| Love Kit Carson, Challenger..... not so much! (From Willow Lake)
Hubby, Holy Schist and myself decided to go off for another 14er weekend and talked Gatorchick and Jasper into joining us. It took a lot of convincing, but finally they gave in. I think they gave in from the expectation of receiving a sunrise summit on Challenger. Little did they know, or myself for that matter....
We set out on Saturday afternoon and arrived at the Willow Lake TH at 6:30. After some organizing we were off for the Lake. We knew it was approx 4 miles to the Camp so we realized we would be walking for a couple of hours and it might be dark by the time we got there. We passed someone on the trail within the first mile and asked how much farther to the Lake. She laughed and now I know why. It was a long 4. something miles!!!!! We were only at the beginning. We had a fun filled walk up to the Lake, laughing and carrying on the whole way, even a fewmishaps that slowed us down a bit . We arrived at camp at 9:45 so a total of 3 hours of hiking with backpacks. We quickly set up camp while trying to control our laughing not to disturbed the many other campers.
We had planned on being up by 3 am, but with a bedtime of 10:30 and no sleep due the slant we were on alarms went off, but we ignored them. We all finally started to rise around 4 and on the trail by 4:45 with headlamps blaring. We were the first group out of camp, but had a solo hiker with his boxer come up behind us shortly after starting. There was a full moon, but it was starting to set. We were at the bottom of the steep, slipery slope of Challenger by sunrise and starting the arduous, non-relenting climb. The slope came across intimidating at first, but I knew it was just going to be a slog up it.
Alpenglow on Kit Carson
Christian(Holy Schist and Maggie the boxer)
Some big Horn Sheep making it look easy
Towards the top it gets steeper and you must cross a snow field which isn‘t terrible if you take your time.
Just below the snowfield- I think this was actuallly on the way back down(but this is the snowfield)
Once at the notch, you breathe a sigh of relief, but I was concerned about being above treeline now for the rest of the day since I knew the downhill on Challenger was going to take us a really long time. Thankfully the weather was in our favor and all we had were several beautiful cirrus clouds that made our pictures look that much better!
Josh on Challenger‘s steep, loose slope
Walking up Challenger‘s beautiful ridge
Christian and myself on Challenger‘s summit
We arrived on Challenger‘s summit at 8:15 and took in the views. WOW!!!! So gorgeous! I definitely remember how lucky I am to have the physical ability to climb this high and take in the views that only a small percentage of the world gets to do.
We didn‘t stay on Challenger long as we wanted to get over to Kit Carson and get back to Challenger before afternoon (just in case of storms). We started down Challenger‘s southeastern slope to the saddle between KC and Challenger and climbed up Kit Carson Avenue.
Jen coming off Challenger
Looking at KC Avenue
I think I remember reading that this might be a little scary, but there wasn‘t a single solitary scary thing about it. It was beautiful to be on the wide ledge and reminded me sort of, of the Narrows on Longs, but wider. You go up the avenue and then back down. I thought many times about how I am so not the typical girl. Much rather be on that avenue than any shopping avenue!!!
Jen on the AVE- I think she‘d rather be here more than any other avenue as well. Why we love each other so much.
After going back down the avenue approx 400 ft(not sure how much really) we came to a class 3 gully that kind of intimidated me, but with some climbing experience I thought after a bit, you know this won‘t be bad at all.
A view of the class 3 section
We had one person in our group go around the bend to make sure we weren‘t missing the real route, but he said that it didn‘t look like it. So we headed up the class 3 slope which turned out to be super fun!!!! It was no time at that point before we were on top of Kit Carson at 9:45.
Nearing the top of KC
Some climbers on top of KC
Me on the summit of KC
We snapped some photos of the Crestones, you could see the climbers on top of the crestones which was really cool!
I swear we look like were pasted in this picture
We hung out for about 15 min, chatted with some guys that had done the class 4 section and then we headed down. Since I am not an expert downclimber or class 3 climber, I downclimbed facing in and held on tight to the multiple, really solid handholds there were. It seemed like Josh, (Jasper), a natural born athlete and rock climber just walked down it like it was no biggie. I hate people like that.
Jen down scooting the class 3 section
This was the best way down the class 3, right along the side
We were back at the avenue in a matter of minutes and hurried over to Challenger.
Me and Jen on Challenger‘s ridge
We were all dreading the downclimbing on that awful loose slope. The weather was holding really well so I was super excited about the fact that we could just take our time, one step at a time and make our way down safely. We walked along Challenger‘s ridge passed the point of where we had come up so we downclimber a section that was fun and solid to the notch where you head down the loose stuff.
Jen downclimbing back to the notch
The first part was easy as you could hold on to the solid wall and once you got away from that it was misery. Loose rocks every step and not scree that you could ski. If you tried to ski it, you would end up letting big loose rocks go flying down the mountian. Everything you thought was embedded into the ground was not and every step I took made my heart race. I honestly knew that I was going to hurt myself terribly per say if I slipped and fell, but it was still scary nonetheless. I crossed back over the stepp snow slope slowly and methodically so not to slide down on it. ( no ice axe)
Christian coming down, not having as much trouble as I was
We worked our way back to the tundra and then kissed the grass! Even though still steep, there was at least traction!!!!
Looking back up at what we had come down
We had to break out the steripen
We made it down by 3ish, but then hung out at the lake for a little while, the weather was absolutely perfect!!!!!
As we came back through the boulders towards camp, we spotted a bear. I actually just got a glimpse of his Arse, and what a cute ARSE, but Josh saw the whole thing originally thinking it was a big dog.
Anyway we got back to camp and slowly packed things up and then off we went down the trail back to the car. I enjoy hiking fast down easy, gradual trail so I was flying ahead of the rest of the group, but for some weird reason, my legs weren‘t as sore as they normally are after a long hike.
We made it back to the car at 7:20 and headed to Salida for some post 14er Mexican Margs and food. YUM, YUM!! Here are some more pics from the 2 days!
Back at camp