Crestone Needle & Broken Hand Peak
Route: South Face
TH: 4WD gate on FS road
Mileage: 8.17 (3.86 pack in, 4.3 summit day)
Elevation Gain: 5,160' (1,810' pack in, 3,350' summit day)
Conglomerate lovers: Darrin (kansas), KeithK, Jeff (SurfNTurf), Brian (B-Thom) & me
With Crestone Needle being my favorite 14er, any chance to repeat it is welcome. So with Darrin wanting an acclimatization hike before attempting the Crestone Traverse on Sunday (weather called this attempt before it even really started), we settled on the Needle and Broken Hand Peak for Saturday. Instead of just having some 14er finishers strolling up an 'ol favorite, we decided to invite some newer 14er folk to join, so they could experience some of the best scrambling to be had on any 14er.
We packed in on Friday afternoon and found what has to be one of the best campsites in the area. It came complete with lots of room, a view of the Needle and a giant boulder to play on. The full moon added to the mystique, but it did make viewing the Perseids meteor shower rather difficult!
Always enjoy the first good view of the Needle
Night of the Persiods meteor shower, but all I capture is a plane!
After a few short hours of sleep we awoke and found Jeff and Brian came within about 50' of finding our camp! We took a relaxing stroll up the suck-tastic trail to Broken Hand Pass. Slow enough that I could break out the camera and tripod for some long exposure shots. Always enjoy it when I can run fully manual on my camera!
Needle moon shadow on Humboldt
The Needle and Broken Hand Pass in the dark
Star of Darrin leading the way up Broken Hand Pass
Full Moon setting to the west
The wind was howling at the pass, as it always does, so we quickly head towards the pink glowing rock that looks like a present I want to open. The early morning light on the surrounding peaks makes the early alarm worth it every time.
Alpen Glow on the Needle
Broken Hand Peak in the pink
Future snow climb 13er
Keith navigating the ridge difficulty
At the base of the east gully we regroup for the scramble ahead. The broad gully allows for many options of easy class 3 or some optional class 4. I take the opportunity to practice for the traverse the next day, by finding the hardest route up I can.
Starting up the East Gully
The cross-over to the west gully goes smoothly and we start up the much narrower and longer west gully.
Darrin leading the way - Photo credit: Jeff
Photo Credit: Darrin
Spread eagle rock hugging
On the rock rib above the cross-over between gullies - Photo Credit: Darrin
Looking down the East Gully
Starting up the West Gully
Looking down the West Gully
Happy scrambler - or "Hi Mom!"
Last section before summit
2 years ago when I was on the summit of the Needle, the surroundings were blanketed in wispy clouds that obscured the beauty that I knew surrounded me. Today, the early morning light casting long shadows made the repeat all the more worth it. I walked over to the end of the traverse, but wasn't as bold as Darrin to peak over the edge. I didn't want to spook myself too much for the next day, I do have a "healthy" fear of heights
Morning shadows on Crestone Peak
Darrin and I with the Peak in the background, where we met 2 years ago... - Photo Credit: Jeff
Jeff taking in the impressive view
Pano to the north
Darrin more bold then me, found the rap anchor - Photo Credit: Jeff
Taking a peek over the edge - Photo Credit: Darrin
We spent some time enjoying the early morning summit. There was talk of a group plank, but thankfully that was avoided. Once we had enough of one of the best views in the state, we let Jeff lead us down the mountain. The navigation is relatively straightforward, if you follow the rule: "Terrain is getting harder above/below -> turn left". Jeff even discovered that there is a rock feature that looks like a squid at the cross-over from the west to east gully. So look for it next time you are on the Needle!
Jeff leading us down
Going over the cross-over - Photo Credit: Darrin
Me at the crux - Photo Credit: Jeff
Back at Broken Hand Pass Jeff and Brian decide that they would rather get home at a reasonable time versus join us on Broken Hand Peak, so we part ways and descend opposite sides of Broken Hand Pass. I think we convinced two Needle virgins that Crestone Needle is the most awesome 14er there is
As soon as the rock wall disappears to the south, we start our ascending grassy traverse to Broken Hand Peak. The hardest part about this summit, is that it is hard to tell where the summit is from the slopes below it. There are plenty of rocky gendarms and spikes on the ridge to confuse the GPS-less, as there is no fully distinct trail the entire way. We found a more direct route on our way down that followed the ridge better. Though the trail did disappear the closer we go to the trail back to the pass.
Optional scramble on Broken Hand Peak
Looking down the grassy traverse - Photo Credit: Darrin
Summit is to the left, I think
Pano to the south
The reason you go up Broken Hand Peak... the view!
Broken Hand Peak from Cottonwood Lake
Back on our way to camp we found Natalie, a partner for the next day. We spent the remainder of the day relaxing, bouldering and fishing. Always a good time to be had up at South Colony Lakes!
Darrin practicing for the Traverse
Natalie bouldering in Keens