| Crestone Needle - East Gully (or whatever)
After climbing Linsey's North Ridge Saturday, Prakash and I planned on doin the Crestone traverse, but are eyes proved to be way bigger than our stomachs. Saturday night proved ill-fated when we hit a slippery part of the already real shitty s.colony road (FYI, if you care about the life of your car or its your only car or you haven't fully paid it off yet, swallow your pride and park after the first creek crossing, after that the road sucks, its very makeable to the upper TH, but just not worth it).
Anyways, parked at about 10,400 ft and hit the trail sunday around 5am, made it to the upper TH by 5:30 and then on the trail soon after. We ran into the 14er.com group (bout 20-30 of them), met a few familiar screen names and then split off at the Needle trail just before the lake. The trail is easy to follow and the snowfield starts at about 200-250 yds below Broken Hand Pass (and engulfs the entire slope, postholing isnt too bad, even in the afternoon). We dropped our crampons at a rock outcropping just below the pass and then used the already perfect footprints to ascend up to the pass. The last 150 feet to the pass is dry by the way.
From the pass to the bottom of the east/west gullies there are some patchy snowfields, but nothing to get worked up over, we obviously left our crampons behind, there was one 20 foot section where it'd be nice to have them, but if taking the time to put them on, traverse 20 feet and then take them off again is your thing, then whatever. Again, the deep footprints along the entire route make life easy, an ice axe for balance and security is more than efficient.
To make a really long story short, we reached the East Gully, didnt even bother trying to find the West, basically did a mix of ascending the very snow filled gully for half the time and class 4 (no 3) scrambles all the way to the summit. The descent was a lot harder downclimbing 4th class terrain, but we slowly managed to find ways to get down. We glissaded parts and then downclimbed and then glissaded the last 100 or so feet to some cairns and then eventually the trail back to the pass. The softer snow in the afternoon gave us little to no trouble, we were already soaked by then so postholing was a non-issue, getting to my car w/ an ice cold beer was the number one priority.
Another small note (but very important), if your looking for a good place to glissade these days, look no further. The slope from broken hand pass on the descent couldn't have been more perfect and I was absolutely flying, almost ripped my arms out of my sockets when I dug my axe into the ground, if I hadn't left my crampons at a rock outcropping mid-way, could've definately flew all the way down to the lake.
Overall, I'd rank this scramble up there w/ the Bells but w/ much better conglomerate rock, like a massive climbing gym. There is still a decent amount of snow, but I was dressed like a homeless person and made it up there fine w/ no crampons or snowshoes (definately keep your axe close by though). When looking from the Needle, its hard to get a good view of the traverse, but its dry for sure. This was Prakash‘s first real scramble endeavor and second in 2 days(Linsey N.Ridge), plus his second Sangre summit, congrats man, quite the intro to a new range.
Some pics :
Needle at morning light
Looking back @ S.Colony w/ sunrise
Trail cutoff to Needle, pretty straighfoward (right before lower lake)
Traversing to base of pass (good footprints, not much postholing)
Looking down on snowclimb up to pass (bout 150ft down from actual pass)
Backside of pass en route to East Gully (bout 3-4 of these, some big some small)
East Gully looking up
East Gully looking down
Class 4 scrambling section
Kit Carson Ave. from Needle summit, still a bit of snow
Blanca Group (Looks like a lot of snow, but we were at Lindsey Saturday, not as much as it seems, still a lot of postholing though and some seriously pissed off creeks)
Sleeping on Needle summit (dreaming of Westcliffe gas station subway, dont knock until you try it, Prakash and I both agreed this was abnormally good)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):