Peak(s):  Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  09/12/2006
Modified:  08/05/2009
Date Climbed:   09/09/2006
Author:  benners

 Fogged in on Challenger Point  

Date Climbed: September 9, 2006
Group: Stu, Marco and Myself
Goal: Summit Challenger Point from Willow Lake via the NW slope and traverse to Kit Carson Peak

Two friends of mine, Stu and Marco, and I decided to go for Challenger and Kit Carson. We left from Boulder around 7:00pm on Friday night and arrived at the Willow Creek TH around midnight. It had rained the entire drive and was still drizzling when we began the hike so naturally we were somewhat pessimistic about summiting. Anyway we backpacked in under a full moon, the fog and the moon made for an incredibly cool experience.

The night hike under the full moon

We arrived at the lake around 3:00am, made some soup, and went to bed. Around 7:00am we opened the tent to find Willow Lake and snow covered peaks all around. Again the idea of climbing both mountains seemed unrealistic but we decided to give it a shot.

Willow Lake

After breakfast we began the ascent of Challenger's northwest ridge. The terrain turned from grass to rock to snow covered rock fairly quickly. It was obvious that the snow covor was from the previous night and the clouds were very low. Most of the hike was in the clouds.

Stu and Marco somewhere around 12,000ft.

We hiked for about two hours and the sun showed itself for the first time. Around this time we ran into two other hikers who had decided to turn back at the ridge due to snow and ice covered rocks. The route to the top of the ridge is pretty steep Class II with some Class III moves towards the top. It is a pretty grueling slog to the top.

Stu and I around 13,000ft.

We made the top of the ridge around 11:00am. The entire time the sun was temporarily poking through the clouds which gave us some awesome views. Challenger and Kit Carson could be seen for the first time from the top of the ridge.

Challenger Point in the distance, about 1/4 mile away

From the top of the ridge Challenger is still about an hour away. Most of this section was a walk but there are a few points with vertical walls bisecting the ridge, for the most part these are passable by traversing slightly below the ridge around these points.

Stu working his way across the ridge

From the summit we had a good view of Kit Carson and the remaining climb. We elected to turn back due to time, weather, and snow cover. Kit Carson did not sound like a good mountain to be on covered in snow.

Kit Carson seen from the summit of Challenger Point

Marco traversing a ledge near 13,800ft.

Looking down at the town of Crestone

We descended to the lake and then back to the tent in about three hours. We decided to hike out that night after dinner and arrived at the car at 9:00pm. This was one of the most beautiful places in Colorado any of us had ever been.

A final photo at the lake before we left

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