Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  09/06/2007
Date Climbed:   09/05/2007
Author:  joe4186
 Double Dipping in the Sangres  

Route: Standard Route up Challenger from Willow Creek TH, Kit Carson from Challenger Point
Distance: 14 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 6,250 feet

Guilty Members: Amory, Anthony, Chris, Joe

So, my usual hiking partner, Chris and I decided that we wanted to go back down to the Sangres again after doing Humboldt and The Peak two weeks ago. We actually had a couple people that we work with that wanted to go as well, so that was pretty sweet. But, like always our schedule didn't match perfectly, Chris had to work during the day and then had a wilderness first responder class that night till 9:30. Our plan was to drive down to the Willow Creek Trailhead and take a quick nap and start hiking around 3-3:30.

So, we left Breck around 11 and got to the trail head a little before 2 AM. Instead of taking a short nap, we just decided to start hiking right away. There were no cars in the parking lot, so we knew that we would have the trail to ourselves, which is usually how it is when you start at 2:05 AM. The trail started w/ some mellow switchbacks slowly starting to go uphill. We crossed a couple of streams and waterfalls on the way to the lake.

Losing Layers at 2:20 AM

Amory crossing a stream early on

At about 4:30 we arrived at the lake and even in the dark we could tell that the lake was pretty large and we saw steep walls all around us. We took a short break and got something to eat and check out the route description. The trail around the lake was pretty easy to follow w/ Bill's description. I think we only had to look for the main trail once in the maze of social trails around the lake. I knew that the next phase of the trail we would have to walk through some willows. My only encounter w/ willows was on Mt. Bierstadt and I really wasn't looking forward to walking thru willows in the dark. These things were a piece of cake, the only issue was that they were pretty damp and thick, but so much easier that the Bierstadt willows, they take the cake.

Daybreak on the way up to Challenger Ridge


Looking down from the top of the snow gully on Challenger

We hit daybreak about halfway up to the Challenger ridgeline, we thought earlier in the morning that we might have a chance at sunrise on summit of challenger, oh no, not this time, this trail was no joke. This trail was super steep, and the trail wasn't that well defined, there seems to be several trails cairned up to the ridge. On the way up, Amory and I weren't feelin it, so, we doubted that would continue on to Kit Carson.

Remaing ridge to Challenger

Gained summit around 7:30, took a half hour break to stuff our faces w/ some more food and watch sunrise over the distant ridgeline. After eating some food and taking a bit of a break, we all felt comfortable w/ continuing on to Kit Carson.

Summit of Challenger Point 14,081

So we headed down the ridgeline of Challenger to the Kit Carson Avenue.

Looking back up ridge to Challenger

I must say that the Avenue is a pretty cool feature on this mountain.

On the way to the gully, there seemed to be several walls in which you could climb to the summit. We were all on board to take the easier gully to the summit. We got to the gully at 8:30 and started climbing up it; it was not as loose as I thought it was going to be.

Anthony going up the gully

Chris going up the gully

Amory in the zone on the final pitch to Kit Carson

Summited Kit Carson at 8:50.

Having fun on top of Kit Carson 14,165

We spent almost an hour on top of Kit Carson; this was the longest I've ever spent on any 14er summit. We enjoyed the views and Chris and I were gawking at the gnarly traverse we had done a couple of weeks ago. I am still amazed at how powerful and amazing that mountain is, especially that side of it.

Once we got back to the saddle, we decided that we weren't going to re-climb Challenger; we were just going to traverse to the notch at the top of the snow gully and then meet up w/ the trail.

Traversing to the top of the gully...

When we got to the gully Anthony was the only one to down climb into the gully and meet up w/ the trail. Chris, Amory, and I chose to stay on the right side of the gully to find a safer way into and across it. We had to go down and deal w/ some loose rocks and it was quite a pain. In my opinion it would have been easier and more practical to just summit Challenger again and take the bad trail down.

Looking back up the route to Challenger ridgeline

We got back down to the lake at 11:30, on the way down to the lake we talked to a guy on his way up to the ridgeline of Challenger. We talked to him for a bit and tried to see what his plans were. He seemed pretty determined to get to the top even for how late in the day it was and how many clouds seemed to be hanging and building around these mountains, hopefully him and his friend made it back to the trailhead safely.

Now I understand why so many of you guys suggested camping at this lake, it is absolutely amazing, if we would have had more time that would have been the plan.

Crossing the creek

After charging down the trail back to the trail head we reached the Truck at 2:00 PM. So, I was super happy on the trip, good weather and good friends w/ on the hike, and for some reason I have wanted to do Kit Carson ever since I started hiking 14ers, so it was nice to do this peak. I do have to say that camping down there would be ideal, such a beautiful area.

Nasty clouds building

Also, big congrats to Anthony on his 7th and 8th 14ers, first two this year, and also more congrats to Amory on her 3rd and 4th 14ers.

 Comments or Questions

I so want to go back down there!
02/05/2011 00:22
Thanks for the TR; you guys made it seem so easy. You're right, that lake is otherworldly, and I can't wait to go back down there next summer!


Not sure about the Carson Gully?
11/30/2010 17:28
so, as I review the route description and the route we took, i'm not exactly 100% positive that we took the ”loose gully” on carson. I am starting to think that we didn't. Anyone have any thoughts?


11/30/2010 17:28
Great TR! We climbed the day before you. Were there two cairns and a walking stick at the gully entrance? If so, that's the gully I wanted to go up, but my brother said ”too soon”, so we went up the next one, it seemed looser than the 1st one looked (but looking up from below it's hard to tell). route pics appear to show the second gully.

BTW, did you see what looked like an impact crater from a large rock-fall on the grassy part of the Challenger ridge ascent (near the rock rib)?


nice TR
09/07/2007 05:15
looks like you guys had fun on the summits nice job getting both summits in one push from the TH!



11/30/2010 17:28
we didn't see any craters, but it was pretty dark on the way up

amory used the walking stick, we went up that gully, it was pretty nice


09/24/2007 07:31
Planning a trip there this week with an overnight @ the lake. How were the bugs near the lake? Not sure if I want a tarp or a tent.


09/20/2014 00:11
Great job. I did the same thing one day before you. Overall I didn't think anything was that bad. Except the gulley going up Challenger. It seemed never ending. I look at some of your pictures and think, WOW, I was there 15 days ago. Missing that trip already.

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