Kit Carson Peak  
Report Conditions Information   Photos  Comments       
2017-03-11  Route: Cole\'s Couloir
Posted On: 2017-03-13, By: brerrabbit
Info: Did Kit Carson via Spanish Creek approach and Cole's Couloir. We kind of destroyed the "trench" that was in place by postholing every other step on the way down. There's also lots of downed trees that make for a fun approach/descent in snowshoes. The lower part of the approach can be difficult for routefinding as well. The snow was in good shape on the upper route besides heating up a fair bit by the time we were descending. Half of the group went to Challenger via the avenue, reporting slightly soft snow on the way up with better snow for the descent due to clouds moving in and firming it up. 
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2016-10-23  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-10-25, By: zwickster5
Info: Getting up Challenger was... *ahem* challenging... at times. There was spotty snow and ice on the rocks approaching the couloir on the north slope. It wasn't worth putting microspikes on for, but that made for a slower ascent to be sure. Plus, it was kind of ambiguous when to veer left and "cross" the couloir to pass through the notch. I started behind three groups and passed them all, partly because they chose a different course that was off route. The avenue had one maybe 8 ft long patch of snow but was super doable without traction. I thought the hike up to Challenger was more difficult--requiring more careful route finding and scrambling--than the Kit Carson climb. Still took a long time to do both... I got back to my car after sundown with a 7:30am start. Get out there before winter closes in! It's beautiful and still very summer-like. Temps were quite comfortable, and winds were nonexistent. 
2016-10-15  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-10-15, By: dogballs
Info: Absolutely summer like conditions today minus the bugs. Shorts and t-shirt weather. Challenger Point is the same as the last report. Sangre De Cristo range is ripe for the picking. Go get it before it snows. No issues getting over to Kit Carson via the avenue. There are two small snow fields to cross on the avenue. Traction not required, just walk deliberately and stay close to the rock wall. Took me 2hr08min to reach Willow Lake, summited Challenger point in 4hr15min, summited Kit Carson at 5hr03min, re-summited Challenger at 5hr40min and round trip took 8hr03min. Makes for a long day but is easier than hauling camping equipment in my opinion. In case you were wondering there are 64 switchbacks/turns in the trail between 90-180 degrees on the Willow Lake approach. Had to kill the time some how as this was my second trip up there in a week. I believe the views from the summit of Kit Carson, on a clear day, are some of the best you can experience. 
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2016-10-02  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-10-03, By: kayleenann8
Info: quick update: the route is still almost entirely snow free. The avenue has a small section that has a snow patch on it, but you can hike it easily in trail runners (there is a nice boot pack). I did not use any traction and it was safe. 
2016-09-25  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-09-26, By: Eagle Eye
Info: I took these pictures of the Kit Carson Avenue yesterday (9/25/2016) between 9 am and noon. 
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2016-09-25  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-09-25, By: greenonion
Info: Anyone have snow conditions report for KC since the recent weather that rolled through? 
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2016-09-22  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-09-23, By: benlawson1983
Info: Route is clear, avenue is clear 
2016-09-17  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-09-17, By: Roald
Info: Route to KC from Challenger is still in good shape. Snow is starting to collect on the avenue though. Easily avoidable/passable right now, but it's a sign that the clear avenue days are numbered. Get it while you can. 
2016-09-11  Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2016-09-12, By: JQDivide
Info: No snow on the North Ridge or between KC and Challenger, Avenue is clear. 
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2016-09-05  Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2016-09-06, By: Corey17
Info: Mostly-perfect day out on Kit Carson's North Ridge this Labor Day! Not a bit of snow along the entire North Ridge route to the summit of KC, so go get it before the season closes up. The Avenue was almost completely dry, just a couple small piles of snow/hail hanging out in the shadows. Entirely avoidable. Only issue was an incredibely blustery day, with the winds being at their worst on the cliffs above Willow Lake, and the West side KC. Also - if climbing the North Ridge, be sure to take extra care to not miss the Avenue turn off when descending. We were looking for it, and still managed to overshoot by ~50 vertical feet. 
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2016-08-28  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-08-28, By: mikemalick
Info: See the Challenger peak conditions report I just posted for that part of the route. Seems like today was the first day in several when folks were able to make it up Kit Carson. As I was heading up there were people heading down saying everyone was turning around because of snow in the avenue. When I got to Challenger's summit there was one person there that already summited Kit Carson shortly before and said steps had been put in. He did NOT use spikes. Headed down to the avenue with a couple others and came across two more that just returned from the summit. They had spikes. The avenue looks a lot worse from up high on Challenger than is does once you are on it. At least head down there to see for yourself. Anyway, I had spikes and made the crossing and the other two I headed down there with had no spikes and made it just fine as well. So a mix of folks made it...some with and some without traction. I was glad to have them on the descent of the ave just because you have a better view what you might slide down if you slip! The was some snow on the trail after that as well, but not much at all and it could just about all be avoided. No snow to speak of exiting off and then up into the gully heading towards the summit. The sun came out nicely and it did warm up quite a bit as the day went on, but I am sure that snow will be there for a while. 
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2016-08-15  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-08-20, By: Lville
Info: Mosquito update. They are definitely up there along w/ some other bugs, but not bad enough to be a deterrent. While I was moving, they weren't really a factor at all. While performing tasks, like setting up tent or filtering water, they were a nuisance but, again, shouldn't give you pause about heading up there. And I wasn't even wearing skeeter spray. Also, I highly recommend the Class 3 gully that heads left just before the standard Class 2 on the final stretch up KC at the bottom of the Avenue. Easy and fun to ascend. Almost just as easy to descend, and appeared to be much nicer and more direct than the class 2 gully. The pic below should help you identify it as there is a large crack running up and to the right. Just to be safe, before heading up it, I wandered down to the class 2 gully just to scope it out in case we decided to descend that way since folks evidently sometimes miss the Avenue coming back down the class 2. No problem on the class 3 as it dumps you out right back on the Avenue. It also gives you a little taste of the wonderful Crestone Conglomerate and is a nice intro to scrambling on the Needle/Peak if you haven't yet done that. If you're OK w/ a short scramble, Just Do It! 
2016-08-10  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-08-10, By: nlee13
Info: My wife and I hiked Challenger and Kit Carson today; we started from the Willow Creek trailhead around 5:15am. The trail up to the waterfall above Willow Lake was immaculate and well marked. We wore no bug repellent and were not assaulted by the swaths of mosquitoes remarked upon in previous reports. On the route description pages there are notes related to the difficulty of finding the correct path around the lake. There is now a sign that marks the route "To Challenger and Kit Carson" and we had no trouble finding the correct trail. There is a bit of mud and water on the trail here and there but it is easily avoided without damaging the trail or adjacent flora. The trail begins to degrade about .25 miles after the waterfall and then turns into a veritable choss fest. It is relatively easy to find stable rock on the ascent but the descent presents a hiker with more challenging and less enjoyable options. The rock up Challenger from the saddle is stable; as is the rock down to the Avenue. We used flags to mark a couple of rocks on the ascent of Kit Carson and had a moment of panic before we rediscovered the trail to the Avenue on the descent. A fellow hiker noted that fog or clouds would make the return to the Avenue more difficult. Happy Trails. 
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2016-08-01  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-08-05, By: cloudkicker
Info: Hearing all the horror stories about the mosquitoes, and remembering how eaten alive I was at Holy Cross Creek a few years ago, my brothers and I decided to use every safeguard possible to prepare for our time on the approach & camping at Willow Lake. Using these precautions, the mosquitoes didn't give us any issues at all. 1. We treated our clothes and our tents with Permethrin. 2. Mosquito head nets. 3. Mosquito bracelets. 4. A couple sprays of DEET on the exposed skin, but our applications of the DEET were in moderation and never copious. 5. I also wore anti-bug convertible pants I found at Sierra Trading Post. Our time at Willow Lake was really very pleasant just because we did all these things to avoid being feasted on. Maybe the swarms are starting to relent? Hard telling. We brought a bear canister up and saw an elaborate sling set up in a neighboring campsite. While we were going to sleep we heard an animal pushing around something outside our tent nearby the can for about 5-10 minutes. Turns out it wasn't a bear going for the can, but actually a smaller animal playing with my rock climbing helmet. That said, you should definitely store your food securely using a can or sling. This is the Sangres after all. We hit the trail from our campsite below Willow Lake at 3am on 8/2 and reached the summit ridge of Challenger at sunrise. The loose/slippery/steepness of the north slope is as bad as everyone says, and I endured multiple stumbles and close calls going up and down. Take advantage of every good stable rock you find on the slope. We opted for some class 3 moves on good rock on occasion whenever the "trail" got too sketchy. A lot of crab walk moves on the descent (5 points of contact). Leave your heavy pack at Willow Lake and take something lighter for the climb. Being able to maintain your balance is paramount, especially on the descent. Trekking poles were super helpful most of the time we were on the slope and I highly recommend you bring some along. Also... don't forget the climbing helmet! The traverse to and from Kit Carson was as good as it can be in the summer. No snow, no ice, all dry. 
2016-07-31  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-07-31, By: graberz
Info: As previously mentioned mosquitos are insane all the way up to the lake and even above. Large crowd this weekend camping at the lake. Slopes up to Challenger are as bad as mentioned. Route finding somewhat difficult at times and plenty of rocks coming down from other hikers to keep you on your toes. This was the most time consuming section both up and down for most of our group. Started at 5 15 am finished around 1pm. There was also a SAR call/response up from the lake, I believe severe altitude sickness. Not sure on the outcome although the person was air lifted out. Thanks to SAR. 
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2016-07-30  Route: East Ridge
Posted On: 2016-08-01, By: Matt H
Info: We hiked Kit Carson and Challenger from South Colony Lakes. Conditions were entirely snow free. Mosquitoes at South Colony Lakes were abundant, but manageable with insect repellent. I'd like to point out several things about this route, hopefully to help other hikers in the future. After reaching Bear's Playground, the route description says "Avoid the temptation to hike directly up the rocks by hiking north for a few hundred feet before angling northwest toward the ridge. Once on the ridge crest, turn left and continue to Obstruction's summit." We did this on the way to Kit Carson, but decided to skirt around the south side of Obstruction on the way back. There were many cairns marking our route around the south side and this proved to be much easier than gaining the summit of Obstruction only to drop back down. Any ideas why the description would discourage the easier route here? I definitely recommend crossing from Gully #2 into Gully #3 when descending Columbia, if you are comfortable with the climbing. You lose less elevation and there is a well-marked route to the ascent of Kit Carson. The rock on the ascent to Kit Carson is steep and loose. A helmet seems necessary to me for this entire route, including the final ascent (which is also part of the standard route from Challenger). Finally, don't underestimate the challenge. The climbing is more technical and more exposed than other Class 3 routes I have done. Also, the amount of elevation loss and re-gain along the ridge makes for a strenuous day. You will reach three other summits above 13000ft before hitting Kit Carson. Start early and bring plenty of water. Overall, this is a fun route and we had a challenging yet very enjoyable day! 
2016-07-16  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-07-17, By: trinkner
Info: The climb from Challenger to Kit Carson was uneventful. No need for winter traction whatsoever. A nice remnant of winter is that there is a snow patch immediately below the exit from the Avenue, so on your descent, just make sure you turn on to the Avenue a few feet above the snow patch. It's a great visual marker while it lasts. Mosquitoes from the TH to above Willow Lake remain mortally epic. I only got a few bites by first covering the skin of my arms, legs, chest, and face with repellent, and then spraying my clothes. I wore a long-sleeved shirt over my t-shirt, long climbing pants, a hat with a "Sahara" neck flap, and mountain-biking gloves. For the pre-dawn hike in, I'd recommend a thin rain shell, too, as I got some bites on my shoulders, despite the clothing and repellent. On the descent, I forgot to put on the gloves and got several bites on my hands. These bugs are merciless. As for the trail, the descent from Challenger was one of the least enjoyable of my career. The gully is steep, filled with loose scree and unstable rocks. There are almost no switchbacks. A few hours before my descent, I climber told me of a rock slide in the gully earlier in the day that narrowly missed other climbers. There were lots fresh white "chalk" marks all along the gully that I image were created by the falling rocks. The descent seemed far less stable than the ascent, with many large rocks highly unstable and football-sized rocks highly unstable. I talked with a trail worker for a group affiliated with the 14ers Initiative. They're currently building an alternative trail up Challenger that will feature lots of switchbacks. If you're selecting peaks for your season, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND WAITING A FEW YEARS FOR THEM TO COMPLETE THIS NEW TRAIL. She said they would likely finish in two years or so. Of course, if you're trying to finish the list soon, just be prepared for a time-consuming and dispiriting descent. But some good news! In tiny Crestone, the Crestone Brewing Company has opened. Great burgers and beer for the evening before your climb. 
2016-07-12  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-07-13, By: CraigB2013
Info: Yesterday, July 12th, we summit Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. DANGER DANGER DANGER! Mosquitos are really bad, unless the wind blows, on the Willow Lake approach and at the lake. It really ruins what is a great trail and beautiful place. Kit Carson avenue had some snow which is all avoidable. No tracton needed. I think we make have only taken a couple of steps on the snow. But the snow was solid as ice. The rest of the route is dry. Finding the avenue, on the way down, was tricky because the easiest gully is furthest away and easy to down climb to far. We paid the price and had to add an extra 100 ft of class thee climbing to the day. 
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2016-07-10  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-07-11, By: BCNPatrick
Info: Avenue entrance snow easily crossed. No axe, or spikes needed, but use them if you're more comfortable. Two other snow areas avoidable. Mosquitos from the TH to Willow lake are at an epic level...WORST I've ever seen!!! Recommend heavy duty repellant...not that it did much to help. on second thought, bring body armor. 
2016-07-07  Route: From Challenger Point
Posted On: 2016-07-09, By: TallGrass
Info: Start of the Avenue from Challenger has snow (photo 1), some crossing low, I crossed high against the wall (photo 2). Clear to the Prow. Two patches of snow lower on the Avenue (photos 3 and 4) where the foot prints are right by the edge and the snow is soft with ice bottom. One more patch at the turn to go up Kit's summit gulley which can be postholed against the rock face. RECOMMEND taking spikes and an axe, and 20' of cord to pull them back if you want to share one kit for your group. It's getting a lot of sun so might melt out, but could also be slushy and slick. 

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