Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted:  06/25/2007
Modified:  05/06/2014
Date Climbed:   06/24/2007
Author:  USAKeller
Additional Members:   KirkT, lordhelmut
 Crestone Peak- South Face (Red Gully)- South Colony Lakes TH  

Crestone Peak South Face/Red Gully Snow Climb

Date: Sunday, June 24, 2007
Team: USAKeller, KirkT, lordhelmut, chrisjferraro, and Nate (Chris's friend)
Route: South Face/Red Gully (standard) via South Colony Lakes upper TH
Total mileage: 8 miles from the upper TH
Total elevation gain: ~3,780ft.
Total time out (including stop time): 9hrs. 30min. from camp back to camp

DAY 1:
After a great climb of Culebra Peak earlier in the day, KirkT and I drove to the lower South Colony Lakes parking area to meet lordhelmut, chrisjferraro, and his friend, Nate, with the intention of doing the traverse from Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle. We loaded up in lordhelmut's Xterra and he drove us to the end of the 4WD road to 11,050ft. without any problem. We started up the trail towards lower South Colony Lake to where we would camp. 50 minutes later, we found a place to set up camp fairly close to the Crestone Needle turn-off sign about 30 yards from lower South Colony Lake. We were supposed to meet up with Aubrey and his wife so we called his name, but we missed each other. Headlamps went out.

DAY 2:
The alarm went off at 3:30am; we got ready, and headed up the trail to Broken Hand Pass.

The sun peeking around Humboldt Peak's south face (taken from 12,300ft., 5:15am):

Much of this area has melted out since we were there last week for the TalusMonkey Memorial climb, but snow was still present up until the last 250-foot steep pitch (to about 12,600ft.) to Broken Hand Pass. We did not feel the need to use crampons for this section; however, ice axes were helpful.

Taken from about 12,300ft., this photo shows snow conditions up to Broken Hand Pass.
Although it's hard to see, the steep, narrow section in Bill's route description is dry- it's the
last 250ft. up to the pass (Nate, chrisjferraro, and KirkT are climbing):


Morning sun hitting Crestone Needle- much of this east gully has melted out as well (taken from Broken Hand Pass):

We soon found ourselves in the basin near Cottonwood Lake (near 12,310ft.) looking up at Crestone Peak's South Face. The Red Gully was full of snow. We put our crampons on around 12,600ft. and made our way to the base of the Red Gully. Another group (adkreutz from, her boyfriend, and their two friends) was quickly catching up to us and met us where we put crampons on.

At 12,600ft.- we were just getting ready to head up the gully when adkreutz et al. met up with us:

Parts of the lower half of the gully were quite icy and other parts were filled with slick rock from running water, so we figured it was best to scramble on the rocks to climber's right in this lower half (to the right of the red arrow two photos below). The snow in the top half of the gully was well-consolidated- in some sections, it was almost too consolidated. Portions of it had previous tracks that made it easier to follow while we created our own in others. This upper half was also steep; we estimated it to be greater than 40 degrees. The sun was starting to heat the left side of the gully. At this point, Nate and chrisjferraro were nearing the top, lordhelmut continued up the center of the gully, KirkT and I stayed in the shade on climber's right (this is shown by the blue arrow in two photos below). This snow climb ended up being a 1,500ft. ascent to the notch at the top of the gully at 14,100ft. From Cottonwood Lake, this gully did not appear to be as long of an ascent as it actually was. We absolutely recommend an ice axe and crampons. KirkT, Nate, and chrisjferraro were already at the summit by the time lordhelmut and I reached the notch. This is where we ditched crampons. The remainder of the climb is a fun, relatively easy class 3 scramble on nice conglomerate rock.

The left picture is where we left the snow in the lower part of the gully and climbed up
the rock near the running water; the right picture is climbing up the gully (thanks for the
action shots lordhelmut!). A climber is seen down and to my left:


Taken from 12,300ft. near Cottonwood Lake, this picture shows our route up the gully (blue line). The red line shows where we took our crampons
off on the descent, and the green line is the exit for the Peak to Needle traverse (going southeast).

Most of the remainder of the climb can be seen- taken from the notch at 14,100ft. (this distance does look deceiving in this photo):

We made the summit about 5hrs. 15min. later (at 9:30am) and the weather was warm and the winds non-existent. We all agreed that the climb up the gully was much more tedious and energy-depleting than the scramble up from the notch itself. We were soon joined by adkreutz's group.

Group shot on the summit of Crestone Peak with Kit Carson Peak (and Kit Carson Avenue) behind.
Left to right: USAKeller, Nate, chrisjferraro, KirkT, and lordhelmut behind:


KirkT doing a handstand on Crestone Peak:

After a short summit break and a few photos later, we began the descent, unsure of whether or not we would attempt the traverse. Roach recommends to drop 300 feet below the notch and exit towards the southeast (shown by the green arrow in a few photos above). At this point, the snow had softened up quite a bit. Personally, I was nervous coming down the upper half of the gully. The boys glissaded and I felt most comfortable heel-stepping down. It was so soft in some places that I'd step down and sink to the rocks. It's crazy how fast this warms up! It was taking us awhile to get down safely and by the time we reached the exit point for the traverse, we made a group decision not to go forth with it- mostly because we didn't want to try it with some fatigue that we had. We would have had a better shot at it had we started earlier than 4:15am as well. We continued down, and decided that it was easier to descend on the rocks, depicted by the red arrow in a few photos above, and it was much easier! The last portion of the gully was a short glissade.

Part of our group coming down the upper half of the Red Gully (Nate is center, KirkT is on the left, I'm on the right). This looks steep, and it was!

Back down at Cottonwood Lake, chrisjferraro, lordhelmut, and Nate took off up towards Broken Hand Pass; not excited about the slog back up, KirkT and I took a little more time. We knew that the boys were planning on a glissade from about 12,600ft. down to upper South Colony Lake. We saw their tracks and KirkT wanted to follow them. I've been hesitant to glissade due to recent events, but he helped me through it- it wasn't as bad as I thought and it was especially good for me to practice more self arrest. We reached the upper lake and had a nasty bushwack back to camp, where we arrived 9hrs. 30min. (total time including stops) later at 2:30pm.

USAKeller, lordhelmut, and KirkT at camp, not looking forward to the short walk back down ( ):

We packed up and made it to the car in 50min at 3:50pm. We still had to face the challenge of getting down South Colony Road. Obviously, it is best to go really slow. Between last weekend on Humboldt and this past weekend, it's difficult to decide whether to go down on the left or right side of one of the cruxes (I didn't record the exact location)- it helps to have a spotter! It was at this point we bottomed out and bent the step rail. Rough, rough road.

Traverse information: it looked dry and ready to go!

The photo below shows a majority of the traverse to Crestone Needle:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Good job on the climb, Caroline. Solid report too. Hope to get a shot at the Peak and Traverse soon. Did Lordhelmut drag you guys to the Westcliffe Subway later?


Big 5
01/19/2011 03:38
While you dashed aany ideas of doing Crestone Peak this week (no crampons in my closet), that was an outstanding TR. The color coding and arrows are nice touches. Lordhelmut's ”action shots” are pretty illustrative, too. The shot of Caroline(?) in the lower gully makes it look pretty steep. Looks like a great day. Any of you going back to do the traverse?


Thanks guys!
11/30/2010 17:28
del_sur- I'm glad you like the the color-coding . Yeah, that's me climbing up the gully- it definitely was steep. I compared it to the 40deg. couloir I climbed up Castle a few weeks ago and it definitely feels greater than 40!


ah s^^t
06/26/2007 06:45
I accidently voted 3 stars, I gotta reverse that. Anyways, great report Caroline, I couldnt have said it any better myself, you do well with these.

del_sur - given this was my 4th trip to the Sangres and 2nd attempt in two weeks for the traverse, im taking a break for a bit, but might have some interest later in the summer.

prakash - I got no love regarding the subway, but I did go saturday before we met up, they dropped my credit card in some crack and I got a free foot long subway club out of it. As I was leaving, they ran out and found my card, this is turning into my new favorite ”restaurant”, ironically located in a gas station.


Crestone Peak
06/26/2007 13:38
Nice job guys! Brilliant summit pose KirkT, that should become your signature pose. USA Keller, we thought about you a lot on Sunday and hoped the climb went well. Congrats!


06/26/2007 14:12
Thanks for another great trip report. I seem to memic just behind you as I plan on doing this one in just over a week. (first it was Castle). Congrats on the summit.


08/28/2008 00:37
Good report! I second the illustrative arrows commendation! That traverse looks a bit crazy, but it sounds like the rock is a bit more solid than what we encountered on our traverse in the Elks? *hopes*


Very nice!
11/30/2010 17:28
Great report. It was a beautifuyl day wasn't it!

I actually thought about you on my Quandary trip. Saw a momma and baby polar bear. It is in my TR. I also unfurled my memorial for TM this summer also!


Bueno trabaja!
06/27/2007 00:44
Good job guys from Madrid. Sorry I couldnt be there this week. Nice write up as always Care. I will be home soon.



06/27/2007 03:40
Nicely done guys, way to go after it.

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