Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  08/26/2008
Modified:  03/06/2009
Date Climbed:   08/24/2008
Author:  Carl
 Combo: Humbolt > Crestone Peak > Crestone Needle  

South Colony Lakes trailhead >
Humbolt Peak >
Bears Playground >
Crestone Peak via North Buttress >
Crestone Needle via traverse >
South Colony Lakes trailhead via Broken Hand Pass

Prakash put together a great trip report last July that starts, "I felt the urge to do something stupid." This was intriguing and we left Golden Saturday morning having enjoyed their trip report and planned a similar route.

As we neared the Sangres we found ourselves behind a four horsepower vehicle moving amazingly quick. He turned onto his driveway, gave us a wave, and we proceeded down Colfax to the lower trailhead:

The road to South Colony Lakes is vastly improved and took less than an hour to navigate. We arrived a little after 2pm and sat around trying to figure out what the weather was going to do:

Left the trailhead a little after 4pm and spent another couple hours relaxing at the lakes waiting for the threatening clouds to dissipate:

Marc found a tent and one pole. With a high sense of satisfaction he rigged this and we waited out the drizzle:

As the sun began to set we set out for Humbolt Peak. Our original plan of proceeding straight to Kit Carson was thwarted by the rain delay, not wanting to downclimb unfamiliar class 3 terrain at night. Instead we reached the summit of Humbolt around 10pm. It was dark:

We got back to the Humbolt saddle around 11:30pm and began to traverse the ridge to the Bears Playground. Neither of us had been on this ridge and with the clouds having rolled in visibility was limited to the small short light cast by our head lamps. We turned back to the Humbolt saddle around midnight, set up our bivys, inflated our sleeping pads, and regretted the decision not to bring sleeping bags. It was cold. This picture taken the next day looks back at the spot where we tried to sleep:

Tired of being cold, we left our high camp before 5am and proceeded to the Bears Playground under clear skis. The ridge connecting Humbolt's saddle to the Playground is mostly class two with a few slightly harder moves that may have been avoidable. Looking back on the ridge as the sun rises behind Humbolt:

Marc entering the Bears Playground as Crestone Needle dominates the sky:

The light on the Crestones was awesome. An attempt at capturing both peaks as Marc traverses on the grass below:

Another Crestone Needle pic:

We headed up the class four North Buttress route climbers left of the Northwest Couloir.
Here's a shot looking back at the ridge we crossed earlier, the Bears Playground, and Colony Baldy peak:

The North Buttress is mostly class three on solid conglomerate rock. Route finding isn't a gimme though and I was glad to have a partner who had done it a couple times prior. The crux is a down climbing difficult class four traverse across this:

Marc working his way across:

The North Buttress route meets the Northwest Couloir just below the saddle between the east and true summit of Crestone Peak. I went over and tagged the east summit before enjoying a break on top of Crestone Peak a little after 9am:

We headed down the Red Gully and started the traverse to Crestone Needle around 13,800ft. The red arrow is where Marc went, the blue where I climbed, and the white where maybe we should have gone:

We reached the saddle between Peak and Needle and looked for the "inviting ledge system" around this point described on summit post:

A few dead ends later we decide to head all the way back down and around the high point. This took us down to where the white arrow would have led us earlier and also where we met up with some other folks doing the traverse. We climbed straight up towards the distinctive rock towers and enjoyed the first class 4 moves of the traverse. Marc taking in the view:

One of the two guys we finished the traverse with on the final class four crux:

With our route finding debacle it had taken us almost 3 hours to do the traverse and was now a little after 12pm. Little time was spent on the summit of Crestone Needle before we headed down the ridge towards the south gully. A nice view of Colony Lakes along the way:

We continued straight down the south gully through the class four variation. It took almost an hour from the summit to get back to Broken Hand pass:

I think we were at the upper trailhead by 3 p.m. This was an incredible loop and a challenging alternate way to climb these three peaks. The exposure on the Buttress is significant. Next time I bivy at 12,800ft on a windy saddle I'll bring a sleeping bag. Thanks for playing guide on the Buttress and traverse Marc.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

feed the urge
08/27/2008 18:20
good stuff Carl, did Marc set a grueling pace like Bell Cord? Nice shots of the Crestones from Bears Playground.


Nice TR
08/28/2008 02:04
I love the first pic of the needle from BP


05/02/2011 14:23
Brian - I‘m behind Marc on every ski mountaineering ascent. You get use to it. Once summer rolls around though I manage to keep up just fine. Not sure I could hang with you anymore though after all these miles you‘re logging on some amazing peaks this summer.

Joe - Thanks for the beta from your Crestones trip. Sweet TR you helped put up.


I was gonna
08/28/2008 16:47
suggest we do the Crestone Traverse, but it looks like you already did it....

I‘m getting my WP-Copper/Steamboat pass soon, so thats something to look foward to and hopefully some more descents next spring.

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