Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  08/22/2010
Date Climbed:   08/22/2010
Author:  dpwellington
 Challenger North Slope Standard and Kit Carson from Challenger Point  

This was my first trip to the Crestone area with the objective of climbing Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point. On 8/21 we drove down to Willows Creek Trailhead and started the long approach hike for an overnight near Willows Lake and a climb of Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. The views and wildlife near Willows Lake were impressive Image
Willows Lake at Sunset
Willows Lake and Waterfall

At 6:30 am Sunday, I left the campsite to summit Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. There were four people who had already left earlier. My climbing partner had another bout with altitude sickness (from sleeping at 11,500'). He went back to the trailhead and encouraged me to climb the two peaks without him. I jumped at that offer since we drove 4 hours to get there the previous night.

I have to say that Challenger Point is a strenuous climb (up and especially down) since it is largely scree mixed with some talus, rated 2+ but feels harder because of the scree. You are looking at 2000+' of gain in a little over a mile. The descent back down this slope is a knee buster and requires a lot of concentration so bring trekking poles if you have them. The views from the summit of Challenger are outstanding. Image
View of San Luis Valley from Challenger Point Summit
Kit Carson's summit looks so tantalizingly close. Image
Kit Carson Peak
Likewise the views of Challenger Point are impressive from Kit Carson's summit. Image
Challenger Point
Unfortunately the standard route up Challenger Point offers no impressive views of the summit. In effect Challenger is but a waypoint to bagging its cooler neighbor, Kit Carson Peak.

After dropping down to the saddle between the two peaks then "Kit Carson Avenue" becomes obvious. Image
The beginning of Kit Carson Avenue
This route winds around Kit Carson and narrows in spots but nothing too narrow. Image
Near the half way point of Kit Carson Avenue
The avenue continues all the way to the class 3 gully on the east side. Image
The final gully to the summit of Kit Carson
From Kit Carson's summit there are even better views of the Crestone Peak, Needle and even Great Sand Dunes National Park in the distance. Image
Views of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Kit Carson Peak is certainly one of my favorite climbs. The summit views from Kit Carson, the views of Kit Carson from many vantage points and the walk around "Kit Carson Avenue" are all superb. Additionally the hike to Willows Lake is also very scenic.

I would caution that summit day when bagging these two peaks can be a very long one. The slow ascent/descent up/down Challenger, the up and down between peaks and the hike back out to the trailhead all add up to some serious hours.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/23/2010 06:06
I like the sunrise photos, especially the first one of the clouds reflected in the lake. Really beautiful!

Probably saw you coming in as I was headed out - I was there for the day on Saturday for a run up the KC north ridge and back down via Challenger. Great trip.


Kit Carson + Challenger in one day.
08/24/2010 21:47
My wife and I climbed both on August 15th from Willow TH with timeline as follows:
TH to Willow Lake - 4:30AM to 7:00AM
Bottome of Willow Lake to above Willow Lake at base of Challenger - 7:00 AM to 7:30 AM
Base of Challenger to Ridge - 7:30AM to 9:00AM
Ridge to top of Challenger - 9:00AM to 9:30AM
Challenger to top of Kit Carson - 9:30AM to 10:30AM
Kit Carson to base of Challenger - 10:30AM to 1:00PM
Base of Challenger to TH - 1:00PM to 3:30PM
11 hours total.

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