| Kit Carson - 3rd Try - Finally!
This trip report is a composite of three attempts over three years to summit Kit Carson and Challenger Point. If you wish to simply read about the successful (finally!) summit trip this year, simply skip down to 2010. Some of the best pictures were from 2008 a major reason I've made this a "three-year" composite trip report.
In 2008, having summitted my first 14er only the day before, I attempted Challenger / Kit Carson as an overnight trip on July 20 & 21st. I had no idea what I was getting into. But, although this would be the first of two failed attempts, the scenery, or more accurately, God's handiwork, was simply amazing. I never get sick of these photos (they're slightly out of order).
After the first switchbacks, Challenger soon comes into view.
Next morning: Wow! Challenger looks pretty steep! (the Challenger route parallels the snow filled gulley in the right side of the photo).
Yep, it is. This is as far as I got in 2008. The grass was slick and I kept sliding down. (sigh) ..... maybe another year .......
Just some really great scenery: The weather on this trip was absolutely perfect and made it easy to seem like a professional photographer:
Mighty Kit Carson:
Upper Willow Lake:
This is probably my favorite all time photo that I've ever taken:
Falls and flowers in the upper valley:
Falls just below the lake:
Falls along the trail:
Farther below is the park. Oh how I love the park!
On July 21st I attempted again. This time as a single day - day trip, departing the trailhead at about 1:30 am in the morning. In 2008 I had consolation of great weather, camping overnight, and chalking up the failure to summit on making good decisions by turning back and gaining experience. This time in 2009 however, disgust in the only word that comes to mind in the attempt.
It was ill fated from the beginning as 1) I did not allow enough time for the day hike as I needed to meet up with a climbing partner that evening to travel to the San Juans for a climb the next day, 2) Weather - it started to rain on Challenger around 7 or 8 am a little after the same spot I turned around at the year before, 3) I was off course. I gravitated to a 6 ft high white stake half way up near the snow filled gulley where I crossed two gulleys and the climbing seemed harder than it should have been (this would be a factor since my climbing skills did not much exceed the standard route I was supposed to be on). Adding the three things together, I headed down, with a headache, in disgust. The rain started to let up after, I could have tried to correct my route, stretched the time, etc. Coulda, woulda, shoulda was the theme on the way down.
Oh well, I did have some excitement with a mountain lion encounter in the early morning. See this post / thread: EYES IN THE NIGHT!
Just a couple pics from this attempt:
Hmmm, looks just as steep as last year:
Somethings wrong here, I know it's steep, but this is crazy!!!
July 27th & 28, 2010: Finally, this was the year to summit! I would not see a soul all day above Willow Lake and had both mountains to myself until my descent back down to the lake several hours later.
My long awaited summit would pale however later regarding what I would learn about 5 days later - only one valley over on Crestone Needle, a married couple from Texas had tragically fallen to their deaths on either the same day or the day before. TRAGEDY
Further below in the pics, there are a few shots of Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak. As a side note, not having any knowledge of this, I had strongly considered attempting Crestone Peak on Friday. I was in nearby Salida the next day on Thursday and hemmed and hawed about going back over that way to the Crestones on Friday, but decided that Thurs. afternoon not to go after the calm I felt after a prayer for direction - immediately after praying getting back to my wife came to mind along with a few scripture verses that suggested not going. Friday as many know, there a super-intense storm there that washed out trails, spilled debris into and discoloring the lake, a reported 6 inches of rain in an hour, car sized boulders coming down the gulleys, lightening, etc. Thank God I listened to him!!!
Anyway, here some photos from the summits !!!! This really meant a lot to me after waiting two years:
Challenger Point viewed from the town of Crestone: The excitement builds
Summit morning: Challenger still looks very steep! Can I do it? or will it be another year of woulda, shoulda, coulda?
On the summit ridge - I've made it through the tough part! Kit Carson (left) and Challenger (right) are now there for the taking.
On Challenger's summit: I've never noticed any pictures before of the park below (the green field) - it looks so, like, way down there. Cool!
Kit Carson Avenue - a cool ledge that wraps around two sides to grant access to the final gulley up to the summit. Been waiting for this! Fun!
The final obstacle: a class 3 gulley scramble to the top. It's easy class 3 though - easier than Challenger and lots of fun.
On Kit Carson's summit:
The Dunes National park to the southwest:
Willow Lake below. Clouds are moving in now, can't stay on top too much longer. I would be able to get a few good shots of the Crestones on the way down before the weather moved in for good though:
Crestone Peak and Cresone Needle behind:
Parting shot of Challenger: Maybe I'll come back some time....
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):