| Oklahoma City/Wichita 14er weekend
Date: August 20-21, 2010
Trailhead: Willow Creek
Friday the 20th: Pack in and camp at Willow Lake
Saturday the 21st: Summit KC and Challenger and Pack out
The Group: OKC - Chad, Michael, Kyle, Anthony, Casey, Clayton, Steven
Wichita - Neil, Jeff, Jay, Mark
A group of friends from Oklahoma City and Wichita started doing an annual weekend trip to climb 14ers a few years back. All of the trips in the past have been class 2 hikes or easier. This year we had the desire to try out some class 3 climbing so we selected Kit Carson and Challenger Point mainly because of the amazing view from the Willow Lake campground. In all, there was 11 guys that attended this year. Everyone was in good physical shape with only one problem... we're flatlanders.
The trip started for the OKC group around 2:30 pm on Thursday. We hit the road and headed to Alamosa where we had a room reserved at the luxurious Super 8. The drive was fairly uneventful except a little rain while driving through the "Safety Corridor" in New Mexico east of Raton. This so called "safety corridor" had a speed limit of 55, which I followed +- 5 mph, but I think I was the only one. We made it to the Super 8 in Alamosa around 11 pm Thursday night and slipped into bed shortly after.
Friday we woke up and apparently watched a little Fox news. Our goal was to leave Alamosa at 10am and head towards the trailhead in Crestone.
We made it to the trailhead a little around 12pm with no troubles except delays from the mandatory stop at Starbucks for god knows what. The road to the trailhead was easily conquered by my Chevy pickup. I never engaged 4 wheel drive but I was still a little amazed to see a Ford Focus at the top. Everyone shouldered their packs and starting hiking towards the campgrounds.
Since we all came from 1,000 feet the day before, we were feeling the altitude and kept a fairly slow pace taking plenty of breaks. We were in no hurry since we had all day to make it to the campsites and just wanted to take in the beauty of the mountains.
It took us approximately 4 hours to reach the campgrounds below Willow Lake. After searching all around the lake for a decent and legal campsite we backtracked back down below the lake and setup camp. After hanging out around the lake and cooking dinner we slipped into our tents and went to sleep.
Saturday I awoke at 5am like a kid on Christmas ready to conquer the trail but apparently my excitement did not rouse the group. The group was slow and sluggish to wake and insisted on having their cafe macchiato, or whatever it was we had to stop for at Starbucks, complimented by gourmet oatmeal with fresh fruit before hitting the trail. Knowing I would be a little slower than most of our group, I snapped open a Clif Bar and set out with two other group members around 6:30am.
The weather was great and the morning view on top of Willow Lake was incredible. By the time we reached the base of Challenger the rest of our group caught up and we were already sucking air.
Looking up Challenger
The views made the suffering a little more tolerable. Kit Carson is breath-taking in the morning.
We took the standard route up Challenger until the scree slog began. We then did a little class 3 climbing on the right side of the standard route which, in my opinion, was easier than the class 2 POS trail. We topped the notch and the rest of the trip up the ridge to the summit of Challenger was smooth sailing.
KC and Challenger
Our group stood on the summit of Challenger for a few minutes contemplating whether we had anything left in the tank to push on to Kit Carson. We were also an hour behind schedule.
I decided there was no way I was ever going to slog up Challenger again so the attempt on Kit Carson was now or never. I looked up at the sky which had a few harmless clouds and pushed on with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Half our group followed and the rest turned back happy to reach the summit of Challenger. Climbing Kit Carson was definitely my favorite part of the trip even though I was exhausted and delirious from lack of oxygen.
Kit Carson Ave.
Last push up KC
Six of eleven group members summited KC. In my opinion, this was pretty amazing considering we had come from 1,000 feet a couple days before... and it was the 2nd and 3rd 14er summit I had ever done. I recommend getting a little more experience under your belt before attempting these two.
Me and Michael on KC Summit
The trip back down to our camp was uneventful even though each step was a struggle for me and most in our group from what I could tell... but mostly me. I was extremely nauseous and surprised I didn't lose my lunch. We decided to bypass the summit of Challenger and cut across its slope back to the notch. This turned out to be an excellent choice. Most of my troubles subsided as we began the descent of challenger. I could breath once again. On the way down we saw some marmots and goats catching rays.
We got back to camp, packed everything up, and hiked back to the trailhead. Even with packing in and camping, Saturday was still a long day for us. It was over 12 hours of hiking and climbing. Longer than any of us had expected but luckily we planned for the unexpected and had a little luck on our side.
Everyone returned safely to their cities and now the research begins for next year. Great trip!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):