Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  07/02/2008
Date Climbed:   06/28/2008
Author:  KirkT
 Crestone Needle- South Face  

Crestone Needle (14197)
June 28, 2008
Route: South Face, East Gulley
Round Trip: 6.25 miles, 7.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 3300 ft.
Hikers: KirkT

My plan was to hike Crestone Needle on Saturday solo, and then head down to Lindsey to meet a handful of members coming up from Culebra for a hike on Sunday. After working out my details I left the city around 2:30am Saturday morning and headed towards Westcliffe. I arrived at the lower South Colony trailhead at 5am. I continued up the newly improved road all the way to the upper trailhead. I arrived there at 6am. For those wanting to know the conditions of the road...I drove my Ford Escape all the way to the upper trailhead without much incident. The road has been greatly improved since last year. Still not a highway, but greatly improved nonetheless.

After gearing up and lubing with sunscreen, I was off at around 6:15. The first part of the hike is covered with alot of snow. It is however easy to navigate and well packed down from all the traffic. I made pretty quick time and was at Colony Lake in about 40 minutes. There were several tents scattered all around the lakes. The snow around the lakes is melted out pretty good. There are alot of great camping spots to be had right now. After loosing the trail and bushwacking for about 20 minutes, I finally found the trail again and headed up Broken Hand Pass. This part of the trail is still covered with alot of snow. I was able to climb it carefully with my boots and trekking poles. I met up with a group of 4 who were also attempting the Needle. They were not so experienced on snow and were moving at a fairly slow pace which was ok with me. Better to hike slow with a group than fast and lonely I always say.

We made pretty good time up to the bottom of the East Gulley. We started up the Gulley in single file with myself leading the way. The plan was to climb to around 13600ft and traverse over to the West Gulley to the summit as per Bill's descriptions. The weather was incredible with sunshine and clear skies. You could see for miles. I knew however, that the forecast was for severe storms later in the day. Knowing this, I kept up a fair but steady pace up the mountain and up the Gulley. The group I was with consisted of two couples. The gals in this group were not overly comfortable with this type of hiking and were beginning to slow considerably. They decided to wait at about 13400 and we continued up towards the summit. We arrived at the summit at 10:15.

I snapped a few pictures from the summit and started back down. We started back down the West Gulley in quick fashion. There were a few clouds beginning to form to the North and West. I knew we were on borrowed time according to the previous days forecast. We continued on down the Gulley and found the cross over back to the East Gulley. We made it back to where the girls were waiting and continued on down to the bottom of the Gulley.

I reached the lower portion of the pass in quick fashion. The clouds were beginning to build rapidly and thunder could be heard in the distance. I grabbed my axe and glissaded down about 250 ft. to where the cross over to the Colony Lakes started. As I hiked a quick pace back to the trailhead. I made it back to the trailhead a 1:40. I ate my sandwich and headed down South Colony road and started my trip down to Mt. Lindsey where I was going to meet some fellow hikers for a climb on Sunday.

First light on the Needle.

Crestone Needle trail split.

Broken Hand Pass.

The South Face of the Needle.

Looking up the class 4 section of the East Gulley.

Crestone Peak from the summit.

Blanca group to the south.

Incredible clouds forming over Humboldt.

South Colony Lakes down below.

Treking down the West Gulley.

Needle on the way out.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great photos
07/02/2008 21:28
Thanks for sharing all of this good info. Looked like you had a beautiful morning. What were the snow/water conditions in the East and West gullies on the Needle? I‘m heading up there with a group in 2 weeks and am planning my trip.


Concise and nice!
07/03/2008 01:58
Good point on checking the weather forecast before you go - and planning accordingly (extra early descent). Looks like the weather was getting ready to take a crap up there... thanks for the nice report, and pictures, too.


Nice job!
07/03/2008 02:39
Way to go on doing this peak solo! And getting Lindsey done on Sunday! No cutting your a$$ on glass while glissading?!!?


07/08/2008 20:49
I have been waiting for some beta on the Crestones. I appreciate the TR as always.

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