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 Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
"Obstruction Pk"  -  13,799 feet
 Post Date:  01/19/2010
 Date Climbed:   01/17/2010
 Posted By:  SarahT

 Kit Carson with an Obstruction Peak appetizer   

Kit Carson Mountain & "Obstruction Peak"
From Spanish Creek TH
14.1mi, 7960 ft (8.5mi, 3560 ft backpacking; 5.6mi, 4400 ft climbing)


After two consecutive three day winter backpacking trips and last weekend's extraordinary weather, success, and effort and I was actually looking forward to some easier and more mellow day trips dictated by the certain return of winter's ferocity. Instead the miraculous forecast continued and yet another backpacking trip, this time for a shot at Kit Carson, developed.


Saturday

The Spanish Creek Trail crosses private property and is no longer marked as a public trail. We find the inconspicuous start, take advantage of the ample parking across the road, and set off for the Hua Temple in respectful silence. A poor, infrequently used, and at times overgrown trail with a full mile of deadfall to overcome promises to keep this approach unpopular. Ken has sadistically directed us here advertising it as our best shot at Kit Carson in winter.

The trail is as advertised: rough, not entirely obvious in places, overgrown, and steep. The shallow snowpack obscures it further but we are able to stay more or less on course with just a few minor deviations. There's evidence of heavy mountain lion activity and we pass by two scenes similar to others I've observed on the west side of the Sangres.

After several hours the dreaded deadfall appears and it extends as far as the eye can see. Fortunately our first views of the Kit Carson massif help keep our minds distracted from the tedious task at hand. The snow is shallow and we're able to follow the single rock cairns sitting atop the stacks of old, downed timber. Often we seek out and walk the long balance beams instead of trying to climb over them and through the snow. Its no easy task with heavy packs and there appears to be no end in sight.


Deadfall along Spanish Creek

After a full mile of torture we emerge victorious and in return deepening snow forces us into snowshoes. The good old Sangre de Cristo sugar isn't impressively deep but its quite the energy drain. We rotate leads frequently and after several rounds break treeline at 11,800 feet. Camp is erected in an open area directly under our intended route up the south side Kit Carson.


Camp below Kit Carson


The Prow and Kit Carson's south face

Mid afternoon we continue up the Spanish Creek drainage, Dwight and Kevin obliging Dominic & I with a repeat of "Obstruction Peak". We're captivated by the beauty of this place. Kit Carson, Columbia Point, Crestone Peak, and Crestone Needle are the stars while Humboldt, Marble Mountain, Colony Baldy, and the Adams group serve as top notch supporting actors.


Columbia Point as seen during the ascent of "Obstruction Peak"


Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak from "Obstrucution Peak"


Humbolt Peak, Marble Mountain & the Bear's Playground


Adams Group from "Obsruction Peak"

On the summit we are treated to one of those rare mountain top sunsets, on this occasion pleasantly enhanced by the fact that camp and a warm meal are nearby.


Sunset from "Obstruction Peak", Columbia Point & Kit Carson on the right

We make quick work of the descent and go about the evening routine. Its an eventful night as far as winter camping goes. Kevin's brought his Pocket Rocket but the nearly empty fuel canister is good for nothing. A short time later Dwight's liquid fuel stove goes on the blitz and we're down to one stove for all of us. Luckily its on the heavy duty side. Dinners cooked and snow melted, we go to bed only for disaster to strike. Dwight's warm Gatorade bottle comes open in his sleeping bag and renders it useless. Dwight's pants are soaked too. He bundles up and tries to tough it out. Sometime in the wee hours he borrows our stove. Thankfully the night is mild and morning finds him relatively unscathed despite the suffering.


Sunday

We're hiking steeply up Kit Carson's south slopes by 7:15am and ditch the snowshoes after only a few minutes. A mess of scree and talus prompts us to don helmets as we pick our way up the loose but generally easy terrain. The top of Kit Carson and The Prow are bathed in alpenglow and the sky over the the San Luis Valley glows a bright pink.


San Luis Valley from Kit Carson's south slopes


Alpenglow on the top of Kit Carson as we climb the south slopes

Soon we find ourselves engulfed by Kit Carson's sweeping south face, The Prow to our left and the south couloir to our right. Time to discuss our plan of attack. The south couloir that leads to the Kit Carson – Columbia Point saddle is one option and given current conditions the moderate snow climb seems like it may be a viable (but potentially exhausting) route. We're more interested in exploring the famous Crestone conglomerate along the west side of the couloir. We've heard that its sometimes climbable and that at least the bottom portion of the couloir might be avoidable.

The rock is secure and the scrambling delightful. There's isn't enough snow to complicate matters too much and we gain elevation quickly.


Conglomerate scrambling west of the south couloir

Snow cover eventually increases but we're thrilled to find that we're comfortable continuing up on rock and snow alongside the couloir. As we climb higher we realize we can avoid getting into the couloir altogether!

We begin angling northwest up moderate rocky snowfields and stop to put on crampons.... ahhh, that's better!


Climbing a snowfield high on the south face

Dwight leads us around a corner and up a stiff, snowy rock step that feels a little insecure but avoids some heavy wallowing. Dominic offers Kevin and I a quick handline for peace of mind. From here the route to the top is obvious and we climb a mix of easy snow and rock to the summit ridge.


Crestone Peak looks on as Dominic and Kevin climb Kit Carson's south face

The summit is ours at 10:30. Nobody has signed the register since October. Unfortunately despite the bluebird forecast its cloudy and threatening to snow.

Challenger Point looks tantalizingly close, the day is young, and so despite the horror stories we can't resist checking out Kit Carson Avenue. We carefully climb down a broad gully and intersect the Avenue.


Descending the gully toward Kit Carson Avenue

It looks encouraging and Kevin confidently leads the way toward Challenger Point. Soon we crest a snow drift and are taken aback. The Avenue is filled in and replaced by steep, extremely runout snow slopes. Dominic builds an anchor and belays Dwight out for a rope's length. He traverses to the next drift and evaluates the situation. At least one more belayed pitch is required, maybe more. The snow is good by winter standard but not supportive enough to trust our lives to by soloing across unroped. Quick math tells us that pitching it out and summitting Challenger Point may set us up for an epic descent in the dark. No thanks.


Kit Carson Avenue

We tip our hats and retrace our steps down Kit Carson's south face.


Kit Carson's sweeping south face

It begins snowing lightly and then picks up while we're packing up camp. I'm glad I'm not on the Avenue right now.

The pack out is painful and the deadfall even more obnoxious in our knackered state but we emerge back at the trailhead shortly after sunset. Add another one to the growing list of memorable winter trips with good friends in the Sangre de Cristos.


Heading home


More pictures

 


  • Comments or Questions
Johnson


Again!     2011-06-02 08:57:39
Another nice report with good info and excellent pictures. Nice Job to you and your team.


BillMiddlebrook


Again     2010-01-19 08:00:42
Super!


KeithK


Impressive?     2010-01-19 08:28:34
Umm, probably more than impressive. Wow.
I‘m gearing up for some big winter adventures of my own; are you ready for Bierstadt yet???


Chicago Transplant


Brings back memories!     2010-01-19 09:00:43
Thanks for sharing Sarah! This one brings back memories from when Jamie I did it a few Januarys ago. Unfortunately my camera died on that trip and all I got was one pic of the prow to remember it by. Congrats!


JoeyJ


Cut/Paste WOW again!     2010-01-19 09:08:30
Top notch report as usual! Kit, another peak I‘m very fond of and love revisiting! (BTW your mentioning you got off track on this peak too way back when made me feel like a little less of a dork. Although I reserve the right to maintain a small percentage of personal dorkdom) Yikes- the Gatorade meets sleeping bag ordeal sounds horrendous. Really fun to see your adventures and 14ers from the winter wonderland perspective


benners


Sweet     2010-11-30 10:28:49
You guys seem to be getting out and knocking off impressive winter summits every weekend, congrads on getting a couple more! Nice work with the documentation too. I have to say conditions look amazing down there in terms of nabbing winter summits, but holy crap it's downright depressing looking at that landscape through my skier's eyes...


Kevin Baker


Spanish Creek not for skiers     2010-01-19 09:54:03
We were commenting on how crappy this approach would be with skins. Spanish Creek is definetely no place to be using skins unless the snow was deep and consolidated enough to swallow up the endless deadfall. We were lucky enough to not need snowshoes across the mile of deadfall or it would have been torturous!


SenadR


Awesome!     2011-01-05 10:27:04
Great deal!


Kiefer


Whoa!     2010-01-19 11:51:54
Sarah, you and Dominic have been on a ferocious roll this winter. This is a killer, A+ trip report.
That South Face looks delicious. And great call in forgoing Challenger for another day. Maybe the Avenue would be better protecting under March‘s snow?
Great pictures. Did you have your good camera on this trip?
Thanks for posting this.


dsunwall


Avenue     2010-01-19 15:09:43
One comforting thought while on the avenue was knowing there is a flat spot underneath and not a rock slab, this lessened the possibility of a slide I would think. The view downslope however is not very comforting. The snow was good enough to make good time across if you are the type that doesn‘t need protection.

One quart of water goes a long way inside a cold tent, I don‘t think 1 ounce evaporated and I didn‘t have much of anything to soak it up. I did take my Mistrail pants of and put on my wind pants, my termals did eventually dry. I ate what candy I had and a few spare Cliff shots, that seemed to help the most in staying warm. Hand warmers in my gloves and boots, a hot cup of soup around 3am, I managed a couple hours of sleep, waking up shivering badly though.


Yog


Beautiful     2010-01-19 15:59:31
Another fantastic trip report and photos, thanks for putting this up Sarah!


lordhelmut


nice shot     2010-01-22 13:36:32
of the Adams group and the Northern Sangres. I remember a similar sight, except I was standing on Adams looking where you would be. Impressive outing in an impressive range.


USAKeller


Awesome photos!     2010-01-25 10:09:41
And another great TR - congrats on more winter ascents!


lodidodi


yeah!     2010-01-29 21:44:51
WOW, great photos and report



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