Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2010
Modified:  07/08/2011
Date Climbed:   09/03/2010
Author:  Bullwinkle

 Crestone Needle Solo: 3Sep10  

I just love the Crestone group. It is a wild and wonderful place of extraordinary scenery and plenty of challenging opportunities.

Getting there: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle are accessed via South Colony Road about ten miles south of Westcliffe/Silvercliff. If in need of accommodations, there are the Westcliffe Inn and several B&Bs (Over the Brim, Mountain View Inn, Courtyard Inn, Main Street B&B.) There is also an RV park & campground a few miles south of town on the valley floor.

Head 4 1/2 miles south out of Westcliffe on CO 69, then turn right on Colfax Lane and take this 5 1/2 miles to where it ends. Turn right up South Colony Road. There will be a 2WD lot on the right less than 1 mile up the road. With 4WD vehicles, continue a total of three miles up the road to the new endpoint at about 9,950'.

After the trail register there will be an excellent foot bridge over the stream and then you may continue up the road. It took me about an hour in total darkness to reach the end of the road at about 11,500', another hour to the lake and another hour to reach Broken Hand Pass at 12,850. (3 hours total from the parking area). Had just day-tripped Blanca-Ellingwood two days prior and wanted to save some juice for the main event on the south face of the Needle.

Crestone Needle conjures up some intimidating events and there have been not a few fatalities on the peak over the years. For those with confident Class 3 skill, in good physical condition, and with good judgment, the standard route on the Needle can be done quite safely in good weather. Fatalities and injuries on this peak tend to be associated with not heeding incoming weather, climbing in poor conditions, or pushing the limits of one's skill set. The knobby rock tends to be clean and tight, making a careful ascent quite safe and enjoyable. Just take your time to get your holds right

From Broken Hand Pass you turn right and follow a well-defined trail for several hundred yards. After that, you will need to watch carefully for cairns. Be prepared for an initial down-climb and several hundred feet of Class 3 scrambling up the east gully. The standard route calls for a crossover to the west gully where the dihedral (the deep crack) becomes impassable. If confident into Class 4 skill level (mostly Class 3 climbing) I believe you can just ascend the rib above and to the right of the dihedral. I did not see anything there from below or above that looked especially difficult. Given the uncertainty of what lay ahead on the east route and hiking alone, I crossed over to the west gully and completed the ascent from there on good, tight rock. It is a bit steeper than Crestone Peak, but similar rock formations. The summit ridge is small and convoluted. It took awhile to find the tube under a rock at the Crestone Peak end of the ridge. Winds were above 40 knots at Broken Hand Pass and again at the summit. It was not the kind of summit block you want to stand fully erect on in gale force winds.

The views from either Crestone Needle or Crestone Peak are awe-inspiring. Take these in with great satisfaction.

On descent, the steepness will require a face-up crab-walk in places. In other places you will be able to 2-point the descent. Be sure you have noted the crossover point topography on the way up because continuing past this area will put you into the wrong drainage and trouble.

I expected other folks on this summit the Friday before Labor Day. In the end, I was the only one on the Needle that day--making it quite a privilege.

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