ApproachThis route description begins at Willow Lake on the west side of the Kit Carson/Challenger masif. The route is inaccessible from the South Colony side.
From Willow Lake, hike around the north, then east side of the lake and gain the meadows above the waterfall. Exposed camping can be found above the waterfall in the meadows. From the meadows, take time to scan the ridge and the route. Note the east/west ridge of Challenger and visually follow it to the couloir near the far west end of the ridge. This couloir ends at a shallow notch on the east/west ridge and is filled with snow until mid-late season. The left (east) side of the couloir is the north face route and the right (west) side of the gully is the descent route. The right side of this couloir has a class 2 trail that can also be used for ascent.
Route DescriptionA climbers trail leads from the meadows through the willows to the beginning of a talus field. The trail will turn right at the talus field. Follow the trail as it heads up towards a shallow talus/scree-filled gully. The trail will make a subtle fork. Take the left fork and head up the gully. Gain a tundra bench above and to the left (east) of the gully and take time to plan your route. Head directly for the couloir and cross to the left side near the bottom. You will see a faint trail to the right heading up the right side of the couloir. Ignore this if you want to have more fun.
Make your assault on the north face, picking and choosing your route carefully to avoid class 4 (if that's what you want). Tend to stay toward the midde, as the right and far left are somewhat steeper. The crux is midway, where there is mild exposure just before a right-facing dihedral. The route eases a bit near the top, but otherwise, it's solid class 3 for at least 1000 ft. This route is a hoot and is a fun alternative to the scree slog to the right of the couloir.
Gain the ridge and follow it east, following the remainder of the West Ridge via Challenger Point route to Challenger, then Kit Carson.
On the descent, you can use the west side of the couloir; however, beware that it is very loose due to overuse, especially if the area has received recent precipitation. Another and safer alternative is the tundra ramp further to the west (see photo below for the tundra ramp).