| Kit Carson - North Ridge (part 1)
Kit Carson North Ridge
I know some people are planning on KC and Challenger this week and anxious for beta. Skimrg81 posted a nice TR, but we did a different route so here's some additional info.
Ron & I drove down to Crestone on Saturday morning. The "4WD required" road does not. This picture was taken about 0.5 mile past the sign.
The road does get slightly steeper and rockier right before the trailhead, but is certainly okay for any standard vehicle.
The hike up really is a great trail. Sure, there are many switchbacks, but they keep the grade mostly moderate.
There are some stream crossings which require a little care.
(This pic is on the way back down.)
The flowers were beautiful all over the mountains.
We had no trouble finding a nice camping spot in the large area just below the lake, with spectacular views in all directions. We took a short walk around the north side of the lake had an early dinner, and went to bed before dark.
We were up and on the trail before dawn. The hike around the lake and past the top of the waterfall was no problem. We saw the trail up Challenger, but our goal was the North Ridge of KC, so we headed east up the valley. We found no trail, and no cairns; in fact, this was the first route we have ever climbed that we could find no cairns. Today, I talked to a friend who has also done this route and he said the same. Having read other TR's of this route, we decided that staying on the south side of the valley, vice down in the bottom of the valley with the stream and willows, was preferable. We had no problem with this approach, although we did cross a few snowfields, and were glad we had our axes (no crampons necessary, though I did cut a few steps with my adze).
This view is looking west. Willow Lake is out of sight in the middle of the picture. We took an ascending traverse up the left side in this view. Note the steps in the snowfield at far left. If you take a lower approach, no ice axe is required for this route, and as you will see later, no axe is required on KC Avenue or on Challenger.
The actual "North Ridge" became less obvious as we got closer. We knew we were in the right area because we were one mile from the waterfall, but there are a number of "ridges" or "buttresses" separated with small gullies, when you get to this area. We continued east to the right side of the Outward Bound Couloir (knowing the North Ridge forms the right side of this couloir) and were still not sure of the actual start of the route. The rock all looked good so we headed up.
View of lake at 12,325 ft.
View up OB Couloir.
View back west.
The climbing was excellent, with endless holds, though somewhat steeper than we expected.
View down between my legs.
We generally climbed up and right, continually expecting the ridge to narrow somewhere, but it never did. You can really climb anywhere on this very broad "ridge". We encountered a snow-filled gulley nearer the top, but it can easily be bypassed either above or below.
We got close enough to the right (west) edge of the ridge to see climbers on Challenger.
continued in part 2.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):