Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

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Urban Snowshoer
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by Urban Snowshoer »

aaron5466 wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 10:24 pm How difficult is the Crestone Peak South Face? How does it compare to the Keyhole Route for Longs Peak? 14ers.com, where I’m putting this post, says the Crestone Peak South Face is Class 3 and the same for the three routes up Longs Peak, including the Keyhole route. The paragraph under “Description” at the All Trails page for “Crestone Peak Trail” here, https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colo ... peak-trail, says there are sections of “technical scrambling.” Does this mean climbers should use ropes or other special climbing equipment? The trail at the All Trails link seems to be the same as the Crestone Peak South Face here, https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=cpea2. Which routes have the 4s? The discussion here, https://14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=58231, says technical scrambling is redundant and/or unclear and, thus, poor usage. Tom Birenbaum in the discussion at All Trails says there are a couple easy 4s depending on the route. Ben Walters, in the same discussion, says his group felt Crestone Peak South Face to be more in line with a class 4 “move.” I’m not sure what he meant by a move. He made his post July 14, so maybe it was the seasonal snow that made it class 4 to his group. They didn’t summit it. Do any of you think Crestone Peak South Face should be Class 4? The picture here, https://www.14ers.com/routes/cpea2/medi ... 2210220600, looks like a long steep section, though it’s hard to be sure in 2 dimensions. Is it too early in the year to do the Crestone Peak South Face? Has anyone climbed it this year? What were the conditions? I have done the Keyhole Route and 15 or 20 other, easier 13er and 14er climbs and difficult 12ers, all at least 4 miles shorter than the Keyhole Route. The Keyhole Route might be one of the two or three climbs I’ve done that were the steepest and had the most scrambling, maybe the steepest and most scrambling. Sawtooth Peak in California, which I’ve done, was comparable in these ways, though with a much shorter gradual climb.
You don't need ropes to climb but there are sections where a fall would have serious (possibly even fatal) consequences, so it's absolutely a route to be treated with respect.

Where class 3 ends and Class 4 begins has a degree of subjectivity--I would consider the Red Gully solid Class 3, especially in comparison to the Class 4 section on the Needle.

I'm not sure the Red Gully is more technically difficult than the Keyhole on Long's--there's more routefinding involved--but it's seemed longer and more sustained than the Keyhole.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by seannunn »

randalmartin wrote: Fri Jun 21, 2024 10:04 pm
seannunn wrote: Thu Jun 20, 2024 4:24 pm Of course you can cut it down to size by camping at the lakes, but you can also do that on Longs by camping at the boulder field.
Except that camping at South Colony Lakes is a pleasant experience.
Assuming it isn't pouring down rain and water gets in your (admittedly cheap) tent and you are near hypothermic all night and can't sleep....but that's another story.
:(

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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by justiner »

I'm just impressed that people will opt to do the south face of Crestone Peak from South Colony Lakes.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by Urban Snowshoer »

justiner wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 10:45 am I'm just impressed that people will opt to do the south face of Crestone Peak from South Colony Lakes.
To be fair it has long been the standard route for Crestone Peak, so people will gravitate towards it even if it isn't the only option.

When I climbed the Crestones, I did it from high-camp at South Colony Lakes and opted to climb them individually instead of the traverse.

As for which one is harder, it kind of depends on how you define difficulty. Crestone Needle was definitely more technically difficult--routefinding is more challenging and exposure is worse than on the Peak--but Crestone Peak was overall harder, even if technically easier, both due to the length and essentially having to climb Broken Hand Pass twice.

The Cottonwood Lake side of Broken Hand Pass isn't that bad but the South Colony Lake side still haunts me to this day.
Last edited by Urban Snowshoer on Sat Jun 22, 2024 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by seannunn »

justiner wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 10:45 am I'm just impressed that people will opt to do the south face of Crestone Peak from South Colony Lakes.
Is there an easier route to the top that you have discovered? Do tell. :-D

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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by CaptainSuburbia »

seannunn wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 10:58 am
justiner wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 10:45 am I'm just impressed that people will opt to do the south face of Crestone Peak from South Colony Lakes.
Is there an easier route to the top that you have discovered? Do tell. :-D

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It's shorter from Cottonwood Creek trailhead and no Broken Hand Pass to deal with or 4wd road.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by osprey »

What about Crestone Needle?
Is it better to climb from Cottonwood Creek TH or up and over Broken Hand Pass?
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by Urban Snowshoer »

osprey wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 2:22 pm What about Crestone Needle?
Is it better to climb from Cottonwood Creek TH or up and over Broken Hand Pass?
The Cottonwood Creek approach completely cuts out Broken Hand Pass for Crestone Peak. By contrast, the standard route from South Colony Lakes basically means climbing Broken Hand Pass twice--once just to get the lake and base of the Red Gully where the real climbing starts and once on the return to get back to camp.

For Crestone Needle, you're going to have climb Broken Hand Pass regardless of whether you come from South Colony Lakes or Cottonwood Creek but the Cottonwood Creek side of Broken Hand Pass is easier than the however many feet of suck that is the South Colony Lakes side.

Cottonwood Creek could easily save you a couple of hours on the Peak (possibly more), whereas the savings on the Needle are probably more at the margins since both South Colony Lakes and Cottonwood Creek require climbing up to Broken Hand Pass to get to the Needle.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by aaron5466 »

Thank you, everyone.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by justiner »

Urban Snowshoer wrote: Sat Jun 22, 2024 10:56 am To be fair it has long been the standard route for Crestone Peak, so people will gravitate towards it even if it isn't the only option.
Is that true? I thought the original standard route was actually the NW Couloir. The first ascent was also the, "North Arete", which I assume we would now mean the Northwest Buttress.

You could make a (weak) argument that the NW Couloir is easier, as there is less gain when compared to the south face from S. Colony Lakes, and there's some good opportunities for linkups.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by PJ88 »

Roach said the NW couloir is the historic standard route. Considering it's Roach and the word historic I would say this is a realistic claim that the South Face is the contemporary standard.
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Re: Crestone Peak South Face difficulty

Post by gb »

^^ Yeah, the Borneman/Lampert book that I used as a teen doesn't even show a route on the map on the S side, just the NW couloir. The last sentence in that chapter briefly mentions a route from Cottonwood creek going up a red gully on the S side and does say that it's easier.

Similarly, the standard route on Kit Carson at that time was the E ridge, also from Colony. Since Challenger wasn't considered a 14er, the easiest thing to do was to camp at S Colony and climb the 4 peaks from there, since that is where all the standard routes started, plus it was easy to add Humboldt to either KC or Crestone Peak. Now that Challenger is finally demoted, I wonder if that route on KC will regain popularity.
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