| Tour of Crestone Peak: my Finisher
TH: South Colony Lakes
Campsite: near Lower South Colony Lakes
Trip up: Broken Hand pass
Trip down: Northwest Couloir
This was my last peak to finish the 58 14er list. We had not planned this one to be the finisher, so when I knew this would be the one (just because we had done all the Wilson’s the week before, and not really planned to have them all done) I was a little bit disappointed. I have to admit that the Crestones are not one of my favorite ranges, and I had a hard time (don’t know exactly why) with Crestone Needle the year before. Maybe it is just that I do better in loose rock! Crestone Needle was for me the most difficult 14er, more than Capitol and maybe equal to Little Bear. So, knowing that his “brother”, Crestone Peak, would be the finisher did not excite me so much. Oh well, there it was and had to tackle it.
By the way, this is Roach’s quote in his book: “The Peak draws some people like a siren but rejects others. If it draws you, approach with respect and caution”.
I felt like the Needle rejected us last year, it took 2 attempts. We were uncertain about the Peak. So here is our adventure for this one which turned out to be “different”.
Knowing we would soon have sketchy weather to deal with, we decided to tackle our last 14er on the list during Labor Day weekend.
We arrived at the south colony lakes TH on Saturday afternoon around 5pm, loaded our packs and hiked in to about 3.5 miles near the lower south colony lake. We got there just before dark.
We started hiking around 5.30 am the next morning. Since we knew the way to BH pass it was not difficult to hike in the dark. We made it to the top of BH pass just at sunrise:
Sunrise on BH pass
Looking down from BH pass
Then to Cottonwood lake, it is a really nice place:
We soon got views for the infamous “Red Gully”
And we started climbing it. I was surprise on how solid the rock was and how enjoyable the climb was! It was a nice surprise, nothing compared to the neighbor Needle…
Climbing the red gully
And Mike was enjoying too…
Overall the climb on the red gully went pretty fast and we had a look at the Northwest couloir because we were considering making our return trip through that route. It looked steep. Here is a pic of Mike at the top of the couloir, looking down on the red gully.
Top of the ridge
Nice views of Kit Carson:
And finally the top!
Top of Crestone Pk!
We got this sign from a guy named Denton A. who finished on top of Snowmass in 2009. He passed the sign to us, even though we still had a few 14ers to go then, somehow he knew we would finish someday. So, the tradition is to pass this same sign to someone who is close to finish the 14ers. We have our pick…
This picture is special for me as I am signing my last one on the list…
Signing my Finisher 14er
Nice views of the Great Sand Dunes:
Great Sand Dunes
After almost an hour on the summit, enjoying the nice views, it was time to head down. We were still wondering about our alternative route, it would save to go over BH pass and the downclimb of the red gully (with other hikers below and above, it was a busy day on the mountain).
So, we decided to go for the adventure and try a new route. The first part was very steep, but solid enough to crab-walk down.
Down in the Northwest gulley
Then it became a little bit loose, and steeper.
This section was so cool that I had to take a picture. In fact, some parts reminded us of the hourglass gulley in Little Bear. There was no water though or ice on it, so that made it safer.
We had read in Roach’s book that the gulley gets really steep at about 13,400 foot and then you have to traverse to the east side. We kept looking for cairns and there were lots that looked like the way, but when we peeked through we could not spot the route, so we would retrace our steps and keep going down.
is that the route?
There was a section with some ice in the middle, but not too bad.
Still on the Northwest gulley
More and more to go down, our altitude watches were already reading 13,400, so where is the traverse route?
Finally, a cairn marked the way and when we turned the corner here was the trail! We saw some hikers way down below that were trying to find the route up, they looked at us as if we were mountain goats, hanging on the cliffs of the Northwest couloir, it was funny.
Traverse to the East
When we reached the saddle between Humboldt and Crestone Pk and saw the upper south Colony Lakes so close, we decided once more to take the direct route down through another couloir. This one was loose and tricky, maybe more difficult than the Northwest couloir on Crestone Pk.
We were getting tired but closer and closer to the lakes.
This is a picture looking back to show the route we took coming down. There was a class 4 move (there was a stretch with a rope hanging on it), but overall it was pretty manageable to hike down.
Route taken from saddle to South Colony Lakes
The trip back down took us probably the same amount of time as if we had gone through the BH pass route, but it was more fun and adventurous, and it put a final nice finish.
So, I was not disappointed at all with this peak being my last one, in fact I really enjoyed the climb and Crestone Pk is now one of my favorites!
It took me 6 summers (the only ones I have lived in Colorado) to finish all the peaks. I started in 2001, then had to go back to Europe for a while, and came back in 2008 with the wish of climbing a few more. I never thought I would finish them all, I always thought I would probably stop at around 40 (that was my goal for last year), but once you get that close... there must be a bug or something, because ever since them I have been obsessed with them! Mountain Mike and I have climbed them all together, except for 4 (Bierstadt, Longs, Grays & Torreys). It has been a great summer and I am sure we will repeat some of our favorite climbs in the next months.
Now, as for Mountain Mike, he is not sure if he has climbed all the 14ers yet. He can not remember if he climbed Bierstadt or not back in his bachelor days. I myself have climbed it twice, so this is why we did not put it on the list for this summer. Oh well, we will have to climb that one in the next few weeks to make him a finisher! And "in style"!
“…Colorado, everywhere I go… I am in your shadow and you're callin' to me,
Colorado, the sun melts the snow and makes the rivers flow to the sea…” Chuck Pyle.
Crestones from the Highway
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):