|Peak:||Challenger Point (14er)|
|Route:||Willow Creek approach|
|Range:||Sangre de Cristo|
|Date of Information:||04/09/2011|
Traction is not needed before the crossing of Willow Creek. The creek is flowing at the crossing, so water can be obtained there. I did not put on snowshoes until I got to the upper part of the headwall past the creek. The snow is hard there and traction is highly recommended. I kept the snowshoes on up to the lake as floatation was handy. I'm not sure how many people have been up there, but there were quite a few postholes.
The trail to the top of the falls past Willow Lake was a mix of ice and bare rock. I did not use snowshoes or traction on this portion. I also didn't need to use traction of any sort until I got to the gully below Kirk Couloir. At this point, I had decided not to climb it and wanted to get some beta on Outward Bound, so I proceeded across the gully with crampons as the snow was hard. That's as far as I went due to the winds.
Holy crap -- the winds! The ferocity was astounding. As I approached the top of the falls on my way down, I was physically not able to walk against it and laughed as I braced myself with my trekking poles. Had I been on hard snow or ice, I probably would have been blown backward on my feet!
Walk across the lake at your peril. There was a single set of footprints (and dog pawprints) in the ice that were made when it was slushy. I walked across on my way in and out, but a hole had appeared at the end of the lake where the creek begins by the time I was heading down and water was flowing.