Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,196 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,299 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2008
Modified:  08/02/2009
Date Climbed:   07/12/2008
Author:  doumall
 Ellingwood Ledges: Direct Start with Traverse   

Ellingwood Ledges
Direct Start
Grade III, 5.7
Traverse to the Peak

Having led my first trad route in September of 07, I never thought I would be getting into alpine climbing so quickly. Halfway through July of 08 and it is rivaling my love for skiing.

JCWhite was up for the challenge of the impossible-to-ignore Ellingwood Ledges route on Crestone Needle. Hippitahoppita joined the crew to do the S. Gully standard route and then maybe join us for the traverse to the Peak. The day went off perfectly. Hopefully this route report will aid in your prep of this wonderful route.

We started from the upper S Colony Lake trailhead at 4 am and moving fast hit the base of the direct start at 5:30. We had to wait a bit for the sun to light the route, which gave me time to show Jordan how to stow the draws. I showed him once for each type of gear and he got them all right the entire day. Damn, that's some pretty quick study right there.

The direct start begins at the top of the talus pile directly below the arÍte. It uses a very large open book weakness in the lower cliff. The first pitch was 5.4 due to a short traverse required to get into the center of the crack.

From there on it was pretty simple low class 5 to a wide belay ledge covered with loose rock.

The second pitch of the direct was a bit tougher. I started out climbing straight up the center.

The dihedral steepened and was a bit wet... I opted to climb out left using a few ledges and then traverse back into the center. The traverse felt like a 5.6 due to a large exposed step with moderate hands, a nice warm-up on the day. Looking down on this section:

The remaining bit of the pitch was fun and easy crack climbing.

Jordan cleans the second pitch:

We kept the rope out for the next 120' but probably didn't need to... looking up at this section.

I set two pieces of pro on the whole thing. It was low class 5 with lots of 4. Jordan leaving the belay station on this final pitch of the direct start. The large open book can be seen trailing way down and to the left behind him.

The direct start can probably be done in two pitches, especially if you have a 70-meter rope. We were using a 54-meter, which was stowed for the ledges ahead.

After overcoming the lower cliffs and leaving the crack system, the terrain opened up considerably.

This is why the route is called Ellingwood Ledges.

To avoid the difficulties below the Red Tower, you trend slightly left of this wall...

Wrapping around some knobby bulges and then back right using grassy ledges and chimneys to the arÍte proper.

Now above the Red Tower, the climbing follows the arÍte proper.

A few low 5.2 moves are required here. Staying right on the arÍte felt like 5.4.

Which requires some concentration when not on belay...

More 4th class steps between ledges above this area bring you to the mini-headwall.

You get good views of the difficulties ahead from here.

The red route is the 5.9 crack, the blue the 5.5 right facing corner, the yellow the second and final 5.7 pitch.

You can either pitch this mini-headwall section out for 100' or climb to the right around it using a stiff 4th class traverse and then a ledge back left to some more 4th class scrambling directly up the arÍte.

Jordan climbs below the first pitch as the leader of a crew (circled) from Portland handles it with no problems.

Now at the belay station for the first true headwall pitch, we waited briefly for the another party who had used the walk up approach. They were fast, clearly good climbers. The inversion below us was hard to ignore.

Humboldt made me think volcano.

This first pitch was really enjoyable crack climbing. It was not difficult and was well protected. Jordan belaying:

Me climbing:

There are several old pins and one bolt with a shady 1/16-inch steel plate. I clipped the plate but had other pro nearby.

Looking up the second half of the 5.5 headwall pitch:

With the 54 meter rope, I was just able to get to a boulder to sling with a nice backup cam in a crack below it.

Jordan finishing the pitch:

We moved the anchor 20' up to the belay ledge for the 5.7 pitch, which is very obvious. It's the super sweet 5.7 dihedral, wow this is fun! Stoked:

Starting the pitch:

Me about to turn the crux roof which was well protected with a #1 camalot:

Looking up the pitch from beneath the crux roof:

The angle of the rock through here:

The climbing above the crux was solid 5.6 crack.

Hexes and tricams were put to good use on this pitch:

Looking down from near the end of the pitch:

The terrain mellows and unfortunately the hard climbing ends:

I found a good anchor in a vertical crack at the first ledge. Only 45 meters required here.

Jordan cleans the route:

...and then stows the rope for the final easy section to the top:

Which is a stiff 3rd class gully.

Jordan makes the final move of the route, which pops you out right at the top of the south gullies.

Within view of the summit.

The route took us 4.5 hours from the base, 6 hours from the upper parking lot. We never felt rushed; things went very smoothly. With a fine weather day, we opted to do the traverse. Hippitahoppita joined us which ment he got to experience his first rappel. Easy there big guy!

The traverse was easy to find as we knew the route from doing it in the other direction.

The Red Couloir has plenty of snow left with ice hiding underneath. An ice axe is required IMO unless you stick to the rock.

We found some ice to play with...

Hippita bags Crestone!

I really like the Red Couloir route on Crestone. Its so aesthetic:

Broken hand pass has snow below the narrow rock areas. Ice axe a good idea here. Crampons optional. We got a nice view of our route in profile:

Lightning began to dance just as we hit the trees. Its a good feeling to get it right.

We saw this unfortunate scene on the way home. Probably just old enough to start enjoying independence and whammo!

Comments or Questions
very awesome!
07/15/2008 05:42
Looks like a fun climb...hoping to attempt this route soon. Love the pictures!

07/15/2008 07:28
Yeah the 11 year old was on top of the needle when we got there. It was his 44th 14er and he told us he didn‘t really like climbing them

07/15/2008 11:51
This route looks fascinating every time I‘m up there. Great details and awesome report.

Great TR!
07/15/2008 13:43
Thanks for taking the time to put it together and post it.

Thanks for posting...
07/15/2008 13:46
I want to do this route next summer, this is very helpful. Looks like you guys had a blast. What‘s next? The Prow on Challenger?

Great TR!
07/15/2008 14:08
Nice one, guys. That rock just looks fantastic. Any snow on the traverse?

07/15/2008 14:18
Not really, a couple 2 steppers...but once you are on crestone peak there is quite a bit still.

07/15/2008 14:27
And doumall got some sweet shots of you on the Ellingwood route - with the terrain falling away below - very cool.

Awesome job guys!
07/15/2008 15:01
Thanks for the detailed TR doumall.

Great TR
07/15/2008 15:26
one of the best, if not the best, TRs of this route I‘ve seen. Thanks! Great accomplishment for your first year of trad leading, keep it up!

07/15/2008 15:46
I hope that route is in my future someday. That looks friggin‘ awesome.

Nice, dude...
07/15/2008 16:20
Quite the achievement after just a year of trad leading. Wish I could‘ve gotten out on this one.

07/15/2008 17:25
That bear looks like it was hit just a short time before photo was taken. Was it still alive when you came upon it? If not, did you move it or call the CO Division of Wildlife? Poor thing.

07/15/2008 18:42
It was moving it‘s hind leg a little bit when we pulled up to it which really sucked to see. We had no cell phone reception so we did not call, wish we did when we got into range though. We didn‘t think we should move it because it was still alive. Pretty sad.

07/15/2008 19:49
you didn‘t pull out the skis and nail some 360s off the 2 little snow patches while on the traverse- the way you‘ve been hitting em this year
Top notch stuff- you could write your own guidebook at this rate!

Great Work Guys!
07/16/2008 15:58
I‘ve wanted to do this route for a long time but have neither the trad gear nor the partners . . . awesome pics and TR, you guys are beasts!

Thanks for the comments everyone!
07/16/2008 16:04
Glad to hear this will be useful to people.

We saw another bear on this trip too, Jordan got a really good look at it

What a sweet route!

07/16/2008 17:46
It was the first polar bear I‘d seen in Colorado

07/17/2008 03:39
Great report and pics. Unfortunate for me, that I am looking at this report right before bed, and now will go to bed haunted by that bear picture. Thanks. lol.

07/18/2008 07:13
Yes the pic of the bear was sad. Awesome pictures again! I cannot even imagine, maybe when I was younger!

08/28/2008 00:37
One of the best and detailed trip reports I‘ve seen on this route. Now I have to sit here and wipe the drool off my face, what a route!!!!!

Holy Cow!
10/22/2008 10:35
Wow, Doumal! Now THIS is what I call a report! The detail is incredible and the pictures are amazing! You and Jordan had an awesome time up there. Without doubt, one of the better reports on this site.
Congrats on an amazing route! That rock looks incredible.

thank you
02/03/2009 01:04
While up on the needle last year did your group leave allot of webbing up on the hill with carabiners on them to reppel with? me and my friend andrew were on the needle 6 days after you were and we got very stuck coming down. thinking all was lost as we couldnt find anywhere to put a rope on (all the rocks we could find wouldnt support our weight) we were looking at another 2 hour hike out of this chute we were in to find a good spot. it was hailing at 5 pm when we began to hike out of the gully when we found at the bottom of it, webbing around some rocks with a beiner threw them. the webbing was red gold and i think blue. we used it and at the bottom of the reppel we found more and we used these spots to get down. if this was left there by you guys, thank you so much you really saved our asses.

Not Us
02/03/2009 15:52
Zues160m, glad to hear you guys figured it out. Did you descend the ledges route? We didnt leave any gear on the mountain so it must be someone else who provided your out. Either way, thanks for the comment.

02/04/2009 21:38
when we came down we got way off course. before we went up to the last pitch we left our packs down bellow. we then had to return to them after summiting. because of this we were unable to hike down the standard route as was our plan. we reppeled down the way we came up then went far left in the direction of the standard trail. we never got there as we found a large couloir in the way. we then went down a smaller couloir that was filled with snow. after being extreamly pissed about it being 530 pm, hailing, and we were not even below 13000, we found the reppel anchors i spoke of before. there were 3 and they dropped us off at the top of the uppermost grassy field that had some small snowfields on it. from there it was a nerve racking down climb over 2 good sized cliffs in the dark and threw the thickest bushes i have ever seen around the lake. we probably went about .2 miles per our threw them and some parts were not passable. all this at 10 pm. it was one of the best and most eppic climbs i have ever done.

Holy crap!
11/30/2010 17:20
YOU were the guys we heard yelling over there! I kept hearing "belay on!", and never could see either one of you. Those pics have me nearly speechless. You guys take it to a whole 'nother level! Did you happen to see or meet the 11 year old that was climbing the Needle?
Not sure that I wanted to see that poor little bear.

03/04/2012 18:31
Awsome report and pics!

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