| Postcards from the Needle
Left car, 1.6 miles from trailhead: 5:05 AM
Summit Time: 9:00-9:30
Back to Car: 1:30 PM
With the exception of the 4x4 road in, my friend Laura and I had a fantastic day on the Needle. The drive in was awful. Last year I had driven my CRV to the top without bottoming out, surprised how easy it was. This year I went way too far, finally stalled out on a steep section, had to back down in the darkness of midnight, and scared the crap out of both of us. The road is way worse than it was a year ago.
Anyway, the hike was one of those "by the book" days, when everything seems to go according to script, and what an amazing mountain. Last year Laura and I attempted the traverse, summited the Peak, but had to turn back under the Black Gendarme when the couloir was filled with ice. This year we were going to summit the Needle, and consider down climbing to the point we turned back to complete the traverse.
First view of the day:
Early on, a layer of clouds came up the basin, and the rising sun tried to look in just under the clouds, but it created a look more like the basin was on fire:
The clouds turned into a thick fog, and for a while we were unable to see the Needle at all. Laura on Broken Hand Pass
and the familiar shape of the Needle behind the fog:
and looking down the basin at the layers of clouds
Between Broken Hand Pass and the base of the Needle there was a cool rock formation that framed the Needle itself:
Both gullies are in good shape, with only a couple snow spots in the East side. There are always foot holds and hand holds, and only limited scree. I'm not a rock climber, and this is the kind of scrambling I really love. Climbing shots:
Laura in the East Gully:
Near the top of the West Gully:
On the walkway to the summit:
and on the summit:
We looked down the class 4 section of the traverse, and agreed that we would love to upclimb it, but weren't feeling it to downclimb without a rope.
We expected the downclimb passing from gully to gully to be a test, but it really went pretty smooth. Action shots:
Toward the bottom of Broken Hand Pass, we saw a couple of what I think were Big Horn Sheep- they did not look like the many mountain goats we've seen on the mountains. The first two ran past and stood just above us, maybe 10 yards away:
Then when we got to the main trail at South Colony Lake, there were two hanging out on the big rock:
They were quickly joined by several friends. We were so close, and I was a little nervous they would go all Big Horned Sheep Gangsta on us, because they were visibly nervous around us, but they just took off.
The columbines were all over the place, and even though I'm not really a big flower person, sometimes you still have to stop and take notice.
This completes the Crestone group for me, but there is no doubt I will return here many times. The views are incredible, the climbing is perfect for me, and I still need to complete that traverse!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):