Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  01/20/2012
Modified:  01/20/2016
Date Climbed:   01/15/2012
Author:  Dad Mike
 Winter Traverse  

Distance...15 miles
Elevation...7500 feet
Time...12 hours 25 minutes

I'd like to apologize in advance of this trip report. It's 4pm on Friday afternoon and I'm at work. The sooner I finish this trip report, the sooner I can go home. Short and it goes.

Trip to Ecuador with Dani and 7 CMC friends
Dani and I climb the 3 highest peaks of our lives
Life is good...New Year's Eve in Quito
Getting ready to climb hardest and highest peak of the 4...Antisana
Heavy snow forecasted for the next 4 Antisana
5 days of unplanned touristy activities ensue...still fun, but not the kind of fun we had hoped for
Back in Colorado...need to do something to fill the void
Weather looks good...Sangres are pretty dry...Peak to Needle?
Only have one day to do it...Cottonwood looks possible...found old report from Jason Halladay

The drive to the trailhead takes 3 hours from the Springs. I planned it so I could listen to the Broncos game to pass the time.

I Gladbach'd it in the back of the jeep. Slept pretty good, woke up at 3:30am, on the trail at 4:15.

I was surprised to find a nice trail with some decent signs of traffic on it. After about 2 miles the only tracks left were the non-human kind and all signs of a trail vanished. I spent the next few hours trying to find the path of least resistance. My mileage and elevation numbers were higher than expected because of all the ups & downs and back & forths I did in the canyon.

Sunrise...things got a little easier once I could see where I was going

Here's a shot of the infamous slabs leading to the upper part of the basin. If you stay to the left (north) side you can find an easier route past them.

Hello Needle!

Sun hitting the Peak…this was taken from the rocks below the Red Gully

The “not so” Red Gully
The snow was nice and firm, but the effort to get to this point really started to affect my pace. 50 steps, rest, 50 steps, rest.

The scramble to the summit, seen from the top of the gully

Black Diamond...I'm ready for that sponsorship when you are

View to the south

Crestone Needle
I had been checking out the traverse all morning. There were quite a few steep snow slopes to cross, but I felt really good about the snow conditions.

Looking back at the Red Gully from the beginning of the traverse
I was here for the first time in August and that helped a lot. I cruised over to the saddle without too many issues.

Let the fun begin!
I looked at this picture the next day and I still couldn’t tell you where I went up. I just know it was steeper and harder than I wanted it to be. I lost the cairns quickly so I’m pretty sure I was off route, but I have no idea what the right route looks like. Oh well…still so much fun.

I think this was the last downclimb before heading up the Needle.

I remembered this part from August, but I didn’t remember the 6’ tall cornice. It took me a few minutes to chop out the right side of this thing before I felt comfortable climbing over it.

Here I am waving “hi” to my wife from the stat of the summit pitch. Up to this point the weather was as good as I could have asked for…20 degrees or so and very little wind. Of course the wind picked up on the most exposed climbing of the day.

1:15pm…Crestone Peak from the summit of Crestone Needle

Looking down the east gully
I choose the more direct route down because I didn’t want to miss the crossover. It worked out pretty good. The snow was nice and firm and not as steep as I expected.

Looking up the same gully

Cottonwood Lake and Broken Hand Peak
The snow made for a quick descent and I was at Cottonwood Lake by 2:15.

One more look at the Peak & Needle before retracing my drunken path through the forest

Finally back on the good trail
I didn’t realize how much wandering I had done on the way up in the dark until I had to see it in the light. If you happen to be following my path up Cottonwood Trail soon…I apologize.

I got back to my car at 4:45pm…just in time to see the sun set. What a day!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

01/21/2012 01:43
Nice job.


Donkey Kong
01/21/2012 02:29
It's On!! Way to hit it, brother!


Steve as a verb.
01/21/2012 03:30
Wow, Gladbach will be forever immortalized in our community by making a verb of his name! Is that a past participle or past simple verb....or something else? Kiefer?

Sweet report Mike!


01/21/2012 03:49
i'm so jealous.

Great job. enough said


01/21/2012 15:14
Nice work, Mike. Two tough peaks, in winter, solo, on a daytrip!

Strong work, great photos, fun report. Thanks!


I don't know about that proof...
01/21/2012 22:53
those pictures could have been taken anywhere. That's one rather nice remote controlled airplane you have.

Kevin Baker

01/22/2012 01:09
Wow, you were cruising, Mike! Hard to believe you knocked that out so quick in winter! Conditions sure look reasonable up there right now. Heck of an effort.


01/22/2012 21:09
Amazing work getting these two in the winter. Heck of an accomplishment, kudos!


It's all in the eyewear...
01/22/2012 21:12
Nice work, Mike. I like how you lay low for weeks and then appear out of the blue with something like this. Roosevelt said ”Speak softly and carry a big stick.” and I think that summarizes your online persona.

Heck of a job, dude...

Dad Mike

Thanks homies...
08/12/2014 23:13
Thanks for all the great comments. Loved reading them.

Summit Lounger

Excellent work
01/23/2012 15:14
Great job getting another traverse in winter. It looked like a fun day.


sweet TR
01/24/2012 18:53
It really looks like you had a lot of fun. Does a summit ski of the needle look doable?

Dad Mike

Ski the Needle?
08/12/2014 23:13
It would be tough if not impossible to get to the gullies on snow. Once in the gully, you could ski all the way to Cottonwood Lake and beyond if you wanted to.


01/29/2012 15:13
Nothing short of awesome. I know that ”trail” - tons of downed timber, a good headwall to climb and my trip in a years-ago July included a knee-high stream crossing. I think having to wade through the snow more than offsets the stream in summer - quite an accomplishment to get the approach and the traverse in on a winter's day. Enjoyed the pictures!


Snow Safety
01/31/2012 05:34
Looks like fun! I know it has been a while and kind of a lot has happened since your trip, but what did you notice in the snow safety department on your trip?

Dad Mike

Snow Safety
08/12/2014 23:13
Once I got out of the trees, the snow safety really wasn't much of a concern. I found it to be well bonded and pretty firm...almost spring like.

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