Great hard day in the mountains!
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.
Felt like hell due to lack of sleep. Red gully has some fun sections with good scrambling, but also some loose sections. 3:10 from camp near South Colony Lakes. Cottonwood Lake area is beautiful.
Started at South Colony Lakes trailhead at 10am, up the needle by 12:30...taking it easy and talking to people along the way and on summit. Ran down to Cottonwood Lakes and hit a wall at about 13,000 feet...really did not feel good. Made summit and was all alone with no other climbers on mountain. Rallied on the way back and felt pretty good, making it from Broken Hand Pass to the trailhead in 47 minutes.
Climbed this with Ben and Andrea on a clear weather day. The red gulley was straightforward. Bit of loose rock getting kicked down by some climbers, but other than that it's a longy, but a goodey.
Ascended via the standard route after an overnight in South Colony Lakes. I was recovering from COVID so the hike felt unusually difficult. Chest was aching a bit which usually doesn't happen. Started from camp just after 5:00 am. Summitted around 8:50. The red gully was a long, but fun route. My least favorite part was reascending and descending Broken Hand Pass. Sunny skies, no wind. Also summitted the East Summit.
Fun outing with Will. From our bivy near the old 4wd trailhead, we made our way to Bear's Playground, then up the North Buttress of the peak with fun mellow scrambling. Tagged East Crestone for the Custer County HP, then the main summit (these are very close in height). The launched into the traverse over to the Needle, which was very enjoyable. Back down to the trailhead by early afternoon. Very smokey air, but still a fun outing.
Peak via the Red Gullet. Good rock all the way, not as loose as you would think and grippy when dry as a bone. I went up Cottonwood Creek trail from Crestone (West). It eliminates need to climb and reclimb Broken Hand Pass. The trail is solid but good route finding skillz are a must. Though admittedly I have crummy skills and I still made it solo. Well cairned. 5 miles lands you directly below the Red Gully. 3500 of gain. I started at 4pm, was tucked in a tent by 730, and summited the next day.
Did the south face solo before the traverse
Excellent scramble, and everything was still so green!!
Solo, started at 2wd trailhead, then climbed Peak, Northeast Crestone, East Crestone, and Needle
Stick to the left of the snow in the middle and you *should* be able to scramble your way to the top.
Got a little banged up on the descent
#1 9-2-17 W/ Yadahzoe. Bluebird day, shared the summit with about 15 others. The red gully is a delight albeit a long one. 14er #41. Most assuredly one of the toughest so far.
Left camp at the lake by 6am. On top of BHP by 7:15.Summited Crestone Peak around 11. Left summit around 12:30. 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.
Soloed South Face, long day!
With my daughter. Amazing variety of terrain involved. It was my fifth time up and over BHP. If I never do it again, it will be too soon.
Started at the south colony trailhead at dawn. A straightforward approach with scenic lake vistas. Lots of mosquitos out for the weekend: bring bug spray. A short gain thru talus, then loose rock up Broken Hand pass to 13,000', so don't break your hand. The unusual descent into the peaceful valley with a lake on other side was quite unique for my 38th 14er. Tempting is the Needle traverse for next time! Snow patches up the distinct red rock coulier but not much for crampons. Could of sworn the east summit is higher than the west rocks but I recommend climbing both in :20 time for completely different views. The 4 miles and 3850' elevation gain made for a good warm up for soloing the Needle later in the 16hr day.
The final Colorado 14er I climbed to complete my list of 58-ish. A very special one to finish - one of my favorites. Standard Red Gully route with my beautiful wife.