Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  07/10/2020
Date Climbed:   07/07/2020
Author:  yvng phil
Additional Members:   jvirene
 (Class 5) Kit Carson East Face and Challenger Peak Hike   

After camping and summiting Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn Peak, Josh and I headed out for our next adventure, Kit Carson and Challenger. After reading about how fun the North Ridge up Kit Carson is for experienced climbers we decided we were going to do that before bagging Challenger Peak. After a late start, we headed towards Willow Creek trailhead at 12pm. After getting food on the way and extra supplies we walked the 4.5 miles and 2700 vertical to willow lake. This took us around 3 hours due to a detour of me running and extra mile in search for a missing bucket hat and car keys. Fortunately, they were where I thought they had to be. After setting up camp we decided to go look at the lake and scramble up some rocks to the right of the lake to catch a beautiful sunset (Image 1-2). There were a lot of people when we were up there on a monday and tuesday so I'd suggest to leave earlier in the day to get a camp spot. After setting up camp we ate some food and looked at the stars, setting our alarms for 430am. After waking up, it was still quite brisk and we got ready and started hiking by 5am. The trail is somewhat easy to find. For around 0.5 mile then it kinda just goes away. You turn left at upper willow lake and it's a choose your own adventure to the outward bound coulouir. Stay low in the valley. We didnt. The outward bound coulouir is between the saddle of Kit and Kat Carson. That is supposedly where you ascend before turning right to scramble on some rocks to the rocky ledges. (Images 3 and 4) Ascending the coulouir although mostly snow free is loose. Note: we experience rock fall on this hike following a party of two 200 feet in front of us, bring a helmet. We started to see 2 different hikers above us and they appeared to be taking a direct route up the face climbers right of the outward bound coulouir. I'm slightly confident it's the east face. We decided what they were doing looked both fun, doable and challenging. Taking the direct line up this rock is steep. Watch out for lichen handholds and wet grass foot ledges. Check your holds and be confident in your climbing to make it fun. Be safe. Seriously fun rock. (Image 5-7) Two rocks however were unfortunately kicked from the party of 2 above us. They were small but made bee noises due to their speed and our proximity to these rocks was not of great distance. But rock fall does happen for whatever reason. Still, climbing up this face (we take it all the way up) a solid hiker was climbing on rock. We asked him how it was and he looked back and said its fifth class but it goes. He proceeds to go up. Another hiker behind him goes up. They are finished with the face. And now we need to make a decision. We decide to go up. (Image 8). I go up, josh goes up. It was cool. Crack system till it shoots you onto rock with small handholds and serious exposure. Note: the rock after gaining the coulouir is class 3 - 4. The higher you get on the face it gets steeper, class 4. There's a flatter section before the small 20-25 foot class 5 at the end and a five minute walk to summit Kit Carson. I am now changing the title to Kit Carson East Face. I'm not sure the true vertical of this face we climbed but it's probably 1000-1500 feet of class 3-5. The class 5 was around 14000 feet elevation. After enjoying the summit and talking to the other climbers on this route I can confidently say this was my favorite route up any 14er. It gets straight to the point after a beautiful lake near treeline, and the view of the other prominent peaks in the Sangro De Cristo Wilderness really makes this route awesome. Highly recommended for experienced climbers. (Image 9). After summiting, find the standard route up kit carson and head down an option of 2 gulleys (the one we took was easy class 3 rock) (image 10) before linking up with the Avenue/Highway thing. Take this to Challenger. Theres also a 13er we summited thats at the top of the Avenue and it's a 3 minute walk to the top of it. Its exposed and I'm pretty sure it's the ridge you're on when ascending The Prow (Image 11). The walk down Challenger was loose and steep. Take the west ridge proper from the summit then descend a gully. (Theres an image of what challenger gully looks like) There is still snow in the outward bound coulouir and some on challenger. (The last Image is a picture of the east face on kit carson)

  1. Class 3, Class 4, 20 Foot Class 5
  2. Exposure: High-Extreme (it's a 300-1500 foot fall from higher up where it gets steeper and more technical) (Some cool rock all over this mountain. Climbing gear would make it sick)
  3. Rock fall: High (bring helmet)
  4. Commitment : High (complaining required at some point) (exposure for long periods of time, could be a long day)
  5. Steep, it's the steepest scramble/climb on any 14er I've done.
  6. Be confident on class 4 and low class 5 rock to have fun on this route, the crux is near the summit where it is most exposed. No fall zone.
  7. Be in shape. The reason we summit early is because we move at a good pace the entire time. You do not want to be on demanding terrain with bad weather. Start early, hike at a good pace. Make the right decisions. I havnt seen a trip report up this route and although this was a successful trip. This is not a standard route up this mountain. Have good route finding experience and choose your way up this beautiful face.

8. Enjoyment: 9.24/10 (-0.25 point because it was hot below treeline, -0.5point because challenger is loose, -0.01 for near hit by rock)

9. The entire trip was 12 miles and 5100 vertical I think. 4.5 miles to campsite. Started hiking at 5am and took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to summit Kit Carson. A short period of time to summit Challenger and we were back at the lake at like 1130am. 6 and a half hour trip from Willow lake to both summits and back to Willlow lake. 4.5 mile walk back to car.

10. First trip report but I've done 20 peaks now, including (Kit Carson, Capitol, South Maroon, Crestone needle, Longs Peak, Quandary West ridge, Sawtooth Ridge, Kelso ridge, Wetterhorn Peak)

11. Get out there and do it it's fun

12.Hiked by phil ahn and josh virene

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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