Crestone Needle  
Report
Click to Expand   
Conditions Information  Posted By   Posted On    Photos  Comments  Likes, Dislikes      
2016-04-30  Route: Sangre de Christos in General
Info: This condition's report is for the central Sangre de Christos in general, no peak in specific, pretty much from Electric Peak to the north and Tijeras to the south, many microclimates and variables in between. Most of the November to February winter has blown its snowstorms with average wind moving from the west and north towards the east and south, therefore wind loading most south, east and obviously southeast aspects, most cornices overhang on east sides of ridges, not all but most. Also, due to the winds, most north couloirs that are usually filled in may be bare with deeper couloirs facing east aspects. March had long periods of warmth and sun (plus wind) and began a spring like surface hoar crust. However, the April 16th storm brought several feet of heavy wet snow with very deep wind loads. The warmer and sunnier following days caused many natural wet slabs, mostly on south to east facing slopes 30-50 degrees. During the week of around 4/20 to April 27th, I saw multiple naturally triggered spring slough slides (small to medium) and several wet slabs, some that were deep enough to release at depth hoar and to the warm ground (some debris included dirt, mud and rocks). Then another week of warm and sunny weather began to consolidate the pack again. However, soon after around April 29th, the Sangres received another one to two feet of wet heavy snow, more on wind loaded aspects and it is still continuing as of today, April 30th. The CAIC website's forecasts have ceased for the season. My opinion, much of the Sangre's south to east, and most likely all aspects for now, are highly likely for new wet slabs, potentially very large on wind loaded aspects. It is forecast to be warm and sunny again by mid to end of this week. FYI...Music Pass has been unapproachable beyond about 9,100' near the USFS boundary for some time due to drifts, South Colony also has large drifts less than one mile past the lower lot (recommend parking at lower lot for at least a couple more warm sunny weeks), Hermit Pass has large drifts just passed the USFS boundary line around 9,200' and Lake Creek was clear to Rainbow Lake as of one week ago but not sure about now. Hope this updated info helps some people with their attended plans, or cancellation of plans. 
pfiore1  2016-04-30   2      3       
2016-04-24  Route: n/a
Info: Went up South Colony, and was able to get within 1/8th mile of the Rainbow trail turnoff (4Runner with Chains) before finding snow that was a little deeper than I wanted to try and mess with. Attached are a picture of the east side of the group, as well as what the road and trail looks like (on and off) from a little below the lakes all the way down to well before the rainbow trail turnoff. A sled has been up the road, and almost to the turnoff for the needle, so the trail is well packed, but warmer temperatures will warrant snowshoes/skis 
nsaladin  2016-04-25   2      1       
2016-02-16  Route: South Couloir
Info: Does anyone know what conditions are like in the South Couloir of the Needle? Interested in skiing it once avy conditions stabilize a little more. 
dubcohn  2016-02-16   0   1          
2015-10-17  Route: South Face
Info: I‘d recommend microspikes for the ascent to Broken Hand Pass. The snow that fell early this week has melted and frozen making this section very slippery. The route above Broken Hand Pass is clear and in outstanding condition. 
glenmiz  2015-10-18   0             
2015-10-12  Route: South Face
Info: The conditions and weather were great on Columbus day. It was my first successful summit of the Needle. I started a little before six from the 4WD lot and made the summit by 1130 doing a moderate pace. Starting early worked out great for two reasons: 1. temperature stayed relatively constant as the Sun canceled out the elevation effects and 2. I was able to really take my time route finding near the summit. As everyone knows, getting off route up there can get dangerous, so I was really happy I wasn‘t rushing. The only spot with snow is the shaded scree field leading up to broken hand pass. I found the descent there to be particularly difficult because the trail was packed into thin sheets of ice a lot of times. It‘s mostly rocky, so I wouldn‘t want crampons yet, but be careful. I slipped a couple times. After broken hand pass, the lack of snow made the trail pretty obvious. There were a couple forks, but the 14ers.com app kept me on track. Water was flowing down the east gully, so I was able to identify it right away. I chose the class 4 option because conditions were prefect, and it seemed more straightforward than the traverse (I think scrambling is easier than route finding). I did see a cairn with an orange flag/ribbon on the rib separating the west gully. It‘s definitely for the traverse, but I couldn‘t see it until I was above the dihedral. It looked like it‘d be visible while descending the west gully which is more important anyways. 
c13mueller  2015-10-13   1             
2015-10-03  Route: South Face
Info: Needle was completely dry on 10/3. The aforementioned green bandana, along with some other flags were marking the crossover between the gullies. There was a small bit of ice coming up the eastern gully but it was very easy to avoid. Get it while you can! 
IsaacD  2015-10-05   0             
2015-09-19  Route: South Face
Info: Totally dry. Crossover from East Gully to West Gully is not marked as you go up. Although, you can see a cairn on the rib to the left of East Gully once you reach the dihedral. The higher you go the harder it is to cutover. On the way down it‘s marked with a green bandana and some pink marking tape. Thank you whoever did this!! On the way up we ended too far East on a rib that was pretty steep just before the crossover. Directly up the middle of the East Gully is the safest approach going up. Broken Hand Pass is a crumbly mess on the way down after the mostly solid rock on the Needle route. When you get to the large pinnacles at the "crux" on the way down, go right. It‘s slippery but pretty simple. 
alpinenut  2015-09-22   0             
2015-09-09  Route: South Face
Info: This was my 42nd fourteener this summer. My goal is to climb them all. You can read more about this hike and others at Sunshineof1985.com! BE CAREFUL ON THIS ONE! WATCH WHERE YOU CROSS, KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS FOR YOUR DESCENT! Distance from/to Upper Colony Lake: 4.9 mi. (Round Trip) Distance to Upper Trailhead from Upper Colony Lake: 4.3 mi. (one way) Total Elevation Gain from Upper Colony Lake: 2,200 ft. Time started (from Upper Colony Lake): 7:30am End time (back to Upper Colony Lake): 3:30pm Time to Summit from Upper Colony Lake: 3 hours and 45 minutes Time to Descend to Upper Colony Lake: 3 hours and 45 minutes Overall Pace: .65 miles per hour *GEAR (to bring): FOR 2 NIGHTS & 2.5 DAYS if trying to bag all three mountains (Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak & Humboldt. Bear spray, helmet, water purifier, first aid kit, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, headlamp, flashlight, toilet paper, GPS, extra batteries, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, extra change of clothes, wear a tank top, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, lightweight gloves, winter hat, overnight pack with water sack and extra water (160oz), food for 3 full days (large bag of jerky, large bag of trailsmix, 6 protein bars, and 6 granola bars or more). *Road Condition: My sedan made it all the way to the upper trailhead! I did scrape the underside of my car a couple times, but nothing serious. It will take guts, but it can be done! *Trail Condition: Easy to follow, but muddy in some spots on trail that leads to Humboldt Peak. Since we camped at the Upper Colony Lake, we walked back down just past the Lower Colony Lake. Once we could see the much smaller lake just north, we headed down into the willows and crossed a small stream and came back up to the "Crestone Needle" sign. This is the MOST DIRECT way to get onto the other path that leads to the Crestones if you camp near the Lower Colony Lake and did Humboldt first. It will save you a lot of miles cutting across vs. hiking all the way back to this junction (pictured below). I have NO idea why they don‘t have an official connector point.Broken Hand Pass is just switchbacks and large steps until you get further up. Then you‘ll have to do some difficult class 2 moves to pull yourself up into the short slippery gully which brings you to the saddle. The trail get‘s easier here a short time until you get to the "East Gully". If you take the Class 3 route MAKE SURE YOU TAKE MENTAL NOTES OR LITERAL PICTURES OF THE TERRAIN AROUND YOU. Alix and I got lost, and a man is still lost on the mountain. MAKE ANOTHER NOTE OF HOW HIGH YOU ARE WHEN YOU GO INTO THE "WEST GULLY". Currently there‘s tape and a bandanna marking the spot. The elevation at the start of the "West Gully" is 13,690 feet. The gullies are overall nice and easy to go up, not too much loose rock, some class 3 moves, exposure and a helmet is recommended if going in groups. 
Sunshineof1985  2015-09-11   1             
2015-09-07  Route: South Face
Info: Great weather day, clouds rolled through all day but not a drop of rain, a lot of wind but bearable. The rocks were totally dry, except in the main drainages of course, but that was easily avoidable. 
ZenZin  2015-09-09   1             
2015-08-16  Route: South Face
Info: The Needle is completely clear of snow. Also, after 2 hours of hail in the afternoon and then rain for half the night, it was perfectly dry the next morning. The Broken Hand Pass trail is also clear of all snow. Time to climb! The dihedral crossing point does not look like the picture in the route description. There is a cairn on a flat shelf to mark the crossing point. There were coyotes, big horn sheep and mountain goats, but no bears at the lake. One of our party did see a bear crossing the road between the current 4wd trailhead and the old 4wd trailhead. 
mspalding  2015-08-17   0   2          
2015-07-25  Route: South Face
Info: We did both peaks on Saturday (not a traverse). Here are some tips: Broken Hand Pass: There is a good moat on the right side of the snowfield. No equipment is required if you walk inside it. You can get into it by walking ten steps across the gradual snow at the base. Avoid the main snowfield unless you have the equipment and experience. Needle: No snow at all. Solid 3rd class if you can completely follow the route. It is easy to go too far on the gully traverse and get a bit of 4th class. Peak: The red gully has a bunch of snow in various areas. There is a river flowing down the center. The climb is solid class 3 scrambling because the trail is mostly hidden by either the snow or the river. The main snow field (see picture) can be entirely bypassed on climber‘s left. Keep ascending on easy 3rd class ledges until you are completely above it. A fall on the snow field could easily be fatal (like on Friday). There is some snow near the top of the gully that is much more difficult to go around. The most problematic one is immediately below the saddle of East Crestone and Crestone Peak. We used ice axes on the descent. If you slip, the fall would be about 15‘, likely a broken ankle in the worst case. Those upper snow patches should be gone in 2-3 weeks since they are not too deep and are melting fast. In the meantime it could get tougher as it becomes icier. There likely are class 3-4 bypass routes if you search for them. 
spiderman  2015-07-26   0             
2015-07-21  Route: South Face
Info: Climbed the South Face with my brother. It was a great climb but there are some tricky spots where the snow has not melted completely. It is very deep and very steep. We had ice picks and we should have had crampons which would have secured us on the snow much better than just boots. There are several snow fields you need to cross on Broken Hand Pass. Once you are past that pass the route is clear of all snow and a great climb. The summit was cold and foggy, but no snow on the summit. Have fun, be smart and be safe! 
bigtuna2008  2015-07-28   6             
2015-07-19  Route: South Face
Info: The Needle threw pretty much everything it had at me (see below for scariest part of the day). Started well before dawn and climbed the entire route starting from the main trailhead. Had terrible weather pretty much all day, with everything from rain and a little snow falling in the early morning, to this wicked thick fog/mist on the upper mountain, strong winds, cold. It was brutal. Lost the route several times, especially on the descent in the dense fog, which got me cliffed out on some dangerous and exposed terrain. Contrary to other reports though, I didn‘t really have any problems with Broken Hand Pass. There‘s a steep snowfield, but I easily managed it with just my axe and without traction. I watched a guy do just fine with trekking poles and trail runners. There‘s a good enough boot pack staircase to use in the morning, and it‘s soft enough to kick step your own on the descent. Overall, awesome day up there. The Needle is one badass mountain! CAUTION: I had a staring contest with two large mountain lions on the trail before sunrise about halfway up to the Lakes. I came around a bend to see them standing on the trail. I waved my arms and yelled, but they just stood there, completely unafraid, looking at me. Then I threw some rocks at them, which got them to casually walk away. About 1/2 mile later, I saw two sets of eyes shining from the willows off the side of the trail that I assume belonged to those cats, which means they followed me for a ways after the initial encounter. I yelled at them some more and kept moving with a purpose. Never saw them again after that. It was pretty scary though and I had my ice axe in hand the rest of the way up to the lake. Definitely keep an eye out for these guys if you‘re up there while it‘s dark. They could have torn me a new one without thinking twice about it. 
r_grizz  2015-07-20   0   3          
2015-07-13  Route: South Face
Info: Lots of snow on Broken Hand. From 1/2 way up to 3/4 way up is all snow. We had axes and micro spikes and had to kick steps down. Would really have liked to have crampons. The route itself is clear of snow and dry. The Traverse is also clear of snow and dry. But be careful on Broken Hand. We did the traverse and we all felt like the most dangerous part of the day was down climbing Broken Hand. 
bradyj  2015-07-14   0   2          
2015-07-03  Route: Ellingwood Arete/Ledges
Info: Large snow field on the descent from Broken Hand Pass - Golden opportunity for some high quality, high speed glissading with the long, gradual landing. Several small snow fields to cross on the approach to the arete/ledges. Axe/Gaiters/Light traction very helpful, but not essential. The route proper (Ellingwood Arete) is entirely dry, cracks and all. Go get it. 
Jerousek  2015-07-03   0   1          
2015-05-30  Route: South Face
Info: Needle is in fat. Snow conditions are still maturing and if it gets too hot this week there could be a ton of wet slide activity. Two ice bulges are present on the line but can be avoided. There is a ton of snow on the way up to BHP. To get an idea, I have attached essentially the same photo from Memorial Day 2010 and today looking down from BHP. The estimated current snow line is drawn on the 2010 photo. 
lodgling  2015-05-30   3   3   2       
2015-04-11  Route: South Face
Info: Still good coverage on the line, with pleasant climbing. Parts of the narrows are narrower than a ski width. Ski conditions were tough, and snow could really use a refresh. Rock hard penitente most of the way forced more sidestepping and down climbing than i‘d like. I guess i‘d give it 4* for climbing conditions, 1* for ski conditions. Still a fun way to start a long day. 
jkillgore  2015-04-13   0      1       
2015-04-01  Route: South Face
Info: (Pics included) The Peak and the Needle southern couloirs are filled in, skiable, and have ice in the usual places. Westside (Cottonwood Creek) snowline was at about 10.2k and hard freeze line at about 11.2k (which meant there was 1k of slushy postholing, skinning, and grumbling) Spring corn cycle is occurring in the Crestones. But I saw no signs of big wet slides. More so, I saw lots of wind scouring/sastrugi. The day I went up, it never thawed due to wind and cloud cover. And the skiing sucked. Digging around revealed lots of variations in the snowpack, all safe, and everything on top was either wind buffed sun crust or just sun crust in exposed sun-affected areas. A north facing couloir I skied was wind/freeze crust on powder, and did not ski well (again it did not thaw that day, so on another day it may be good). I bootpacked south facing slopes with great purchase with crampons and only a few inches of perforation in the spring crust, and north facing slopes with up to thigh deep packed powder. 
swbackcountry  2015-04-03   2      3       
2014-10-05  Route: South Face
Info: The hike to Broken Hand Pass had already become a snow climb as of 10-5, with drifted snow up to a foot deep in the very steepest portion of the gully. Snow had compacted considerably and there were (small) slab cracks. However, add more snow on top of that and if you have to proceed, you may want to have your avalanche gear with you. Above the pass on the south face, things had, before the current round of moisture, melted off. Intermittent snow and lots of wet rock (and wet boots), made it slow going for his hiker. I turned back at the gully crossover point though the people who did summit that day just continued up the "east" gully as the rock was, then, dry. 
Andy_Lyon  2014-10-09   1             
2014-09-23  Route: South Face
Info: Route was clean of snow despite heavy rain the day prior. Dry. Probably won‘t last. Conditions were foggy and windy, making for a pretty surreal experience. True trip report to follow as time allows. 
mattpayne11  2014-09-25   1             

Return to the main Peak Conditions page



© 2016 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.