| Wrapping up some unfinished Crestone business
Objective: Crestone Needle
Partners: Eric (Lostsheep5), Kevin (Moonnugs), Jamie (Jamie), Julie (?), Ryan (Baumgara)
Distance: 6.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft
Trailhead (me only): 5:25am
The first time I climbed with 15-year-old climbing sensation Lostsheep5 was last year on Labor Day weekend during my first trip to the Sangres. I had put out a call for partners for the Crestone group and soon heard from Britt (Globreal) who would be bringing Eric (Lostsheep5) as well as Dustin. We had our plan; Mother Nature had hers. Guess who won.
After climbing the Peak, Britt and Dustin had to leave. But Eric and I stayed to attempt the Needle and Humboldt. The next day – despite cold, cloudy, windy, rainy weather – Eric and I dutifully arose about 4:00am and soon started to make our way up to Broken Hand Pass, hoping Mother Nature would be generous and relent. At the pass, we waited for a while in sleet conditions before deciding to put the Needle off until the next day and head over to Humboldt instead. Well, Mother Nature put up a fight, but we snagged Humboldt anyway. But to punish us for our thievery, she made the weather even worse the next day – so the Needle eluded us.
Fast forward to this past week: I decided it was time to get back down there so I put out another call for partners. Lo and behold, Eric responded again. He still needed the Needle in his quest to finish off the 14ers in just two years (Ah, to have summers off!). And I thought it would be fitting to finish up this Crestone business with him. Another climber (JerryB) answered the call as well, and along with Kevin (Moonnugs), Jamie, Julie, and Ryan, we set out to bag that baby.
BTW, not being a "Gurl" myself, I had completely lost track of the "Gurlz hike" thread until Rainier_Wolfcastle (my coworker) walked over to my desk Friday morning with a big grin on his face. Oh, geez! It's this weekend?! At South Colony Lakes?! That should add to the already beautiful scenery, but also make it a bit crowded up there. Well, it turned out that I never encountered these mythical Gurlz. I only heard tales of their rock-hopping prowess and pillow-fights in the tents. I guess I'll have to wait for the "Girls of 14ers.com" calendar (featuring Canyongoddess?). Sigh.
But a man's mind wanders. Anywho, we had some missed connections with JerryB so we ended up meeting him only on the way back down. The rest of us stood on the top of the Needle together – and under beautiful, sunny skies! Mission Accomplished!
For Eric and me, this was a "hit it and quit" mission. The others went on to attempt (and bag?) the Peak that day as well.
The skinny on the Needle: Both Eric and I felt that the Needle was easier and that the gully portions were shorter than expected (and desired). Personally, even though I had done Wetterhorn, Lindsey's NW ridge, and Kelso Ridge (et al), I had built up some expectations when I saw the 4 bars out of 6 (with no 6s!) on Bill's Exposure page and read the opinions of people who had done most if not all the 14ers. These expectations spurred feelings of apprehension as well as resolve. In the end, I felt that the Needle:
- was marginally more difficult than the Peak
- was beautifully solid rock
- really didn't feel very exposed (I felt Wetterhorn's exposure much more)
- had only a few moves that seemed very "crux-y."
As for route-finding, we did get a little off-route on the way down a couple of times, but quickly corrected ourselves without any problems. I think we referenced Bill's route description one time. Switching from the East to West gullies and back was definitely the trickiest part of the day in terms of route-finding (EDIT: and simply finding the West Gully from the top). And that also seemed to be where many of the trickiest moves were. But the nastiest, most treacherous part was still coming down the loose crap below Broken Hand Pass.
So maybe the lesson is that I shouldn't be such a scaredy-cat. But then fear can be a healthy emotion with relation to the mountains. So maybe the lesson is… "The Girls of 14ers.com." Sigh…
Eric, once again it was a pleasure, young man. It was also a pleasure to meet Kevin and Ryan. And, Jamie and Julie, I guess I did encounter some Gurlz after all. I hope you all were able to get the Peak. JerryB, please let us know if you were able to make it up; we noticed some rain on our drive back.
Here is the story told in pictures:
Eric waits as I use the camera as an excuse to catch my breath
Sunrise over Humboldt Peak
Starting out from Broken Hand Pass
Our group consisted of (l to r): Kevin, Ryan, Eric, Julie…
Just past the downclimb is the entrance to the East Gully
Starting up the East Gully – the water was not a problem – there were plenty of options here
Julie watches Eric on the first true awkward move – getting across the gully to exit onto the rock rib
Jamie executes the move flawlessly
Getting up the rock rib is steep, but not a big deal
Looking back at the beginning of the West Gully. At the very top left corner, you can see a climber coming up over the rock rib to enter the gully.
In the West Gully, the climbing gets progressively steeper as the gully narrows. Then, it busts open where it joins up with the upper East Gully. The summit is close. Dang it.
Looking back down the route up the West Gully
Eric's closing in on the 2 year plan (this is the 44th) – with some of his previous conquests over his head (the Blanca group)
I'm only at 35 – with my 26th behind me
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):