Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,167 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,086 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2022
Date Climbed:   08/11/2022
Author:  V1per41
 Backpacking Challenger + Kit Carson - North Slope   

The weather window looked good so a friend and I decided to tackle Challenger Point and Kit Carson on a mid-week backpacking trip. We are both above average hikers with several other 14ers under our belts (8 for him, 18 for me), so take that into account with the times below.

Parking: I have a fairly low clearance sedan (Subaru WRX) and thought the road to the trailhead might give us issues. After taking a look on Google Maps I found an alternative parking spot at the end of Pine Cone Way (37.986882061766224, -105.66420401321164). There were no signs saying anything about parking restrictions, and the road to this spot was in perfect shape. It involved a little scramble through the trees to get onto the main trail, but really wasn't an issue.

My watched clocked about 4.9 miles from our parking spot to our camping spot near the lake This took us about 2:15. The trail is just a steady climb the whole way. I was surprised at how many people were up here mid week. There were maybe 4 or 5 sites already claimed when we arrived at ~5pm with another 3-4 showing up after us. There are a good number of spots in the area below the lake, but I can't imagine what this looks like on a Friday or Saturday night. Glad to have gotten in on a week day.

Awesome camp views

There were several dear wandering in and around the campsites. It looked like they were looking for food so please use good food storage practices.

We got to bed around 9pm and had the alarms set for 5am.

After breakfast and prep we were on the trail for 5:45am, about 30 minutes prior to sunrise. We were able to make the Challenger Peak notch in about 2 hours and the summit in 2:15. The trail up Challenger is fine on the bottom half of the slope but gradually deteriorates the further up you get. While the distance is short, expect this section to take longer than you might think.

The trek over to Kit Carson was straightforward and easy to follow. We decided to take the early left on the class 3 route from the avenue and we were happy we did. The class 2 section further down looked really sloppy. I would definitely agree though that this should be classified as "easy class 3". The rock was very solid and scrambling was only required on certain spots.

We hit the summit of Kit Carson in about 3:10, enjoyed the views and a summit soda before heading back down.

The trek back to Challenger was a little faster in reverse as we hit the summit at about 3:50.

The trail going back down Challenger was almost just as annoying as climbing up it. Just very slow, a lot of sliding, and constantly trying to find where the trail was supposed to go.

We made it back to camp after 5:30 of total hiking time, packed up camp and just cruised the 5 miles back to the car. Finishing off the day with 10.4mi total in 7:15. Add on the approach from the day before and the full round trip distance time was 15.5mi, 9:30.

I would definitely recommend going the backpacking route on this one as it would be an extremely long day from the trailhead. Due to the extra distance I would plan for 11 hours for the average hiker round trip from the trailhead if you're trying to do it in a single day.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
08/12/2022 13:38
On 14ers. it says that it's 9.5 mi. to willow lake. How did U get it done in 4.5 mi.
How bad were the "squites" ? Have always wanted to do Challenger/Kit but don't
own overnight gear. 11 hrs. sounds doable but it seems like you guys cut out alot
of hiking somehow!

08/12/2022 14:01
The 9.5 miles is round trip -- so 4.75 miles each way. My parking spot added on the little extra bit to make it 4.9mi each way.

We had minimal to no issues with mosquitos while up there. I did bring some bug spray and used it, but they were basically a non-issue.

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