The trip began on Saturday afternoon with a backpack up the road to camp near the old 4WD trailhead. We arrived at the site around 4:00 in the afternoon and had the evening to just relax and enjoy being at the camp site.
Our camp site
Sunday morning we were early to rise, and set our alarms for 4:00am. 45min later we were meeting our friends Annie and Ryan on the trail for an ascent of the Crestone Needle. The first bit of the hike went by quickly. Once you are off the 4WD road, it is a quick hike over to the beginning of the ascent up broken hand pass. However, once you reach the point where the trail splits (one heading towards Humboldt and one heading towards the Needle – there is a sign), the trail quickly steepens.
Heading up Broken Hand Pass
I didn’t find the hike up broken hand pass too difficult. A little loose and steep in some areas, but generally not too bad, and before you know it…you’re at the top. And the fun is still to come! The trail splits at the top. To the left the trail heads down. This is the trail to Crestone Peak (I am SO looking forward to doing this one later this summer!). After a short amount of hiking, the “east gully” on the South face came into view.
About to head into the east gully
I found the hike up the east gully a lot more fun than I was expecting. The hand/foot holds were great! We quickly began the ascent up the gully. I found if you were paying attention, that it was pretty obvious where to go. There are some small cairns along the way that help.
Heading up the east gully
The pictures often make the face look a lot steeper than it actually is. I had thought I would be a lot more nervous heading up than I was. The rock is very stable, and so makes you feel very secure when scrambling.
Annie climbing the east gully
I had been nervous about missing the crucial cross over point on the route from the east to west gully. I studied a lot of pictures and descriptions prior to the hike. Therefore, I did not have too hard of a time finding the correct spot. There was a small cairn that also points you in the right direction. That being said, I found the cross over from the east to the west gully the most difficult part of the hike. I am not a very big woman, and I had to reach quite a bit across the rib to cross over. I just had to not look down, and go for it!
The cross over point with small cairn at bottom of photo
I had also been nervous about finding the crossover point on the way down. Luckily for us, someone had put some bright pink tape in the cairn to mark this point. Yay!
About to start up the west gully & cairn with pink tape
I found the west gully much easier than the east gully. It doesn’t feel as steep, and before you know it, you’ve reached the top of the gully. We had a great scramble to the top. Some fog clouds moved in which made everything look beautiful.
Climbing up the west gully
From the top of the west gully, it is not a very long hike the top. It was still important to take our time and make sure we were going the right way.
Sean examining the final push to the summit
Almost on the summit
We reached the summit around 8:30am. About 3.5h after we started. We all felt great, it had been a fun climb. The weather on the summit was perfect. Sunny, and no wind. We enjoyed about 20min on the summit enjoying the awesome view before heading back down. I would have to say that the views from the top of the Needle might possibly be the best of any 14er I have been on yet.
Beautiful view looking south
Sean and I on the summit, with a cloud covered Crestone Peak in the background
Originally, I had also been worried of the hike down. It seemed steep, and I thought it would be very slow going. We were all however, able to do a slow crab walk on pretty much all of it. Going slow was the key, always being sure of ourselves.
Heading back down the west gully
I climbed that!?!?
Heading down broken hand pass was not as easy as it had seemed on the way up. I always find loose, steep terrain tough on tired legs after a big hike. Luckily, it’s not too long and before I knew it, we were back on the dirt trail and heading back to the camp site. We said goodbye to Annie and Ryan, and began to break down site. Then it was just a short (around an hour) hike back to the car.
I had prepared a lot for this hike, and I think in doing so had come with a great amount of respect for the mountain. This was definitely a climb that could have ended a lot differently had we all not planned ahead. However, I think with the right amount of preparation, this hike can be a lot of fun. It is definitely in the top 3 for me.