| Mom's "Over the Hill" Summit!
Challenger / Kit Carson Monday, July 22
14.50 Miles RT
Start Time: 3:30 a.m. End Time: 3:00 p.m.
My Mom and I are out climbing a few peaks for vacation and decided this was a perfectly placed group to start. (We’re from Missouri so the drive wasn’t as terrible as to some trailheads.) Plus, these peaks numbered 40 and 41 for Mom, so we wanted a memorable duo!
The drive through the glamorous town of Crestone to the trailhead truly set the tone for the entire climb: eerie, but exciting. Upon arrival, we chatted up a couple of other climbers and learned from them cars had supposedly been broken into that weekend and there was a guy missing on the mountain. Great. Perfect way to start a vacation.
But we weren’t deterred! We opted for an early start and set our alarms for 3:00 a.m., along with a few others camped at the trailhead. After breaking camp, we began our ascent and reached the top of the lake just as the sun began to hit Kit Carson. It was a fairly easy climb, as evidenced by us doing it all by headlamp. The trail was a bit confusing around the lake but we were able to find it fairly easily. Staying higher than the lake should help you keep the trail.
The climb from the lake to the ridge of Challenger was arduous to say the least, but doable. The steep pitch is secure and stable, just be sure to eat something before you begin and mentally prepare for a long climb. As soon as we hit the ridge, though, we were pretty much at the top of Challenger.
I want to take a moment to recognize Mike Cormier whose body was found later the day of our climb. We saw the SAR team in the helicopters during our climb. Many prayers and love to his family and to all the climbers who were blessed from his acquaintance. Our community and the mountains will sure miss him.
We paused there briefly before heading on to Kit Carson. It took us about an hour to cross between summits. The trail on the avenue is obvious and easy. Make sure to turn up the gully before you reach the KC-Columbia saddle though. The gully hike was steep, but after doing the push up to Challenger nothing seemed bad.
It was beautiful on the summit and we spent a while being goofballs as usual and enjoying ourselves. On the trek back to Challenger, we met a few other climbers in the gully and on the avenue. Given the beautiful weather, all of them were successful as well. Upon re-summiting Challenger, I shared a victory yell with one of the guys on KC. It was a beautiful moment.
The descent was fairly easy, albeit steep, but not too treacherous. And the view at the lake was GORGEOUS! Had there not been a lot of bugs around it, we may have stayed for a while. The descent seemed to last forever and there are probably a thousand and one switchbacks. Starting in the dark helped to make it seem shorter on the ascent.
All in all it was a wonderful day with my Mom and we had a blast with these two peaks!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):