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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2016-01-22||Route: North Slope
Info: There is a good snowshoe and skin track going in to Willow Lake. Some of the trail on South facing aspects is dry. I would recommend against skiing the approach. Near tree line conditions soften substantially. The North Slope is holding quite a bit of snow. It is very deep and unconsolidated, but it is stable. I scrambled a talus rib to the left of the main gully and then plunge stepped down the gully as a descent. It wasn‘t bad. The traverse to Kit Carson is out of condition due to snow accumulation. I stepped past The Prow and fell in up to my waist. It seems the only viable option to combine the two in a day is to climb the last pitch of The Prow. It‘s very do-able as an up and down climb and feels about the same as the hardest section of the bells traverse. I‘ve read that people are calling it 5.6. It is mostly sustained 4th class with a few harder bits, and it is VERY exposed. It is definitely not 5.6.
|2015-10-17||Route: North Slope
Info: Climbed Challenger Point and Kit Carson on a very warm October Saturday. Left the Willow Creek trailhead at 4:00 am. Reached Willow Lake at 6:45 am. Summited Challenger at 10:00 am. Summited Kit Carson at 11:30 am. We made it back to the trailhead by 5:00 pm. It‘s a long day but doable with the great conditions on the route currently. Route tip: The 14ers.com official route ascends the north slope of Challenger on the right side of the snowy gully. I‘ve actually found the rock on the climber‘s left side of the snow gully to be a better choice for both ascent and descent. The rock on the climber‘s right side of the snow gully can be loose. The rock on the climber‘s left side of the snow gully is super solid. To ascend via this route variation, leave the trail and cross the gully right before the snow starts in the gully. Gear: If you follow the route I described above, there is no need for crampons, micro spikes, or an ice axe.
|2015-10-12||Route: North Slope
Info: This is to add some photos to the description on the KC update Going up Challenger the snow was in the rocks in the steepest portion going to the ridge from 13,300 to 13,900. It made the route difficult. Micro spike would help, but the loose snow was around 3" over loose rocks, and steep when sliding would be hard to stop. No snow challenges from the 13,900 ridge to the summit. KC avenue and final climb all clear of snow. Took class 3 route to KC summit, solid holds and not that difficult compared to the loose rock in the standard route
|2015-10-03||Route: East Ridge for Kit Carson (South Colony Lakes)
Info: Hi! Climbing Challenger was my 54th fourteener summit this season. My goal was to climb them all, AND I DID! You can read more about this hike and others at sunshineof1985.com. My story was also recently covered on Channel 9 News in Denver and you can watch it at http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/features/2015/10/08/woman-climbs-55-fourteeners-to-help-overcome-eating-disorder/73628028/ Kit Carson Route: East Ridge Challenger Route: Challenger to Kit Carson in reverse Distance from Trailhead to Camp: 3.4 mi. Distance from Camp to Both Summits and Back to Camp: Roughly 8.2 miles (GPS died for a short time) Elevation Gain from Camp: 4,300 ft. (I think this is wrong because I‘m not sure if they add the loss and gain) Time started: 8:25am End time: 6:30pm Time to Summit Kit Carson: 4 hours and 5 minutes Time to Descent (Back to Camp) from Challenger: 4 hours GEAR (to bring): Bear spray, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (100 oz or more), snacks. Road Condition: With a little guts, my sedan was able to make it all the way to the upper trailhead- barely. It‘s very bumpy and plenty of opportunities to bottom out unless you know what you‘re doing and have plenty of experience. Trail Condition: Walk up the road from the upper trailhead 2.65 miles until you see the sign wooden sign on the right for the Humboldt standard route. I camped at 3.4 miles in and that‘s the start of many more campsites to come. There are a couple wet areas, but nothing to sweat. Walk past the South Colony Lake, and when you reach the Upper Colony Lake look for a trail leading to the right and up the mountain side. You‘ll come to a saddle and turn LEFT. Climb over the BACKSIDE of Point 13,290. It‘s easier and will block you from the wind. Once at Bear‘s Playground, look for the cairns as they will lead you beautifully across the meadow (you‘ll never have to actually summit Obstruction Peak). There is a path that will come and go up Kitty Kat Carson, but just climb to the top of that one and you‘ll barely notice climbing along the ledges of Columbia that you even climbed another named peak because it‘s such a short distance. The pictures from 14ers.com make the next section look very intimidating, but the ridge to Kit Carson isn‘t bad and with care, you can safely make it down the gully without too much trouble (mostly solid rock). As confusing as it sounds in the directions, once you‘re there, it‘s fairly straightforward. I only took the directions out once to check out how they recommended climbing up the last stretch of Kit Carson (lots of loose rock). ONCE YOU‘RE READY TO MOVE ONTO CHALLENGER: Backtrack down the same way you came up Kit Carson only head to the right instead of the left (to go back the way you came). You‘ll see a purplish, brownish, fairly wide trail to follow around Kit Carson. In a short time you will see Challenger and it‘s straightforward from there to reach the summit of Challenger Point.
|2015-09-29||Route: North Slope
Info: Essentially the same as the previous report. The standard route is completely free of snow. It did snow on us for a few minutes but quickly melted and dried. The trail from above the lake to the summit is STEEP, be prepared or a lot of elevation gain quickly.
|2015-09-27||Route: North Slope
Info: Made it to the top of Challenger today. Route is completely clear and the leaves are turning from the trailhead all the way up. Lots of class 3 scrambling but no snow on the standard route. The scree has filled in large portions of the trail making route finding a little difficult. I saw several people going far to the right of the rock rib up against a little wall; be careful that way, there‘s water along that wall hidden under the grass in the upper reaches and it can make for a slick and dangerous climb. Otherwise, incredible day with hardly a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky. For anyone interested in Kit Carson, I originally intended to climb both, but decided I‘d had my fill of dropoffs with Challenger. However, the way is completely clear with only a little snow still clinging along Kirk‘s, nothing on the avenue. I saw at least two people walking around at the summit and heard a few more talking about making the attempt. Be safe out there.
|2015-09-20||Route: South Colony Lakes
Info: Kit Carson/Challenger and 13ers Columbia Point/Obstruction Peak from South Colony Lakes today. Route finding was straight forward. Long with lots of class 3. A little snow in couloirs between Kit Carson and Columbia Pt, near O.B. Couloir. Definitely snow free on the standard route and route we took from SCL. Some fall colors.
|2015-07-04||Route: North Slope
Info: Willow lake and the approach is a mosquito-fest and quite miserable even with spray they swarm the instant you stop to take a break. North face of Challenger has some snow patches still, not entirely sure where the ‘standard route‘ was, but easy to pick your way up the rocks. There is still a solid couloir on the face which was firm in the morning and perfect to glissade down.
|2015-06-27||Route: Kirk Couloir
Info: I made an attempt at Challenger and Kit Carson on Saturday. The trail is a mosquito love-fest, and hot, so I highly recommend DEET and light canvas pants. It was miserable fending them off and they do not relent until about 13,500‘. Up to the headwall is completely clear of snow, although all the melt is filling parts of the trail with water, so be prepared to get a little wet. That said, I was fine with water-resistant boots, and the big crossings aren‘t hard as long as you‘re careful walking along logs. I hit Kirk‘s Couloir right about sunrise, hoping to make it to the top and then decide whether to try for Kit Carson or just do Challenger. Even before the sun hit the snow the slope was pretty soft, and it only got worse as the day progressed. Even with ice axe and crampons I felt the slope was pretty treacherous, and I recommend not using this route unless you really want to crack your skull open. I finally aborted about 3/4 of the way up, and the ride down was a little heart-pounding. I heard multiple people on the trail say that the north route to Challenger is clear and does not require additional traction beyond a decent pair of boots. I‘ve also heard that Kit Carson is just as loose as Kirk‘s Couloir, and I wouldn‘t attempt it until the snow is gone and the summer trail is exposed. Probably another two weeks at the most. I will post some pictures once they are processed.
|2015-06-14||Route: Kirk Couloir
Info: Dry to the headwall, then patchy snow up to the lake. Skiable snow from the summit to ~12,200‘. Despite all appearances from the valley, the summit holds snow! Don‘t make the same mistake I did. Bring the skis while the getting‘s good! The standard route can be done completely off snow until you gain the summit ridge
|2015-06-07||Route: North Slope
Info: Made a successful but sketchy summit attempt on June 7th. The trail is dry and in great condition to the headwall. Snow starts at the headwall (10,900 feet). From the headwall to Willow Lake it alternates between snow patches and dry trail. This section is frustrating because you have three choices: posthole, snow shoe over dry trail, or transition every 5 min. Above Willow Lake on the North Slope of Challenger, the conditions are no better. Snow is very deep and super slushy. The North Slope is too steep for snow shoes so you‘re stuck sinking in 6-12 inches in crampons. All in all, conditions are poor right now and I‘d recommend giving things at least another couple weeks to melt.
|2015-05-24||Route: North Slope
Info: Clear of snow up to about the headwall. Will need flotation and traction past that. Low visibility and blowing snow above the lake. Turned around at about 12.2k after digging a couple snow pits and finding wind/storm slab instabilities. Will need some time to stabilize.
|2015-04-25||Route: North Slope
Info: Gate was open to summer TH. Dry trail up to 10,700.
|2015-03-08||Route: Kirk Couloir
Info: The trail is now broken (thanks to us) and easy to follow to Willow Lake. There are nice kick-steps to follow up the couloir. From the winter closure the road is mixed dirt and light wet snow pack. Once at the main TH snow shoes are very helpful to 9,800. After that there is a .5 mile section of bare trail before you start the climb to Willow Lake. We used everything, microspikes, crampons, ice axe. The snow was nasty, wet, lose, slushy. If it does not snow this week I would guess most of the snow would be gone.
|2015-02-01||Route: North Couloir to Kirk Couloir
Info: Booted up the North Couloir/ a rock rib next to it. Then climbed the ridge to the summit and skied the Kirk. Ski conditions were all time. Sections were up to 18 inches deep! We camped below Willow Lake so we could get a super early start on the face. Great time with out with Gueza, Krullin_14ers, Julian Smith and Steve Bremner.
|2014-10-07||Route: North Slope
Info: Trail to falls clear and dry. Challenger NW face 70% snow/ice coverage. 2"-10" depth. Some mud at end of warm day. Some ice sections could have been easier with spikes. Kit Carson ave slightly more dangerous, as the first length is full snow/ice bound.
|2014-09-03||Route: North Slope
Info: Summer conditions
|2014-08-30||Route: North Slope
Info: Great condition. No bugs to speak of anywhere. No snow on route. A bit loose higher up, helmet recommended.
|2014-08-23||Route: North Slope
Info: There is snow up high, ranging from a dusting at 13,500 feet, to a couple inches close to the summit. The peak was shrouded in clouds the entire day (Saturday) and it was quite cold up there, so anyone headed to Challenger or Kit Carson on Sunday should definitely expect icy conditions up high.
|2014-07-26||Route: North Slope
Info: The flying insects are still there but manageable with insect repellent. The route from above the lake to the saddle below (before) Challenger Point is loose dirt and loose small rocks. I agree with the previous condition report, that this made the route treacherous. Many found going off trail into the surrounding larger and more interlocked rocks safer but much more time consuming. No snow was encountered on the route.