| Crestone Peak to Needle Traverse
I had spent Friday night camped on the Humbolt saddle at 12,850'. See trip report:
My traverse partner, Shanahan96 had camped at the South Colony Lakes TH at 11,040. Jamie planned to climb to Broken Hand Pass and traverse under Crestone Needle to climb Crestone Peak via its South Couloir. I was to traverse the South Colony cirque rim to the Bear's Playground and ascend Crestone Peak via its North Couloir.
I broke camp before 0600 on Saturday and began the rim/ridge hike from the Humbolt saddle to the Bear's Playground. Although it was windy, the skies were clear and the sun felt good. Shanahan96 and I established radio contact as he began his ascent toward Broken Hand Pass.
The traverse around the cirque rim was easy and mostly class 1 and 2, with just a few class 3 areas. I reached the Bear's Playground and found the North Couloir. Shanahan96 had been concerned that I would find a lot of snow in the North Couloir. However, as I had expected, the North Couloir was mostly snowfree. I had not brought crampons and carried only a lightweight aluminum summer axe. I was able to easily bypass the few remaining snow areas. However, as Dawson had warned against, I did wander into a more westerly couloir and had to do a few class 4 moves to get back on course. Once I got to the good couloir that leads all the way to the Red Saddle, the climbing was sustained class 3. I only chopped two steps in two different places with the adze of my axe to cross narrow snow fields. However, there was quite a bit of clear ice on many rocks from afternoon runoff refreezing overnight. Be careful of this clear shiny ice if you try this North Couloir route.
I summited Crestone Peak at 0915 and was joined a few minutes later by a guy in a cowboy hat (Roy) who had climbed the North Buttress. He reported that there was a hairy 5+ move at the top of the Buttress. We took photos and chatted for 20 minutes or more before Roy began his descent of the South Couloir. Summit photo on Crestone Peak with the Needle behind.
The plan was for me to meet with Shanahan96 on Crestone Peak so we could do the traverse to the Needle together. However, Jamie was nowhere in sight. So I began to descend the South Couloir. There I met Jamie a couple hundred feet below the Red Saddle. Jamie continued toward the summit while I hung out and waited for him. When Jamie returned, we began the traverse over to the Needle.
We found the traverse to be easy scrambling over several ribs with a wandering, but well cairned route. During the traverse, we ran into two groups of climbers who had chosen the Needle to Peak traverse direction. One group was our friends Kyle, Robert and Justin from west of Alamosa. The second group was a group of eight members of the other 14er information/forum site. SarahT had advised me that I might run into a 'hot blonde" named Piper on this route. I was able to identify her and introduce myself. (Sarah's assessment was correct).
Shanahan96 and I continued on to finally reach the Black Gendarme. We shimmied up the chimney to the right of the Black Gendarme and then scrambled up a little fin to the 2nd gendarme. Finding the route to the crux was not difficult. In fact, it turns out that 14ers.com members Mark and George and their friend Nate were immediately above us on the crux. I ascended the class 4 crux first (Jamie had requested that I lead the ascent so I could take a photo of HIS ascent - what nerve!) Although the climbing was not so difficult, I must report that about 2/3 of the way up there is a section about 10 long where the wall steepens and the handholds get scarcer and smaller. Definitely not a place to run out of arm strength!
We both summited the Needle with a total traverse time (summit to summit) of just over 2 hours. We had a snack, took some photos and then began a descent of Crestone Needle via its standard South Ridge and South Couloir route with Mark, George and their friend Nate. However, soon Jamie scrambled over a ridge to research a shortcut... I never saw him again until back at his camp at the TH...
Mark, George, Nate and I descended scree and class 3 terrain to the good trail leading to Broken Hand Pass. There, Mark, George and Nate said farewell and began their descent toward their camp on the Cottonwood Creek drainage. I dropped over Broken Hand Pass to return to the South Colony Lake TH. I have to say that Broken Hand Pass isn't worth a Broken D___ dog! It was scree on top and then I had to descend/cross several evil, soft snowfields. After cussing the snow for a while, I bushwacked down to the Lower South Colony Lake and headed back to the TH. Thankfully, Jamie showed up at the TH about 30 minutes after me - reporting that his so called shortcut sucked!
We broke camp and headed back down the long road to the 2WD parking. On the way down, we ran into Chicago Transplant and GirlyClimber on their hike in. Once again, we hitched a ride, this time with some nice fellas from Albuquerque, to save the last two miles. We returned to Lakewood/Boulder late Saturday night satisfied with a fine weekend of hiking and climbing.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):