding, definitely a choose-your-own-adventure kind of section. Where the water is consistently flowing, the rock is slick! Lots of back and forth between different sections, definitely take your time finding a good route up (and down!). The slope is steep enough that if you lose your grip, you're going to slide a decent distance and get pretty scraped up. So take it seriously! Also, this section is a LOT longer than maybe we expected! Took a good 2 hours just to ascend the Red Gully, and another 2 on the descent! Other climbers did pass us, so obviously it can be done faster, but I would say plan at least for 60-90 minutes just to get thru this section one-way.

Climbing up the Red Gully
Climbing up the Red Gully
Its not as steep as this picture makes it look, but its still a pretty steep climb

At the top the Red Gully is the final moves to the small summit. Definitely a short section of class 4 with some good exposure to reach the summit. And the summit space is pretty small, but thankfully not too many climbers usually at the top.

Summit - finally!

Final Notes:
- The 4WD road isn't too bad, but does take at least 30 min to navigate the 4WD section. (no toilet at the trailhead!)
- Did take us 7 hours to summit, though we are on the slow side. Would definitely plan for a 10-12 hour day total, if not longer.
- There are plenty of spots to stop and filter water along the trail.
- Some hikers mentioned doing the summit via Cottonwood Lake, not South Colony, which meant not having to go thru Broken Hand pass and that elevation re-gain.
- If you're comfortable with the Class 5 traverse, it seems like doing both the Peak & Needle in one day may actually be the fastest way to do this.
- Note that all the restaurants in Westcliffe and Silver Cliff close at 9pm, which is a bummer after a long hike!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
08/16/2021 19:20
After a little more research, does look like doing Crestone Peak as a solo hike from Cottonwood Lake is perfectly reasonable. From the town of Crestone, follow Cottonwood Creek up to Cottonwood Lake, then follow the standard route. Plus is the trailhead is 2WD, minus is the trail isn't as well defined.

Beware Cottonwood Creek
08/16/2021 21:31
I climbed Crestone Peak via Cottonwood Creek a few weeks ago. As you said, the trail is not as well-defined as the approach from the east side. It is important to know that the trail disappears entirely about 2/3 of the way up the Cottonwood Creek approach. The remaining distance to the standard route junction is entirely off-trail. You will have to navigate several steep slopes, thrash through an ungodly amount of willows and generally wallow around for a long, miserable time to get out of the upper basin. It took me over an hour to go about 1.2 miles on the off-trail section. Descending is not any faster and makes for a long day both up and down.

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