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 Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
 Post Date:  09/10/2009
 Date Climbed:   09/01/2009
 Posted By:  denvermikey

 Sangre De Cristo disappointment?   

Ever since I heard earlier this summer that the upper part of the South Colony Lakes road would be closed, I was planning on climbing Crestone Peak, Needle, and Humboldt. After scheduling and rescheduling 3 times, my buddy and I finally decided that the very beginning of September would work out for both of our schedules. We drove down Monday night after work to the Westcliffe Inn for our first nights‘ slumber, perfect & inexpensive place to stay btw. After waking early enough to be at the trailhead by sunrise, we began our long bumpy drive up the 4wd trail in the pre-dawn darkness. Arriving at the trailhead right at 6:00, it took only about 10 minutes for us to get our gear together and begin our trek up toward South Colony Lake. The plan was to start with the longer, more distant Crestone Peak then hopefully ascend the Needle on the way back (no traverse) leaving the more gentle Humboldt for the following day. As we started up through the wooded area, looking back, the sun was just starting to appear over the horizon:
After ‘hanging a left‘ at the marked turn-off for the Crestone Needle standard route, I took my first pic of the soon-to-be climbed Needle. This may be one of my favorite 14er shots:
Shortly after that shot, we got a good view of what was to come as we hiked up Broken Hand Pass:
As we worked our way up Broken Hand Pass, I kept thinking that this will not be too fun on the way down with all of the loose dirt & rock. Looking back, I took a shot of this spire:
We arrived at the top of Broken Hand Pass at 8:00 where we were able to survey our descent down to Cottonwood Lake, shown here as the sun is just beginning to wake up the valley:
The downhill part of it was a bit frustrating dropping almost 800 feet that we had just worked to gain. We worked down the easy to follow trail toward Crestone Peak, which didn‘t really expose itself right away. Heading due north, we began our approach to the mountain, spying the obvious and appropriately named red gully:
We began our climb in earnest, really enjoying the beginning of our class 3 adventure:
After about 25 minutes of scrambling and ascending the red gully, we looked back to see what we had accomplished so far:
And, of course, what was yet to come:
The gully was narrowing a bit toward the top, but stayed pretty solid to the ridge. The trickiest part of the Peak, is the next 100-150 or so feet of elevation gain, once you turn left at the top of the gully. The rock ledges are solid, but have some serious exposure. I would have loved to snap a photo or two, but both my hands were a bit busy . Hopping over the crevasse to the summit, we were very excited to complete this part of the days‘ mission at 10:40. Thinking back, we realized that it took us about 1 1/2 hours to climb up the gully to the summit. Boy, that is one long gully! Here is our obligatory summit shot:
Some great shots around the area - notice some of the haze from the L.A fires:
We spent a good 45 minutes on the summit (all to ourselves), eating lunch, enjoying the views, putting moleskin on our feet in preparation for the long descent. Reluctantly, we packed up and started our down-climb in the very long gully.
Where is the escalator???
After what seemed like an eternity of doing the butt-scootin shuffle down the gully, we finally made it back down to horizontal ground. Took a bit of a break at Cottonwood Lake:
Let me tell ya, after climbing Broken Hand Pass earlier in the day, then 1.5 hours of tough gully work climbing Crestone Peak, the thought of re-climbing the steep BH Pass was not settling well with us. But, it was a necessary evil of this route. When we got to the top of BH Pass (for the 2nd time today!), my partner, Steve, simply stated - ‘there is no way I am climbing Crestone Needle today!‘ It took me about .056 seconds for my mind to tell my head to nod in agreement. The Peak took a bit more out of us than we had anticipated, and I wanted to make sure we were both in top condition to climb the fabled Needle. That is just fine, I thought to myself. I had planned two days of climbing and had considered Humboldt a bonus if we could tag that one along the way. We would just come back tomorrow, a bit fresher, and summit Crestone Needle then. Legs a bit weary, we started down BH Pass, which after slipping a couple of times, I wanted to proclaim it Broken Ass Pass . We got back to the truck at 3:30, a long but somewhat fruitful day which gave us a good preview of what to expect tomorrow. We drove about 40-45 minutes to the upper road closure area where we parked and took a siesta until they opened up for the 5:30 passing. Luckily, they decided to break for the day a bit early, so we passed through at 5:00. After a very satisfying dinner at a very good pizza place in Silver Cliff right off the hwy (can‘t remember the name ), we settled in for the evening while watching the Rockies game. As we were planning out the next day, we realized that the road closure may be completely screwing us over for our next day plans. Steve needed to be back in Denver by 6, which meant if we did not make the 12:30 road opening, we would be stuck for another 3 hours until the 3:30 passing - no way to make it home in time. Trying to see how early we would need to start out the next day, we decided that it may not be worth it. Who knows what could happen to slow us down or delay our desperate attempt to be at the 12:30 opening. In hindsight, maybe we should have attempted the easier Humboldt, but I think I already reserved that one for a hike-in & camp with the wife next year. I was quite frustrated, having my schedule and hike(s) dictated and moved around by a stupid road closure . I really wanted to climb the Needle and was sad to leave the area without that. The whole drive back up to home, I kept telling myself...this season is not over yet.....

I pretty much convinced myself that I will be going back down there to climb the Needle within the next couple of weeks. I will end this report by simply stating......TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Part 2?     2009-09-11 10:43:03
Nice job, Mike! I have it on good authority that part 2 is already complete...
The season is not over, just changing! You should at least work on freeing up Oct. 10 for the Fall Gathering.
See ya Monday!

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