Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  07/23/2007
Date Climbed:   07/21/2007
Author:  maverick_manley
 Challenger / Kit from Willow Creek TH  

Mountains: Challenger Point (14,081') and Kit Carson Peak (14,165')
Route: Started at the Willow Creek TH, climbed the standard route to Challenger and traversed over to KC.
Elevation Gain - 6300' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 14 miles (approx)
Roundtrip Time - 12:30 (approx) including about an hour and a half of stops

After a last minute change in plans I left Boulder at 5:30PM on Friday to join Sam and Adam at KC/Challenger. We got to the Willow Creek TH close to midnight. The 4WD road was rather tame and I didn't need to use 4WD at all. Most sedans should be able to make it up there. The heat and bugs woke us up an hour and a half later and we started hiking by 2AM. You don't need any gear in addition to standard summer hiking gear, and plenty of water. I carried about 4 liters, but then I guzzle. If you've a water purifier you can fill up at any number of places along the way.

The hike was pretty long but easy to follow under headlamps. The only part where we walked past the trail was at the first large creek crossing where there was a faint trail heading straight up into the woods. In daylight you'll see a large cairn to the right, across the creek. We were up past the waterfall by 5:15AM.

We started hiking up the rather long grassy slope up to the ridge. There is some easy scrambling close to the top.

Go left when you hit the saddle. The ridge from that point on is pretty gentle. We summitted Challenger Pt. at 7:30AM.

There was some cloud cover when we hit the summit but they were pretty high and there wasn't too much vertical build. We decided to go ahead with the original plan and hit KC. We descended East down the saddle off Challenger to the 13,800' saddle. KC Avenue is extremely easy to find from here.

Follow this ledge all the way around the mountain over the top of the Prow. From this point you will lose a couple hundred feet or so of elevation before you reach the bottom of an easy Class 3 gully. There are a few other interesting gullies before this one (one looked Class 4-ish) but I did not check to see if any of these lead to summit without any significant difficulty.

There is very little loose rock in the gully but it is not steep and is no cause for major worry. We all took different routes to summit from the base of the gully. The difficulty ranges from Class 3 to 4 depending on the line you choose to ascend.

We summitted Kit Carson at around 8:15AM and persuaded a furry animal to get our summit shot. He turned out to be an excellent photo-taker.

Here's Challenger Pt. from the KC summit

We ate some food, hung out for a while and decided to by-pass the Challenger summit on our way to finding the gully we ascended. Don't go too low... you'll cliff out. Stay on a broken, grassy trail and talus no more than 200-300 feet below the summit. The high clouds we saw when we first made the Challenger summit had now completely disappeared.

We got to the gully at around 9:15AM and started descending the long, steep talus slope.

We were pretty low before noon, and these clouds started forming up high. Astonishingly there were still several people trying to head up for summit.

We got down to the bench above the waterfall for a bite to eat and some scenery.

Willow Lake is a really nice approach and it is definitely worth camping up there to climb these mountains if you don't plan to do these in a day. Here's the waterfall.

We were back down at the trailhead by 2:30PM... It was a long sub-treeline hike and it almost got me to chicken out on Little Bear and drive back to Boulder. Sam / Adam it was great hiking with you guys again. Good luck at New York, Sam... Work on the Adirondack 46ers. We'll see you down here next winter.

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Thanks for your trip report. I plan to hit these two soon, and your photos will be of great help !


Good times
11/30/2010 17:28
Always a good time getting out in the backcountry with you. Hopefully New York will be gentle and I won't be working too much so I can get outside. Keep killing it in the mountains and I will see you in the winter.

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