| Spring Gathering 2012: Needle to Humboldt Traverse
Spring Gathering 2012: The "Needle to Humboldt Traverse"
Date: May 5, 2012
Peaks: Crestone Needle (14,197'), Humboldt Peak (14,064')
Climbers: Ryan (kushrocks), Jeff (SurfNTurf), James (Fletch), Greg (gregory_fischer) and Rob (RJansen77)
The idea was really pretty simple. Our group of five would leave Denver Friday afternoon, pick up Greg in Colorado Springs, and head for the South Colony Lakes trailhead for the pack in. With different schedules and peak goals, we had all agreed on one primary objective for Saturday: The Crestone Traverse from Needle to Peak. Humboldt would be the Sunday icing. I'm not sure who came up with it - Jeff and his wooden ice axe, Greg and his goal of getting both Crestones, or all of us and a few too many beverages. Regardless of who it was, we shouldered overnight packs and technical gear, and began the pack in to South Colony Lakes from the 4wd trailhead around 5:30pm Friday afternoon.
The Needle from the road
We started up the road and soon ran into the first of many downed trees Terry had kindly warned us about. The choice to limbo under with full packs, or high-center over was challenging, at least for myself, but we reached the old 4wd trailhead as the sun fell behind the Crestones, and continued up the road.
Once past the old trailhead, the road decided to throw steep side hilling and snow drifts at us, and the postholing, swearing, and demoralization ensued. Eventually giving up on the road, we attempted to bushwack through the woods and willows, finally reaching the lake around 8:15pm. It was a rough approach. We began setting camp at 8:30pm, and quickly ate dinner and crawled into our sleeping bags in preparation for our 4am wake-up call.
I'm not sure what the conditions were like Friday night at Horn Creek, but we were blasted by wind at South Colony. I think we all agreed our tents took consistent 40 mph gusts, and I lay awake that night wondering how the this might alter our Saturday.
The alarms finally broke the gusts at 4am. I believe sleep for all five of us was measured in minutes that night. We geared up, downed some calories, did a quick gear check, and shoved off around 5:30am.
The four of us climbing towards BHP at sunrise - photo by Ryan
Current snow conditions on BHP. There had been one wet slab avalanche in the couloir to the north, that looked to be somewhat recent.
Conditions up the pass were pretty straightforward. A large snowfield dominates before the relatively dry final couple hundred vertical feet, and a boot ladder existed that I did not set. There must have been a 7 footer up here just prior to us. It was like taking the stairs two at a time.
Nearing the choke on BHP
Greg, Jeff and James approaching the pass
We reached the pass at 6:45 or so, and took in the glory of Crestone Needle.
The Needle from Broken Hand Pass
The traverse to the base of the first gully was straightforward. We observed a thin ribbon of ice and snow on the route, but soon discovered it could be easily avoided by scrambling on either side. We enjoyed the fantastic conglomerate, and quickly found ourselves at the crossover.
James, Jeff and Greg in the first gully
Ryan, Greg and myself at the crossover
Jeff and James scrambling
The crossover was mostly snow-free, and we continued up the second gully quickly. Despite the presence of snow and ice, we were able to stay mainly on the rock.
Looking up the second gully
Ryan and myself scrambling for the summit
Jeff and Greg on the summit
We reached the windy summit at 8:50, about 3:20 from our campsite at South Colony Lakes. The views, as they always are in the Sangres, were spectacular. After refueling and gazing over at the Peak and connecting traverse, we made our way to the rap station to try and build an anchor.
The Peak and Kit Carson
James topping out on the Needle
Ryan and Jeff heading for the rappel point
James and Jeff worked hard to set an anchor for the rappel, but we were unable to construct anything that we felt we could really trust. This, along with the potentially unstable snow on the east side of Broken Hand Pass, that had been baking since sunrise, was enough to turn at the summit of the Needle and descend the standard route. There was no disappointment though, it's hard to complain about climbing the Needle on a gorgeous spring day!
Working on the anchor
Myself, Ryan, Jeff, Greg and James on the summit
Darrin, Keri, Kevin and Ryan on the summit
Terry, Jerry and James on the summit
The descent was relatively straightforward, and once we reached the bottom of the first gully we put it in cruise control back to Broken Hand Pass.
Jeff and Ryan on the crossover - can you find the wooden ice axe?
We saw these guys at BHP, they were showing off
We rehydrated and refueled, and I halfheartedly floated a question to Greg and Ryan. It was only 2:30pm; what else were we supposed to do with the rest of the afternoon? After some encouragement from Terry and Jerry, the plan was in place. We said goodbye to James and Jeff, grabbed water, food, layers and lamps, and set off for Humboldt. Having carried ropes and technical gear up and down the Needle, our packs were very light.
When life doesn't give you the Needle to Peak Great Traverse, you do the Needle to Humboldt traverse. Not entirely on ridges. With a re-supply.
Ryan and Greg begin the push up Humboldt
Our work from the morning watches Ryan and Greg
The West Ridge from the saddle
Greg and Ryan grind up the ridge
We reached the saddle in an hour, and summit an hour after that. The Sangres were gorgeous in the afternoon light.
Myself, Greg and Ryan on the summit of Humboldt, 5:30pm
Looking south along the Sangres
Descending in the fading light, with a fantastic backdrop
"Hey Ryan, you going to break your Taco Bell record tomorrow?"
The descent back to camp was very fast, and we chugged water, cooked food, and enjoyed a celebratory shot of SoCo before retiring to our sleeping bags. The night was much calmer than our first, and I believe we all slept like rocks.
A 6am alarm had us packing up early, and we departed South Colony Lakes at 7:30, reaching the car just after 9am. It was an honor climbing with everyone in this group, and it was great to see some familiar faces on the summit of the Needle, in addition to meeting some new 14er enthusiasts. Hope everyone had a fun Spring Gathering, and thanks to Terry or organizing!
Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):