Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  09/21/2021
Date Climbed:   09/16/2021
Author:  Bccrhp
 Crestone Peak via standard route (South Face)   

Trip report: Crestone Peak via standard route (South Face)

The road to South Colony Lakes wasn’t bad, and we were walking by 6:30 AM. Hiking through the valley to the lower and upper lakes was pleasant and scenic. Going through Broken Hand Pass itself was quite fun, but the steep scree immediately on both sides of the pass, especially on the South Colony Lake side, was anything but. Cottonwood Lake was a gorgeous blue, glittering in the sunlight.

We briefly lost the trail after Cottonwood Lake and ended up on a muddy game trail through some willows, but we quickly realized our mistake and got back on the proper path. The famous red gully quickly came into view, and it was smooth sailing until we dropped into the gully.

The red gully is, and I cannot stress this enough, awesome. It’s basically a big playground. There was a little water in the center of the lower portion of the gully, but there were pretty much always multiple good lines up. Usually, we could choose between an easier line and a more difficult (but still solidly Class 3, so not truly difficult) and more direct pitch. In the gully itself, there was very little exposure. The gully is very long, though, and we were tired by the time we got to the top.

Once through the notch at the top of the gully, it’s an easy scramble with a few Class 3 moves to the summit. There’s a bit more exposure in this section than in the red gully, but with sensible routefinding, exposure is still pretty minimal. (The summit ridge on Snowmass has much more, for example.)

Descending the final pitch and then the red gully were more straightforward than we expected. As was the case coming up, descending the red gully almost always offers multiple good options, none of which exceed easy/moderate Class 3. Once back out of the gully, the rest is straightforward. The ascent from Cottonwood Lake back up to Broken Hand Pass isn’t fun (when is gaining hundreds of feet of elevation post-summit ever fun?) but is much easier than coming from the South Colony Lakes side. Once safely on the Colony Lakes side of the pass, it’s a pleasant downhill walk back to the trailhead.

If you’re interested in decent stretches of good Class 3 rock without having to worry too much about exposure, Crestone Peak is the mountain for you. Lots of fun.

Comments or Questions
09/21/2021 09:08
Sounds like you started from upper TH, correct? And would you mind sharing what time you returned to TH? Anything further on the road in would be appreciated too! I hear it's awful in one particular spot. Great job doing the Peak in a day!

Re: TH/Time
09/21/2021 09:55
We started a few hundred yards short of the upper TH. Trailhead-to-trailhead was ~12h, but we stopped a lot for views/wildlife & it could definitely be done faster. The road itself was pretty rough but ultimately passable in a high-clearance 4WD SUV. One Subaru Outback somehow made it to the TH.

09/21/2021 13:17
Smiley emoji here

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