| Bittersweet Success
After a failed attempt at climbing both Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle in one day the previous week, I was determined to get back to the Sangres to summit the fabled Needle, I am just stubborn that way . I put a 'call' out on the climbing connection forum to see if anyone was interested or already planning on climbing on the same day - 09/09/09. I thought it would be a neat date to climb one of the favorite peaks in Colorado, that and it was my day off.... After hearing from a few people here and there that they were planning on maybe trying the Needle that day, I decided to drive on down there and car camp at the trailhead. I really wanted to have some company on this climb, as it would be my most technical yet. As I 4-wheeled up toward the upper trailhead, I passed a few cars parked along the way. Then when I arrived at the trailhead, I noticed about 8 vehicles parked around the area. My spirits were bolstered as I thought that the more people there, the better chance I had of meeting up with someone heading up to the Needle. I crawled into the back of my 4Runner for my night's slumber, with my optimistic alarm set for 5:00. In the chilly 34 degree morning, I lumbered around my truck trying to get myself ready for the day's attempt, my only light being the dome light in the ceiling of my truck. As I was getting ready, I noticed a couple that was arriving to the trailhead via ATV - hey, maybe they would be trying the Needle? Anyway, at 5:55, with headlamp on, I began my quest. At about 6:15, I took this shot of the sun peaking up in the east:
Continuing along the trail up toward Broken Hand Pass, the sun was finally starting to crest over the horizon:
Good shot of the goal of the day:
Slowly gaining altitude, I was starting to wonder if this may end up being a solo attempt after all. Ran across a family on the trail, but they were on the way down already:
One of the younger members of the family was a little spooked, so he(she?) started to book it down toward the lake, boy I wish I could go that fast down the trail :
Getting into the steeper part of Broken hand Pass, I was taking a short break when a couple approached. "Are you Mikey?" asked the woman. Yep! It was mtgirl! I had pm'd her some in the previous days trying to coordiante our climbs. Last I heard was that she was either going to try Wednesday or Thursday, so it was a nice surprise to meet up with them on Wednesday. We continued along with our same agendas. Vicki had commented that 3 sets of eyes were better for route finding than 2, so we were all in agreement that this was a good grouping. We worked our way down from the ridge on BHP (not nearly as evil as the down climb toward Crestone Peak!), getting over a few of the early-on scrambles before the first gully. After little deliberation, we decided that we were at the base of the east gully, we began our ascent at 8:00. Very good, solid rock with plenty of foot and hand holds all the way up the gully made this a fun challenge. Reaching the 'cross-over' point, we carefully made the tricky move over toward the west gully, taking it slow over the rib:
Several more good climbing shots:
I was beginning to find out why Crestone Needle is voted (on 14ers.com) as people's 2nd favorite 14er behind Long's. What I am wondering, is since the mountains only get voted on if they have been climbed, and Long's has been climbed much more than the Needle, if the stats are a bit skewed? I can't imagine people who have climbed both, would rank Long's ahead of Needle. Just my opinion for what its worth (not much ). Eagerly climbing to reach the top, we finally did summit at exactly 9:09 on 09/09/09! Wow, what an accomplishment!
Okay, we actually summited at about 8:55, but it was pretty close. We took our summit shots, refueld a bit, enjoyed the views, but did not linger. Here is a shot of the Great Sand Dunes:
Humboldt (next year?)
Previously climbed (week prior) Crestone Peak:
We were trying to make the 12:30 opening of the road. If we would have even missed it by 10 minutes, it would have been 3 hours before we could pass again. Damn that made me mad . I just climbed (yes climbed - not hiked, I now know the difference!) one the the most difficult peaks, with wonderful weather, grouped up with very nice people, and we only spent about 7 minutes on the summit because of some dumb road work. Anyway, I started to work on the descent of my newly favorited peak:
The infamous crab-walk descent:
Very cool rock formation:
My travel time to the closure point on the road was going to be quite a bit longer than Vicki & Kerry's. They were the couple on the ATV which could get to the closure in 15 min or so, takes about 40 in my truck. I started to get a little spacing between us on the descent, but a few wrong turns here and there pretty much had us arriving at the top of Broken hand Pass at about the same time. We started the steep decline toward South Colony Lake and I heard Vicki say that she thinks it should be named Broken Ass Pass. I had to laugh because I said the exact same thing the week before when coming down from Crestone Peak. It was shortly after that, she slipped and used (and slightly injured ) her hands to brace herself from the hard ground. Ok, maybe it is appropriately named .
I want to get a bit off track here to thank someone. This is someone whom I have never met, but I (and I think most of us) have benefitted many times from thier hard work and dedicatioin to these wonderful trails. This person must have had a lifetime of work because I hear their name mentioned almost everytime I am on the trails. When ever you are in need of any guidance or wondering where to turn on the trail, there they are, these wonderful little markers named after someone named Karen:
Sorry, it's late .
Not caring how much my toes and knees were hurting, I continued on a quick pace back to my truck. Along the way, I met up with the family I ran across earlier in the morning. Ummmm...I didn't know they camped...?:
I made it back to my truck at 11:35, it had been raining for the last 30 minutes, but it was just enough to cool me down some. Took one last look back at my newest love, now hiding a bit in the clouds:
Bouncing down the 4wd trail, I did make it to the opening in time so I did not have to wait until 3:30. Still frustrated me having to cut my time short and be in a hurry, but I left the area very satisfied. What a climb. I may even try that one again this season!!! Anyone????
-Vicki (mtgirl) & Kerry, I truly enjoyed your company and had great time climbing that wonderful peak with you. Hopefully we can meet up again sometime in the future for another fun adventure.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):