Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2012
Modified:  08/20/2012
Date Climbed:   08/05/2012
Author:  milan
 Weekend in Sangre de Cristo.  

Weekend in Sangre de Cristo.

Saturday August 11th: Culebra Peak, 14,047 feet; 4,282 m. Clean prominence 1466 m (4807 feet). Hiked with Sylwia (Tatra) and Dave (Dswink).
Sunday August 12th: Crestone Peak 14,294 feet; 4,357 meters. Clean prominence 1394 m (4574 feet). Hiked with Tony (Tony1).
Monday August 13th: Crestone Needle 14,197 feet; 4,327 meters. Hiked with Tony (Tony1).

Standard routes on every peak.

This combination just came out. I reserved Culebra with David pretty late, they only had about three dates and we choose August 11th and when I wanted to combine it with another peaks for a long weekend trip, the closest unclimbed fourteeners I had were the Crestones.

Culebra Peak

There is a nice fresh trip report on Culebra from SurfNTurf from the same day, and since I have a very similar view of that mountain, I am not going to repeat it and maybe just add some personal feelings and some pictures:

Culebra is an interesting mountain from a couple of reasons. It is on the list of fourteeners (and thus on the list of 4000 m peaks too) and it is a very prominent mountain, the depth of Veta Pass (key col) is 4807 feet. This puts this mountain on the 4th place of the most prominent peaks in Colorado. See table 2 in this link:


And that's about it. I've red several trip reports on how "cool" the mountain is, how special Culebra Range is, how wild it stayed, virtually untouched by human, you find solitude there...No, it's not truth. At all. Until last week, if someone asked me, which fourteener I liked the least, I'd have hard time to tell. Now I'd simply answer: "Culebra". I honestly have hard time to find less interesting mountain than that, even when I go through my 13ers. Even Pennsylvania Mountain (Mosquito) or Hoosier Ridge (that I both didn't like because of i don't like steep grass walking) had at least very cool views from their summits. Culebra is just a grassy bump with some talus near the summit and all you can see from it is about 10 other grassy hills.


Got to the ridge on Culebra.

The lack of trail is IMO rather disadvantage than a cool thing. You also hike it with another 20 or so people, so if you feel it's solitude...I don't. Not that I'd mind, I was actually very happy to hike this moutain with David and Sylwia and I was very pleased to meet with SurfNTurf and his group, he is exactly right, the people around actually made the hike up and down a boring mountain enjoyable. And yeah, the weather sucked. Very windy, cold, I gave up my hope for Red.

There is some talus before the summit on Culebra, David and Sylwia are climbing it.

Summited Culebra.

I also need to add that I had a very good knowledge about what I was going for. I am hoping sometimes to finish the list and it is a private mountain, the owner has his rules and I accepted the price and got what I wanted. I just want to tell others, if you are going to see something special, please, save yourself 100 $ and go somewhere else. Spanish Peaks, Buffalo Peaks, other 13ers, there are tonns of much better places in Colorado, they are free and you can find solitude and beauty there.

And at the end I have to admit, while writing this, I am surely influenced by what came during the other two days. The contrast is just huge.

Crestone Peak and Creston Needle

Crestones overlook from Humbodt Peak, photographed in 2010.

After hiking Culebra, me and Dave went to a Pizza restaurant in Fort Garland, we met with the other group, ate some pizza, and then I headed to the lower trailhead for South Colony Lakes. I waited and at about 8 pm, Tony showed up. We carpooled to the upper trailhead in his car (the road got much worse than I remember it from three years before) and then hiked 4.5 miles to the lower colony lake, where we built our tents and when I was setting up my alarm clock, it was already 12.38 am.

Creston Needle in sunrise.

We started something like 6.30 am, we both agreed doing Crestone Peak the first day. The second day we wanted to pack all the way out and drive home, so we assumed the Needle is shorter, so we saved it for then.

Broken Hand Pass hike is not a big deal, there is a pretty good trail all the way to several rocks that need to be scrambled over, it's about 1200 feet of elevation gain so it takes some time to get there but I hiked South Maroon's 2800 feet slope less than a week ago - so BHP was no match for that.
Then you loose about 600 feet on the other side. It's pain, you know you will have to gain it back eventually. Hike to the Red Gully is also on a solid trail, those trail folks are doing pretty good job there. The gully itself is less steep than it looks on the pisctures. In most places, it's just steep hike, sometimes you need hands but it's not technical. Its just SO LONG. It takes forever to get to the top of it.

Red Gully, it's actually much less steep than the picture shows, you can see, Tony can stand and walk without using his hands.

Red gully.

Ad then there is a little scramble to the summit, ledges, very wide, almost no exposure. And the views are spectacular. Awesome. On the summit, you feel the achievement. Here are some pictures.

View of Sangres to the south.

View of Kit Carson Peak from the summit of Crestone Peak

East Crestone, Jeremy27 and his partner on it.

Panoramic view.



I was slow the entire day. After Culebra and those 1700 feet with the full backpack on Saturday, I felt every muscle in my boddy. Tony was nice, waited when I needed it. Then we hiked down the gully and went back to the pass and I was already tired. Hiking down the pass, I found something that made me almost as happy as summiting Crestone peak. I found a fossil. I've been collecting fossils for almost 20 years and I created a skill that I am actually checking every rock I see. I do it automatically, not even noticing it but when I get a glimpse on something, my brain turns a full attention to it and here it was. A fern. I know those rocks formed at the bottom of a marine basin that formed between two massive mountain ranges (Uncompahgria and Frontrangia) in carboniferous period (OK, the Americans always must have something extra, you call it Pennsylvanian here) so there is a chance to find a fossil plant. However, the plant had to be transported from the continent to the open sea and then burried at the bottom of it. So it is extra rare occassion. Unlike in the shales that formed in continental basins along with coal layers where plant fssils are abundant. About half year ago, I found bark of Lepidodendron on Little Horn Peak and this one was the only second fossil I found while hiking this area multiple days.

On the way down from the BHP, I found this fossil. Its fern about 300 million years old!

I left the fossil at the place, it had no coal so it was rather imprint, it was on a heavy rock and this should stay where it was to please other adventurors.

In the afternoon, I fell into hibernation, half awake, half sleeping for the rest of the day, then a rain started, so I stayed in the sleeping bag. The tent was leaking, so I got wet which forced me to stay in the sleeping bag not loosing heat.

We woke up a little later for the Needle. This mountain is super fun. It's really enjoyable scramble, exposed in areas (especially the traverse between gullies, the following pictures of Tony are from there). It's shorter that the Peak. I don't understand problems with routefinding here unless you get whited out or into a thick fog. The dihedral is SO OBVIOUS that you can't miss it. It was exactly as I remembered it from the pictures in the guide here. So folks, do your homework and you will be fine here. And look back during the ascent. Always do that. Even if you hike with others. Check twice!

Climbing Creston Needle.

Climbing Creston Needle.

Climbing Creston Needle.

Climbing Creston Needle.

And after a nice scramble, another awesome summit. Here she is, the NEEDLE!

Milan summited Creston Needle.

The way back is the same fun as climbing it up. Just a bit under the summit, it started to snow. Fortunately, only several flakes fell and the rock remained dry, it would be really bad if it snowed too. Another reminder, that the weather can change so much in those mountains.

Tony summited Creston Needle.

In the west gully.

In the west gully.

Humboldt Peak is in the view. And Colony Baldy.

Cirsium scopulorum, Alpine Thistle. (also called mountain thistle).

The Needle.

The Needle.

View of Sangres.

After pretty short descend, we packed up our tents and headed down to our car. We got some rain on our way but it didn't bother us too much, we summited two super awesome mountains and we both were very happy for that. Happy to bag fourteeners # 54, 55 and 56. And you know, over all I am happy even for Culebra.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great Trip
08/15/2012 12:41
report Milan. I've enjoyed reading your other TR's and you've always had great pictures and good beta to go with them. ~Matt


Geology Nerd
08/15/2012 14:00
I am a geology nerd so the fossil picture wins!


Almost there, Milan!
08/15/2012 14:22
The clock is ticking until you leave the good ol' US of A but you have been making the absolute most of your summer, that's for sure.

It has been great climbing a bunch with you and hopefully you are able to get Cap and LB and I hope to be able to join you on the latter.

Great pictures as usual buddy!

I Man

Congrats Milan!
08/15/2012 14:49
You have had a very productive few weeks. Congrats, my friend! Great report & photos


Great Write-Up
08/15/2012 16:09
It was an awesome weekend for sure. Great climbing with you Milan!


Thank you all folks.
08/15/2012 16:46
Yes, as you know, I am leaving the USA at the end of August and trying to enjoy the mountains that I love so much as much as possible. I am getting from this summer what I can and during the past year, I met several awesome climbing partners, something I didn't have before. Tony, I didn't express it in this report but I agree, it was great to climb those two peaks with you (and you look very cool on my photos ).


That might be us.
08/15/2012 18:47
I think that might be my friend and I on East Crestone (I think you mistakenly called it ”North Crestone”) in photo 11. I'm pretty sure you guys followed us up BHP after we all stopped to look at the sheep. Nice day.


08/15/2012 19:49
I think you are rigt!


Good to meet you on the summit of the Peak...
08/15/2012 21:59
Great weekend for adventure. Enjoyed the write up and photos. Glad you made it to the Needle the next day. Best of luck on future endeavors.


That flower in picture #25
08/18/2012 04:14
is Cirsium scopulorum, Alpine Thistle. (also called mountain thistle).
Very cool pic of the fossil.
Productive weekend in the Sangres!
You have been making the most of your time in CO.
Well done!
Hope we can climb again next year!

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