Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  07/18/2011
Modified:  07/19/2011
Date Climbed:   07/17/2011
Author:  SummitKathy

 A perfect summit of the Needle  

The trip began on Saturday afternoon with a backpack up the road to camp near the old 4WD trailhead. We arrived at the site around 4:00 in the afternoon and had the evening to just relax and enjoy being at the camp site.

Our camp site

Sunday morning we were early to rise, and set our alarms for 4:00am. 45min later we were meeting our friends Annie and Ryan on the trail for an ascent of the Crestone Needle. The first bit of the hike went by quickly. Once you are off the 4WD road, it is a quick hike over to the beginning of the ascent up broken hand pass. However, once you reach the point where the trail splits (one heading towards Humboldt and one heading towards the Needle – there is a sign), the trail quickly steepens.

Heading up Broken Hand Pass

I didn’t find the hike up broken hand pass too difficult. A little loose and steep in some areas, but generally not too bad, and before you know it…you’re at the top. And the fun is still to come! The trail splits at the top. To the left the trail heads down. This is the trail to Crestone Peak (I am SO looking forward to doing this one later this summer!). After a short amount of hiking, the “east gully” on the South face came into view.

About to head into the east gully

I found the hike up the east gully a lot more fun than I was expecting. The hand/foot holds were great! We quickly began the ascent up the gully. I found if you were paying attention, that it was pretty obvious where to go. There are some small cairns along the way that help.

Heading up the east gully

The pictures often make the face look a lot steeper than it actually is. I had thought I would be a lot more nervous heading up than I was. The rock is very stable, and so makes you feel very secure when scrambling.

Annie climbing the east gully

I had been nervous about missing the crucial cross over point on the route from the east to west gully. I studied a lot of pictures and descriptions prior to the hike. Therefore, I did not have too hard of a time finding the correct spot. There was a small cairn that also points you in the right direction. That being said, I found the cross over from the east to the west gully the most difficult part of the hike. I am not a very big woman, and I had to reach quite a bit across the rib to cross over. I just had to not look down, and go for it!

The cross over point with small cairn at bottom of photo

I had also been nervous about finding the crossover point on the way down. Luckily for us, someone had put some bright pink tape in the cairn to mark this point. Yay!

About to start up the west gully & cairn with pink tape

I found the west gully much easier than the east gully. It doesn’t feel as steep, and before you know it, you’ve reached the top of the gully. We had a great scramble to the top. Some fog clouds moved in which made everything look beautiful.

Climbing up the west gully

The fog


From the top of the west gully, it is not a very long hike the top. It was still important to take our time and make sure we were going the right way.

Sean examining the final push to the summit

Almost on the summit

We reached the summit around 8:30am. About 3.5h after we started. We all felt great, it had been a fun climb. The weather on the summit was perfect. Sunny, and no wind. We enjoyed about 20min on the summit enjoying the awesome view before heading back down. I would have to say that the views from the top of the Needle might possibly be the best of any 14er I have been on yet.

Beautiful view looking south

Sean and I on the summit, with a cloud covered Crestone Peak in the background


Originally, I had also been worried of the hike down. It seemed steep, and I thought it would be very slow going. We were all however, able to do a slow crab walk on pretty much all of it. Going slow was the key, always being sure of ourselves.

Heading back down the west gully

I climbed that!?!?

Heading down broken hand pass was not as easy as it had seemed on the way up. I always find loose, steep terrain tough on tired legs after a big hike. Luckily, it’s not too long and before I knew it, we were back on the dirt trail and heading back to the camp site. We said goodbye to Annie and Ryan, and began to break down site. Then it was just a short (around an hour) hike back to the car.

I had prepared a lot for this hike, and I think in doing so had come with a great amount of respect for the mountain. This was definitely a climb that could have ended a lot differently had we all not planned ahead. However, I think with the right amount of preparation, this hike can be a lot of fun. It is definitely in the top 3 for me.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Pink Tape
08/12/2011 01:52
Excellent pictures! What camera did you use? We climbed the Needle a week before ... we set the pink tape since we saw no other climbers yet that day.We removed it upon decent as we should as responsible LNT hikers ... without it, I'm sure that we would have missed the exit of the west gully on the decent. At the request of the next climbers through that area, we passed a piece of the pink tape on to them.


07/19/2011 00:32
Great climbing with you guys!!! Until next time. . . . Although next time Sean and I will have to attempt the traverse


07/22/2011 21:29
The camera I used was just a Nikon Coolpix. Nothing too fancy. Thanks for leaving the pink tape! Definitely was happy to have it there!


Great Report
08/19/2011 21:38
There was something about your report specifically that inspired me to do the Needle yesterday. Your report was a real confidence booster. The entire hike went just as you described it. By the way, I left light green tape at the crossover point and retrieved it on the way out as nobody was behind me.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.