Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  09/29/2009
Date Climbed:   09/28/2009
Author:  fox_inthesnow
 Alone on Crestone  

Even with some uncertainty about the recent conditions in the Sangres, I loaded up the car on Monday morning and headed for the S. Colony trailhead. I left Colorado Springs around 4am, and was at the Upper 2WD trailhead by 6:20am. I couldn't see any of the peaks on my approach, so I still wasn't sure how much snow, if any, remained on the peaks. I actually drove past the open gate at the newly maintained trailhead, crossed the creek, and started to head up the road - but quickly realized that my Forester wasn't up for this challenge. I parked a few paces past the creek crossing.

By 6:30am I was slogging up the trail.


First Light
As daylight broke and I caught glimpses of Broken Hand Peak and Crestone Needle, I was surprised and encouraged at how little snow remained.

By 7:30 I had passed the 4WD trailhead and was headed for the standard Crestone Needle route. There were several people camping along the trail, but I would see no one else on the entire route.

Humboldt Peak

The sun spilled into the valley and warmed everything quickly - I shed layers like it was nobody's business. The mountain pikas were awake, squeaking, and climbing all over the place.


The Needle and the Lake

As the route elevates along the north face of Broken Hand Peak the sun is blocked and there is still several inches of snow and ice. I had an ice axe and Microspikes that were helpful during the approach to Broken Hand Pass. (Even on the my return, not much of the snow had melted, and I would guess its there to stay).

Large Cairns on the approach to Broken Hand Pass

Looking back down the route

Getting closer!

The first obstacle was easily negotiated and the snow/ice didn't present to much of a hassle. I was soon over Broken Hand Pass and continued on towards the East Gully. The wind picked up here and would gust inconsistently for the rest of the climb.

Past the first obstacle.

Looking back down at Broken Hand Pass

The East Gully had a good amount of flowing water from the snowmelt. The route up was well-cairned and I didn't have too much trouble on the crossover to the West gully. Most of the snow could be avoided, but some spots were pretty sketchy. I had couple slips on loose rock and was thankful no one was behind me! I was in no rush though so I continued to proceed cautiously.

Getting tired here

I crested the west gully and was on the summit by 11:45am. I should mention that I saw footprints in the snow on several "alternate" routes that would have had me freaking out. On top the sky was clear and there were great views all around.

Broken Hand Peak

North to Crestone Peak



After spending about 1/2 hour on the summit I started down. This proved more interesting than the ascent. Despite the warnings on this site's route description and others, I somehow missed the entrance to the west gully. I actually started too far west and had some difficult class 3 and class 4 moves ahead once I realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be. Luckily there was a weakness in the rib separating me from the west gully and I was able to cross over and downclimb a steep section into the west gully. The descent was also more difficult with the snow/loose rock than the ascent had been - and I was thankful not to be kicking rocks down on anyone who might have been on the mountain with me. After exiting the gully the climb was uneventful and I was back at the 4WD trailhead by 2:50PM.

One last look at the Needle

The trail register had a few names in it headed for Humboldt, but I only saw a few other campers near the trailhead.
I made it back to the car around 3:40 and was happy to relax after a rewarding day in the Sangres.

The creek was higher than I realized it was in the dark. Not sure I'd cross it again, I think I'll just in the new lot - a wait, I'll have to.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Looks like a nice day!
09/29/2009 23:07
Some solitude is always nice! Great shot of Humbolt, it doesn‘t look so mundane there!


Some beautiful photos ...
09/30/2009 14:28
Very nice. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Your a brave soul...
10/01/2009 14:26
to go solo. Great job. And nice self-portraits.
We were up there the day before and went for Kit Carson. What a beautiful fall this has been (after the 4 days of rain/snow left!)
Congrats on your successful Needle climb.


10/02/2009 05:30
for a 5th 14er! Glad you made it successfully. The weather looked great, but your report of slipping was scary.


I bailed
10/02/2009 18:01
on climbing Crestone Needle this year on the 12th of Sept. because of some fresh snow at high elevation. Did not want to risk it on snow, alone. Congrats, nice photos.


Even the small amount of snow
10/02/2009 19:01
made things interesting. Luckily most of the snow from the week before had melted. I was glad to get this one done this year! Thanks everyone!


That first shot of the Needle and the lake....
10/02/2009 20:53
is unbelievable. Good report. And a reminder how quickly conditions can change this time of year - sometimes for the better.

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