This is not exactly a trip report. Partly because I didn’t take a lot of photos. The excuse for that is the camera is broken and the phone just doesn’t do the same job. Also, despite the fact that I thought I had some really good info and photos from other trip reports, I doubt that you want to read about how we rambled all over the place between Columbia Point and the Columbia/Kit Carson saddle. We had a lot of fun climbing and scrambling around, and even found a new route (not documented here), but it kept us from getting to Challenger Point that day.
I think it would have helped a lot to have a GPS track as a guide. So the purpose of this trip report is to publish the (corrected) GPX file from the trip, and a description to help with the navigation.
If you have photos that will supplement this report, please feel free to add them. I don’t think I’ll be heading back here any time soon.
The Bear's Playground Trail
The route to Kit Carson via the Bear’s playground starts on the trail to Humboldt Peak. As the trail makes its last switchback to the right near the Humboldt saddle, leave the trail and head WNW towards an east-west running ridge. The ridge trail is cairned, starting on the north side; however the trail crosses back and forth across the ridge as it heads to the west. This trail is frequently difficult to follow, and offers several options in some places. There is one point where you need to drop significantly to the south (towards upper S Colony Lake) to go around a large fin-shaped rock outcrop. There is no way to avoid this, so just do it.
The trail along the ridge above and north of S Colony Lakes
You will emerge from the ridge trail on its north side. The cairns across the Bear’s Playground and along Obstruction Peak are very large and easy to find. This is an easy traverse until you reach a large arête. There are several cairns here. Follow the cairns that ascend – do NOT go down near the larger, lower cairn.
The ridge trail as it emerges onto the Bear’s Playground
Once at the saddle between Obstruction Peak and Kitty Kat Carson/Columbia Point (previously known as Kat Carson), follow cairns and a fairly well-worn track. After reaching Columbia Point, the route becomes more difficult.
To start, head SSE (in the direction that the shuttle is flying). When the trail drops down, descend in a SW direction across a slope with grass in between rock outcrops. After descending about 50’ you will see cairns at the right (west) side of this slope. Head down to one of the lowest cairns and turn right (west). Going down past the first cairn will minimize the down-climbing that you need to do in the class 3 section. The down-climb area will be in the shade and looks worse than it actually is. It is only about a 60’ descent of class 3 crab-scuttle or butt-scooting.
The Columbia memorial plaque
The class 3 downclimb will be in the shade
At the bottom of the downclimb you will be directed with cairns in a SW direction across a large fault which creates a weak area as it cuts through the mountain. Follow the cairns until the trail turns and you are looking in a NNW direction. Look for a cairn up high near 2 points that look like an “/\/\” made out of rock. The right side of the “/\/\” is bigger than the left side. Go up along the right side of this feature to the top, cross over, and you will see cairns down the other side.
After this point, continue to follow the cairns down and to the right to the yellow-brown area that divides Columbia Point from Kit Carson. From there, the cairns that connect this route to the Kit Carson trail are easy to follow.
On the return, we did a few things differently:
- We came back on the correct route.
- We summited Obstruction Peak during a brief clearing of the weather. As of the end of August, 2011, the canister is broken and a new one is needed.
- At the point where the “fin” causes you to drop down from the ridge above upper South Colony Lake, we continued to descend into the basin. We went around the upper lake’s west side, then crossed to the east between the lakes and joined up to the Humboldt trail.
- We took the Humboldt cut-off trail back to our campsite
Some Maps and Stats
There are 2 tracks in the gpx file, which is at the top of this page. The green track shows the ascent from the campsite to Kit Carson, and the blue track shows the return. If they don’t come through in these colors, the ascent track is the one that stops just below Columbia Point.
Detail of route between Columbia Point and Kit Carson
Our elevation profile includes all the wanderings. Hopefully yours will be less.
Elevation Profile of South Colony Lakes to Kit Carson trip