Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted:  08/07/2011
Modified:  08/08/2011
Date Climbed:   08/05/2011
Author:  TheKanes
 Crestone Peak- S. Face/ Red Gully  

Aug 4-5, 2011 Crestone Peak Climb
Trailhead: S. Colony
Hike to camp: about 1 hour from the upper lot to the main trailhead
Day of Hike Start Time: 5:00 a.m. Back to camp: 1:30 p.m.
Return to our truck: 45 minutes
Round Trip (approximate): 18 miles from where we parked (done in two days)
Elevation Gain: (approximate): 5,700

About three weeks ago we set out to climb the Needle and the Peak but due to evening and early morning showers, our hike got started a little late and then we encountered gusts of wind up to 40 MPH. Thrilled to have crested the almighty Needle, we humbled ourselves and walked away knowing we would be back for the Peak.

Somehow the mountain gods were on our side for this Friday’s climb of Crestone Peak as it proved to be one of our best trips in the mountains, warding off stress, gloomy weather, or accidents of any kind. Image
We couldn't ask for better weather!

We have hiked all of our 14ers together as a couple (minus a couple repeat climbs), and the journey of each hike brings a mixture of pleasure and pain. This season, getting into our 40th, 41st, 42nd, and now 43rd Colorado 14er, has proved to bring more challenges it seems. Decalibron was a great starting place for the season. The Needle brought rough winds and frayed nerves, Blanca & Ellingwood incorporated the hardships of Como Lake Rd. and the hungry bear. What heights would this climb bring? Learning of the recent tragedy in this area, the death of an enthusiastic hiker hoping to climb 50 of the highest CO mountains in 30 days, did send a strong warning to be safe, cautious, and respectful of these chillingly steep and rugged peaks. We spoke of Keith and thought of him on this trip which added intensity to the climb. It’s always so difficult to hear about such tragedy, yet the dangers do not overshadow the joys. For us, reaching each mountaintop inspires us to keep pushing on. Maybe, we keep saying, we'll finish next season, but for now, we have this one peak to summit.

Since we had hiked in the area less than a month ago, we felt good making last minute plans. We hopped in our Xterra on Thursday after work (packs already stuffed) and made our way through the torrential downpour and rush-hour traffic. We wondered if we’d be sleeping in the truck or able to hike up a ways. To our fortune, the rain subsided once we got further south. We slammed a Red Bull (which seems a popular vice for mountaineers as we noticed all varieties of energy drinks in other vehicles parked at the last lot, where the gates prevent further travel).

The hike up went quickly as it was cool but without any rain. We camped just after the TH gate, setting up in the light of our headlamps. We don’t typically hike/set-up camp in the dark. Usually we try to backpack in a day prior to a big hike, but we found this to actually make it an easy way to settle in. No time to think/ponder but just get some shut-eye after a freeze/dried meal of spaghetti.

We packed light, without pads so the sleep was a little restless (cold and hard ground). No animals woke us up this time though. Hitting the trail at 5 a.m. we made good time and were half way up Broken Hand Pass by 6 a.m. This pass is certainly steep and not one we were dying to repeat, but without the snow or ice now, it actually went by quickly enough. We dropped down below Cottonwood Lake, re-supplied our water jugs and carved our way over to the base of Crestone Peak's gully. Along this first leg of the hike we met a brother-sister hiking pair and another young couple. We were about the middle of the pack. Image
At the base of the gully looking up to our intended goal, the top.
The climb up the Red Gully took lots of energy and we stopped a couple times, but we just kept preceding up-up-up. Image
While steep, stable rock
Our path was to start on the left-hand side for the first half. At one point, it just seemed more climbable on the right, so we moved to that side. It seems that climbers can stay on both sides, whichever is most stable/comfortable. While the gully is long and requires careful climbing, it was fun and felt safe with the stable rock for the most part. Just above the “Notch” the brother-sister pair turned and hiked to their right (which we figured was the wrong way). As we approached them they were turning back and we all ascended together (staying to the left of the Notch). There was one other solo hiker that made the summit before us, a rock climber from New Mexico. We enjoyed a visit with absolutely beautiful skies. Familiar peaks surrounded us as we are now nearly done with the mountains in this area. Image
Atop the Peak, glancing north at this ridge, hiding in thin clouds
The sister lent us her sign. #43!!!

Descending, Jen stays to the right and experiences a little exposure
Looking back up the gully as Jen is more than half way back down
Rick takes a moment to soak in the views, preched on a ledge
Near the base, one can see how slick some of the rock gets in the gully. Again--avoid wet rock!
Rick takes the left side on the lower portion of the down-climb (notice how smooth the rock is)

On our descent we were greeted by a slew of sheep (around 10 total). I caught the last little one in mid-air as she followed the rest of her buddies. Looks like she is shedding her summer coat. Of course, we only had the iphone for photos on this trip- ugh.
Sighting of sheep. All looking right at Jen
This ewe looks almost quizzical
One-by-one the sheep jump down, only 50 feet from Jen
Scraggly yet graceful, caught in mid-air.
They climb up above us and then disappear within minutes, booking it across the high valley

If that wasn’t enough, we spotted a graceful bighorn sheep near Lower South Colony Lake. Image
Big horn stands to give us a farewell
Like a statue he stands firm

Butterflies followed us on the rest of our hike, we celebrated with a Dale's Pale Ale Image
We celibrate with DRMURROW's gift to Rick. We saved these two for this hike- so quenching.
and we even caught a double rainbow once we returned to Colorado Springs. Image
Rain started sprinkling as we headed out of Westcliffe and by the time we reached Co Springs we were met with rain and a double rainbow : )
This may sound like scenes from a Mary Poppins movie, but really, our day couldn’t have been any better. I told Rick, this is why we persist through the drearier trips. To get to days like this!

As I said before, it was as if the mountain gods were smiling down on us.
RIP Keith. This is an incredibly special place, and even though your passing is everyone’s loss, may your spirit live on in these parts!

For more photos see slideshow...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/08/2011 00:57
Great shots of the bighorns! Nice double rainbow too... I always laugh whenever I see that after the youtube clip!


08/08/2011 13:32
Hey guys great to see you made it back safely. Well Bowe, climber from New Mexico, my sister and I went over the traverse and got within about 600 ft of the summit and decided that it was just going to be to technical, also we were really starting to tire out from the lack of sleep the night before. We ended up turning around and going all the way back to the red gully. Bowe could probably have easily summitted but he decided to turn around with us and help us out trailfinding on the return. His experience and skills were invaluable and we owe him a big 'Thank you'.

Awesome report and great shots. Grats on #43


Good job!
08/08/2011 18:26
Good job you two. Wish I could have been with since that is where we first met. You are really knocking them off this year.


08/08/2011 21:17
MOffutt-- we wondered if you made the traverse or not. We completely understand turning back and have had to do it ourselves. We kept looking up at the traverse hopping to spot you. Do you think you'll hike the Needle another time?

Yeonderin- we really miss hiking with you this season. That area really is special We know you'll heal up in a matter of time. Get better!

   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.