The Sangre de Cristo’s, Part 1
Kit Carson and Challenger.
Having made the decision to change zip codes, ie leave the front range, I headed for the Sangre’s. On June 24th I arrived at the Willow Creek trailhead just east of the town of Crestone.
Welcome to Willow Creek I started the 4.25 mile, 3,000 vertical foot hike with the big pack (ca. 40 lbs). It was a beautiful 2 ½ hour hike on a glorious day. After I set up my camp I hiked up above the lake to reconnoitre.
Willow Creek Lake ice and water falls.
First view of Kit CarsonIt was a warm sunny day and I could see that although there was snow in the Kirk Couloir, I felt it would be soft.
Willow Creek Lake
Playful Big Horn lambs
Mama Big horn
I started at 4 am the next morning and found that when I got to the Kirk Couloir the snow was actually very hard due to a good overnight freeze. I had to “front point” up the couloir and I could not get the base of my axe into the snow. I had to actually use the pick. The whole thing took longer than I expected but I summitted Challenger (14,081) at 7:15.
Kit Carson from Challenger
From here I headed to Kit Carson Avenue and found, to my surprise, that I would not need crampons on the part of the Avenue rising to the Prow.
Big Horn Sheep on the Avenue There was some snow but I didn’t have to walk in it.
Closer look at the Avenue The next surprise was that on the section of the avenue headed down from the Prow (East),
The Avenue headed down from the Prow
Challenger from the Avenue There were a couple of sections of firm snow where I did need the crampons. I hiked down to 13,700 feet and turned left at the rock rib to head up to the summit of Kit Carson.
Gendarmes guarding the Avenue Right before I hit the final summit pitch there was another snow field bit I managed to get around it without the spikes.
Final snow field Again, it was glorious on top.
The Crestones as seen from Kit Carson On the way down things had warmed up nicely and I didn’t put the crampons on until I got back to the Kirk Couloir. At this point I wished I had brought my skis because the snow had corned up perfectly. It was still very hard under the corn and I had to face in and front point pretty much the whole way down.
When I got to the bottom I broke camp and headed back to the trailhead in a state of exhilaration and very much looking forward to the rest of my “Tour de Sangre’s”.