Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2019
Date Climbed:   08/20/2019
Author:  Tynoland
 Crestone Peak Red Gully ascent, NW Couloir descent   

background info: 22nd 14er today - 12th peak this year. 2nd time in the Crestones (summited the Needle last year). I’m a v5 boulderer, but don’t trad or anything.

I felt like there wasn’t very much info on the NW Couloir on here. My idea made sense to me...hike up standard route, hike down NW into bears playground then head up Columbia Point and hit Kit...and it WOULD work, but it would be a MONSTER DAY.

Kit...So close, yet so far away

Long story short: The NW Couloir is STEEP and where it’s not steep it’s loose. Hiking with others in this couloir may be more dangerous than going it solo, soooooo much rockfall. For what it’s worth, I definitely don't think I would do it again in the summer. Hiking the ridge to Obstruction Peak was rewarding, and I will go back to do Kit from S Colony lakes...I think it looks like fun.

Details if you STILL are considering this route: I prepared by studying Roach (of course) and read the few reports on here by geojed ( and some other report where the gal said she basically just crab-walked down (of course I can’t find the report now). There isn’t a lot of info. But it is straightforward. I decided I wouldn’t make my decision until I got on the Crestone summit and took a gander at the descent.

When you look at it from the top it doesn’t look bad, it’s just loose. Then it gets more solid and totally do-able, but then I hit solid ice (right around 14,000)...definitely didn't feel safe to cross without tools. This ice was not visible from the top.

Look from notch between Crestone summits down
Near top looking back up at start of descent
Icy patch photo taken from my "diversion traverse"
Ice at about 14,000. With ax and cramps maybe this would be easy?'s funny that feeling you get in this situation where you really get to test your fight or flight nerves. You must be fearless. You must make every move with intention. Breathe and evaluate your options.

By this point there’s no backing out. So I decided to traverse to my right, up and around the ice through this little notch (my "diversion notch"). Then I was free climbing down classic Crestone conglomerate...definitely not crab walking. Definitely hairy. I think I was somewhere between the NW Couloir and the North Buttress...I saw one pillar with a rope anchored around it? But I didn’t down climb this section, I went just left of it.

My "Ice Diversion Notch" around 14,000
descending conglomerate, 13,400 exit just barely visible below
Looking back up at my ice diversion notch
The exit ledge at 13,400ish is totally obvious and well marked

Finally the ledge for the traverse to Obstruction became clear below me (for the record, right around 13,400 like Roach says). I was happy to be on cairned trail again. And the hike and views of Crestone along this trail were truly spectacular. I found this portal and stood in it for a while, I don’t think it took me anywhere. Maybe it was the grave of some ill-informed climber who descended NW Couloir too fast...As the sign at the South Colony Lakes trailhead says, “Don’t become a statistic!”

The Portal


PS: I still have an iPhone I found on the Needle last year...if anyone is looking for it I would like to return it to you.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

no photos
08/21/2019 08:46
Try to figure out how to upload your photos. I would like to see them. Thanks for posting

08/21/2019 13:39
Thanks for the heads up! I uploaded the photos from my phone, will get the main text sorted out when I can sit down at a the computer later...not sure what I did wrong. First time poster

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