Got Ice Axe?I'll keep this somewhat brief for now, but just wanted to rush this out to emphasize to anyone considering hiking these magnificent peaks in the next week or so to absolutely bring an ice axe (see Brad Snider's report). I'll add my usual, overly wordy, report (complete with pics) on another day. :)
We hiked Kit Carson/Challenger on Sunday, May 28th. We WAY overslept, but decided to give it a shot and kept an eye on the weather. We headed off and had a beautiful, but uneventful hike up to Willow Lake.
Just past the cliffs above Willow lake, we met a hiker coming down who said she'd turned around because she did not have an ice axe. About 10 mins later, we met 3 other hikers who'd turned around for the same reason.
As we began the steep ascent toward the ridge to Challenger, we encountered the first of several long snow fields that stopped these 4 souls. There were some tracks kicked in across each of them, but it was too steep to risk. We put on crampons, got out our ice axes, and headed straight up the snow. Even with the crampons, I still slipped once and started sliding down the slope. The only thing that stopped me was my axe...gosh I love that thing!
Once on the ridge we did not encounter any more snow up to Challenger. On Challenger, we met 4 others who had just come down from Kit Carson, they highly recommended ice axes for Kit Carson Avenue. We thanked them for the advice and headed off to the famed Avenue.
For the most part, you could walk along the edge of the Avenue and be snow free. There were 3 short sections where you could not get around the snow and had to walk across it. Two sections had very icy patches from thawing and refreezing so, we stayed away from the edge and carefully planted our axes. It was not harrowing, but we could not afford to be lazy or careless.
We made the summit and were rewarded with incredible views! Thankfully, the weather held out, although it was cloudy and windy, there were no thunderstorms to be seen or heard at all.
During the descent down off the ridge the winds had built up to something I'd never experienced before. Progress down was painfully slow as the wind was blowing upwards and kept knocking me down or off balance. We stumbled our way down and didn't get a break from the wind until we hit the trees on the other side of the lake.
After endless switchbacks, we finally made the car and headed into Crestone for a hot meal...or so we thought. Turns out Mac's Mexican Restaurant is closed on Sundays, the bar in town had run out of food, and the other restaurant we were told about, closes at 8:30p (it was 8:20p). Starving, and with absolutely no options within Crestone, we drove to Salida and found an open place at 9:30p. Too bad, I would have loved to have stayed another night in Crestone! :)
If anyone needs any further info on conditions or would like to see pics of Kit Carson Ave, write to me and I'll get you what I can.
Best of conditions to you all!