| Without the Shedding of Blood!
One thing I like about reading trip reports is the many perspectives and interpretations you get from other people's experiences. Legend has it that in 1719 the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio named the Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ") mountains after being impressed by the reddish hue of the snowy peaks at sunrise, alpenglow. I was able to catch this event in a photo; although, without the snow. The following report is my interpretation of the name Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ"), and how I viewed Crestone Peak on this September day.
My wife had my last will and testament filled out for some time. I had procrastinated getting it notarized and signed by witnesses. After we climbed Wetterhorn and read about the many deaths on the peaks this year, the reality of the risks we take on these peaks hit home. When she found out I would be solo climbing Crestone Peak, she made me get the will notarized before heading out on Saturday. I wasn't concerned with this peak, in fact, I was quite excited; but I wanted to honor her wishes. I think for any of us that enjoy the mountains getting this done is a good idea.
September 18th, 2010: The hike into camp (after stopping by the bank to get the will notarized ). Below you can see that views of Humboldt Peak on the way in were awesome.
I set up camp just below the lower South Colony lake and just above the Humboldt and Crestone trail split. The views here are breath taking, and I spent a lot of time viewing them. After eating dinner and chatting awhile with my neighbor, I retired. I slept well after the long hike in to camp.
September 19th, 2010: Crestone Peak
The picture below captured the awesome morning glow on Crestone Needle. This picture reminds me of the cover off of a popular 14ers guidebook. I can't put my finger on it. It might come to me later.
Here is a look at the light that illuminated the Needle. I left camp at 06:30.
Here Humboldt is looking good as I worked my way up Broken Hand Pass.
After topping out on Broken Hand Pass, I proceeded down the steep trail to Cottonwood Lake. The rock steps are very helpful, especially when you come back over.
After passing the lake, I got my first view of the Red Gully (the never ending gully). You can see it in the middle of the upper terrain.
Here is a shot looking up the gully after I first entered it.
When my youngest daughter saw the picture with water flowing down the gully, she asked "is that blood?" My thoughts climbing up this gully were on the blood of Christ. The mountain itself looks like it's bleeding out of this gully. The following passage of scripture is what kept coming to my mind (Hebrews 9:22 "And without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.") What a truly great gift Christ's blood is to all who believe.
There is no way to capture all the varying terrain in the red gully. There are so many aspects to it and many different ways to climb it. I'll try to describe some. Below you can see some of the slab climbing.
Here is a section that is loose.
A section that is steep.
How about loose and steep. One thing is for sure, your scrambling skills will improve while climbing Crestone Peak.
It was nice to just sit every now and then and take in where I was. There are great views of the Sand Dunes from the gully.
After what seemed like forever, I topped out on the gully. The scramble to the peak was exciting and flew by. I was on the summit at 11:00. The traverse across to the Needle looks very difficult, beyond my current stamina and skills.
Oh, back to that 14ers guidebook. Roach's Second Edition, that's it. In it he describes Crestone Peak as follows "Crestone Peak is one of Colorado's finest peaks. High and wild, it was once proclaimed unclimbable . It is now simply called the "Peak" by those who know it. The Peak draws some people like a siren but rejects others. If it draws you, approach with respect and caution."
I was the first on the peak this day. What a privilege it was; what a Peak it is. Thirty minutes later a very nice couple joined me at the summit and took my picture. We chatted at bit, and then I left the summit to them.
Back to the gully, the dreadful red gully. Roach describes the top portion as follows "In August the upper couloir is a rubble scramble." That describes it well. Does rubble scrambling sound fun? It was a long way down to the basin. As I described coming up, there is a lot of different terrain.
The picture below is one of the more challenging sections I encountered in the gully. As I approached it on the ascent, the slab up the middle seemed to be the best route. But a closer look showed the small chimney on the right, filled in with a shadow, was the best way. It is somewhere between ten and fifteen feet in height. On the way down, a cairn will put you right on top of it.
Once I was finally down to the basin, I could see the long trek back to Broken Hand Pass. You can see the pass in the center of the photo below.
Cottonwood lake is amazingly clear. This is a good time to check your water. I failed to do so and ran out on my way back up the pass.
All of this water and I forgot to check my supply, more motivation to get me up and over the pass and back to camp.
I topped out on Broken Hand Pass at 3:00pm. I don't call myself mt_turtle without reason. My pace was slow, and I was tired and thirsty. I was fortunate to have perfect weather all day. I knew the forecast and weather was never really a concern.
Water was now in sight and so was my camp. To the left you can see some of the washout on Broken Hand Pass. Just to the right of the fingers is where I entered the short class 3 down climb.
Here was one last stunning view of Humboldt peak.
I made it to camp at 4:15pm, packed up, got water and made it to the car by 7:00, right at sunset. One complaint I have is the fact that the 4WD road is closed. I have a Jeep Wrangler and hiking the 4WD road seemed like such a waste. The jeep ride would have added to the adventure. With the forest service considering ways to come up with money, I would have gladly paid a fee to use this road. Is there any way to get this road re-opened?
Crestone Peak was my most challenging peak to date. Being on top was the most enjoyable time ever for me on a mountain top. However, the journey was long and very exhausting. The overall experience of climbing Crestone Peak puts it up there as one of my favorites.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):