Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

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pctjeff23
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Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by pctjeff23 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:57 am

I am planning to do a two day excursion the second week of September hitting Crestone Peak, Needle, and Kit Carson Peak. I'm flexible on my route, but ideally, I would like hit them in this order: start at Cottonwood Creek Trailhead and ascend and descend the Needle via South Face, ascend Crestone Peak via South Face, descend Crestone Peak via Northwest Couloir, ascend Kit Carson via South Couloir or East Ridge, and descend Kit Carson via West Ridge to North Slopes. End at Willow Lake Trailhead.

I have not seen much info on here on the Northwest Couloir Route (apologies if this has been discussed extensively). I really would like to do this trip without an ice axe or crampons. In his 14er's book, Gerry Roach says this this route retains snow and ice throughout the summer. Do you think descending this route would be do-able without snow equipment? How about ascending? I guess to avoid this completely I could both ascend and descend the South Face of the Peak.

Jeff
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rijaca
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by rijaca » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:20 pm

It is highly unlikely that you would encounter snow/ice in the NW couloir this time of year (unless it snow/hails before your attempt). That couloir has plenty of loose rock so wear a helmet.

You need to look at maps/route descriptions more carefully; the south couloir on KC is usually accessed from Spanish Creek (not Bears Playground where you'll end up if descending NW couloir). And if you want to end up at the Willow Lake TH, you best traverse over Challenger (from KC) and descend it's north slopes, rather than the north ridge of KC or the Kirk couloir.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by geojed » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:21 pm

This couloir is pretty dry now. Here is a pic taken by SilverLynx from 1.5wks ago.
8-28-2013 12-20-05 PM.jpg
8-28-2013 12-20-05 PM.jpg (191.2 KiB) Viewed 739 times
Here is a TR where I went up it about a year ago. http://14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.ph ... m=tripuser" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by doggler » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:29 pm

pctjeff23 wrote:

I have not seen much info on here on the Northwest Couloir Route (apologies if this has been discussed extensively). I really would like to do this trip without an ice axe or crampons. In his 14er's book, Gerry Roach says this this route retains snow and ice throughout the summer. Do you think descending this route would be do-able without snow equipment? How about ascending? I guess to avoid this completely I could both ascend and descend the South Face of the Peak.

Jeff
When snow-free, this route goes. A caveat, though. There are many mini-boulders just perched upon solid rock - rockfall hazard is extremely high in the couloir. I would NOT do this route unless I was with a small party, and by small I mean one or maaaaybe two very familiar partners. The climbing is mostly class 3 and you definitely wouldn't need snow equipment of any kind this time of year.
Last edited by doggler on Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by screeman57 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:38 pm

rijaca wrote:It is highly unlikely that you would encounter snow/ice in the NW couloir this time of year (unless it snow/hails before your attempt). That couloir has plenty of loose rock so wear a helmet.

You need to look at maps/route descriptions more carefully; the south couloir on KC is usually accessed from Spanish Creek (not Bears Playground where you'll end up if descending NW couloir). And if you want to end up at the Willow Lake TH, you best traverse over Challenger (from KC) and descend it's north slopes, rather than the north ridge of KC or the Kirk couloir.
True, but from Bear's Playground you can easily descend to the KC south couloir entry at the head of the Spanish Creek basin. So that part of this is doable.

To the OP, it sounds like you will be carrying your backpacking gear up and over the summits in order to do a complete traverse? This is just one man's opinion, but I'd rethink that if I were you. Scratch that, I wouldn't do that if I were you.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by pctjeff23 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:42 pm

rijaca wrote:

You need to look at maps/route descriptions more carefully; the south couloir on KC is usually accessed from Spanish Creek (not Bears Playground where you'll end up if descending NW couloir).
Yes, I realize that. I was thinking about descending the NW Couloir and then dropping down SW to treeline near the South Couloir. Roach says there is good camping there, which is what I want for an early summit of KC on the second day. Also, is the North Slopes route from KC easier to follow than Kirk Couloir? It appears that the Kirk Couloir route hooks back up with the North Slopes route at Willow Lake.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by pctjeff23 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:48 pm

Screenman, I am an ultralighter. Pack weight would be under 20. You think that is still too much? Is it the weight or the bulk of the pack (or both) that is concerning? Pack is also very compressed; not much more bulky than a day pack.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by screeman57 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:14 pm

Yeah, that's probably doable (complete speculation on my part, of course).
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by screeman57 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:30 pm

pctjeff23 wrote:Also, is the North Slopes route from KC easier to follow than Kirk Couloir? It appears that the Kirk Couloir route hooks back up with the North Slopes route at Willow Lake.
I'd definitely consider the Kirk couloir to be "snow only," but have heard of people descending it snow-free. The North Slopes route off Challenger is a total steep scree-fest, but probably the best option.

Edit: Bill's route description for Kirk calls it "snow only."
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by jdorje » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:38 pm

Kirk never fully melts out, but there is no way it would be better than the n slopes this time of year. Descending Spanish Creek is an option but probably no easier than crossing to willow creek.

If it were me I'd grab Obstruction and Columbia while up there. Going over Columbia might be less elevation loss but would raise the difficulty a notch.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by Kiefer » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:57 pm

A few years ago when I did Crestone Peak for the first time, I ascended the Red Gully and descended the NW Couloir and then wrapped around back to South Colony Lakes.
It's pretty much as Doggler says. It's not a 'clean' route by even the loosest stretch. It's full of loose junk, more like a garbage-shoot really. Totally opposite of the Red Gully. It would go MUCH better as a snow climb. I thought it to be a bit steeper than the Red Gully and noticeably steeper near the top.

One note: The exit from the NW Couloir can be VERY tricky to find. I was fortunate b/c there was still some lingering snow in the gully and followed some old footprints. Though if dry, I would have passed it right by. This couloir cliffs out near the bottom.
So if you're descending it for the first time, just be diligent for the ledge you need. It'll be climbers right (descending).
A series of ledges will deliver you back to Bear's Playground. They are poorly cairned.

And don't fall on the ledges. That would be...bad.

Good camping spots in UPPER Spanish Creek but the route-finding will leave you uttering a few F-bombs.
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Re: Crestone Peak - Northwest Couloir

Post by andrewhamilton » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:38 pm

Hi, If I were doing the Northwest Couloir for the first time, I think I would prefer to ascend it. I haven't been up it in 10 years but as stated by others I do remember it always being just a bit tricky finding the best route near the bottom of the couloir. I definitely would not worry about ice ax/crampons right now, however I would maybe consider doing your route in the reverse order? If you are a competent scrambler that would give you option of climbing up the North Ridge of Kit Carson (very nice route in my opinion if you don't mind exposure), then you can ascend Columbia point on way to Bears playground, and then ascend the Northwest couloir. I think that would be a beautiful trip. It also avoids the descent off challenger which kind of sucks...especially if your knees are creaky, like mine :)
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