This was Erin's and my first trip to the Crestone area 14ers. We had an interesting encounter with a bighorn at the base of Challenger, and we faced a dramatic downpour as we neared the trailhead during our return. A trip report is available here.
I climbed Challenger Pk with my son Peter, then 15, from Willow Lake and we continued on to climb Kit Carson. Challenger Pk was Peter's first 14,000 ft peak. I had first climbed Kit Carson back on 9 August 1971.
Made it on 3rd try - had weather problems twice before. The face of Challenger is steep - watch for rockfall ... a mountain goat sent some boulders flying towards us.
The night before we summited, my brother and I helped out a guy who had taken a fall on the snowfield on the east side of Challenger. The next morning we had a great hike and beat the rush of people.
This is one of the prettiest hikes up a 14er willow lake is amazing. and the ramp that takes you from challenger ridge to a walkable route up Kit Carson Peak is unnatural. all in all a great hike/scramble.
Excellent backpack trip, although I felt sluggish on the second day, to the most spectacular lake that I've been to this date. Colonelpyat(Jim) is an excellent hiker/climber and anyone who hike's with him will soon come to realize the many years of experience behind him.
The only downer on the weekend was that I dropped my camera and it tumbled down the mountain for about two-hundred feet. It came to rest in what looked like an old melted out crevasse (inside joke). Needless to say the camera is finished, it was a very somber moment, but like my wife says at least it wasn't me tumbling down the mountain.
A little TIP for those who attempt this mountain in the future, screw the guidebook, and head for the prominent notch just to the right of Challenger Point's summit (class 2+, loose scree). you will be able to see it from the back side of the lake and holds snow throughout the year. By doing this you will dodge the extreme exposure from the standard route. I will add an image to this page and call out this notch.
Crowded, Labor Day weekend. We left from the lake about 6:30 a.m. and encountered at least three parties en route on the ridge who were turning back, due to the fog. Our native Alamosan had no particular concerns about this turning electrical, though, so we pressed onward. Challenger took about five hours; the ridge is indeed an intense ascent, but there are small steps seemingly dug into the side of the tundra. If you can find these, which requires occasionally traversing small boulder fields, the ascent is much more tolerable.
KC Ave entails one route of ascent, turning sharp left and descending two times. At the bottom of the second descent, we spotted the two gullies mentioned in the EXCELLENT trip report by Aaron Johnson posted herein. (Certainly richer in detail than Roach's.) We made a slight shortcut, however, instead of ascending directly from the avenue. This proved helpful on the way up, but impossible to retrace on the way down, causing 3 out of the 4 members of our party to mistakenly descend below the Avenue on the way down.
At the very bottom, we were facing Crestone. One of our party traversed tons of class 4/5 to get back to the avenue; we other two found a class 3 route. Where we came up was the second leg of the Ave, rather than the final 3rd from whence we had begun our ascent. Bottom line: pick a route that you KNOW you can retrace without any difficulty, even if it's longer.
Coming back, we heard there was a class 2 couloir that offered a faster descent than the far ridge back down to the lake. Being too exhausted to ascend back to Challenger's ridge, however, we contented ourselves with traversing diagonally down the east face, which is slow class 3 requiring much focus. Also, you don't want to descend too quickly, because there is a roughly 200 ft cliff at the base of Challenger's southern face.
I will post a full-blown photo essay/trip report at my own site soon:
Ouch! My legs still hurt from a "this-is-where-we-had-to-walk-from-in-the-middle-of-a-desert" route via the San Luis Valley. Many miles and lots of elevation gain. Did it as an overnight trip under the expert guidance of jgsman who kept the physical abuse to a relative bare minimum with his route finding skills. A great trip through some spectacular country! Didn't see a single crevasse or a hang glider the entire time. :)
Kit is an impressive mountain. Got to love that rock! Made that surprising traverse over from Columbia. Looks like suicide but stays at class 3 somehow. Enjoyed myself immensely and did not get rained on until down by Willow Lake. Whoo hoo!
Visibility zero for the entire traverse. Returned back and over to Humboldt
Started at 2:50 in the morning, climbed Humbolt, traversed the ridge to Bear's playground, climbed the centennial 13er and then Kit Carson. Long day but excellent climb. One day will add the Crestones and do 5 peaks in one day.
The Outward Bound Coulier is located just south of the main Kit Carson summit on the east side of the mountain. This wide coulier ascends between Kit & Kat Carson and when in good condition is a great climb, and probably one of the best snow climbs on Kit Carson Peak. We summited Kat Carson then went on to summit Kit Carson and finally concluded on Challenger Point. Then an icy but nice 2000 foot glaciade was in order off of the north slopes of Challenger Point. This was my second summit on both Kit Carson and Challenger Point.
Beautiful weather. Stayed on the summit a couple of hours just enjoying it. Met some other climbers and we took a wrong turn into the Spanish Creek basin on the descent and had to climb back up, but it was fun.
Nice climb. Final ridge to Challenger Point exposed but fun. Not too bad from Challenger over to summit of Kit thanks to the convenient ledge on the South of Kit Carson. Camped previous night at one of the lakes to the west.
I climbed Kit Carson and Challanger Point from the upper Colony Lake. It was a long but nice hike with a exciting down climb from Kat Carson!
The route I took to the summit is rather exoitic, but quite beautiful. It begins in private land and crosses a ridge of Challenger to the Spanish basin, beneath the Prow of Kit Carson and up from the South.
From the Kit Carson Summit my friend Paul and I went to the Challenger Summit and downclimbed the face of Challenger (5.4) and rejoined our ascent route.
A long day of 15+ miles and 2 summits.