| 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.
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WED. JULY 25, 2012
HIKE IN FROM 4WD TRAILHEAD ELEVATION 9,900 FT TO CAMP NEAR LOWER SOUTH COLONY LAKE AT ABOUT 11,500 FT. APPROX. 4 MILES
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
CLIMBERS: JEFF (4HCLIMBER), MYSELF
(Al successfully climbed neighboring Humboldt Peak)
DEPART: 4:15 AM, RETURN: 1:45 PM
SUMMIT ELEVATION 14,294 FT
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
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
CLIMBERS: WISH I LIVED IN CO (ME)
DEPART: 5:15 AM, RETURN: NOONISH
SUMMIT ELEVATION 14,197 FT
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
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:
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
CLIMBERS: WISH I LIVED IN CO (ME)
DEPART: 4:15 AM, RETURN TO CAMP: 9:30 AM
SUMMIT ELEVATION 14,064 FT
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):