Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   07/11/2005
Author:  new england kid
 Crestone Needle via Broken Hand Pass - Saturday, July 9  

As mentioned in many other places on this forum, the access road to the South Colony Lakes trailhead is extremely rough. It took us over an hour to drive 3.5 miles before we finally had enough and camped alongside the road. It took us an additional 45 minutes to walk up the road to the trailhead.

That said, this is a wonderful climb. Departed the trailhead around 7:15am. Nice easy hike up to the lakes where there were quite a few people camping. Ideally, you would be able to drive all the way to the trailhead, backpack in and set up camp at one of the wonderful sites near the lake.

After a short bouldering section we ascended Broken Hand Pass. I think if you had crampons and/or an ice axe you would use them, but we didnt miss having them.

We climbed up the west gully by following the cairns. Bills photos are very useful in route finding and we had no trouble scrambling up the Class 3 terrain and then along the ridge to the summit. The rock is incredible and has fantastic handholds. We were on top at 10:30am.

We saw a few people making the traverse from Peak to Needle. Though tempting, we had neither the time nor equipment to make it. It probably is just Class 4, but leaving the Needle requires a rappel.

But we decided to get a better look at the climbers traversing and see their route so began descending much further west--I would say maybe five or six couloirs west of the way we came up. From there you have a great vantage point (and respect) of the traverse. We started descending around 11:15am.

Our southwest gully of choice was much more difficult then the traditional route, but it was a blast. Definitely Class 4 the entire way down. Maybe even low Class 5 in some spots. But with the great rock and some careful route planning, it was a great way to come down. It probably took about an hour and a half longer to come down than up.

There was a bit of a logjam at the top of Broken Hand Pass as someone had glissaded down and knocked out all the footsteps. Fortunately the snow was still soft enough to kick some more in.

The weather changed very quickly. It was hot when we were on top - tank tops and shorts - but by the time we descended the pass it was hailing and then started pouring rain. We hiked out quickly and got back to the trailhead at 4:15pm.

A wonderful challenging hike that is a nice change from the traditional march up the mountain.

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