This was my first trip to the Crestone area with the objective of climbing Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point. On 8/21 we drove down to Willows Creek Trailhead and started the long approach hike for an overnight near Willows Lake and a climb of Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. The views and wildlife near Willows Lake were impressive
Willows Lake at Sunset
Willows Lake and Waterfall.
At 6:30 am Sunday, I left the campsite to summit Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. There were four people who had already left earlier. My climbing partner had another bout with altitude sickness (from sleeping at 11,500'). He went back to the trailhead and encouraged me to climb the two peaks without him. I jumped at that offer since we drove 4 hours to get there the previous night.
I have to say that Challenger Point is a strenuous climb (up and especially down) since it is largely scree mixed with some talus, rated 2+ but feels harder because of the scree. You are looking at 2000+' of gain in a little over a mile. The descent back down this slope is a knee buster and requires a lot of concentration so bring trekking poles if you have them. The views from the summit of Challenger are outstanding.
View of San Luis Valley from Challenger Point Summit Kit Carson's summit looks so tantalizingly close.
Kit Carson Peak Likewise the views of Challenger Point are impressive from Kit Carson's summit.
Challenger Point Unfortunately the standard route up Challenger Point offers no impressive views of the summit. In effect Challenger is but a waypoint to bagging its cooler neighbor, Kit Carson Peak.
After dropping down to the saddle between the two peaks then "Kit Carson Avenue" becomes obvious.
The beginning of Kit Carson Avenue This route winds around Kit Carson and narrows in spots but nothing too narrow.
Near the half way point of Kit Carson Avenue The avenue continues all the way to the class 3 gully on the east side.
The final gully to the summit of Kit Carson From Kit Carson's summit there are even better views of the Crestone Peak, Needle and even Great Sand Dunes National Park in the distance.
Views of Great Sand Dunes National Park
Kit Carson Peak is certainly one of my favorite climbs. The summit views from Kit Carson, the views of Kit Carson from many vantage points and the walk around "Kit Carson Avenue" are all superb. Additionally the hike to Willows Lake is also very scenic.
I would caution that summit day when bagging these two peaks can be a very long one. The slow ascent/descent up/down Challenger, the up and down between peaks and the hike back out to the trailhead all add up to some serious hours.