Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  09/05/2006
Modified:  09/07/2006
Date Climbed:   09/03/2006
Author:  fleetmack

 Crestone Needle - South Face (std. route) via BHP  

Summit Elevation - 14,197
Elevation Gain: 3300 ft.
Trip Distance: 6.25 miles
Total Round-Trip Climb Time (including 30 minutes on summit): 7.5
4WD Required: that's the understatement of the century
Exhaustion Factor (on scale of 1-10, compared to other 14ers): 5
Scenery Factor (on scale of 1-10, compared to other 14ers): 9

Saturday night, Aaron, David, Curt and I drove down to our hotel in Westcliffe, the High Country Inn. Cheap room, and you get what you pay for, but it wasn't half bad considering the desolate location of this town. We ate at Pizza Madness. Our waitress was hot, there was a guy doing magic tricks who visited our table, the pitcher of beer was cheap, the pizza was delicous (but not as delicous as Mario's in Gunnison), and the walk was a mere block from our hotel. Anyways, we were back at the hotel and in bed by 10pm, and we were early to rise, out the door just before 4am. We headed down HWY 69 a few miles to Colfax (again, no hookers on this Colfax! On a similar note, there are plenty of heffers!) Past the 2WD parking lot, up the insanely rugged South Colony Lakes TH (no problem for the Jeep Liberty, coming down was another story, we bottomed out about 11-teen times on the way down. Oh well, it was a rental!). We made it to the upper TH and were hiking by 5:35am.

Our initial plan was to do the Needle then head back to Broken Hand Pass, descend to Cottonwood, and climb Crestone Peak. About 1/2 way through the climb we realized we'd be strongly satisfied just doing the Needle, so we quickly scratched the idea to climb Crestone Peak on this particular day.

In the dark, we wound through the short tree section, past a stream or two on the moist trail, past a campsite, past some barking dogs at 5:45am who were waking the other campers, to the breakoff for the Crestone Needle standard route up to our left. Here we got out of the warm clothes and got comfortable as the sun was peeking up behind us. We headed up this steep portion of the trail:

watched some Rams above us for awhile:

... did some scrambling over rocks, and before you knew it, we were up Broken Hand Pass, where we opted to strap on our helmets ASAP!

You kind of bob up and down here for awhile, with some brief downclimbing sections and such, until you arrive at the East Gully. From here, the trial is somewhat well marked with cairns and it is some nice fun class 3 scrambling up for a ways.

The rest of this climb is mainly class 3 or higher. After ascending for 45 minutes or so, it was time to cross over into the West Gully ... this was marked by a large cairn with a purple ribbion tied around it. You have to make a possble Class 4 move to get up to this cairn:

... and once we got there we were confused as to where the trail was. After some looking around, we noticed a cairn below and to the right, it had a wire flag sticking out of it. We downclimbed to that (only about 15 feet, if that) and headed up the West Gully.

This gully is steep, not too much loose rock but we spaced ourselves out accordingly.

There is substantial water coming down, but you can easily avoid this for the rest of the climb.

The scenery from here is gorgeous, I can't even describe how much so. Without even realizing where we were, the summit pretty much appeared out of nowhere and we were there -- alone. Seriously, a holiday weekend and we had the summit of Crestone Needle to ourselves?! It took us just under 4 hours from TH to summit. Sounds unheard of, but it was a nice surprise. After eating, enjoying the scenery, taking naked pictures on the summit (I have no idea why we did this, but the pictures are found in the below link), some others arrived on the summit. We took our time getting down, there's no room for over-confidence or messing around on the descent, especially with 7 trillion people climbing up the mountain while we were heading down.

Not too many "ROCK!" screams were heard on the descent, thankfully! We made it down to broken hand pass, laughed at a couple of people who thought they could get their dogs up the Needle's summit who were turning around (seriously, is there ANY possible way a dog can get up Crestone Needle?!), and got back to Broken Hand Pass in about the same amount of time it took us to summit from there. The climb down Broken Hand Pass back to where the Humboldt Trail breaks off was much longer than we remembered it being on the way up. Some scree and loose rock is very present and you have to watch your step. We made it back to the car in about 1:15 I think, for a total RT time of around 7 1/2 hours.

Heading back down South Colony Road was an adventure, to say the least! We saw a Saab with a ski rack on top, in the ski rack was it's muffler and mid-pipe, I though this was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. The orange pickup with the shattered windshield that was on the road when I was up Humboldt last month was still there, I'm kinda curious what was going on there. Anyways, we bottomed out the Jeep Liberty (rental) quite a bit, but sustained no major damage, just a dent here or there in the muffler ... that they didn't notice

All in all, AWESOME climb, the most amazing views I've ever seen in Colorado. I met my goal of 8 14ers for the summer with this summit. I was very proud of the guys I went with ... it was David and Curt's first Colorado 14er (although they have experience with Ranier and in the Alps), Aaron's second (he did Wetterhorn with me over the 4th), and my 20th 14er ... I'm thrilled to have this done, and will proudly say this is the first 14er I've climbed that I will 100% commit to climbing again at some point in my life - it was a blast!

Check out my pictures of this climb here:


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