| Kit Carson North Ridge and Surrounding Peaks
-Willow Lake Trailhead to Willow Lake
-Adams West Ridge
-Kit Carson North Ridge
-Columbia Point from Kit Carson
-Kitty Kat Carson from Kat Carson
-Challenger Point from Kitty Kat Carson
-Elevation Climbed: 8927'
-Mileage: 14.4 miles
-Time: 25 hours
Hike in to Willow Lake:
Started up toward Willow Lake at 2pm on Monday, June 26th. I wasn't sure how things were going to go. I had been in Asia for 6 weeks at sea level and was fighting a minor respiratory infection. I had to fight through some weak spells and stronger than usual asthmatic symptoms, but reached the lake in under 2 hours. Rumbling clouds had been moving down the valley during the approach providing a nice cool mist. They stopped and dissipated as I set up my bivy. The window I was hoping for had opened, so I went for Adams.
Adams West Ridge:
Finding the correct route to gain the basin below Adams was not trivial. Read your map. You stay climbers left of the major rock band to north of the lake and ascend steep grassy terrain.
Grassy slope (red arrow) used to reach basin below Adams
Once in the basin, amazing views opened to the south of the Crestones. Even if you aren't interested in Adams, climb to this vantage if you have a little time for a great vista.
The grassy basin was a delight to ascend. I used a diagonal path through the steep broken grassy ledges up the southwest face of Adams instead of gaining the ridge to save some time. I wanted to eat before darkness back at the lake. The class 2+ section at the top adds a nice touch to the finish. For the descent I dropped off the north side of Adams west ridge into junk. Shorter but only worth it if you don't mind some sketchy footing over broken rock bands.
The clouds now began to move up the valley as the weather window began to close. Very neat feeling to catch this moment for a centennial peak summit at dusk. Back at the lake, dinner and sleep for tomorrow's challenge.
Kit Carson North Ridge:
I woke with the birds and ate my standard breakfast of oatmeal and hot coco. Began the approach from the lake to the upper basin at around 6:30 am. The sunhit progression over the big peaks in this area is spectacular.
Kit Carson's North Ridge from below
The best way to gain the North Ridge of Kit Carson is to walk up the basin until you are below the apron of the Outward Bound Couloir which splits Kit Carson and Columbia Point (Kat Carson). Ascend the couloir to near the top of the apron, where obvious grassy ledges extend climbers right to the bottom of the ridge fin. Traverse across the ledges to the base of the narrowing north ridge. No need for directions from here.
I ate a mango, my new favorite fruit after my time in Asia, and considered my family and friends. Started my Ipod Nano and began the climb up class 3 knobs and grassy benches to were the ridge narrowed and became class 4.
Begining of class 4 section on North Ridge route
Here its best to stay on the ridge, as the rock is much knobbier and easier to climb, plus you don't have to deal with a double fall line. I ended up off the ridge at one point and felt like I climbed 30-40' of class 5 rock, which was invigorating to say the least.
Off route in class 5 terrain on North Ridge
I could have easily moved back to the ridge proper, but decided to climb on. Being solo on a route like this is a unique experience. The ridge ends abruptly into a catwalk which lead me quickly to the summit.
Looking down from top of North Ridge on Kit Carson
Columbia Point AKA Kat Carson:
I was slightly concerned about the route to Kat Carson after reading beta on how 'hard, scary and exposed' it was. From Kit, it looks to fulfill these adjectives. I think its class 3 rating is completely justified and the route finding is relatively simple. Go for it, its quick. I tagged Kitty Kat just for good measure and headed back to catch Kit Carson Avenue. The weather began building quickly. I considered a glissade down the OB couloir, which looked very welcoming but wanted another summit.
Challenger Pt and out:
Over Challenger Pt and down the standard route where I saw the first people of the day, a group of three older gentleman. I really hope I can still get out like those guys do in 30+ years. They pointed out two people climbing the North Ridge. Seemed late in the day (noon) to be on such a exposed route? They also told me a guy died two weeks prior on the route trying to down climb it. I was happy to hear this after finishing it. Back to the lake, pack up and back to the trail head at 3pm. Now just had to decide which mountains to climb the next day? Hmmmm
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):