Hard day in the mountains on tricky terrain!
One of my all-time favorites.
August 27 2022
In the evening, Kessler and I hiked up to Lower South Colony Lake and set up camp. It was an easy walk, but it was raining much of the time.
August 28 2022
A few thoughts on doing Crestones Traverse "against the grain" (Needle to Peak) with a circuit of the South Colony Basin with my son.
Why did we choose to do it this way? With the 50% chance of rain forecasted after noon, we didn't want to chance hitting the crux when it is wet. Was it the right choice? Probably not.
Peak to Needle is the way to go. Needle to Peak you miss at least one of only two places that has good scrambling. The rest of the route is mostly a tedious scree fest. It was disappointing in this respect.
Thoughts on the quality/aspects of the route:
The south face route on the Needle is wonderful. It's one of the most enjoyable standard routes of any 14er. It's a solid, enjoyable, and straight forward scramble (we did the direct route rather than cross over).
The Crestones Traverse and the standard route up Crestone Peak is rather meh. Maybe we would have changed our mind on this if we did the route in reverse. Instead of the good scramble, we did the rap, but it's slightly awkward to get on rap there and is probably more intimidating that just doing the climb. Downclimbing the 5.2 bulge farther down is also a lot more awkward than climbing up it, especially without a spotter). We used a rope here (and met two other climbers here who tossed it down to us). After getting down, it was apparent that going up was much easier, but from the top it is hard to see how to downclimb (go slightly west).
The Northwest Couloir is awful without consolidated snow. Don't do it. The couloir was mostly dry, but with a little fresh snow about. The melting fresh snow was enough to cause rockfall (the route was way worse than the Hourglass on Little Bear). Conditions were miserable enough that we exited the Couloir after just a few hundred feet and traversed over to the North Buttress. We descended the North Buttress via a zigzag route, doing one long rappel along the way, but it was time consuming.
Once we reached the Bears Playground, we followed the ridge all the way over the Humboldt Peak trail and descended that way, completing a full circuit around the South Colony Lakes Basin. It took a lot longer than expected.
Other than the Northwest Couloir, our route was safe enough, but it rates high on the tedium scale.
Anyway, I guess this is just a round about way of saying that the best way to do the Crestones Traverse itself is to just link up the two peaks by doing Crestone by it's standard route, over to the Needle and then descend the standard route of the Needle. This is how the majority of people do the route and I guess there are good reasons for that. The only real advantage of our route is that you could also hit up Humboldt (or even Kit Carson and Challenger if you are really tough!), but other than that the standard route is much better.
I mentioned that we descended the North Buttress, but in the downhill direction, route finding isn't that straightforward and you had better take a rope and know what you are doing.
I'd highly recommend avoiding the Northwest Couloir unless you are doing it as a snow climb. If conditions are good, this might make an enjoyable route going up the NW Couloir (as a snow climb) and then doing the Peak to Needle. Ascending the North Buttress and then doing the Peak to Needle would also be great route.
Took the East Gully all the way to the summit. Route finding was easy, as was the ascent. Downclimb of the section above the crossover required focus. Awesome peak!
Took it fairly easy running most of the way up, got up in almost exactly 2 and a half hours from South Colony Lakes Trailhead. The drive was rough but fine in my Outback. Fun scramble, went up on the right (4th class) and down on the 3rd class (left if you're climbing up). Went on to Crestone Peak and then returned back to the trailhead. 7 hours roundtrip including all the talking and summit sitting time.
Broken Hand pass required micro spikes and an ice axe on this one. The rest was dry as a bone. Stayed in the Class 4 gully both up and down. Fun, solid conglomerate rock. A chipmunk at South Colony Lake ate through our tent and feasted on all our nuts!
#1 09-30-20 My partner, Yadahzoemtn (Lana), and I completed a 6-year journey by reaching this summit, summit #58 of the Colorado 14ers. Our weather was as nice as one could wish for. Lingering snow from a storm two weeks prior made using micro spikes and ice axes necessary for the final 200 vertical feet climbing to Broken Hand Pass. We decided to climb the 4th Class east gully rather than worry about the hairy crossover to the west gully. The east gully was straightforward and just fine, the solid conglomerate rock providing plenty of secure hand holds and foot holds. We came down the east gully and found many cairns, most of which we hadn't seen on the ascent. If conditions are dry and one is comfortable with 4th Class climbing one can use the east gully without reservation.
Went solo starting climb from South Colony Lake campsite at 5:30 am reaching the summit by 8:30 am. Clear skies, only minor wind, and just a little cool on top. Made it safely back to camp by 11:30 am. Definitely keep track of entry and exit points of gullies (unfortunately multiple cairns mark wrong spots). In my return, I made a slight error by exiting the west gully a little early and ended up going down a short class 4 section. But overall no real issues.
Traverse from crestone peak to the summit then we accidentally went down the class 4 gully. Beautiful summit views.
Reached summit in mid-afternoon with cloudless skies after doing Peak, Northeast Crestone, East Crestone all from 2wd trailhead
Ellingwood ledges, third class to the start of technical pitches
Due to snow level wish I had an ice axe to reach the saddle above South Colony lakes.
Climbed solo, day trip starting at upper 4wd TH at 5AM, completed at 2PM. Solid rock for the most part!
Left camp at the lake by 6am. Summited Crestone Peak around noon. Summited Needle via Traverse around 2:30. Took just under 2 hours for both of us. Back to camp around 6:15. Trailhead around 9:15. Long day, but two summits and a fun traverse are worth it.
Started around 6AM. LOTS of campers. The bugs weren't too bad. Saw lots of wildlife including a brown bear near the trail head (grizzly maybe?). There are some snowfields on the way up to Broken Hand Pass. I would say ice axes are advisable, but not required. Route is almost completely dry to summit beyond the pass where any snow can easily be avoided. Only two other people on the route today. Very little wind and lots of sun. Probably my new favorite 14er. Back at car around 1PM.
ellingwood arête, fifth time up the needle! incredible climb to my favorite summit in colorado. why can't all mountains be this fantastic? love the crestones!
Climbed Crestone Needle in 3 hours from South Colony Lakes. This was my favorite 14er so far. Amazing rock and amazing route!
Nice morning cruise up Ellingwood. Not too many people around on the upper mtn, but busy down in the valley below.
This was my 39th Colorado 14er, a similar memory to Kit Carson's final pitch ...what a treat! Summited Crestone Peak earlier in the day and never had to implement my planned contingencies of bad wx popping up or being way too anemic, so I simply solo'ed this big boy class 3 and a half! A steep exposed challenge but minimized with these small little lunch shelves every so often along the way. Good solid state rock unlike the crumbly Elk range rocks. Careful picking and remembering your rock couriers/gullies; they're not all created equal, hehe! I had to up climb to get out of a cliffy one on the descent. Exhausting day but awesome area!