Challenger Peak / Kit Carson

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 14, 2004
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Created On: May 7, 2005
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Solo Trip - It rained during my hike up the Willow Lake Approach, but no problems. I camped just below the lake at an awesome spot. Next morning in mist and drizzle, I ascended the North Ridge and summited Challenger. Then across the West Ridge and up to Kit Carson. Route finding was a little challenging, and I went a bit to far out on some ledges above the Outward Bound Couloir. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the summit and clouds were building. After descending Kit Carson it looked like the Kirk Couloir would be a good descent. What looked like snow was solid ice and once I had climbed down into the couloir I was in a bad spot. Without crampons or an ice axe, I stupidly began downclimbing the rock on the West side of the couloir. One slip and I was gaining speed. I consciously decided to break my leg by jamming it into the moat (gap between rock and ice on the side). My foot caught on my first try and my slide was stopped. After catching my breath and thanking the Lord, I climbed out of the couloir to the West. I was well below the West Ridge, but felt that I could traverse the Northwest Slopes. I was able to traverse these slopes, but I often came to some cliffs that involved Class 4 climbing. It was an repeated ascending and descending traverse, but I managed to make it back to the North Ridge route of Challenger and back to camp. I hiked out that day, but continue to think of how close I came to being that solo climber who got killed attempting a descent of a couloir without my ice axe or crampons. From above the lake and below the Northwest Slopes, I could see where I would have shot out of the couloir. It would have been very ugly and I'm quite sure that I would have launched into the rocks sustaining severe injuries. I'm not proud of the decisions that I made on this trip, but I hope that others might learn from my mistake. I know that I did.


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