| Ellingwood Ledges: Direct Start with Traverse
Grade III, 5.7
Traverse to the Peak
Having led my first trad route in September of 07, I never thought I would be getting into alpine climbing so quickly. Halfway through July of 08 and it is rivaling my love for skiing.
JCWhite was up for the challenge of the impossible-to-ignore Ellingwood Ledges route on Crestone Needle. Hippitahoppita joined the crew to do the S. Gully standard route and then maybe join us for the traverse to the Peak. The day went off perfectly. Hopefully this route report will aid in your prep of this wonderful route.
We started from the upper S Colony Lake trailhead at 4 am and moving fast hit the base of the direct start at 5:30. We had to wait a bit for the sun to light the route, which gave me time to show Jordan how to stow the draws. I showed him once for each type of gear and he got them all right the entire day. Damn, that's some pretty quick study right there.
The direct start begins at the top of the talus pile directly below the aręte. It uses a very large open book weakness in the lower cliff. The first pitch was 5.4 due to a short traverse required to get into the center of the crack.
From there on it was pretty simple low class 5 to a wide belay ledge covered with loose rock.
The second pitch of the direct was a bit tougher. I started out climbing straight up the center.
The dihedral steepened and was a bit wet…
…so I opted to climb out left using a few ledges and then traverse back into the center. The traverse felt like a 5.6 due to a large exposed step with moderate hands, a nice warm-up on the day. Looking down on this section:
The remaining bit of the pitch was fun and easy crack climbing.
Jordan cleans the second pitch:
We kept the rope out for the next 120' but probably didn't need to… looking up at this section.
I set two pieces of pro on the whole thing. It was low class 5 with lots of 4. Jordan leaving the belay station on this final pitch of the direct start. The large open book can be seen trailing way down and to the left behind him.
The direct start can probably be done in two pitches, especially if you have a 70-meter rope. We were using a 54-meter, which was stowed for the ledges ahead.
After overcoming the lower cliffs and leaving the crack system, the terrain opened up considerably.
This is why the route is called Ellingwood Ledges.
To avoid the difficulties below the Red Tower, you trend slightly left of this wall…
Wrapping around some knobby bulges and then back right using grassy ledges and chimneys to the aręte proper.
Now above the Red Tower, the climbing follows the aręte proper.
A few low 5.2 moves are required here. Staying right on the aręte felt like 5.4.
Which requires some concentration when not on belay…
More 4th class steps between ledges above this area bring you to the mini-headwall.
You get good views of the difficulties ahead from here.
The red route is the 5.9 crack, the blue the 5.5 right facing corner, the yellow the second and final 5.7 pitch.
You can either pitch this mini-headwall section out for 100' or climb to the right around it using a stiff 4th class traverse and then a ledge back left to some more 4th class scrambling directly up the aręte.
Jordan climbs below the first pitch as the leader of a crew (circled) from Portland handles it with no problems.
Now at the belay station for the first true headwall pitch, we waited briefly for the another party who had used the walk up approach. They were fast, clearly good climbers. The inversion below us was hard to ignore.
Humboldt made me think volcano.
This first pitch was really enjoyable crack climbing. It was not difficult and was well protected. Jordan belaying:
There are several old pins and one bolt with a shady 1/16-inch steel plate. I clipped the plate but had other pro nearby.
Looking up the second half of the 5.5 headwall pitch:
With the 54 meter rope, I was just able to get to a boulder to sling with a nice backup cam in a crack below it.
Jordan finishing the pitch:
We moved the anchor 20' up to the belay ledge for the 5.7 pitch, which is very obvious. It's the super sweet 5.7 dihedral, wow this is fun! Stoked:
Starting the pitch:
Me about to turn the crux roof which was well protected with a #1 camalot:
Looking up the pitch from beneath the crux roof:
The angle of the rock through here:
The climbing above the crux was solid 5.6 crack.
Hexes and tricams were put to good use on this pitch:
Looking down from near the end of the pitch:
The terrain mellows and unfortunately the hard climbing ends:
I found a good anchor in a vertical crack at the first ledge. Only 45 meters required here.
Jordan cleans the route:
…and then stows the rope for the final easy section to the top:
Which is a stiff 3rd class gully.
Jordan makes the final move of the route, which pops you out right at the top of the south gullies.
Within view of the summit.
The route took us 4.5 hours from the base, 6 hours from the upper parking lot. We never felt rushed; things went very smoothly. With a fine weather day, we opted to do the traverse. Hippitahoppita joined us which ment he got to experience his first rappel. Easy there big guy!
The traverse was easy to find as we knew the route from doing it in the other direction.
The Red Couloir has plenty of snow left with ice hiding underneath. An ice axe is required IMO unless you stick to the rock.
We found some ice to play with…
Hippita bags Crestone!
I really like the Red Couloir route on Crestone. Its so aesthetic:
Broken hand pass has snow below the narrow rock areas. Ice axe a good idea here. Crampons optional. We got a nice view of our route in profile:
Lightning began to dance just as we hit the trees. Its a good feeling to get it right.
We saw this unfortunate scene on the way home. Probably just old enough to start enjoying independence and whammo!