| Lindsey & Crestone Needle - Pt. 2
After completing Lindsey the day before, I was somewhat leary about saving the tougher peak for the second day. Nevertheless, after a good night's sleep, the alarm went off at 4:30am and Mike, Tom and I packed up our gear and loaded up the car. By 5:30am we were down the road headed toward Crestone Needle enjoying a beautiful sunrise.
Despite staying near Westcliffe, the trip to the South Colony Lakes trailhead still took slightly over an hour as it was slow-go up the rough road. We started hiking at 7:00am to our first objective lower South Colony lake. The trail through the woods was a gentle ascent that provided a good warm up for what was to come.
Just before the lake we hit the Needle / Humboldt junction where we observed our best view of the intimidating slopes of Crestone Needle.
The next goal was to ascend the steep pitch toward Broken Hand Pass. This section provided the first rocks and talus of the route. We made relatively good progress as it was not terribly difficult to rock hop due to a decent trail.
The trickiest part of the section was the tight gully about 2/3 the way up to the pass. This area requires some scrambling and moderate class 2+ moves but is really not as bad as it appears. There is some loose rock in the gully and above. At the time of our hike the route was being improved by CFI. they were hard at work at the time.
We hit the top of broken hand pass at about 9:30, grabbed a quick snack and proceeded northwest toward the base of the Needle‘s upper gullies.
This section was pretty defined and for the most part only provided a moderate ascent. We passed one section of a small down climb on steep rock where we were forced to make some advanced moves. But again, they did not exceed class 2.
Following this downward pitch, we hit the bottom of the upper gullies and started the scramble up the rocks.
Approximately 15 minutes into the ascent, the fog rolled in and we started to second guess continuing on. Despite being engulfed in clouds, there did not appear to be any threat to our trek, so we pressed upward.
The route up the east gully was difficult but also proved to be enjoyable class 3 rock that was pretty stable. It was similar to climbing a ladder.
Mike and Tom progressed a lot quicker up the gully as I was forced to stop for a group of descending climbers in the narrowest and steepest section. I managed to find the crossover point to the west gully with some well marked carins and markers.
Tom and Mike however missed this point and continued the climb up the east gully. Route finding was fairly straight forward in either gully as we all topped out on a foggy summit at approximately 11am.
With not much to see, except Humboldt, we grabbed a snack, snapped some quick pictures and proceeded back down.
For my money, heading down a class 3 pitch (forwards) is considerably more difficult than up. The slope definately is more pronounced.
There were several dicey sections where you had to in general question the route down the rocks. Slowly and cautiously the down climb took just as long as the up climb.
Again we were socked in by the clouds so we could only see approximately 100 yards at a time. In a way that took some of the edge off seeing how far you could potentially tumble down the rocks.
Once out of the gullies, we grabbed lunch on a perch high above Cottonwood Lake. We would later learn that this was likely the section where a solo hiker probably missed the trail and descended down the steep slopes from the Needle's upper gullies toward the lake where he was found deceased the next day. Since he was declared lost the day before, we probably passed over him on our hike.
After lunch, we continued down through Broken Hand Pass, through the rocks and back down to the South Colony Lake and eventually back to the trailhead. At this point the sun came back out for about an hour even back up on the summit. Go figure. Following the hike, we all agreed that this was the most challenging of the 20+ peaks we've previously climbed. It was a good feeling and an accomplishment we'll look back on as we continue to up the ante on the difficulty scale.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):