A few of the guys from the Albuquerque Adventure Squad had never climbed a 14,000 ft peak, so we fired up Summitpost and found the Crestone group - very exciting looking and not too far from New Mexico. Kirk had just bought an FJ Cruiser so we instantly made it the official car of the Squad and headed North. The road from Westcliff to South Colony Lake is said to be a "true" 4xr4 road. We had no problems making it all the way up, but had a lot of fun on the way. Dan, Paul and I took turns standing on the back bumper and holding onto the roof rack as we climbed up the rocky trail. There were several Jeeps and trucks at the top - all bonafide off road machines.
Crestone Needle and Peak
Crestone Needle: 14,197ft - South Face Couloir
Saturday started at 0500. I’m never very gung ho for alpine starts, but the weather report left us no choice. Scattered showers all day meant we needed to get up and down well before noon. Paul was up first as usual, but everybody else followed soon after. We all shared the same sense of urgency. We hit the trail at 0600 and started up to Broken Hand Pass. The trail was easy to follow, though it fractured more and more as we got closer to the pass and had to deal with scree and lose rocks. There was no worry about route finding though, as the pass we were aiming for was obvious.
Trail from Broken Hand Pass to the chutes
We reached the pass at 0700, dropped over the West side of the ridge and continued along the well trodden trail to the peak. After a short down climb, we reached the base of the first chute we were to ascend. The rock was solid conglomerate and slightly wet from the previous days of rain. The going was straight forward with only a few steep sections that required some thought. Halfway up the chute, was found the marked traverse up and over to the next chute to the West. This was the only section of class 3 we encountered on the climb. It was steep, but with good holds and very little exposure. Easy. Once in the next chute, we continued up the same good quality conglomerate we’d just climbed out of.
We picked our way up and up, feeling the occasional rain drop, but not enough to make us consider turning around. The clouds were all around, but seemed to fairly stable at the time. Cairns after cairn finally brought us to the summit ridge. Surprisingly, we hit the ridge only 50 yards from the summit. And easy scramble brought us there and we quickly congratulated ourselves, snapped some pictures and reversed direction. There were black clouds pouring out over the peaks about 5 miles North. They looked to be headed East and not toward us, but we ran anyway. It was 0820.
The descent was uneventful. We kept our eyes on the sky, stopped only briefly for some great broken cloud lit photos and made it back to camp at 1100. We celebrated with cheese, bagels and naps.
After recharging a bit, Brian, Paul, Dan and I walked down to a small pond where we’d seeing fish surface. Brian had brought his fly fishing rod, so we all took turns. After all was said and done, we’d landed three nice sized trout. Soon after, the rain finally hit. It down-poured for a few hours, so we took refuge in the tents. Brian also had lugged up a bottle of wine to celebrate his pending promotion to Major, and I had a Cuban cigar that a friend had brought back from a trip to Orizaba. Needless to say, we passed the time in style.
Humboldt: 14,064 ft - West Ridge
The plan was to head home on Sunday the 29th, but we all wanted to tag Humboldt before ending the trip. The lakes sit right at the base of the shapely and very straight forward peak, so it was convenient enough. It took us 2 hours to make the summit. There were no major obstacles or route finding issues. We enjoyed the steep hike and took in all the weather that was blowing in above, around and below us. The large summit was not overly crowded, but being the easiest peak in the area, there was plenty of people there.
Descending to the lakes
Rain and burgers
Reaching the summit of Humboldt
We headed down to camp, packed up and walked the 1.5 miles to the truck. The drive out was less exilerating as we were all too tired for truck rodeo... Once in Westcliff, we stopped at the first good bar we came to an chowed down on burgers and beer while the skies opened up again and it pour outside.