Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Date Posted:  01/08/2006
Modified:  03/23/2006
Date Climbed:   01/07/2006
Author:  Chicago Transplant

 Kit Carson: SW Face (ascent) & S Couloir (descent)  

Kit Carson Peak
Southwest Face (Class 4)
12 miles; 6000+ vertical (including loss at KC ave)

This time of year is not usually the right time for a climb such as this, but so far winter in the Sangres has been extremely dry. Shanahan96 and I met up at the Spanish Creek TH at 6.00am, donned our headlamps and started up the trail. The minimal snow that was on the trail was well packed down from other recent climbers, and we reached the burn area quickly. The burn area is a bit of an effort to negotiate as there is just an incredible amount of fallen trees. Some work nicely as balance beams though, which helped a lot. After this point we looked up at the southwest face, which rises between Challenger and The Prow, and decided it looked pretty good. There was a minimal amount of snow, mostly on the class 2 slopes near the base, but we were unsure as to the difficulty as we had not seen anything published about this route. We decided if worse came to worse we could turn around, but lucked out and never got presented with any terrain we couldnt handle. After the class 2 slopes at the base, it slowly steepened to a sustained class 3 wall, probably about 1000 feet. The rock is Crestone Conglomerate, and the scrambling was really enjoyable. Near the top there was a good close to 150 feet of sustained class 4. This section had some difficulty as the winds picked up at our backs, probably 20mph. With exposure it probably would have been too much, but luckily the exposure on this route is minimal as The Prow is to your right, and Challengers surprisingly imposing south face is to your left. We reached Kit Carson Avenue at the top of this wall, which to our delight did not have much snow on it. After rounding the corner at the top of The Prow there was deeper snow but it was not icy and we were able to traverse with out crampons. We left the avenue and headed up the standard class 3 gully to the summit. We finally summited after over 8 1/2 hours of climbing and found a handful of names in the register from December.

From the summit we decided we didnt have enough daylight (or desire) to downclimb the southwest face, and headed to the south couloir for descent instead. About a 1/3 the way from the top we entered the couloir proper, donned crampons and headed straight down. The snow had a couple of solid parts, but moslty it was pretty punchy and frequently we were knee deep. Right now there is minimal avy danger, but new snow on top of the crust could be a potential problem if they got a big storm anytime soon. The couloir is probably the safest and most direct route at this time. From the base of the couloir we made it back to the burn area just around 5, and had to negotiate the logs in the dark. Somehow we successfully located the trail and made our final descent with no problems. All together it was a 14hr + round trip climb, but worth it to be able to have a calendar winter ascent of Kit Carson, and the first of 2006!


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