|Peak:||Challenger Point (14er)|
|Route:||North Slopes/Pencil Couloir|
|Range:||Sangre de Cristo|
|Posted By:||Exiled Michigander|
|Date of Info:||06/10/2011|
I'm having computer issues and couldn't edit the conditions report I just posted to add photos. Hopefully this one will work.
Road to the trailhead is in quite good condition. I made it all the way to 1/10 of a mile from the main trailhead in my low-clearance Chevy Cobalt (note, however, that it is a UAW-made monster . . . basically a 4-cylinder John Wayne). Approach to Willow Lake is in great shape and very little snow in the entire Willow Lake Basin, so leave your snowshoes at home.
I attempted the Pencil Couloir on Challenger (Images 1 and 2). Even with an early start from above Willow Lake, snow conditions deteriorated quickly. The snow was good at first, but by 7:45 a.m., when I was just more than halfway up the couloir, it turned into 4 inches of slush on top of a base layer of ice--couldn't get a grip with my crampons or ice axe. I instead climbed onto the rock just east (left) of the couloir (Image 3) and scrambled to the top of the notch (not bad, Class 3 or 3+ tops). The standard route along the west (right) side of the couloir still had a lot of snow; I think the east side might be better for the time being. From the notch to the summit (Image 4) is smooth sailing.
Kit Carson is still not viable from Challenger. Will try to post a separate conditions report on Carson.
Photos (click for slideshow):