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 Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
 Post Date:  07/19/2011
 Date Climbed:   07/15/2011
 Posted By:  taylorzs

 Ellingwood Arete/Crestones Traverse   


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

I just got up this last thurs-sat and climbed the Ellingwood Arete on Crestone Needle and then did the ridge traverse across to Crestone Peak. I rarely write about my summer mountaineering adventures that do not deal with snowboarding peaks but this was such a cool route and after about 100 14er summits (including repeats) and almost 9 years mountaineering in Colorado I finally decided to focus down and climb the last few 14ers that I have not been up yet. I will probably share a couple more tr's here for those interested since summer climbing/scrambling is a bit out of the scope of my personal website (www.zachtaylorsnowboarding.com), yet I am excited about wrapping up the 14ers and enjoy sharing these last few 14er summits with you all. Enjoy!

I had met Stuart Paul up on Cameron Pass this last winter when he was up touring with his brother and his brother's son. We all ended up hitting it off and enjoyed some quality powder turns that day. It turned out that Stuart is quite the trad climber. He came to Chicago Basin for some couloir riding this spring with some other friends and I and we got out climbing a bit in Clear Creek recently too. I was looking for a partner to do the Crestones with and he said he would go but that he wanted to do the Ellingwood Arete too. Uh, Yeah??!! I used to lead a lot of easy to moderate trad routes in Eldo and Rocky Mountain National Park but was out of lead practice and not super comfortable with leading something like the Ellingwood Arete. I was pretty confident in seconding the climb though. Stuart brought his friend Ryan Nelson, another confident trad climber with him.

7/14/2011- I left Avon at about 9am on the 14th with plans to meet Stuart and Ryan at the South Colony Lakes trailhead at 1:00pm. They came up from Denver and we met on the road up to the trailhead. My radiator fluid was dirty and my Blazer started overheating about a mile under the trailhead. After idling my car, running the heater full blast, and adding some water to my radiator I got the car's heat back down to an acceptable level and we made it up to the trailhead (I had to do a radiator drain and fill in Westcliffe after the climb).

We made our way up the trail and found a campsite at the Crestone Needle/S. Colony Lakes

photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Ryan Nelson, 2011.

We cooked some dinner and discussed strategies for the next morning's climb. We decided to do the ledges approach instead of the direct start because it would be more time efficient and we wanted to do the ridge traverse too. We went to bed early.

7/15/2011- The alarm went off at 4:00am and I slowly got up and popped a Red Bull. I met up with the other guys outside the tent, packed gear, and we were hiking by just before 5am. We hiked up to the fourth cairn on the Crestone Needle Trail and then cut off trail and contoured around the Needle's north face to the ledges that begin the Ellingwood Arete climb. Most descriptions call this class 4. It was pretty easy for class 4. I would call it more class 3ish myself. We made quick work of the ledges and soloed up to the first mandatory class 5 section where the ledges and the direct start meet up and the Arete becomes more pronounced. We decided to simul climb the first pitch and the class 4 above it reasoning that this would be the safest and most time efficient way to do this part of the climb.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

It worked out well, with Stuart taking the lead (thanks!), me in the middle, and Ryan taking up the rear and cleaning the gear. We made pretty quick work of the first class 5 pitch and moved quickly over the next bit of class 4 up to the base of the real climbing, the two pitches of 5.6-5.7 that end just below the Needle's summit.
Ryan was looking to get some more alpine trad leading experience so he took the lead on the next two pitches (thanks!). We built an anchor, flaked the rope, and Ryan was off.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

Ryan made quick work of the first pitch, built an anchor, and had Stuart and I on belay quickly. We used double ropes so Stuart and I were able to climb at the same time. We got up to the top of the first pitch fairly quickly too.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

There was a short section of class 3 between the top of the first pitch and the bottom of the second pitch that we quickly soloed. Stuart and I gave the cleaned gear back to Ryan and he was off leading the second pitch.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Stuart Paul, 2011.

While the first pitch seemed easier to me than the 5.6 rating the second crux, 5.7 pitch seemed a bit harder than its 5.7 rating would imply. Ryan took a few minutes to figure out the moves on lead for us. It was well protected with only about a four foot gap between the lower and upper piece at the dihedral's bulge (crux). Once Ryan got through the crux he made quick work of the last bit of technical climing and topped out on the top of the last pitch in good form.
He built an anchor and belayed Stuart and I up the final pitch. I was surprised at the difficulty of the crux as I made some awkward stemming moves with my feet and used some fairly small crimpers for hands to get through it. Once through the crux I enjoyed some fun knobby face/dihedral moves up to the belay station.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Stuart Paul


photo by Stuart Paul, 2011.
From the top of the technical climbing we were still a couple hundred vertical feet from the summit. We packed up the ropes and scrambled up the third class gully to Crestone Needle's summit. The views were awesome!


photo by Stuart Paul, 2011.

We summitted the Needle by noon. Ryan was a bit tired from leading the crux pitches and decided to head down the Needle's south gully and head back to camp. Stuart and I were still excited to do the traverse so we all had lunch together on the Needle's summit and parted ways with Ryan as he headed down and we began to Cresones traverse.
The weather seemed to be holding for us but I was nervous about climbing such a commiting route in the afternoon. Things worked out well though for us.
We found the rappel station that begins the ridge traverse if you are going Needle to Peak pretty quickly. There was a piton and nut in the rock that seemed pretty solid with some very new looking webbing sitting there next to it. We slung the webbing around a large boulder and backed it up by connecting that to the equalized nut/piton anchor with water knots and biners.
We rappeled down. The anchor should still be up there like described for a bit. Obviously you need to know how to evaluate an anchor's stability and strength before commiting to rappelling off something like this but the rap station should probably be in pretty good shape for a while this summer I would expect.
From the bottom of the rappel we downclimbed a bit more and then traversed around four gendarmes on the south side of the ridge. The route finding was fairly complex but we managed to stay on route the entire time. The biggest key to staying on route here is always staying on the south side of the ridge and not climbing up any of the gendarmes. Cairns were few and far between but surprisingly accurate and helpful when found.
We took our time across the traverse paying close attention to the route and where we were going. Unfortunately I did not really take any good pictures on the traverse but it was fun, complex, and exposed.
Clouds began to build a bit towards the end of the traverse and we sped up to try and beat any potential weather. The Crestones traverse is one of the last places in the world that you would want to be in a thunderstorm.
The traverse ends in the Peak's Red Gully about 500' below the summit (estimated). By this time the cloud cover was almost complete and I could tell it was raining in the Sierra Blanca to the south. However there was not a lot of vertical relief to the clouds so I was not real worried about thunderstorms and lightning. We dropped our packs at the traverse's intersection with the Red Gully, grabbed rain gear and a fleece, and made our way up the last bit of the gully and ridgeline to Crestone Peak's summit.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Stuart Paul, 2011.

We enjoyed the views from the Peak's summit, took some pictures, and descended pretty quickly. On the way down the gully we got a few rain drops but not much. Fortunately weather held for us for the rest of the day. We finally got back to solid ground below the Red Gully by early evening. We contoured around to Cottonwood Lake where we got a look at Broken Hand pass, the pass we had to go back over to get to camp. After such a long day another 700' of hiking took some work.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

The hike back over broken Hand pass at sunset was beautiful though.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.


photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.

We downclimbed crappy dirt 3rd class off the pass and made our way back to camp right at sunset, just before 9pm. It was a LONG day but a very fun day as well. We were stoked to have climbed a long, complex, dangerous route in one of the more remote wilderness areas of Colorado safely and with good form.
I left the next day because I had to be back for work on Sunday while Ryan and Stuart stayed another couple days to climb more in the area. Overall, a very fun route and climb. If attempting to do both the traverse and the Ellingwood Arete in one day remember it will be very long and tiring for all but the most fit athletes out there.
Current conditions of route; The Cresones are mostly dry now. The Ellingwood Arete was dry and there was no snow present. The traverse was dry as well. There was patchy snow and running water in the Red Gully in a few places. It was not difficult to go around. We brought axes and crampons, they were not necessary. I would not bring them any time soon on these routes. The south face of the Needle looked pretty dry from Cottonwood Lake and the summit.

 


  • Comments or Questions (7)
crossfitter


Great     2011-07-19 11:12:26
Looks like the weather was much better in the Sangres than in the Front range, we should have gone there this weekend! What did you bring on your rack and did you wish you had/hadn't brought anything else?


taylorzs


crossfitter     2011-07-19 11:21:39
I actually left my rack at home, we used Stuart's/Ryan's. I think they brought about half of what we brought up to the lake up on the actual climb. We had everything we needed prowise for the climb though. I do not think Stuart or Ryan really felt they needed anything more than they brought. Pro placements were good the whole way and nothing seemed very run out. A set of nuts, some slings, and a variety of cams was what came up there with us. I did not pay too much attention to what exactly was brought though since I did not lead anything on this climb.


rickinco123


Stuart     2011-07-19 12:20:25
Stuart's a fun climbing companion, looks like you had a great day. We took an aid climbing clinic together several years ago, a couple weeks later Stuart took off to Camp 4 in Yos., met some random folks at camp and climbed some bad ass route on El Cap, it went at something like C4/A4, I think he even lead a hooking pitch. I couldn't believe it when I saw the photos. He gets out a lot!


Floyd


Great climb     2011-07-20 09:36:36
Zack, we climbed Bald/Buffalo a few years ago with Burger. Nice report.


LIV


Way to go get it!!     2011-07-20 11:17:55
Great report with some good information. Thanks and congratulations guys!


taylorzs


Sangre fun     2011-07-21 00:54:39
rickinco123- Yeah, I have enjoyed getting up with Stuart. He is a strong climber. We have only been up on a few trips together but I have gained a lot of respect for his mountaineering/climbing.
Floyd- Cool, I do a good deal of mountaineering with Craig. He is a lot of fun to climb with. We skied Orizaba together a couple years ago and have done a good deal of climbing, scrambling, and skiing together over the last few years.
LIV- Glad you enjoyed the report and found it useful. It felt great to do one of these final 14ers as an alpine trad route.

Zach


Marmot72


Nice!     2011-07-24 10:41:56
Loved the report -- two classic routes in one day - way to go!



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