| Off Route (on purpose) in the Red Gully
Crestone Peak 14,294'
Red Gully with variations
via S Colony Lakes TH (11,060')
After breakfast we headed up the trail in the early morning light. After a quick break to scramble up one of the knobby boulders along the trail, we hit the split for the "Crestone Needle Standard Route" and made our way towards Broken Hand Pass. Near the pass there was some steep icy snow, but we managed to struggle through and top out on the pass. From here we descended the great trail down to Cottonwood Lake and around the Needle's lower ramparts to the basin below the Red Gully. The view of the Peak and the Needle was impressive, and we made our way towards the gully. The closer we got the more apparent it became that those fun knobby rocks were not going to be present in the gully. But hey, that face on the right looks pretty interesting! This direct start ignores the trail to climber's right of the gully and climbs the knobby slabs instead:
Above this point the trail crossed our path on a grassy bench, but the knobby slabs continued above us, it was so much fun so far we decided to continue. As we kept ascending the slopes became steeper, mixed with some small knobby ribs and a few deep gashes leading towards the gully. The route varied from class 2 slabs to class 3 and 4 climbing. Probably a low 5 move or two was mixed in there as well as we continued up the slopes to the right of the gully as we neared the crux of the red gully:
We kept finding cairns along the way, perhaps they were marking the entrance to the Peak to Needle Traverse? Either way, they seemed to be suggesting we head back towards the red gully. It made sense to us, as above this point the slopes we were on seemed to start to veer more to the east and away from our ultimate goal, the summit. We entered the gully at the base of a lingering strip of snow where we met a group of 4 coming down off the summit. We continued up the wet, broken, red rocks and dirt to the saddle with the east summit. From here it was a few hundred feet of nice knobby ledges and we were abruptly greeted with the highest point of our journey and amazing views of the surrounding area.
From here we admired the view for a while and decided it was far too late to attempt the traverse over to the Needle that we had originally hoped for. Oh well, that just means we will have to come back to these magnificent peaks We descended back down the standard gully, a mix of good rock, loose rock, and loose dirt. The ascent route we took was definitely more fun, but the prospect of downclimbing the hard 4/low 5 sections was not too appealing. We took a break at Cottonwood Lake and pressed on to our reclimb of Broken Hand Pass. Here we were congratulated by a hungry Billy as he had a late afternoon snack. We descended the tricky snow we had come up that morning and then headed back down the trail to break camp and head back home. The ride back was beautiful, we got to see the orange moon rise through the clouds, and then get entertained by an electrical storm to the east of the Springs. All total it was a great weekend of climbing!
View of the Peak to Needle Traverse from the base of the red gully:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):