Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   07/22/2005
Author:  mjlucarelli
 Crestone Needle/Crestone Peak  

My boyfriend, brother and I drove up South Colony on Friday evening July 22, and car camped that night at the SC trailhead. Saturday morning we hit the trail right after 6:00am, hoping that leave time was early enough to beat a lot of the climbers planning on doing the Ellingwood Arete. About an hour later we reached the base of Crestone Needle, happy to see not too many parties were on the climb. We were also happy to see that there wasnt a cloud in the sky. Around noon we topped out on top of Crestone Needle. The Arete was fairly simple but I was pretty siked to bag my first technically rock climbed fourteener, and the Arete is considered a classic climb.
Since the weather was still clear and I had not done Crestone Peak, I convinced the boys to head over with me. After a fun little repel off the needle the real fun began. The instructions in the fourteener guide said to stay as close to the top of the ridge as possible, which seemed very difficult. We crossed paths with a lot of other parties travelling from the peak to the needle that couldnt seem to find a good route either. It was taking a lot longer than we thought, but we could head down at any point on the traverse and other than a cloud or two dropping a couple sprinkles, weather was still fairly clear with nothing threatening us.
That afternoon we topped out on Crestone Peak, extremely tired and happy to be heading back down. My brother noticed some nasty clouds building in the east so we didnt spend much time on the summit. We got about 3/4 mile down a gully heading to the open valley south of Crestone Peak, west of Crestone Needle, when the hail started to come down pretty hard. Not long after the thunder and lightning started and it was directly above our heads. We passed a party of two guys sitting under a small overhang in the gully who had not brought any rainwear. We put our raincoats on and chose to find shelter ourselves.
Unfortunately the gully had very little protection and was filling with water from the large amount of rain and hail coming down. The lightning was getting a little too close for our comfort, as we watched it hit the ridge in front of us. We waited for the hail and lightning to calm and took off down the mountian via a grassy slope above the gully, due to the fact that the gully was dangerously slick and filling up rapidly with water. But the grassy slope we took down gave us too much exposure to the lightning. One strike was so close to my boyfriend he said he felt it in his right hand. That told us to take cover again considering we were just heading towards a totally exposed valley, and this storm was not planning on letting up anytime soon. My brother found a small cave and the three of us squeezed into it. By this time we were worn out, wet and cold, but glad to be under protective shelter.
After maybe 45 minutes of hiding out, the lightning had not struck for a while and the hail had turned to rain, but there was still no end to the cloud covered sky. We decided now would be a good time to head to the valley and over broken hand pass back to south colony lakes. From the top of broken hand pass I was happy to turn around and see the two guys we had passed trudging up the pass behind us (we had planned to go down that night and warn a ranger that the two gentlemen may still be up there).
Around 8:30pm, 14 hours later, we made it back to the car. The three of us changed into dry clothes, which was difficult to do, we couldnt even button buttons because of lack of feeling in our finger due to the cold and wettness they were exposed to. We were happy get some warm food in our bodies and huddle in our sleeping bags in the SUV with the heater going. The next day due to soggy hiking boots we were unable to do Humboldt so we headed back to Denver.
That was definently my most epic fourteener attempt ever, and the worse storm I have ever been caught in. But I am happy to report that everyone made it down unharmed.

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