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Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Giddy Up » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:50 am

Hello all! I am thinking of doing Crestone Needle next summer and I wanted to get an idea of the difficulty level with the south face. 14ers has it listed as a class III but I have seen some posts that describe some of the moves as class IV. I'd like to avoid the latter, if possible. The list below should give a pretty good idea of my experience level. Conditioning-wise, I am in good shape.

Ellingwood route of La Plata - I stayed pretty high on the ridge, had some route finding difficulties, and ended up going pretty far outside my comfort level. I want to avoid rehashing this type of experience.

Longs Peak standard - No problemo

Wetterhorn standard - Final pitch got the blood moving, but in a good way. I really enjoyed this one.

Any thoughts are much appreciated - thanks!


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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby IHikeLikeAGirl » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:57 am

Just be sure that you know where to switch between the east and west gullies (on the ascent AND descent). This is key to keeping it class 3 and fun. :)
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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Exiled Michigander » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:09 am

There are really only one or two moves on the entire standard route that could be considered Class 4. Neither of them are horribly exposed. I don't think you'll have any problems with the Needle--just watch the weather and be sure to take care in route-finding. Most people who run into problems on Crestone Needle do so because they get off route (for example, missing the ledge connecting the two gullies) or run into bad weather.

If you liked Wetterhorn, I think you'll really enjoy the Needle. The technical level of the two are pretty similar; the Needle just has a much more sustained Class 3 section (imagine the final pitch of Wetterhorn, but much longer, with a bit less exposure but not quite as obvious hand-/foot-holds).

It sounds like you are definitely ready for it.

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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Giddy Up » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:13 am

Wow! great responses and so fast! Thanks to all for helping me make an easy decision - it's definitely a go for next summer.

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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Jay521 » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:16 am

I went through the same issues a month ago - here is the thread that detailed the responses I received. Maybe it will help some...

http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=41408
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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Giddy Up » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:33 am

Definitely helpful Jay - I'll do as much route planning as I can beforehand.

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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby mtgirl » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:15 pm

IHikeLikeAGirl wrote:Just be sure that you know where to switch between the east and west gullies (on the ascent AND descent). This is key to keeping it class 3 and fun. :)


This is great advice. Many accidents have occurred over the years from climbers missing this gully switch on the decent. Pay attention to this crossover on the ascent, so you don't overshoot and miss it on the descent.

Many people, including myself, will list Crestone Needle as their favorite 14er for good reason. The solid, conglomerate rock is a blast to climb on (handholds are plentiful) and the views in the South Colony Lakes area are outstanding !
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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby alsrun » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:21 am

Immediately after entering the West gully wrap a piece of surveyor's tape around a rock and leave it there to remind you where the crossover is on the way back. Be certain to take the tape out with you on your way back.

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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Mtnman200 » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:40 am

You don't have to switch gullies; you can just stay in the same gully all the way up and then return the same way. Also, make sure to wear a climbing helmet, as I've had careless climbers above me knock rocks loose and not even bother to call out a warning.

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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:12 am

Mtnman200 wrote:You don't have to switch gullies; you can just stay in the same gully all the way up and then return the same way. Also, make sure to wear a climbing helmet, as I've had careless climbers above me knock rocks loose and not even bother to call out a warning.

The OP mentioned a desire to avoid Class 4 terrain so I wouldn't recommend the direct route up the eastern gully. While the crossover to the west gully is fairly stiff Class 3, it's easier than the Class 4 moves required when sticking to the east gully alternative.
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Re: Gauging Preparedness for Crestone Needle

Postby Mtnman200 » Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:36 am

Maybe my memory's getting faulty in my old age, 'cuz I don't recall anything in the east gully that seemed like Class 4. Or maybe I was just having too much fun on the fantastic conglomerate rock to notice... :-D
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