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Kit Carson Peak

snow Outward Bound Couloir
Difficulty Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D12 / R3 / IV  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Moderate  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
TrailheadWillow Creek
Start8,850 feet
Summit14,167 feet
Total Gain5,500 feet
RT Length13.75 miles
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated, stable snow, usually in spring or early summer. In mid-winter, many snow routes have frequent risk of avalanche.


Take Colorado 17 to the town of Moffat. On the south side of town, look for the sign for Crestone and turn east on the "RD T" road. Drive approx. 11.5 miles to Crestone. Continue straight and turn left on Alder Street. Drive through town a bit and turn right onto Galena. Follow Galena out of town and it turns to dirt. Now on Forest Service road #949, it's approx. 2 miles to the trailhead.


Once you are near the lake, follow the trail as it parallels the lake's north side. Leave the trees and continue through thick willows along the shore. Your next goal is to gain the cliffs/headwall on the east end of the lake. Before reaching the cliffs, turn left and climb north up the hillside on a rugged trail - 1. Climb 150', turn right and continue through bushes to reach the top of the cliffs, near 11,800', where you get a view of Kit Carson and the approach to the Outward Bound (O.B.) couloir - 2.

Cross the stream and follow small cairns and trail segments across the remainder of this flat area. Above 11,800', angle left through willows and bushes to reach the base of Challenger's standard, north slope route, near 11,900' - 3. Now above the creek, continue southeast toward the base of the cliffs below Kit Carson's north ridge ( 4) and continue traversing southeast as 13er Columbia Point comes back into view near 12,600' - 5. Pass under the remaining rocks/cliffs at the base of the north ridge and the terrain opens up as you enter the apron below the O.B. couloir - 6 and 7. The O.B. climbs southwest to reach a tiny saddle between 13er Columbia Point and Kit Carson Peak.

Turn right and begin climbing southwest toward the base of the couloir - 8. Finally, you'll enter the confines of the couloir at 13,000' as the slope angle increases to 40 degrees - 9. From the entrance, climb 700' of elevation to reach the top - 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. The slope angle probably averages around 43 degrees and may exceed 50 degrees at the top, where you might also find a cornice.

From the 13,700-foot saddle at the top of the couloir, drop a few feet off the south side ( 16) and traverse right (west) onto a small rib which blocks your view of Kit Carson's southeast face - 17. Climb over the rib ( 18 and 19) and continue west onto the face ( 20) to join the general area of the standard, summer route - 21. Taken near 14,000', 22 looks back on the traverse from O.B. couloir. Gain the summit ridge and continue to the top - 23, 24 and 25.


Skiing the upper, southeast face: 26, 27, 28
Skiing the O.B. Couloir: 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34
On the apron: 35
Heading back to Willow Lake: 36


IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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