The shortest approach is by way of the South Colony Lakes Trailhead. You can also get to this route via the Cottonwood Creek, Spanish Creek, or Willow Creek Trailheads as well. From South Colony Lakes, hike north up to Humbolt Pass. At the pass head west and follow the rim around to the base of the route. Great photo opp.'s along the way!
The Norh Buttress route begins in the same spot as the Northwest Couloir route at 13,400 feet. Rather than following the obvious line (formed by snowpatches and ledges) to the foot of the couloir, head uphill aiming directly for the ridgeline of the North Pillar. Continue past the pillar and awesome views for some of the best Crestone knob climbing one could ask for. Don't be fooled, however, by the false East Summit. Once gained, you have to drop down a bit and cross the "Red Notch". Crossing the Red Notch can be dangerous for you as well as for those climbing the Northwest Couloir directly below the notch, so tread lightly and with caution. From the Notch, continue your scramble westward to the summit just above you. Descent: Be very careful descending this peak via the Northwest Couloir. The foot of the couloir drop's off abruptly. This is not a good one for glissading! (sp?). If your up to it, take the grand tour and go for the Needle via the Peak-to Needle Traverse
You could probably hang a bivy ledge from the knobby conglommerate rocks! - but that is probably overkill. Aside from the high mountain hiking essentials (food, water, ...etc.), one might consider a set of crampons and a mountaineering axe for early season ascents. For those going on to do the traverse, a rope and partner might prove useful. Someone new to the 4th & 5th class arena may find the exposure discomforting.
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