Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,196 feet
"Northeast Crestone"  -  14,251 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2021
Date Climbed:   08/21/2021
Author:  goingup
Additional Members:   Themanisme, Hikertrash30, KDinCO
 Crestone Traverse + bonus NE Crestone   

It has been a long time since I have written a trip report. It has been a long time since I have lived in Colorado. It has been a long time since I have been up a 14er. And it has been a long time since I was in the Crestone group. Before I moved to Canada for 3 years I was blitzing the 13ers hard, fast and without the intention of ever stepping foot on a 14er in summertime again. I still have winter aspirations. Canada was fantastic. I climbed big scary mountains and stared into deep Gatorade blue crevasses but ultimately I really missed wind, so I moved back to Colorado. Living in a very expensive foreign country, in a basement apartment with one window, in the rainiest place on earth during a global pandemic while writing a 270 page thesis with 330 reference, 82 figures, and 32 tables was a time. Let's just say if I never analyze another engineering stress strain curve that will be okay. But that is not why you are here, you probably want to read something about this traverse and see some photos - I assure you the photos are great. But first a wee bit of back story with comedic undertones.

I finished the 14ers in 2016 which means I climbed Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle but I had never been over Broken Hand Pass. I first climbed Crestone Needle on January 16th of 2014 from Cottonwood Creek and then that same summer I solo climbed Crestone Peak from Cottonwood Creek. Can confirm the approach is a nightmare in both winter and summer and you really have to hate yourself to do it twice, especially in the same year. The winter ascent of Crestone Needle was a time and a half. We will give it that half because we royally boned the descent which you can read about here -------> The Royal Boning

So I have this thing for the 14ers sub summits. What's that? Who cares? I needed NE Crestone to finish off the Sangres sub-par summits. The ones that do not quite stack up. The ones that rarely feel the touch of a human. I can however answer the why. Sunlight Spire, a 5.10 crack next to Sunlight Peak is a sub summit and if I want to finish them all I need to keep getting better at rock climbing, which is motivation to finish up the few sub summits I have left (South Wilson I am coming for you). Sometimes you need a dumb list to keep pushing your climbing skills. The idea of walking into Chi Basin from Purgatory with climbing gear really turns me on. So I will say it, one day I will finish the Colorado 14er sub summits on Sunlight Spire. Stay tuned. Did NE Crestone make me poop in my pants when I gaped at it from the Crestone Peak - East Crestone saddle in 2014? Yes. But I said one day and that day would be August 21st 2021.

It was a hard move back to the ole' US of A and I started an engineering job in June so honestly, I am tired and my motivation this summer has dwindled. I developed a real rock climbing problem in Canada and as always I love trail running so that is what I've been doing a lot of. I did get a few neat summits this summer like Mount Neva and Mount Jasper in the IPW, Mount Alice in RMNP (stunning loop), and a 65 mile back pack through the San Juans that snagged a handful of obscure 13ers and 12ers. Enter Matt (Hikertrash30). Matt is about to finish the 14ers so he is brimming with that stoke that us jaded elders lose once we finish. There was a time the 14ers got me really excited. That time has passed. I prefer the quiet solitude of the 12 and 13 thousand foot peaks. That being said I would like to complete the 4 grand traverses. Having only done El Diente to Mount Wilson this would be my second. And Matt will climb anything, anytime, anywhere, over and over and over again, so he has done the Crestone traverse. This would be his second time. In fact, he has done all four of the traverses in one summer, this summer and he is willing and excited to do the Bells traverse and Little Bear - Blanca again with me (next year). Yay! He also happens to be a really fun person and he brought together the five of us who somehow perfectly meshed making this outing an absolute blast.

I am not going to add a ton to the route description as it is very well documented but what I will do is insert some information on the harder moves from the perspective of a 5'4 female with zero upper body strength.

Now, I was pretty excited because recently I had given one hour of human consciousness to a thread about "almost murder on Broken Hamd Pass by way of a bucket hat donning man who hates Texans," and I was about to be on Broken Hamd Pass - for the first time in my life. I told the group about the 14ers thread which analyzed the incident. Who was really at fault? Bucket head or the original poster? Were drugs involved? Would there be ham? Would we be hamd? And why does everyone hate Texans so much? Either way, we had a real life Texan with us and so we dubbed him, "the sacrificial Texan."

Please have your sacrificial Texan ready if you visit the Crestone group.

To my disappointment there was no ham or meth fueled bucket head man throwing rocks at us......only wind and the start of a sunrise.

An uneventful slog up and over BHP

We all know how to get to Crestone Peak, so enjoy some photos. The next time you will hear from me is on NE Crestone.

The morning blur

This place is beautiful.....

L to R: Andrew the sacrificial Texan, Mike "that's hot" S, Matty Zhwanger



It was about this time that I asked Matt if he would attempt NE Crestone with me. You get a pretty good look at it from the top of the Red Gully also known as the saddle between East Crestone and Crestone Peak and it looks impossible. Good news, it's not. We downclimbed directly out of the low point of the saddle (class 3 or 4 depending on who you are), worked our way into a deep rivet and down to a point where we could begin scrambling up the pinnacle. I would say the scramble up is class 4 and you would not want to fall. Don't attempt it if you are not comfortable with exposed class 4. NE Crestone is quality purchase and the photos we took from our perspective and the photos they took from theirs turned out pretty good.

NE Crestone
Circled Matt and I and drew in our approximate route

Taken from summit of NE Crestone (look at the Dunes!)
Rough descent route

Scrambling on NE Crestone
Close to the top
Summit of NE Crestone
Matt and I on the summit of NE Crestone
Just beautiful!

Matt and I zoomed down NE Crestone, back up to the saddle, and over to Crestone Peak to catch the end of the party and eat part of our sandwiches.

Matt and I and our fatty sandwiches


Traverse time! There is plenty of information on the traverse. We basically hugged the far left side of the red gully until we found the entrance to the traverse which was marked by a cairn and on gps. The first part of the traverse entails grass walking with intermittent class 3 scrambling and then you hit a gully. Karen, Matt and Andrew went to the right and Mike and I went left and stumbled upon a pre-bulge bulge move. It ended up being harder than the bulge so good prep. Nothing really stood out until we approached the black gendarme and then you silently wonder to yourself - how is there a route through that? Having read 15 trip reports, the description and watched youtube videos the built anticipation was heavier than the actual climbing. As is the case with many of these routes.

Approaching the bulge

I was not overly concerned about the bulge, I was much more fearful of the final head wall. But it was interesting to see how different sized people handle it. I am 5' 4 and Karen is 5' 1, we both used the left side. Matt, Andrew and Mike are all over 5' 8 used the right side. It took me a minute to find a comfortable sequence of moves but the struggle was kept to a minimum.

Me bulging
A left side bulge finish

Matt bulging
A right side bulge finish

You know that very serial killeresque saying, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." After the bulge there is a scramble up to the knife edge which is such a great spot to take photos that will impress your friends and co-workers. This section and the scrambling from here to the summit is nothing but fun.

Scramble after bulge and before knife edge

My Pony

Sacrificial Texan

After the knife edge we took very few photos. The scrambling and exposure both intensify. I am fairly chicken shit and this is my take on the final headwall. There is about 30 feet of it that I felt was as advertised. Standing at the base of it looking up it really did not look that bad. Then I started up and I was like, this definitely isn't bad. The holds are solid and I did not really notice where I was. I was behind Matt when I said out loud, "Oh, I see now." There is a short section where the holds thin and I did realize what a slip meant, but it was over before I knew it. I did a lot of mountaineering and alpine trad on remote Canadian peaks over the last 3 years. Canadian class 4 and Colorado class 4 are not equivalent. The final headwall on the Crestone traverse reminded me of the "class 3" descent off of Mount Athelstan and the "class 3" descent off of Uto Peak on Rogers Pass which required two rappels. Upon reaching the summit of Crestone Needle I realized that Canada changed me, I think for the better, maybe, to be determined. I think Colorado has soft scramble ratings but that is definitely for the best. The peaks are way more accessible than in Canada and calling this a class 5 traverse likely deters the under experienced. Search and rescue is busy enough. Anyway, this is a fun scramble and I would do it again.

Right before the final headwall
Looking down on the final scramble
It is fairly steep
Traverse crew
What men do
vs. what women do
Biscoff cookies (are vegan)
West gully descent off the Needle
Almost at the crossover


Fin! Great day in the mountains with great people. 10 out of 10 would do this traverse again.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Excellent report
08/25/2021 13:44
That was an excellent report with wonderful photographs.
It looks like your group had a very good time out there.

08/25/2021 21:22
Its not everyday that I open a trip report and spot myself, nice meeting you.

Great report!
08/25/2021 22:33
Always enjoyed your reports and writing style. Awesome to see you back at it!

08/26/2021 09:45
Are you the dude in the crossover photo?

08/26/2021 19:02
Thanks for goingup and goingdown and goingover.

08/26/2021 19:58

She's baaaack....
08/27/2021 08:26
And I am SO happy! Bout damn time we had a report from my favorite mountain girl! But no pictures of the car/sleeper?

09/01/2021 15:10
Maybe I will do a 4runner photo shoot in my next trip report~ hope you are well!

Biscoff Cookies
09/13/2021 13:38
Synchronicity, I was just telling my friends that the Canadian Rockies put us Coloradans to shame. And, I was also just trying to convince a coworker that airlines serving only plant-based food as a carbon offsetting tactic wouldn't significantly diminish her quality of life, since Biscoff cookies are vegan!! Thanks for the fun trip report with so many pics! I'll be climbing the Peak this weekend

Next Year
09/17/2021 09:20
Awesome, loved it. Very entertaining and informational. Loved the pictures. We're gonna do the crestone traverse next year. Just did the Bells traverse over Labor Day. You'll love it!

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