Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  07/04/2006
Date Climbed:   07/01/2006
Author:  TalusMonkey

 Challenger/Kit Carson - North Face & Kit Carson Ave  

CODave and I planned to leave Broomfield and Lakewood early on Friday to meet at the S. Crestone TH just outside of the village of Crestone. We drove separately because we would not be hiking together on Monday, July 3rd.

There is a sign on the 2 mile dirt road to the TH that it is suitable for 4x4 vehicles only. Currently, it is in very mild condition. My high clearance Dodge Caliber rental car was able to easily drive to the TH, but it was the only 2WD sedan there. Standard clearance sedans were parked at a small pulloff down the road. I arrived at the TH a few minutes after CODave and we started hiking up to Willow Lake at 1900.

Dodge Caliber on 4x4 road:


The trail to Willow Lake is heavily switchbacked and well graded. The trail is in great condition. My pack weighed in at 18lbs 5oz. CODave had weighed his pack at home in the upper 20lb range. We arrived at the Willow Lake area at about 2145 and quickly found a nice, flat, and THICKLY grassed area for our camp. It was only 50 degrees outside when we went to bed at 2245.

TalusMonkey above Willow Lake in the morning:


The standard route up Challenger was easy to find. Heading around the north side of Willow Lake we crossed the stream above the lake and quickly located the North gully route up Challenger. We passed a solo hiker and a family of four at the base of the gully and ascended the gully. Bill's photos from this site were right on. We stayed to the right of the gully all the way to the notch at the ridge up to Challenger's summit. There was still snow in the gully, but we never needed to cross it. The gully could probably be all done as all class 2, but we took a brute force line and hit a couple of class 3 spots.

We were the first on Challenger this day and after a few photos and snacks we descended to the saddle between Challenger and Kit Carson. Anyone who has difficulty locating Kit Carson Ave should consider a new outdoor recreation hobby. Kit Carson Ave is obvious, as it is the ONLY viable shelf on Kit Carson. Bill's photo of the back side of Kit Carson Ave taken from Crestone Peak was helpful in following the gully up to Kit Carson. We were the first to summit Kit Carson.

CODave and TalusMonkey on Kit Carson with Challenger in background:


After another quick break, we headed back down the gully and back over to the saddle with Challenger. Rather than resummit Challenger we did a long, virtually level traverse under Challenger and came out perfectly at the top of the snow on the gully down to Willow Lake. As we headed around the lake back to camp we heard the first roll of thunder. We broke camp and headed down. Although we received a short sprinkle of rain on the hike down to the TH, we were glad we were not the people still on Challenger!

CODave ran out of water early and drained my filter bottle when we found a small snowmelt runoff over a cliff band:


Columbine over Willow Lake:


We loaded up the vehicles and headed up to our hotel in Buena Vista - our plan to hike Belford and Oxford the next day...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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