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Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Post Date:  08/01/2012
Modified:  08/21/2013
Date Climbed:   07/26/2012
Posted By:  Wish I lived in CO
Additional Members:   ChrisM, 4HClimber

 Bury my 14er at Wounded Knee   

The trip report title of course is a play on words of the well read 1970's book "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee". I had a faint inkling of what the book was about, but good ole Wikipedia refreshed me with: "Wounded Knee, (a village on a reservation in South Dakota) was the location of the last major confrontation between the U.S. Army and American Indians. The event is known formally as the Wounded Knee Massacre." As you can guess by now, some of our group experienced "wounded knees" that "massacred", in various degrees their aims for the trip.

Our group was 4 in number, then 3, then 2, then 1. I'll explain as we go.

Note: For those not familiar with 14ers.com, click the "view with large photos" icon near the top to see the pictures better.


WED. JULY 25, 2012


Jeff (4HClimber) and I had a good time in the Chicago basin last summer (see his trip report HERE ), so we planned for a trip this year to the Crestones. ChrisM joined us at the trailhead as well as a hiker "Al" that I picked up at the low 2WD trailhead. Al joined our group for the hike in and at camp, but decided against Crestone Peak and Needle as he wanted to only do Humboldt as that was his original plan. The hike in at least for me is always a slog as my overnight pack was approaching 50 lbs. But alas, the hike in went pretty quick and spirits were high as we all anticipated the hikes and peaks that the next few days promised.

The crew (minus myself): Al, Jeff, Chris

Once at camp the usual order of events took place, relaxing, setting up camp, filtering water, more relaxing, cooking dinner, etc. As much as I hate the heavy pack in, it's fun once at camp to just hang out versus day trips where it can seem too rushed in preparing and then leaving.

From camp we had good views of Crestone Needle and Broken Hand Peak. Here's a shot of the Needle while filtering water:

Crestone Needle from camp

Later on in the trip, the sheep decided to get friendly. This guy is sniffing the spot finder I left out to send a message home.

Big Horn sheep at camp

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and for Chris that ending came quite abruptly. After everyone had sacked out for about 2 hours after the pack-in, Chris awoke to a throbbing knee. Later that evening he announced it was bad enough that he'd be packing out to the car in the morning. I hope he's feeling better by now.


THURS. JULY 26, 2012

(Al successfully climbed neighboring Humboldt Peak)
DEPART: 4:15 AM, RETURN: 1:45 PM

For those not familiar, the basic route climbs about 1,200 feet over increasly rugged terrain to Broken Hand Pass, then descend over 500 feet on the backside to Cottonwood Lake, ascend nearly 2,000 feet in what is called the "red gulley", cross some ledges, then top out.

Here's Broken Hand Pass in the light from the next day. We ascended in the dark, reaching the pass at daybreak.

Broken Hand Pass

The Red Gulley: The climbing is not too bad, but it goes on forever. There was one spot low in the gulley that gave me some trouble, but with Jeff's help got over it just fine.

The Red Gulley (prominent gulley at center)

Low in the gulley - no the camera is not tilted, the rocks angle like this

Jeff climbing in the gulley

Approaching the top of the gulley

The next picture shows Jeff on the upper ledges. He was fine, but I hate ledges. With due care however I caught up and met Jeff at the summit. It is possible to miss most of the ledges. On the way down I angled from the summit down to the gulley rather than crossing the ledges to the top of the gulley. If climbing, you can opt to bail from the gulley about 60 or 80 feet from the top of the gulley and angle toward the summit.

Jeff on the ledges

Tradition: Jeff flying the 4-H flag on the summit

No flag, but I'm advertising a 14ers.com shirt if you look close

Summit Pano:

Looking over to Kit Carson from the summit

Looking down the red gulley

It was a great day for Jeff and I. Crestone Peak! Certainly an accomplishment that we were both proud of.

But again, on the heels of the "thrill of victory" would come "the agony of da knee". Jeff's knee had been bugging him increasingly on the descent back to camp and by the time we returned he announced that he was sleeping in and packing out in the morning. Meanwhile Al had climbed Humboldt peak that day and had to pack out in the morning as he had previously planned. Fortunately Al's knee held up for the trip, though he did recount a time or two in the past when he had injured his knee. The three of us had some good laughs together that evening as we enjoyed some cigars and pleasant weather at camp. Later after the trip, Jeff and I talked and his knee is feeling much better, he will be climbing Long's peak yet this summer.


FRI. JULY 27, 2012


I had wanted some company not just for the commaraderie, but also for confidence on the difficult climbs. It was great to climb with Jeff on the Peak, but now I was starting out alone that morning for the Needle. 14ers.com ranks Crestone Needle as the 5th hardest of the 58 14ers - the most difficult of the standard class 3 14er climbing routes. Gulp. Nevertheless, I started out, still optimistic, but also very cautious and determined to make smart decisions and to turn back if such decisions warranted.

I felt good that I had looked over route descriptions and photos of the Needle for months, but also felt uneasy having studied the route, knowing the challenge it would be. Only a few years ago I attempted to make the transition from class 2 which is simply difficult "hiking", to class 3 moderate "climbing". I did not make that transition too well at the time. Not at all. On the sawtooth that year I got about 20 feet up on a headwall and was terrified. Made it up it fine, but was terrified. A few days later on Whetterhorn I was not terrified, but instead felt panicked not knowing how to go up or how to downclimb. I managed to retreat that day, but with no summit and no pride; but also with no harm and with some experience. The next year I would summit Longs, Kit Carson, then the Chicago basin group the following year. Confidence now finally soaring, I'm ready for the next test - Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle! Only now no partner, but let's try it.

Crestone Needle as viewed from Broken Hand Pass the day before

Looking back at the trail from Broken Hand Pass to Crestone Needle

East gulley

So you learn things as you progress in your climbing experience. Like this trip, I learned not to use forks in those freeze-dried REI meals - some of my dinner leaked from the bag one night. More to the point I've learned now not to panic or be terrified. Simply be calm and evaluate the situation, look for holds, options, etc. Be rational. The first test would come near the bottom of the east gulley. Looked for options that I felt comfortable getting over a headwall. I'm cool, but having trouble finding the best way. A church youth group was coming up the gulley. 16 and 17 year olds. Going right up, no problems, right over my headwall. I guess we all can learn something from youth. I did, I followed their path that I had initially discounted, not so bad after all. The climb continues - awesome!

Climbers in the east gulley (the church group)

Next test. The church group continued up the east gulley. It's steep and I believe class 4. I've never done class 4, and not prepared to try now, haven't studied the route. They head up, I opt to stay the course and take the standard route cross over to the west gulley. I've studied this forever, finally here now. Two moves here would be the crux for the entire trip. The first move is tough, but low exposure. I study the holds, go for it, got it. Now climb up 40 or so feet on increasingly steep terrain. At the top climb up and onto the rib. Not so bad technically, but it's steep and a fall is fatal. I dont' mind mentioning that I said a few prayers at this part of the climb. I take my time, up and over, whew!

Taken on the way down, here's two climbers on the crux. I spent a few minutes at the top and bottom being probably overly cautious. These guys are great climbers and head right up without much pause.

Climbers on the crux cross-over

West gulley - fairly easy, but very fun climbing to the top:

West gulley

Cottonwood Lake below from high on Crestone Needle

Crestone Peak from the summit

A nice view back close to camp after the big climb:

Nice view near South Colony Lake


SAT. JULY 28, 2012


Humboldt Peak is class 2, and a "hike" rather than a "climb". The mood is easy going after having tackled two tough peaks.

From the day before, here is view of Humboldt Peak from Broken Hand Pass:

Humboldt Peak from Broken Hand Pass

On the way up and down, there are some great views of the surrounding peaks and of lower and upper South Colony Lakes.

Alpine-glow on the Needle and Peak

Sunrise over Humboldt

(L-R) Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak, Kit Carson)

Nearing Humboldt's summit

Looking back at Humboldt's summit ridge

Lower and Upper South Colony Lakes

I had waited all weekend to catch the Needle in good lighting and get the "money-shot" of Crestone Needle at the trial sign. Notice the sheep in the background to the right of the sign.

Crestone Needle - the money shot

Another great trip. Thanks guys! And thank you God!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Good report     08/02/2012 01:00
and good pictures! The Crestones are by far my favorite 14ers, and I love seeing reports on these peaks. Looks like you had a fun time up there!


Congrats, Pete!!     08/02/2012 01:53
Good to see your confidence gaining ground! Nice report and some super pics, especially the ones at dawn on Humboldt!


Nice accomplishment!     08/02/2012 02:03
I really like all three of those peaks; I think the Needle was my favorite because of the solid knobs and exciting feel due to the steepness.

Good work.


Thank You Pete!     08/02/2012 02:06
Thanks for understanding the physical limitations of a geezer. Great trip report and great pictures. Great climbing with you.


Nice trip man     08/02/2012 02:12
Great shots of the 'Stones from Humboldt! Not a bad mid-week trip. Great write up. Congrats to all.


Good Job     08/02/2012 13:00
Nice work getting all three!

Doctor No

Great work!     08/02/2012 14:38
I really enjoyed the report - the story laid out really nicely. I'm hoping for similar in a couple of weeks!


Good to see     08/02/2012 23:24
Glad it all worked out for you. We need to compare notes after I do Chicago basin in September.


Wounded Knee     08/03/2012 00:57
Pete, you make me laugh! The jury is still out on my knee. MRI will tell the story soon. PT scheduled, oh boy. Anyway, great meeting you and Jeff. Great report and pictures. We should rename BHP to WKP. Hope to climb with you guys next year.

Wish I lived in CO

Thank you all!     08/03/2012 12:25
Doug (mtnhub): You'll have to let me know how your trip went the week before, didn't see any TR's for you this year. Last year was such a great year for you, hope this year was too.
Jeff: Good luck on Long's! Thanks for a great climb on Crestone Peak, always great to climb with you.
Doctor No: Enjoyed your recent report on El Diente, good luck on your upcoming trip!
Mark (Roald): Definately keep me posted on how your Chi Basin trip coming up goes.
Chris: Was great to meet you. You'll be bouncing back before you know it.


Great report     08/05/2012 03:33
Excellent picture of the sunrise over Humboldt! I hope I can catch one like that someday.


Never give up!     10/17/2014 02:37
Pete and Jeff, I finally summited the Crestones after a couple of years of trying. My TRs describe these two efforts. Planning Chicago Basin and the Wilson group next summer. Did Kilimanjaro and attempted Elbrus this year. Onwards!

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