| A quest for punishment
A quest for punishment
Peaks: Humbolt, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle in a day
Crew: Jcwhite, Elin (Jc's gf), and Kent
Routes: Standard up Humbolt from South Colony, Traverse to bears Playground, North Buttress of Crestone Peak, Traverse to the needle, Descent of standard route of the needle.
Well we decided to go for a big goal for one day. The weather report looked reasonable, and turned out to be just that.
After driving up the South Colony lakes road on Friday evening and getting to bed fairly early, my body woke up before the 3 am alarm, and we walked up to meet Zacob and his friend Kent who camped a little up the road from us. We left the upper parking lot around 3:40 am and made some fairly good time up the trail. Not too far below the lake, Zacob wasn't feeling all that well and headed back to camp. Elin, Kent, and I continued on up and made great time with just a couple short breaks to the top of Humbolt.
We watched sunrise from about half way up the summit ridge.
We arrived at the summit at 5:52 am.
After a quick snack and short break we took off across the extremely long ridge towards Bears Playground around 6:20 am. It was obviously early, and not a cloud in the sky.
The easiest way to get to Bears Playground from Humbolt is to just climb up the low 13er on the way and walk a long ridgeline over there. We stopped about halfway to throw on the sunscreen.
Upon reaching Bears Playground we grabbed a quick snack and off we went.
Having climbed the North Couloir before, I didn't have much interest in that crappy thing again, so we were headed for the North Buttress. What a great route! The climbing stays class 3 until you are over 14,000 feet.
Most of the snow was avoidable
Kit Carson in the background
At one point you have an easy class 4 down climb to a fairly hairy class 4 traverse to the red saddle, where you actually end up climbing the top 50 or so feet of the couloir.
We topped out on the couloir and weren't there more than a minute of so before we saw a mountain goat up on the East summit, and right after this, they 4 legged climber sent some watermelon sized rocks down that landed about 6 feet from where Kent had been standing. We then watched him run down a section of rock that took us about 10 minutes of climbing in about 10 seconds. Anyway after that little episode, we scrambled up that last 200 or so feet to the summit and found we were the first of the day at around 9:45 am.
We sat around eating, drinking, and resting for about 15 minutes, and took off around 10 am with the traverse in mind. We found the traverse to not be cairned all that well yet this year, and the ones that were there were fairly far between one another. As we left the summit Kent made the comment "This usually takes 3 hours right?" "Something like that" I said.
We downclimbed a ways down the south gully until we saw a cairn across the way, and we headed across towards the cairn perched on a small ledge. None of us had bothered to carry the guidebook with us, so it was somewhat of an exploration with the lack of cairns. We followed them for a while and eventually lost them.
I went out ahead for a ways to explore, and found that I couldn't be on route really considering that there was some climbing below me that I felt was more difficult than the traverse should have involved. I pointed Elin and Kent down and around the gnarly stuff I had done, but when they came back into view I realized they were were in for a nasty downclimb. Too bad I had the rope…Kent went first and with a little help from my vantage point, found a "doable" route down and Elin followed, both of them agreed it was the hardest climbing they did all day.
It was at this point that it was 12:40 and Kent mentioned "3 hours might have been a little generous." I found a cairn where I was and so we made our way to there and had another short downclimb to a traverse across some loose slopes. At this point the cairns were not longer obvious (to bad we didn't bring a route description). Well after exploring some false cairns that cliffed out horribly we found the route that squeezes itself inside next to the black gendarme. After exploring a little bit I found a cairn up high and we climbed up a ways to the crux of the route…the climb up the needles face. I was a little high for the easiest route and climbed a steep class 4 to the base of the needles face while Elin and Kent stayed a little lower and met me on the other side. I had a scary moment on this wall when a fairly critical handhold pulled out on me. Talk about butterflies! We were all ready to get this beast done and running out of juice, so we climbed the class 4 crux to the top of the needle and topped out at 1:05. Well 3 hours may not have been fast, but the amount of backtracking we did, I feel like it was decent time.
Unlike the peak, the needle had seen lots of traffic that day judging by the summit register. We didn't wait too long on the summit, I think we felt like we would fall asleep if we stayed much longer. So we headed off down the standard route of the needle and caught up to 3 other climbers downclimbing the needle.
We hit Broken hand pass and caught up to 5 or 6 search and rescue people returning from bringing the man off the mountain who fell a couple days earlier. We enjoyed some bootskiing down the snow below the pass and traversed to the trail.
We slogged on down back to the parking lot and ended the day around 4 pm making for a 12:20 minute day.
My opinion on this way of doing the mountains is that it isn't as much the distance or vertical that wears on you as much as the mental concentration on the more technical parts. Great day all in all.
Congrats Elin on 14ers number 3,4, and 5.
Great climbing with you Kent, lets do it again!