Unofficially known as Kat Carson for many years, Columbia Point received its official name on the 10th of June 2003. The newly named Columbia Point is located on the east side of Kit Carson Mountain. On the northwest shoulder of the same mountain is Challenger Point, a peak previously named in memory of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded soon after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, and Columbia Point are located in the northeast corner of the Baca Ranch. Columbia Point/Kat Carson is a ranked 13er rising 360 feet from the saddle with Kit Carson but only .2 miles distant. It is the 57th highest ranked summit in Colorado.
"Columbia Point is an appropriate honor for this shuttle's last voyage. Those who explore space in the days ahead may gaze back at Earth -- and know that Columbia Point is there to commend a noble mission. The point looks up to the heavens and it allows us, once again, to thank our heroes who soared far beyond the mountain, traveled past the sky -- and live on in our memories forever," -Interior Secretary Gale Norton
As of 07 Aug 2003, the summit log is located in a Nalgene bottle on the southeasternmost summit of Columbia Point. Convenient for those ascending from the Bears Playground but NOT the high point. The northwestern peak is the true summit.
The weekend of 09 - 10 Aug 2003 saw the introduction of approximately 40 family members, friends, and former astronauts to the South Colony Lakes area. The intent was to visit the memorial mountain and pay their respects to the crew. I assume they left a plaque like on Challenger Peak. If anyone knows how that trip went, I would appreciate an update. Thanks.
Date: Sept 05, 2003 3:39 PM
The group from Houston Texas who came to dedicate Columbia Point included family members of five of the seven Challenger Astronauts who perished and other NASA employees including quite a large number of active NASA astronauts.
A plaque was installed at the site. I am attaching 3 photos which I obtained from Alan Silverstein. One photo is of forest ranger Mike Smith who was present at the dedication and F16 flyover. It is my understanding that he took the flyover photo and the photo of the plaque - which is actually prior to its clean-up.
I made the summit on 8/20 - and will add a trip report of my own later.
There are three trailheads to use. Probably the best for Kit Carson, Challenger Point, and Columbia Point ascents is the Willow Creek TH.
Willow Creek TH (8,880 ft):
West side access. Starting on CO 17 between the 17/285 junction in the north and Hooper in the south. Turn east off 17 onto a paved road a half mile south of the center of Moffat. Drive into the center of Crestone and turn east on Galena Street. The trailhead is a 2.25 miles further. The last part of this is on not such a nice dirt road. Not terrible, mind you, I never put my Blazer into 4WD even, but my friend managed to slide his Xterra into a gully eroding the center of the road at one point. Note that this trailhead's approach is through the Baca Ranch. This is private property so be respectful and obey posted signs.
Spanish Creek TH (8,260 ft):
West side access. Starting on CO 17 between the 17/285 junction in the north and Hooper in the south. Turn east off 17 onto a paved road a half mile south of the center of Moffet. Drive almost to Crestone, turning south at the entrance of the Baca Grande Chalets Grants. Follow Camino Baca Grande through the subdivision, crossing Crestone and Willow Creeks. Continuing south after the road turns to dirt about a mile and a half to the TH. The road is fairly good. This is private property so be respectful and obey posted sign.
South Colony TH (8,780 ft / 11,060 ft):
From the south part of Westcliffe, head south on CO 69 to Colfax Lane. Turn south. Turn west at a T intersection and drive to the TH 1.5 miles further. Beyond that point the road becomes a difficult 4x4 trail. Stock vehicles can make it but stock vehicles have been known to be damaged as well.
No permits, parking passes, or fees.
When To Climb
July and August are the busiest months. Good summer climbing exists May to October. The couloir routes are spring snow climbs.
For those wishing to backpack, good camping exists around the South Colony Lakes as well as Willow Lake. Willow Lake is very beautiful but a little overused. Follow LNT principals.
You are back at the trailhead and thoughts naturally turn to food and drink. Where do you go?
Main St hosts a couple fast food franchises including Carl's Jr and Subway.
Tes' Mexican Food also on Main St. looked popular with the locals although I have no firsthand experience.
Corine's Mexican and American (822 S. Main St.) has great Mexican food but limits the beers to Bud and Michelob. $7-10 for dinner, no credit cards.
On the way back to Denver Metro:
Johnson's Corner: Coyote Cantina Convenient if you want to split that 4 hour drive back to Denver in half. Great Mexican food and excellent house margaritas with a view of the Sawatch.
1295 Hwy 24 at Hwy 285 intersection.
Leadville: Boomtown Brewpub Great food if a limited menu. The beer seems to have gotten somewhat mediocre since I first started visiting and if you ask for a Black and Tan the brewmaster will bring it mixed together. However, give it a try I still keep going back and the malt liquor and root beers are especially good. Try stout and scottish ales too.
115 E. 7th Street
Leadville, CO 80461