Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
"East Crestone" - 14,260 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
"Northeast Crestone" - 14,260 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2012
Date Climbed:   06/23/2012
Author:  Fisching
Additional Members:   tmathews, aerohr

MOUNTAIN: Crestone Peak (14,294’), Crestone Needle (14,197’), East Crestone(14,260'), Northeast Crestone (14,260'),
ROUTE: North Buttress (Crestone Peak, NE Crestone, & E Crestone) & Crestone Traverse (Needle); descended Needle's standard route
RT MILEAGE: 12.1 miles
RT TIME: ~15:45 (we walked backwards the entire time - needed to make it a sporting affair)
CLIMBERS: Greg (gregory_fischer), Terry (Tmathews) & Andrew (aerohr - for the traverse & descent)

Epic Hero Shot - That's right. We begin with one of these
Terry's Awesome Side - Ladies, send numbers via PM to tmathews

Prior to the days when the world was not burning down and our town (Colorado Springs) offered clear(ish) skies, Terry and I left at 1am and began from the upper TH at 3:45. The plan was to head up the upper basin of South Colony Lakes to Bear's Playground, climb the North Buttress for the Peak and continue onto the Crestone Traverse. Terry and I knew we had the traverse in the bag; it's status as one of the 4 great traverses is embellished. Terry's kind of a big deal in France - he soloed Mt. Blanc in Crocs. I'm not as well known sadly... My highly publicized free-solo of El Capitan last July didn't happen; my tummy hurt.

We reached the Upper South Colony Lake in under 2 hours. Child's play.
Awesome Photo

The next portion of the hike sucked, even for expert climbers like us. The class 2 wasn't the challenge (if you stay on the right side of the lake you can avoid more of it), but the smoke. The haze from fires across the state was settling around 12,500 and it made breathing much more difficult. Since conditions in the state have deteriorated since then be aware that if you have breathing problems or trouble with smoke it won't be pleasant to climb. The views also became more obscured, too. After the steep climb to Bear's Playground, we took a break to catch our breath from the smoke before continuing.
View of the Needle from Bear's Playground. Despite it close distance, the haze from the smoke was very apparent.

Terry and I were fully aware that we needed to continue up the ridge for the Buttress route. However, we're more adventurous climbers and decided to take an off-route approach by contouring towards the NW Couloir before heading up the North Buttress. I mean, it doesn't count unless it's somewhat challenging. There are cairns marking the route but they're sporadically placed. Just follow the ridge of the North Buttress before turning right and heading towards the Peak. This portion of the trail is a mix of class 2/3. Granted, it felt more like Class 0 for us.
View of the Buttress Route. Follow ridge after gaining Bear's Playground before turning right towards the Peak
Buttress Terrain
Buttress Terrain

Here's a look at the gendarmes on the Northern ridge which must be crossed over to reach the crossover into the top of the NW Couloir. There's a notch between the gendarmes to cross between.
Photo looks towards NE Crestone. Notch to pass through gendarme is not visible in photo.

Here's where the fun section begins. After getting into the notch, we turned left and head up and over it to the following notch. the summit appears and looks to be within jumping distance. On the opposite of this notch is a low class 5 downclimb (image 10). There's plenty of exposure on the downclimb, that would would give a it a difficult day for a lady, but not for us.
I know it looks like I'm using hands on the terrain, but I was really doing burpees.
The 5th class portion

We continued to the low point of the notch and were about to begin our downclimb towards the Couloir where the supposed ledges exist. DO NOT try and climb up the following gendarme; it's definite class 5 (and if we didn't do it, why would you??? Exactly.) and not the correct route. The chimney we were looking at was a long descent and the hand/foot holds were spaced far apart adding to the difficulty. Terry gave it a try and I decided to head back up to the headwall where we just completed the downclimb and find an alternative route. This proved much easier.
The chimney

The next portion consistent of the 4th class lateral traverse which offered plenty of exposure as we were still high above the NW Couloir. Now it was an easy day for a lady.
The easiest portion of the lateral traverse
Lateral Traverse Exposure
The "ledges"

With the underwhelming part behind us, we gain the saddle and proceed to gain NE Crestone. Some inferior climbers might want beta on NE Crestone from Britt Jones. The climb was class 3+ for us; if you're more prodigious (or less-adventurous) you can keep it to class 3.
Summit lounging

From the saddle to Crestone Peak's summit was class 3 and marked with cairns; the route goes on the left side of the ridge. We took a break, at some food, talked to some other climbers and offered Andrew an invite to join us on the Crestone traverse. We went back down to the saddle and climbed the opposite side to East Crestone which was a quick Class 2+ climb. The exposure on the East side was sheer. If you fell, you would have plenty of time to thing about your impending doom.
View of Crestone Needle from East Crestone

PSA On the descent of the Red Gully to begin the traverse, we passed numerous idiots who did not wear a helmet. That is NOT a route you'd want to be without head protection. The route for the traverse is a decent ways down the Red Gully. If possible, stay to the left and keep an eye open for a cairn which marks the turnoff. After the turnoff, the route is fairly well cairned and is a combination of class 2+/3 for the most of the way. Just be aware that the route is well below the ridge.
The Black Gendarme. Terry free soloed this before I could even pull out my camera.

Nearing the Needle, the route becomes more difficult in both terrain and route-finding making a GPS a useful tool. Personally, I found the carins easier to spot while moving along the traverse and not searching for the next one while standing next to a cairn. The entire traverse took us roughly 2 hours.
Terrain & route-finding becoming more difficult
Terry on the upclimb

The final pitch up the Needle's summit is AWESOME. Class 4 climbing, huge exposure, and awesome photo opportunities equals EPICNESS!!! Now we know what Sunlight Spire is like.
Terry on the upclimb

Andrew from above. BTW, he fucking hates moths.

I'm freaking amazing. Praise me.

More summit pitch shots

Andrew summit pitch shot

Terry summit pitch shot. Easy 5.13d move

On the summit, we ate some food, talked, listened to Andrew rant about his hatred of moths, and I took my usual nap. This route did not energize me as I thought it would. The descent was uneventful. There's a little snow near the pinch in BHP. Most of it can be avoided through careful navigation.

Thus ended our easy hike. However, unlike SurfNTurf, this isn't satire and we need your validation and praise. So, LOOK AT US!!!

Humbly Yours,

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Praise where praise is due
06/26/2012 22:43
I love #27 - 4th Class with exposure + camera in-hand. Classic. More like an ”Easy day for an over-rated self-promoter”. Nice job, gents. Tough route I'm sure.


Come at me bro
06/26/2012 22:59
Photos 1 and 29 need to be on the cover of the next issue of Alpinist.


The last photo
06/27/2012 01:33
is epic, now you know what the Diamond is like! Oh and also, should I do El Cap or free solo Lizard Head this weekend?


06/27/2012 03:16
I'm loving these TR's.

On a serious note: I'm planning on doing Crestone Peak (not needle) this weekend. Will this require a helmet for the Red gully area? Are there any other precautions I should heed?

How does CP's ”red gully” and summit pitch compare to the Keyhole on Long's? I felt comfortable on all of LP. If I go I'll be doing it with some experienced climbers who have done most all of the 14ers, however I would still like to get some feel for what to expect.



@ zephyr_pelicante
09/24/2012 15:44
YES!!! Bring a helmet. The rock is loose in the Red Gully and if something gets knocked, it doesn't take much for it to gain speed. In terms of comparison with Longs, I would say that the Red Gully combines of the steepness of the Homestretch and the looseness of the Trough.


09/24/2012 15:44
Why not just traverse from one to the other?


Watch out for moths
06/27/2012 04:55
PSA: These peaks may contain more moths than you have ever seen in your life. They will slam into your face, spread their dust in your mouth, nose, or eyes and then depart before you can grab them and separate them from their powdery disgusting wings and throw the whole mess onto the talus at your feet. THEY ARE AGILE!

The moths start around the base of Broken Hand Pass and don't relent until you are back in your tent. They flap around and slam into your face all day long. THESE ARE NOT BUTTERFLIES. They will follow you. They are vile creatures and will stop at nothing to slam themselves into your face, leaving a powdery mess, all day long. This happened during the day (not exactly my finest alpine start, departing camp at 7:45... but loaded with packages of Haribo gummy bears (PSA #2: Shot Blox etc. have inferior nutrition to Haribo Gummy Bears), a summer sausage log and smoked Gouda as nutritious snacks, how could I become tired?). I can't imagine the consequences of starting in the dark with a headlamp. You may suffocate from all of the moth dust in your face.

Oh yeah, and the climb was fun. Eat Gummy Bears.


Another TR that
06/27/2012 05:43
gave me sweaty palms. Nice work, Greg and crew. Was Rob on time out for this one?


GPS tracks
06/27/2012 14:42
I would like some GPS tracks for this route, do you have any? Also, do you find taking hero shots slows you down at all, and how do you deal with that? What's the best technique to climb while holding a DSLR?


Nice detail, Dude
06/27/2012 17:31
I have yet to do the Buttress. Thanks for the write up as it appears a cool trip.

Jeff's such a terrible influence.


06/27/2012 20:03
Great climb and funny report, I love it.


Great Report
06/28/2012 15:32
Terry wasn't lieing when he said he was going back there this weekend. My favorite part of the report is the blatant display of humility throughout the entire walk in the park.


06/28/2012 16:15
Love this route - way to make it look as easy as it really is.


Take 2
06/28/2012 21:02
Instead of all this reading, could you do the route again but with a GoPro to record all of it. Thanks in advance. cheers.

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