| Crestone Needle - Standard Route - Beautiful and Windy
The goal of this trip was to summit the Needle. Last August, JFaust and I summitted Humbolt and the Peak, and shear exhaustion and lack of time prevented us from the Needle. This was our chance!
The two of us, plus Jayson left Colorado Springs at about 8:00am Saturday, making good time to Westcliffe. We made it to S Colony Lake early afternoon, with the hope that we would have plenty plenty of time for fly fishing (the weather didn't allow ... more on that later!). The new parking lot was actually quite nice. On our trip last year, we made it just slightly farther than the parking lot, stopping for fear of destroying my Mazda. This year's hike was about the same distance, but the road to the parking lot wasn't bad at all!
The new parking lot!
The hike up to the lake, before it really turned into a trail.
A beautiful shot of the Needle with the route sign right at the lake.
The problem we ran into was that within 2 hours or so of arriving at the lake, it quickly became overcast, and a drizzle/rain settled on us with pretty well sustained 30-40 mph winds. The rain stopped in the early evening, but the winds didn't stop until we were back inside the car the next day, 12 hours later.
Jayson and the Needle before the weather began to turn.
Home away from home.
Before the weather turned a little sour, we had a pretty good experience with the wildlife! A little herd of big horn sheep (all females and youngin's, oddly enough) wandered through our camp, and we even had a marmot hanging around on the rock next to our tents.
A little herd of big horn sheep wandering through our campsite!
The baby of the group!
Our friendly neighborhood marmot.
Our original plan was to wake by 4:00am, leave the site by 4:30, and make it to the brokenhand ridge by dawn. There was no rain, but the wind was whipping around so hard all night that we decided to sleep in until around 6:30, finally hitting the trail by 7. This is the latest I've ever left for a summit! The picture below is a little deceptive ... it was REALLY windy. As we were starting, we saw ~7 others who also slept in because of the vicious wind, though about halfway to brokenhand pass we saw no one until we made it back to our tents.
The hike begins! Notice the Needle and the cloud we would be entering...
The hike actually went really quickly. In less than an hour we were at brokenhand ridge, and in another 2 we had summitted the Needle!
More of the climb.
The climb itself really wasn't as bad as I imagined. It turns out that our hike last year to the Peak was a fair amount of trailblazing, wherein we eventually found part of the traverse and followed the trail the rest of the way to the summit. This year for the Needle, we had much better luck staying on the trail (even on the way down where it can be difficult if you're not careful) and the difficulty of the hike was similar.
A happy JFaust.
The steepness of the 'trail' for some parts.
Jayson just hanging out.
It was pretty interesting the higher we got. The clouds were actually forming around us as the wind whipped by.
Me coming over a ridge. One of my favorite pics.
Obligatory summit photo!
On our way down, right by the top where the trail was more distinguished.
Brokenhand ridge on our way down.
If you look closely at the pic above, our tent is the white spec middle right.
Just before the old parking lot.
We met a friendly guy who took our mugs for us. He passed us just before the old parking lot, headed up in the middle of the afternoon, already looking exhausted, hoping to do the Needle that day?!? I hope he made it OK...
Overall, was an awesome trip. As long as weather conditions hold up for you, it's absolutely beautiful camping, and as long as you stay on the standard route trail, the hiking is awesome too!
I have to mention too, most of these amazing pictures are due to JFaust's new camera. Someone please convince him to buy a wide angle lens too!!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):