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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2016-07-17||Route: North Slope
Info: No need for any snow gear, but there is plenty of snow in the rib to help guide your route up challenger slopes (see route info). The slope is extremely loose. I was glad I had hiking boots w/ ankle cover (as opposed to trail runners, low cut). The avenue to KC and remainder of route also no need for any snow gear. Warning: There are "TONS" of mosquitoes at the lake and campsites. The trail from the parking lot up also has its fair share. Take plenty of bug spray (BE CAREFUL: DEET CAN HARM SYNTHETIC FABRICS AND DAMAGE PLASTICS). This does not mean to avoid deet products, just use wisely. I took 3 different kinds of sprays (DEET, picardin, and one other odorless kind). They were all mild to moderately effective and worth carrying. RECOMMENDATION: Bring an appropriate mosquito net for designed for head/face. I saw a few intelligent people using them.......I was not one of those people. We had no problems with bears but there are bighorn and other smaller creatures wandering camp so protect your food/gear. The smoke from the Hayden fire is evident looking back into the SLV, but you dont really notice the smell until you hit the Challenger Ridge (note the fire is north and on the opposite side of the Sangres as this climb, so this route is open and at this time I do not foresee a closure due to the current wildfire. There are plenty of places to filter water near the lake. There is a stream not far from most of the campsites (slightly further down the main trail. Above the lake however there is only one good spot which is essentially the flowing stream you must cross which is about to become the waterfall at the far end of the lake. After that there is really nothing else. So this is your last chance to filter during your climb. DO NOT RECOMMEND Mapquest to get to Crestone. My directions were missing 20 miles. Use another source. Iknow some of you like to see times so here is mine from campsite. Leave camp 505am>summit challenger 745am>leave challenger 800am>summit KC 900am> leave KC 915am>re-summit challenger 1015am> leave challenger 1040am> back to camp 120pm. Yes it took just as long to descend the challenger slopes as it did to climb it.
|2016-07-16||Route: North Slope
Info: Mosquitoes from the TH to above the 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, despitef 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.
|2016-07-12||Route: North Slope
Info: 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. Challenger's route conditions are getting bad. Lose gravel on hard pan with some small rocks. It reminded me of the Columbia route. Needless to say, it took more time than expected to climb. Great conditions to mess up a knee or ankle with the unstable surfaces.
|2016-06-25||Route: North Slope
Info: BUG SPRAY.... If you don't have it, don't bother getting out of your car. Overall great trip. Snow can be totally avoided if you stay to the left of the gully (picture 1). I didn't make it over to Kit Carson, but there were a few groups behind me that may have tried. Picture 2 is a look towards Kit from Challenger summit (hopefully others can provide more details)
|2016-06-21||Route: North Slope
Info: Much of the snow is melted, however, there are still snow patches covering parts of the trail on the North Slope. This forced us to find alternative routes in some places going up the North Slope. Ran into two snow patches that we couldn't seem to get around, was able to cross one with just an ice axe, but had to get out the crampons for the second. I would recommend waiting a little longer if you plan on attempting to summit without snow gear as the snow is very rotten and does not hold well. Was able to summit Challenger point but the avenue over to Kit Carson had just enough rotten snow to push us to the edge, we deemed it too dangerous to cross and turned around. There is a lot of melting so expect wet feet and be careful when descending the North Slope, by noon the entire slope is flowing with water. P.S. The mosquitoes were absolutely horrendous on the Willow Lake approach, bring A LOT of bug spray or wait until later in the season. I had never seen mosquitoes so bad before.
|2016-06-11||Route: North Slope
Info: A couple photos of Challenger Pt north slopes and ridge as seen from Kit Carson Pk.
|2016-05-28||Route: North Slope
Info: Main Trail head is completely clear of snow and easily accessible via 2WD vehicle. I hit Snow at around mile 3.25 from the trailhead. I put snowshoes on just before Willow Lake as I was beginning to post hole quite a bit even at 7:00AM. The accent to the peak was not easy. Lots of loose snow and very steep. I would not attempt unless you bring spikes or good snow shoes. However, the snow is melting quickly up there. Hiking on the ridge with all the snow was more than a little sketchy in spots. Be aware that there is a lot of exposure on this route will there is as much snow on the peak. Hiking over to Kit Carson was completely out of the question if you take a look at the photos.
|2016-05-14||Route: North Slope
Info: Challenger is stacked.
|2016-02-14||Route: North Slope
Info: Approach to Willow Lake: Excellent boot pack to ridge then dry or icy until about 2 miles in. Microspikes are perfect for the first two miles. Then snowshoes. I trenched to about 0.5 miles below Willow Lake. The drainage below the lake holds a lot of deep snow with a crust that only occasionally supports snowshoes. No sign of any previous trench. If you can make it to the lake the snow is supposed to ease up. Without friends to share the trenching I had to turn back.
|2016-01-22||Route: North Slope
Info: There is a good snowshoe and skin track going in to Willow Lake. Some of the trail on South facing aspects is dry. I would recommend against skiing the approach. Near tree line conditions soften substantially. The North Slope is holding quite a bit of snow. It is very deep and unconsolidated, but it is stable. I scrambled a talus rib to the left of the main gully and then plunge stepped down the gully as a descent. It wasn‘t bad. The traverse to Kit Carson is out of condition due to snow accumulation. I stepped past The Prow and fell in up to my waist. It seems the only viable option to combine the two in a day is to climb the last pitch of The Prow. It‘s very do-able as an up and down climb and feels about the same as the hardest section of the bells traverse. I‘ve read that people are calling it 5.6. It is mostly sustained 4th class with a few harder bits, and it is VERY exposed. It is definitely not 5.6.
|2015-10-17||Route: North Slope
Info: Climbed Challenger Point and Kit Carson on a very warm October Saturday. Left the Willow Creek trailhead at 4:00 am. Reached Willow Lake at 6:45 am. Summited Challenger at 10:00 am. Summited Kit Carson at 11:30 am. We made it back to the trailhead by 5:00 pm. It‘s a long day but doable with the great conditions on the route currently. Route tip: The 14ers.com official route ascends the north slope of Challenger on the right side of the snowy gully. I‘ve actually found the rock on the climber‘s left side of the snow gully to be a better choice for both ascent and descent. The rock on the climber‘s right side of the snow gully can be loose. The rock on the climber‘s left side of the snow gully is super solid. To ascend via this route variation, leave the trail and cross the gully right before the snow starts in the gully. Gear: If you follow the route I described above, there is no need for crampons, micro spikes, or an ice axe.
|2015-10-12||Route: North Slope
Info: This is to add some photos to the description on the KC update Going up Challenger the snow was in the rocks in the steepest portion going to the ridge from 13,300 to 13,900. It made the route difficult. Micro spike would help, but the loose snow was around 3" over loose rocks, and steep when sliding would be hard to stop. No snow challenges from the 13,900 ridge to the summit. KC avenue and final climb all clear of snow. Took class 3 route to KC summit, solid holds and not that difficult compared to the loose rock in the standard route
|2015-10-03||Route: East Ridge for Kit Carson (South Colony Lakes)
Info: Hi! Climbing Challenger was my 54th fourteener summit this season. My goal was to climb them all, AND I DID! You can read more about this hike and others at sunshineof1985.com. My story was also recently covered on Channel 9 News in Denver and you can watch it at http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/features/2015/10/08/woman-climbs-55-fourteeners-to-help-overcome-eating-disorder/73628028/ 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 14ers.com, 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 14ers.com 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.
|2015-09-29||Route: North Slope
Info: Essentially the same as the previous report. The standard route is completely free of snow. It did snow on us for a few minutes but quickly melted and dried. The trail from above the lake to the summit is STEEP, be prepared or a lot of elevation gain quickly.
|2015-09-27||Route: North Slope
Info: Made it to the top of Challenger today. Route is completely clear and the leaves are turning from the trailhead all the way up. Lots of class 3 scrambling but no snow on the standard route. The scree has filled in large portions of the trail making route finding a little difficult. I saw several people going far to the right of the rock rib up against a little wall; be careful that way, there‘s water along that wall hidden under the grass in the upper reaches and it can make for a slick and dangerous climb. Otherwise, incredible day with hardly a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky. For anyone interested in Kit Carson, I originally intended to climb both, but decided I‘d had my fill of dropoffs with Challenger. However, the way is completely clear with only a little snow still clinging along Kirk‘s, nothing on the avenue. I saw at least two people walking around at the summit and heard a few more talking about making the attempt. Be safe out there.
|2015-09-20||Route: South Colony Lakes
Info: Kit Carson/Challenger and 13ers Columbia Point/Obstruction Peak from South Colony Lakes today. Route finding was straight forward. Long with lots of class 3. A little snow in couloirs between Kit Carson and Columbia Pt, near O.B. Couloir. Definitely snow free on the standard route and route we took from SCL. Some fall colors.
|2015-07-04||Route: North Slope
Info: Willow lake and the approach is a mosquito-fest and quite miserable even with spray they swarm the instant you stop to take a break. North face of Challenger has some snow patches still, not entirely sure where the ‘standard route‘ was, but easy to pick your way up the rocks. There is still a solid couloir on the face which was firm in the morning and perfect to glissade down.
|2015-06-27||Route: Kirk Couloir
Info: I made an attempt at Challenger and Kit Carson on Saturday. The trail is a mosquito love-fest, and hot, so I highly recommend DEET and light canvas pants. It was miserable fending them off and they do not relent until about 13,500‘. Up to the headwall is completely clear of snow, although all the melt is filling parts of the trail with water, so be prepared to get a little wet. That said, I was fine with water-resistant boots, and the big crossings aren‘t hard as long as you‘re careful walking along logs. I hit Kirk‘s Couloir right about sunrise, hoping to make it to the top and then decide whether to try for Kit Carson or just do Challenger. Even before the sun hit the snow the slope was pretty soft, and it only got worse as the day progressed. Even with ice axe and crampons I felt the slope was pretty treacherous, and I recommend not using this route unless you really want to crack your skull open. I finally aborted about 3/4 of the way up, and the ride down was a little heart-pounding. I heard multiple people on the trail say that the north route to Challenger is clear and does not require additional traction beyond a decent pair of boots. I‘ve also heard that Kit Carson is just as loose as Kirk‘s Couloir, and I wouldn‘t attempt it until the snow is gone and the summer trail is exposed. Probably another two weeks at the most. I will post some pictures once they are processed.
|2015-06-14||Route: Kirk Couloir
Info: Dry to the headwall, then patchy snow up to the lake. Skiable snow from the summit to ~12,200‘. Despite all appearances from the valley, the summit holds snow! Don‘t make the same mistake I did. Bring the skis while the getting‘s good! The standard route can be done completely off snow until you gain the summit ridge
|2015-06-07||Route: North Slope
Info: Made a successful but sketchy summit attempt on June 7th. The trail is dry and in great condition to the headwall. Snow starts at the headwall (10,900 feet). From the headwall to Willow Lake it alternates between snow patches and dry trail. This section is frustrating because you have three choices: posthole, snow shoe over dry trail, or transition every 5 min. Above Willow Lake on the North Slope of Challenger, the conditions are no better. Snow is very deep and super slushy. The North Slope is too steep for snow shoes so you‘re stuck sinking in 6-12 inches in crampons. All in all, conditions are poor right now and I‘d recommend giving things at least another couple weeks to melt.