Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  07/04/2011
Date Climbed:   06/25/2011
Author:  Nelson
 Tour de Sangre, Part 1  

The Sangre de Cristo's, Part 1
Kit Carson and Challenger.

Having made the decision to change zip codes, ie leave the front range, I headed for the Sangre's. On June 24th I arrived at the Willow Creek trailhead just east of the town of Crestone. Image
Welcome to Willow Creek
I started the 4.25 mile, 3,000 vertical foot hike with the big pack (ca. 40 lbs). Image ImageIt was a beautiful 2 hour hike on a glorious day. Image Image After I set up my camp I hiked up above the lake to reconnoitre. Image
Willow Creek Lake ice and water falls.
First view of Kit Carson
It was a warm sunny day and I could see that although there was snow in the Kirk Couloir, I felt it would be soft. Image
Kirk Couloir
Willow Creek Lake
Playful Big Horn lambs
Mama Big horn

I started at 4 am the next morning and found that when I got to the Kirk Couloir the snow was actually very hard due to a good overnight freeze. I had to "front point" up the couloir and I could not get the base of my axe into the snow. I had to actually use the pick. The whole thing took longer than I expected but I summitted Challenger (14,081) at 7:15. Image
Kit Carson from Challenger

From here I headed to Kit Carson Avenue and found, to my surprise, that I would not need crampons on the part of the Avenue rising to the Prow. Image
Big Horn Sheep on the Avenue
There was some snow but I didn't have to walk in it. Image
Closer look at the Avenue
The next surprise was that on the section of the avenue headed down from the Prow (East), Image
The Avenue headed down from the Prow
Challenger from the Avenue
There were a couple of sections of firm snow where I did need the crampons. I hiked down to 13,700 feet and turned left at the rock rib to head up to the summit of Kit Carson. Image
Gendarmes guarding the Avenue
Right before I hit the final summit pitch there was another snow field bit I managed to get around it without the spikes. Image
Final snow field
Again, it was glorious on top. Image
The Crestones as seen from Kit Carson
On the way down things had warmed up nicely and I didn't put the crampons on until I got back to the Kirk Couloir. At this point I wished I had brought my skis because the snow had corned up perfectly. It was still very hard under the corn and I had to face in and front point pretty much the whole way down.

When I got to the bottom I broke camp and headed back to the trailhead in a state of exhilaration and very much looking forward to the rest of my "Tour de Sangre's".

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Very nice
07/04/2011 21:49
Looks like an excellent trip. What a treat to hang out with the playful wildlife!


07/04/2011 23:57
Thanks for the report! Looking great up there, are the flowers starting?


Flora and Fauna
07/05/2011 14:26
I could not believe how much wildlife on saw on this trip! It seems like more than any other time.

And yes the flowers are starting to poke through. It is clearly just the beginning but they are there.

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