Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted:  08/03/2008
Date Climbed:   07/25/2008
Author:  Uffda
 South Colony Blitz (Part 1)  

Day 1 - 7/24/08

I met up with Frank (casali), John and Len at the Dry Creek RTD station, where my car would be staying for the weekend. We proceeded down to the Springs to pick up Andy (BobbyPeru). After grabbing some Subway in Westcliffe we arrived at the South Colony Trailhead. Since Frank's Corolla probably wouldn't make it too far up the infamous road to South Colony Lakes, we consolidated all the gear on Len's Jeep. Andy and Frank walked up the road while the rest of us took advantage of Len's mad 4WD skills. The three of us in the Jeep hiked in to the lakes and got our tents set up right before the day's rain started - quashing our plan to get Humboldt the first day. Andy and Frank arrived a few hours later.

Hiking in

Day 2 - 7/26/08 - Crestone Peak

The alarm clock went off bright and early at 3:30 AM. (Okay, maybe "bright" wasn't the correct word...) After some oatmeal we hit the trail at 4:30.

The route finding up to Broken Hand Pass wasn't too difficult in the dark. There were only a few small snowfields to cross - trekking poles were sufficient. Since none of us had been on this particular trail before, I was impressed that we managed to make it to the top of the pass without getting lost. We started the descent to Cottonwood Lake just as the sun was starting to rise.

Cottonwood Lake

The climb up Red Gully was an interesting experience for me. Prior to this my class 3 experience was limited to the Evans/Bierstadt Sawtooth and the Longs Keyhole. This climb put both of those to shame. The class 3 is pretty sustained for almost the entire climb. The rock is fairly solid, but the gully also has its fair share of scree. There aren't too many exposure issues until the final pitch to the summit, where some ledge traversals are required. The route finding is easy since the gully leads almost directly to the summit.

Bottom of the gully

Len crossing the sole snowfield in the gully

Andy was climbing much faster than the rest of us and summited at about 7:30. The rest of us made it a little after 8.

Victory pose

The Peak has a spectacular summit. Sheer drop-offs all around, and great views of the Peak's East Summit and the Needle to the south, and Kit Carson and Challenger to the north. Some portions of the Great Sand Dunes can also be seen, along with an unobstructed view of the San Louis Valley.

Panorama looking north

After some pictures and recovery we started down. Andy shot ahead and continued on to the Needle - the rest of us took our time. We only met a few other parties on the way down.

Heading back down

Friendly marmot along the trail

Back at Cottonwood Lake we took a snack break and were accosted by a very precocious marmot. We called him "Bob". When he failed to get any grub he tried to eat Len's shoelaces.

Len fights off Bob's advances

We ascended back up to Broken Hand Pass and found Andy's note indicating he had gone on to the Needle. We were exhausted by this point (and dismayed by the weather moving in), so we elected to head back to camp. Downclimbing the pass we came across a RMFI trail crew. They were in the process of constructing a proper tail up the pass to mitigate the screefest/erosion nightmare on the east side of the pass. Keep up the good work guys (and gals)!

Lots of columbines in the area!

We returned to camp around 11 and collapsed. Andy made it back a few hours later with inspiring tales of the Needle. After a lunch/dinner of Mountain House and a few thunderstorms, we hit the hay at around 7.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nicely done!
08/04/2008 01:52
Looks like a great day. Is there no longer a need for crampons or axe to go up the red gully?


Re: Nicely done!
08/04/2008 02:04
Most of the remaining snow is easily avoided. The one field we did have to cross was easily done with just poles.

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