| A Fabulous Fall day on a Kit & a Kat!
Kit Carson/Columbia Point ("Kat Carson")
Route: East Ridge from South Colony Lakes upper 4WD TH (Non-Standard)
Climb date: Sunday, September 27, 2009
Start Time: 6:06am
End Time: 8:15pm
Total Time: 14 hours (total hiking/climbing time)
Trip Length: 9.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,600 feet
For me, Kit Carson was unfinished business. There were several of us that attempted Kit on May 31st in a dual-summit pursuit with Challenger Point. However, a snow-filled "Kit Carson Avenue" prevented us from having enough time before a storm blew in that day to reach the summit of Kit. So, I walk away with no check-mark for Kit.
This trip began on Saturday, September 26th. There were six of us that met up in Westcliffe, CO to do this climb together. We drove up the nicely improved, South Colony Lake road to the newly constructed parking lot. This new area is going to be next years trail head/starting point. The gate is already in where the forest service will be closing the road. We camped here overnight and then the next morning, carpooled up the tough section of the 4WD road. This last part is still ugly & extremely slow going. It took close to 45 minutes to drive about 2 ½ miles.
Sorry for the out-of-focus shot. My camera didn't focus in the dark…from L to R: Britt (globreal), Tom, Gary (unclegar), Jodi (nebnative), Steve (sgladbach), Linda...and Cooper the dog. (6:06am start hiking time.)
It was an unseasonably warm this fall day. We took the "road-less-traveled" on our travels to Kit & Kat. This photo is just after first-light in the shrubby area above treeline near the lakes.
The sunrise was out in full force, lighting up the splendor of the Crestone Needle towering majestically above the southern most lake. This South Colony Lakes area is one of my favorite places in Colorado. It's so serene down in this valley, yet totally surrounded by amazing & dangerous peaks & cliffs.
The sunrise was glistening over the northern most lake.
Steve brought his dog-Cooper. And believe me, Cooper is every bit of the climbing machine that his Daddy is. I think both of these Gladbachs have mountain goat in their genes!
Heading straight up the gully above the north lake.
A look back down with the northern most of the South Colony Lakes below. This gulley is scree-filled however, much of it can be avoided by moving to the left or right of the center. I didn't think climbing it was so bad.
Tom is happy (as we all were) to get on top of that long gulley. It is a welcomed sight to see that vast, open-area of the Bears Playground. Semi-level hiking ahead!
We are off on a big half-moon arch where we will curve to the left across the "playground."
This photos shows the ominous "Kitty Kat Carson," reanamed Columbia Point. This eastern most peak of the Kit Carson Mountain looks so daunting from down here! It really doesn't look Class 2 at all…more like Class 4! We aim for the saddle which you can just see on the far right of the photo.
Gary reaches the top of the saddle with a window to the Willow Lake valley.
Hiking on up to Columbia Point…Jodi takes the lead, followed by Gary & Steve.
Here we are on the 13,980 ft. summit of Columbia Point. You can see the plaque on the rock in the foreground. It took us 5 hours to make it this far. We arrived here just before 11am. (This photo was actually taken on our return trip, as people were in a hurry to keep moving during our ascent. This was Tom & Linda's destination. They headed back home from here which explains why they are not in our later photo.)
Here is the summit plaque commemorating 7 astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia accident. It is still up there. (Some people have commented they couldn't find it.) Now for my editorial comment: It really saddens me that people can't keep their prejudices and politics to themselves in regards to something like this. This plaque has nothing to do with former President Bush or his policies. It is just a memorial to honor those brave souls who passed away in a horrible tragedy. Why deface it?
"Let the games begin!" Steve & Jodi start the steep descent down the northwest face of Columbia.
The previous week had four days of rain and snow, followed by 2 days of sun. This picture doesn't' show it however, the snow (in places) was above knee deep in this gulley. Plus, there was some verglas in spots as well as wet rock with the water run-off. So we opted to play it safe and use ropes. Thanks to Steve for providing the pro!
This is Gary making the crux move and shows why we opted for ropes. My foot actually slid off of a snowy rock at one point here, and boy was I glad to have the rope!
It looks like Jodi enjoyed her first belayed adventure! Way to go Jodi, you did awesome today!
This photo is looking backup at Columbia once on Kit Carson proper. The section we used rope on is mostly out-of-frame, at the bottom-center of the photo. But the red arrow shows where we started.
This is Jodi climbing up the final gulley toward Kit, with the Crestones in the background.
Gary, victoriously on the 14,165 ft. summit of Kit Carson!
Jodi also reaching the summit with Westcliffe in the valley below.
The four of us reached the Kit Carson summit 2 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Columbia Point (1:20pm.) On a map, Columbia Point is only .2 mile from Kit Carson. Many of the posts here on 14ers say that an average of 1 mile per hour is a good rate of travel. What was this? Less than .1mph! However, with all the up and down climbing and having to set up ropes, that ate up a lot of time. But worth it!!! What a day…blue skies, no wind and a new 14er summit! Yoohoo!
Looking back at Columbia Point below us (left side) with Humboldt beyond (upper left) and the mighty Crestones on the right side.
This is a wide panoramic shot showing the same peaks but also the Blanca massif and the San Luis valley to the south and west.
As we were heading back up the Columbia north face gulley, one last shot of where we had just been. You can see the snow highlighting the "Kit Carson Avenue" on the far left. When I was on the avenue in May, there was no ledge. It was totally snowed in as one solid snow slope.
Steve leading the way with Jodi following as they are retaking the crux of the day. Did I say, I like climbing with Steve? He's a great lead.
Does Steve even need ropes here? Not this half-man, half-mountain goat!
Once we reclaimed Columbia Point, we are really glad there's no more downhill to speak of as we head back home. And we are still a long way from home!
This was a looong day. Not because of mileage…it's only about 9 miles round-trip. But because of what it took to do it. Our day was 14 hours out in the mountains! We didn't get back to the car until 8:15pm. This was about an hour and a half after dark. This ended up being the longest day I've had on a climb. Starting out by headlamp, and ending by head lamp was a new one for me. But I loved it! The fact that we had a picture perfect weather day, made it extremely enjoyable. Plus, having great climbing partners cinched it up. One more for the memory book.
Now, I don't want to mislead some who may be reading this report for future beta. This route can be done in a shorter time. Some of us were not the fastest climbers, and one person twisted an ankle which slowed things down…not to mention the roped climbing. So, read other reports, to compare times, summer conditions on totally dry rock, etc., as I know another team that did this route in 9 hours back in July.
A parting shot…
As we crossed the Bears Playground and were at the top of the gulley heading back into the South Colony Lake area, the last remaining sunlight was hitting the west face of the Crestone Needle. Complete with a nice moon above. Fall in the mountains…what a great place to be on a nice weather fall day!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):