Kit Carson Peak  
Click to Expand   
Conditions Information  Posted By   Posted On    Photos  Comments  Likes, Dislikes      
2016-08-28  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: See the Challenger peak conditions report I just posted for that part of the route. Seems like today was the first day in several when folks were able to make it up Kit Carson. As I was heading up there were people heading down saying everyone was turning around because of snow in the avenue. When I got to Challenger's summit there was one person there that already summited Kit Carson shortly before and said steps had been put in. He did NOT use spikes. Headed down to the avenue with a couple others and came across two more that just returned from the summit. They had spikes. The avenue looks a lot worse from up high on Challenger than is does once you are on it. At least head down there to see for yourself. Anyway, I had spikes and made the crossing and the other two I headed down there with had no spikes and made it just fine as well. So a mix of folks made it...some with and some without traction. I was glad to have them on the descent of the ave just because you have a better view what you might slide down if you slip! The was some snow on the trail after that as well, but not much at all and it could just about all be avoided. No snow to speak of exiting off and then up into the gully heading towards the summit. The sun came out nicely and it did warm up quite a bit as the day went on, but I am sure that snow will be there for a while. 
mikemalick  2016-08-28   3   1   1       
2016-08-15  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Mosquito update. They are definitely up there along w/ some other bugs, but not bad enough to be a deterrent. While I was moving, they weren't really a factor at all. While performing tasks, like setting up tent or filtering water, they were a nuisance but, again, shouldn't give you pause about heading up there. And I wasn't even wearing skeeter spray. Also, I highly recommend the Class 3 gully that heads left just before the standard Class 2 on the final stretch up KC at the bottom of the Avenue. Easy and fun to ascend. Almost just as easy to descend, and appeared to be much nicer and more direct than the class 2 gully. The pic below should help you identify it as there is a large crack running up and to the right. Just to be safe, before heading up it, I wandered down to the class 2 gully just to scope it out in case we decided to descend that way since folks evidently sometimes miss the Avenue coming back down the class 2. No problem on the class 3 as it dumps you out right back on the Avenue. It also gives you a little taste of the wonderful Crestone Conglomerate and is a nice intro to scrambling on the Needle/Peak if you haven't yet done that. If you're OK w/ a short scramble, Just Do It! 
Lville  2016-08-20   1             
2016-08-10  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: My wife and I hiked Challenger and Kit Carson today; we started from the Willow Creek trailhead around 5:15am. The trail up to the waterfall above Willow Lake was immaculate and well marked. We wore no bug repellent and were not assaulted by the swaths of mosquitoes remarked upon in previous reports. On the route description pages there are notes related to the difficulty of finding the correct path around the lake. There is now a sign that marks the route "To Challenger and Kit Carson" and we had no trouble finding the correct trail. There is a bit of mud and water on the trail here and there but it is easily avoided without damaging the trail or adjacent flora. The trail begins to degrade about .25 miles after the waterfall and then turns into a veritable choss fest. It is relatively easy to find stable rock on the ascent but the descent presents a hiker with more challenging and less enjoyable options. The rock up Challenger from the saddle is stable; as is the rock down to the Avenue. We used flags to mark a couple of rocks on the ascent of Kit Carson and had a moment of panic before we rediscovered the trail to the Avenue on the descent. A fellow hiker noted that fog or clouds would make the return to the Avenue more difficult. Happy Trails. 
nlee13  2016-08-10   0   3          
2016-08-01  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Hearing all the horror stories about the mosquitoes, and remembering how eaten alive I was at Holy Cross Creek a few years ago, my brothers and I decided to use every safeguard possible to prepare for our time on the approach & camping at Willow Lake. Using these precautions, the mosquitoes didn't give us any issues at all. 1. We treated our clothes and our tents with Permethrin. 2. Mosquito head nets. 3. Mosquito bracelets. 4. A couple sprays of DEET on the exposed skin, but our applications of the DEET were in moderation and never copious. 5. I also wore anti-bug convertible pants I found at Sierra Trading Post. Our time at Willow Lake was really very pleasant just because we did all these things to avoid being feasted on. Maybe the swarms are starting to relent? Hard telling. We brought a bear canister up and saw an elaborate sling set up in a neighboring campsite. While we were going to sleep we heard an animal pushing around something outside our tent nearby the can for about 5-10 minutes. Turns out it wasn't a bear going for the can, but actually a smaller animal playing with my rock climbing helmet. That said, you should definitely store your food securely using a can or sling. This is the Sangres after all. We hit the trail from our campsite below Willow Lake at 3am on 8/2 and reached the summit ridge of Challenger at sunrise. The loose/slippery/steepness of the north slope is as bad as everyone says, and I endured multiple stumbles and close calls going up and down. Take advantage of every good stable rock you find on the slope. We opted for some class 3 moves on good rock on occasion whenever the "trail" got too sketchy. A lot of crab walk moves on the descent (5 points of contact). Leave your heavy pack at Willow Lake and take something lighter for the climb. Being able to maintain your balance is paramount, especially on the descent. Trekking poles were super helpful most of the time we were on the slope and I highly recommend you bring some along. Also... don't forget the climbing helmet! The traverse to and from Kit Carson was as good as it can be in the summer. No snow, no ice, all dry. 
cloudkicker  2016-08-05   0             
2016-07-31  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: As previously mentioned mosquitos are insane all the way up to the lake and even above. Large crowd this weekend camping at the lake. Slopes up to Challenger are as bad as mentioned. Route finding somewhat difficult at times and plenty of rocks coming down from other hikers to keep you on your toes. This was the most time consuming section both up and down for most of our group. Started at 5 15 am finished around 1pm. There was also a SAR call/response up from the lake, I believe severe altitude sickness. Not sure on the outcome although the person was air lifted out. Thanks to SAR. 
graberz  2016-07-31   0   3          
2016-07-30  Route: East Ridge
Info: We hiked Kit Carson and Challenger from South Colony Lakes. Conditions were entirely snow free. Mosquitoes at South Colony Lakes were abundant, but manageable with insect repellent. I'd like to point out several things about this route, hopefully to help other hikers in the future. After reaching Bear's Playground, the route description says "Avoid the temptation to hike directly up the rocks by hiking north for a few hundred feet before angling northwest toward the ridge. Once on the ridge crest, turn left and continue to Obstruction's summit." We did this on the way to Kit Carson, but decided to skirt around the south side of Obstruction on the way back. There were many cairns marking our route around the south side and this proved to be much easier than gaining the summit of Obstruction only to drop back down. Any ideas why the description would discourage the easier route here? I definitely recommend crossing from Gully #2 into Gully #3 when descending Columbia, if you are comfortable with the climbing. You lose less elevation and there is a well-marked route to the ascent of Kit Carson. The rock on the ascent to Kit Carson is steep and loose. A helmet seems necessary to me for this entire route, including the final ascent (which is also part of the standard route from Challenger). Finally, don't underestimate the challenge. The climbing is more technical and more exposed than other Class 3 routes I have done. Also, the amount of elevation loss and re-gain along the ridge makes for a strenuous day. You will reach three other summits above 13000ft before hitting Kit Carson. Start early and bring plenty of water. Overall, this is a fun route and we had a challenging yet very enjoyable day! 
Matt H  2016-08-01   0             
2016-07-16  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: The climb from Challenger to Kit Carson was uneventful. No need for winter traction whatsoever. A nice remnant of winter is that there is a snow patch immediately below the exit from the Avenue, so on your descent, just make sure you turn on to the Avenue a few feet above the snow patch. It's a great visual marker while it lasts. Mosquitoes from the TH to above Willow Lake remain mortally epic. I only got a few bites by first covering the skin of my arms, legs, chest, and face with repellent, and then spraying my clothes. I wore a long-sleeved shirt over my t-shirt, long climbing pants, a hat with a "Sahara" neck flap, and mountain-biking gloves. For the pre-dawn hike in, I'd recommend a thin rain shell, too, as I got some bites on my shoulders, despite the clothing and repellent. On the descent, I forgot to put on the gloves and got several bites on my hands. These bugs are merciless. As for the trail, the descent from Challenger was one of the least enjoyable of my career. The gully is steep, filled with loose scree and unstable rocks. There are almost no switchbacks. A few hours before my descent, I climber told me of a rock slide in the gully earlier in the day that narrowly missed other climbers. There were lots fresh white "chalk" marks all along the gully that I image were created by the falling rocks. The descent seemed far less stable than the ascent, with many large rocks highly unstable and football-sized rocks highly unstable. I talked with a trail worker for a group affiliated with the 14ers Initiative. They're currently building an alternative trail up Challenger that will feature lots of switchbacks. If you're selecting peaks for your season, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND WAITING A FEW YEARS FOR THEM TO COMPLETE THIS NEW TRAIL. She said they would likely finish in two years or so. Of course, if you're trying to finish the list soon, just be prepared for a time-consuming and dispiriting descent. But some good news! In tiny Crestone, the Crestone Brewing Company has opened. Great burgers and beer for the evening before your climb. 
trinkner  2016-07-17   0             
2016-07-12  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Yesterday, July 12th, we summit Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. DANGER DANGER DANGER! Mosquitos are really bad, unless the wind blows, on the Willow Lake approach and at the lake. It really ruins what is a great trail and beautiful place. Kit Carson avenue had some snow which is all avoidable. No tracton needed. I think we make have only taken a couple of steps on the snow. But the snow was solid as ice. The rest of the route is dry. Finding the avenue, on the way down, was tricky because the easiest gully is furthest away and easy to down climb to far. We paid the price and had to add an extra 100 ft of class thee climbing to the day. 
CraigB2013  2016-07-13   0   2          
2016-07-10  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Avenue entrance snow easily crossed. No axe, or spikes needed, but use them if you're more comfortable. Two other snow areas avoidable. Mosquitos from the TH to Willow lake are at an epic level...WORST I've ever seen!!! Recommend heavy duty repellant...not that it did much to help. on second thought, bring body armor. 
BCNPatrick  2016-07-11   0             
2016-07-07  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Start of the Avenue from Challenger has snow (photo 1), some crossing low, I crossed high against the wall (photo 2). Clear to the Prow. Two patches of snow lower on the Avenue (photos 3 and 4) where the foot prints are right by the edge and the snow is soft with ice bottom. One more patch at the turn to go up Kit's summit gulley which can be postholed against the rock face. RECOMMEND taking spikes and an axe, and 20' of cord to pull them back if you want to share one kit for your group. It's getting a lot of sun so might melt out, but could also be slushy and slick. 
TallGrass  2016-07-09   4             
2016-07-06  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Avenue is mostly clear. You have to cross one small mostly level, seemingly stable snowfield to access the avenue (picture 1). Past the Prow there are two small snowfields you have to cross. At around 11am I was post-holing. Other hikers said it was firm earlier in the day. They seem really rotten, are about 10ft across, and have high exposure. From the trail head to Willow lake the mosquitoes are difficult to do justice. Bring DEET and move fast. 
blazey84  2016-07-08   2             
2016-07-03  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Hiked from the willow trailhead on 7/3, starting at 3:45 a.m. Made it to the lake and headed up Challenger in about two hours. The trail was wet but clear, bugs weren't quite out yet. Got off trail on Challenger due to massive amounts of random herd paths and some snow that obscured the trail. Ended up doing a longish traverse across the summit ridge, which was more annoying than anything else - conditions were fine, nothing harder than class 2. Avoidance of all snow is possible. The trail from Challenger to Kit Carson was 99 percent clear save for two spots of lingering, rotten snow on the Avenues. It was a bit unnerving to kick step into such rotten snow but made it across safely in trail runners, no need for even microspikes. The final ascent up Kit was clear and easy. Made it to the summit at 10 a.m. Descended and went back across Challenger's summit, then down the messy and unclear herd paths back to the lake/waterfall. Bugs were out in FULL force - absolutely brutal, vicious swarms of them. They all but ignored the industrial strength bug spray we doused ourselves with. Back to the car by 3:40 p.m. - 12 hours total time, including short stops on each summit. 
kkarutis  2016-07-05   0   1          
2016-06-27  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Made it up Challenger Point yesterday (be warned: the trail gets really muddy and slippery after Willow Lake), but not to the summit of Kit Carson. The Avenue still had snow and ice on it (see picture). If the snow were softer and more packy in this spot I could have made it, but it was frozen solid around 10 a.m. yesterday morning and the drop-off is 800-1,000 feet. Side notes about this hike: * The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is working on building a new trail from Willow Lake to the summit of Challenger Point because the current one is steep and falling apart. I'll come back in a couple years once the new trail is built. * The mosquitos below treeline were terrible. Bring lots of bug spray! 
jsykes  2016-06-28   1   1          
2016-05-25  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Folks inevitably start asking about Kit Carson avenue around this time of year. Here's a photo from Wednesday, 5/25. 
lodgling  2016-05-27   1   2   1       
2016-05-22  Route: Spanish Creek - Cole's Couloir
Info: Get permission from the Crestone Mountain Zen Center before hiking this route. Trail dry through blow-down area up to 11,200'. After that snowshoes required. With a good freeze you may get by without. A couple signs of small wet slides on the South Slopes. Cole's Couloir looked to be in good shape. 
youngk2844  2016-05-25   4             
2016-05-14  Route: Outward Bound Couloir
Info: Summit ski is in for a bit longer. 
lodgling  2016-05-15   1      1       
2016-01-22  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: The standard route is out of condition. Read my report on Challenger for details. 
thatnissanguy  2016-01-26   0             
2015-10-17  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Climbed Kit Carson on a warm October Saturday. Started at Willow Creek trailhead at 4:00 am. Summited Kit Carson by 11:30 am. Made it back to the car by 5:00 pm. Route tip: You can save some time and energy on the descent by avoiding summited Challenger again. From the Challenger- Kit Carson saddle, traverse across the east face of Challenger. From afar the east slope looks like it might be horrible scree fest. In reality, the rocks are pretty large and don‘t budge when you rock hop across them. This short cut saves you ~400 ft elevation gain and maybe 20 min. 
awpalmer27  2015-10-18   0             
2015-10-11  Route: From Challenger Point
Info: Climbed both Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak this Sunday. Weather was excellent, warmer than usual for October but still a bit windy higher up. There is quite a bit of snow on the upper reaches of Challenger point. The most difficult part of the climb was ascending up Challenger point with snow and some ice making this mostly I would say class 3 climbing and not class 2+. Yak Traks or ice spikes may help here, there are a couple of sections on both the uphill and downhill that are downright nasty. Getting up Challenger Point really is a complete s--t show and be ready for loose rock with snow and ice thrown in. KC avenue is free of snow and ice, I wore a helmet from the start of the steeper stuff on CP to mostly the top of KC peak just to be sure but many people climb without helmets and the rock looks fairly solid above most of KC but is more loose on CP. All in all a great climb and thankfully met up and climbed with Army Ranger Will after my buddy gassed out midway up CP. There is exposure on this route and really most of the difficulty was with CP and the snow and ice. Missed connection on the way up to Willow Lake on Saturday, cute blonde who climbed CP that day was in party of three. Spoke with you briefly (was with my buddy) and wanted to get your number to see if you want to climb/hike other 14‘ers, hit me back if interested. 
pcrotty41  2015-10-12   1   2          
2015-10-03  Route: East Ridge
Info: Climbing Kit Carson Peak was my 53rd Summit this summer. My goal was to climb them all, AND I DID! You can read more about this hike and others at I was also recently on Channel 9 News and you can watch my story at Kit Carson Route: East Ridge Challenger Route: Challenger to Kit Carson in reverse Distance from Trailhead to Camp: 3.4 mi. Distance from Camp to Both Summits and Back to Camp: Roughly 8.2 miles (GPS died for a short time) Elevation Gain from Camp: 4,300 ft. (I think this is wrong because I‘m not sure if they add the loss and gain) Time started: 8:25am End time: 6:30pm Time to Summit Kit Carson: 4 hours and 5 minutes Time to Descent (Back to Camp) from Challenger: 4 hours GEAR (to bring): Bear spray, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (100 oz or more), snacks. Road Condition: With a little guts, my sedan was able to make it all the way to the upper trailhead- barely. It‘s very bumpy and plenty of opportunities to bottom out unless you know what you‘re doing and have plenty of experience. Trail Condition: Walk up the road from the upper trailhead 2.65 miles until you see the sign wooden sign on the right for the Humboldt standard route. I camped at 3.4 miles in and that‘s the start of many more campsites to come. There are a couple wet areas, but nothing to sweat. Walk past the South Colony Lake, and when you reach the Upper Colony Lake look for a trail leading to the right and up the mountain side. You‘ll come to a saddle and turn LEFT. Climb over the BACKSIDE of Point 13,290. It‘s easier and will block you from the wind. Once at Bear‘s Playground, look for the cairns as they will lead you beautifully across the meadow (you‘ll never have to actually summit Obstruction Peak). There is a path that will come and go up Kitty Kat Carson, but just climb to the top of that one and you‘ll barely notice climbing along the ledges of Columbia that you even climbed another named peak because it‘s such a short distance. The pictures from make the next section look very intimidating, but the ridge to Kit Carson isn‘t bad and with care, you can safely make it down the gully without too much trouble (mostly solid rock). As confusing as it sounds in the directions, once you‘re there, it‘s fairly straightforward. I only took the directions out once to check out how they recommended climbing up the last stretch of Kit Carson (lots of loose rock). ONCE YOU‘RE READY TO MOVE ONTO CHALLENGER: Backtrack down the same way you came up Kit Carson only head to the right instead of the left (to go back the way you came). You‘ll see a purplish, brownish, fairly wide trail to follow around Kit Carson. In a short time you will see Challenger and it‘s straightforward from there to reach the summit of Challenger Point. 
Sunshineof1985  2015-10-10   0   1          

Return to the main Peak Conditions page

© 2016®, 14ers Inc.