Climbed 14,081 ft. Challenger Point and 14,165 ft. Kit Carson Peak on an overnight solo climbing trip. Hiked up the Willow Creek trail and camped just below Willow Lake on Saturday. On Sunday morning I awoke around 5:30 AM. I hiked around Willow Lake in the dark and then I climbed up the North Slope of Challenger Point. About half way up Challenger the clouds rolled in and socked me in, for the entire remainder of the climb I could not see more than 50 feet in front of me. Regardless I was motivated and made the summit of 14,081 ft. Challenger Point at 9:00 AM. From Challenger I climbed down to the a saddle between Challenger and Kit Carson Peak and took a class 3 route along Kit Carson "Avenue". The Avenue is a unique feature to Kit Carson and allows for a somewhat moderate but exposed traverse to a gully that you have to climb to make the summit. (Kit Carson has sheer cliffs on most other routes) I made the summit of 14,165 ft. Kit Carson Peak at 10:15 AM and had to backtrack back to the summit of Challenger Point, and then all the way down the tedious rocky/scree covered slope down to my camp at Willow Lake. I made it back to camp around 1:30 PM, packed up and headed back to the trail head, arriving back at my car around 4:00 PM. A total of 14.5 miles round trip with 6,250 ft. of elevation gain. 37 Fourteeners down!
Four hikers left the trailhead in the morning and I was probably the only one to summit. One guy a bit older than me was doing it barefoot and said he was going to do Challenger but when I ran into the two much faster younger guys coming down from the summit ridge they said they didn't get to the very top of the summit due to fog, but they hadn't seen barefoot guy either. I figured it might have been because barefoot guy was cutting the switchbacks but on the way down two other hikers said barefoot guy told them he had climbed Adams instead. Five hours and fifty four minutes from the trailhead to the summit, four hours and six minutes on the descent. It was windy on top; twenty to thirty mph sustained with occasional gusts of fifty mph and higher (enough to fling even my bulk against the mountain a few times). My plan was to do both mountains but I ran out of time; I had a flight to catch in Denver at midnight and Carson would have taken too long to do. Spectacular scenery at the lakes and above the lake.
Left campsite at Willow Lake at 3:20 a.m. Made it up Challenger slopes in the dark with headlamps. Brilliant sunrise-due to wildfire smoke from other states. First ones on top. Made it over to Kit Carson and then back to Challenger on the return. Big crowd on Challenger and on the slopes on the return trip.
Hiked with my sons. Great weather. Found the gully up Challenger more than going across to Kit Carson.
A warmup to the more prominent (class 3) ascent up Kit Carson. Challenger Point offers a good ridgeline trek at 14,000' altitude and say 7/8 of our total climb (7hrs from trailhead without counting stop at Willow lake). It helps to move w/ sense of urgency through the scree field!
Climbed with EricD. Summited 3 hrs from campsite @ Willow Lake (gorgeous!). 1 hr to Kit Carson. About 2 hrs to descend from KC summit. Consider saving this one for fall when you're thinking of getting back into shape for snowboarding-great quad workout on the descent. Descent was challenging because we were trying not to send rocks down to hikers below.
Climbed the north ridge of Kit and then crossed the avenue to Challenger. Descending Challenger is no fun as it is very loose and steep.
Climbed up to the right of the standard North Slope route and hit some Class 3/4 terrain, but the rock was fantastic. Got Kit Carson as well on a perfect day.
Had tried a few weeks earlier via Bear's Playground/S Colony Lakes but ran out of time due to weather. Dragged a friend and hubby along for this semi-repeat & found a great campsite at Willow Lake.
Did Kit Carson as well, with Sarah Simon.
Kit Carson over Challenger Point in one day was a very long trip. Challenger Point slope is slippery and steep and very long but Kit Carson's class 3 was a blast. Loved the mountains. Solo
Challenger (7/8/'12): Solo (too little sleep for F). Left TH @ 4.26. When finally got to ridgeline, top of mountain enveloped in fog/cloud. As fog/cloud made me quite uneasy, wanted to summit & get out of there. Followed ridge until finally got to summit @ 8.30. Left @ 8.35. On way down saw guys above who tried to catch up/pass me, but couldn't (admitted it when caught up as I was resting @ waterfall). Guys from 14ers.com. Ha ha. Ran into Faith during the descent, as she wanted to see waterfall. Back to TH/car @ 12.37. Exhausting but great day!
Kit Carson, The Prow (.8, .6R) – 7.12.’12
With Faith. Hiked in & camped night before. Thunderstorm night before made me worry, as did the difficulty on the crux pitch. All worked out in the end, though. Skies started out bluebird, & building clouds definitely worried me as climb, & time, progressed.
After crux pitch snafu (F couldn’t pull crux w/ rope pulling her to the side (where the next piece of pro’ was), I couldn’t hear or understand anything that was going on over waterfall noise & past rock bulges, …), though, made good time. Actually passed the 2 guys that started ahead of us (& seemed to take off after crux pitch- didn’t see them again until pitch above Kit Carson Ave.) @ summit. At that point, hearing thunder around us.
On descent, noticed hikers we’d seen who’d seemed to be confused on the S gully halfway up the side of the wall forming the Prow!!! Obviously not in a comfortable place, guy (& girl) had to practice moves down to get to ramp leading to descent shelf multiple times before committing- if rain would have started, they would have been fucked. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one (or both) fall off… They finally made it down, though- LUCKY.
Packed up camp @ base & took off. Back @ car shortly before 21.00. EPIC day!!!! Glad to do it with Faith.
One cool route
On the final day of my 13 day 2012 trip to Colorado I reached the summits of Challenger and Kit Carson all by myself from Willow Lake (I had hiked up to the lake the previous afternoon). These were peaks #15 and #16 on this trip. Had some breathtaking views all around this very special place.
For what it's worth, my GPS read 16.5 miles RT for this dayhike, a worthy outing considering the more than 6,000 feet vertical gain! Good and tired at the end of the day. I thought the upper Willow Lake Basin to be one of the most beautiful in all of Colorado. Loved it.
Great overnight trip. Willow lake was beautiful. The summit ridge of challenger was a bit more exposed than my previous summits but was a great experience.
Having never gone up the standard route before, we took the North Ridge up and wondered how the hell to get down. We wound up descending a 5th class face to reach challenger.
Took a newbie on this very long hike. We did Challenger and Kit Carson in one day from the Willow Lake trailhead. It took 14 hours round trip. The weather was perfect but we ended up finishing in the dark under head lamps. Loose talus and scree above the lake. Luckily we got below that before the sun set. Great epic.
Early start from above Willow Lake, beautiful weather and morning. Awesome day.