Crestone Needle Cairns

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
Forum rules
Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
User avatar
randalmartin
Posts: 1358
Joined: 5/5/2008
14ers:summits55 winter1 
13ers:summits31 winter2 
Trip Reports (13)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by randalmartin » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:01 pm

For those of you that have done the East Gully down, did you find the downclimbing to be particularly difficult? I assume facing in is necessary through the section near the Dihedral.
User avatar
JQDivide
Posts: 1133
Joined: 6/25/2007
14ers:summits58 winter33 
13ers:summits95 winter3 
Trip Reports (43)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by JQDivide » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:12 pm

I have been down the East Gully twice, never up it (traverse trips)
I thought it was fairly easy.
There are a few cairns along the way, mostly on the left side (going down).
Only faced in once, but it was only one or two easy steps... this was shortly before/above the crossover point to the west gully.
Did some butt scooting.
If anything the gully is mostly C2 with some C3 for sure... but C4... not so sure.
User avatar
Trailrunner
Posts: 35
Joined: 9/15/2008
14ers:summits48 winter2 
13ers:summits157 winter22 
Trip Reports (3)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by Trailrunner » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:32 pm

JQDivide wrote: Only faced in once, but it was only one or two easy steps... this was shortly before/above the crossover point to the west gully.
Did some butt scooting.
If anything the gully is mostly C2 with some C3 for sure... but C4... not so sure.
On the ascent, the line we took on Sunday was definitely difficult C3 if not C4. We ended up most of the way up the dihedral, having missed the crossover spot (we were pretty much on line with the C4 arrow Bill has on picture #26 in the route description). Based on your assessment of being on the left on the downclimb, and referring back to the photo, that side does look perhaps a little less steep, but I wouldn't venture to say C2. I can't attest to the gully above the dihedral, as we ended up descending and finding the correct crossover spot. When downclimbing back to the crossover I faced out, but I just about never face in on a downclimb anyway.

The dihedral was distinctly steeper than the west gully, which we found "easy" in comparison to the steepness of the start of the east gully.

I think the issue with this area is that it can get real steep real fast, but sometimes people find that perfect line - sounds like perhaps you did, although you're a tall guy, so maybe my C4 is your C2!
"Be excellent to each other. And...party on, dudes!" - Abraham Lincoln
“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” — The Dude
User avatar
Conor
Posts: 978
Joined: 9/2/2014
14ers:summits41 ski6 winter6 
13ers:summits41 ski1 winter1 
Trip Reports (7)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by Conor » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:00 pm

I found the down climbing to be "engaging." But, I opted for the more direct, no cross over version. Either way, I would call it fun class 3 climbing. Maybe a pink class 4 sprinkle here and there.
User avatar
lajohn
Posts: 29
Joined: 6/22/2010
14ers:summits58 winter2 
13ers:summits19 winter1 
Trip Reports (1)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by lajohn » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:12 pm

We downclimbed the East Gully the whole way after doing the Traverse as well and I thought there was some Class 4 in that dihedral. I was honestly more scared downclimbing that part of the East gully than doing the Traverse....
User avatar
pfiore1
Posts: 249
Joined: 2/4/2016
14ers:summits57 ski38 winter18 
13ers:summits182 ski47 winter15 

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by pfiore1 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:58 pm

Hey, what's up Woody? Good to see you on here. With all this talk about descending the West Gully too far down...guess what just happened? Again. Late last night during our General Monthly Meeting we got a call from dispatch that another climber was cliffed out down low in the West Gully, same spot as usual. We got going at 0300 and got him out safely this morning. Just got home and read all these new comments about the Needle's gullies. This time the climber did not miss the crossover but rather descended back down the West Gully after he and his partner lost their bearings apparently very close to where the trail restarts from the bottom of the East Gully back to BHP. Glad he made the smart decision not to push his limits and attempt to downclimb further or ascend something he was very uncomfortable with. When in doubt, stay put and call for help. There has been so much traffic down the West Gully that there is now a path taking shape. Even though there are no cairns leading down the West that low, the vegetation is getting so trampled that there appears to be quite a distinctive looking route, until of course it cliffs out. I've got a bad feeling these incidents and worse are only going to get more frequent.

And thanks Tornadoman for the waves. I'm sure that was Jamie thanking you for having helmets. We were just so surprised at how many people didn't care about their own heads earlier that day. Glad you had a great time up there this past weekend.

And thanks to everyone else for those kind words.
Dissent Is Patriotic

Support your local Search and Rescue agency. Be safe and respect your wilderness.

Custer County Search and Rescue, Inc... https://www.custersar.org

Custer County SAR Facebook... https://www.facebook.com/CusterSAR/?fref=photo

Colorado Search and Rescue... https://coloradosar.org

CORSAR Fund... https://cdola.colorado.gov/funding-prog ... escue-fund
User avatar
jchapell
Posts: 271
Joined: 1/16/2013
14ers:summits24 
13ers:summits11 
Trip Reports (12)
Contact:

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by jchapell » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:33 pm

pfiore1 wrote: The biggest issues we had going up the Needle on a weekend was that about 50% of the 40+/- climbers did not have helmets nor did many feel they needed to wear one. Just a reminder, we recover an average of two bodies per year up there and rescue countless others injured where the wearing of a helmet no doubt saved their life. Just because the Crestones are known for their solid conglomerate rock, there is plenty of loose rock to fall and it does, often.

Oh boy did we experience this in my party of 3...
On Sunday, we were hanging out at the top of BHP around 4:15am waiting for a little more light before starting the needle, when a group of 20-something guys (1 helmet among the 4 of them) walked past, then doubled back to us and said"Hey, do you guys know how to climb the needle? We were going to do the Peak but then saw how far down Cottonwood Lake is so screw that". We looked at eachother :shock: then gave detailed verbal instructions (sprinkled with "this is where people fall and DIE, or get off route and DIE"), and gave them our phones to read the description & photos on the 14ers app...It was clear they didn't know about any gully, crossover, etc...I guess hoping for a trail to the top. After 10 minutes they continued on, and we followed (what we thought was a safe) 15 minutes later.

Just as we entered the East Gully - thankfully as we were standing at the very bottom looking up - we heard tremendous crashing. We ran to the west, and then heard "ROCK' yelled from above, just in time to see a 4' X 4' boulder crashing, bouncing 10 feet into the air, and side to side down the gully. We kept running until we were past the entrance of the gully, and watched the massive thing fly past us down towards Cottonwood Lake. It could have taken out all 3 of us at once. They were very apologetic, but had we been in the gully proper...game over.

I'm not sure if we did the right thing trying to give them the information to climb with some measure of safety, or if we should have instead tried to tell them to turn around. I doubt they would have listened if we got too boy-scouty, but maybe it would have been worth a shot. We learned later several had climbed their first 14er only a couple weeks before. Regardless, it was a heart-pumping start to the "solid conglomerate" of the Needle. Thankfully, it was uneventful after that (we told them to stay put so we could climb past them) and had a blast the rest of the day...

By the way Pat, we saw you on Saturday as well (hair is a giveaway :wink: ), thanks for your work and connecting us here on the forum to such good information and real-life consequences.
Photography Website: http://www.jordanchapell.com
User avatar
pfiore1
Posts: 249
Joined: 2/4/2016
14ers:summits57 ski38 winter18 
13ers:summits182 ski47 winter15 

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by pfiore1 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:07 pm

jchapell wrote:On Sunday, we were hanging out at the top of BHP around 4:15am waiting for a little more light before starting the needle, when a group of 20-something guys (1 helmet among the 4 of them) walked past, then doubled back to us and said"Hey, do you guys know how to climb the needle? We were going to do the Peak but then saw how far down Cottonwood Lake is so screw that".
Oh my god, please don't tell me about these things. I have enough anxiety thinking about the countless numbers of near misses we have every day. That's scary. I didn't just read that.
jchapell wrote:I'm not sure if we did the right thing trying to give them the information to climb with some measure of safety, or if we should have instead tried to tell them to turn around.
Tell them and people like them that the mountain is closed, no more admittance, their amusement park is closed. The Crestones have reached full capacity for the day and the Custer County Sheriff Department is on their way right now to enforce the mountain's closure. I can't believe we don't have 100+ missions per summer.
Last edited by pfiore1 on Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dissent Is Patriotic

Support your local Search and Rescue agency. Be safe and respect your wilderness.

Custer County Search and Rescue, Inc... https://www.custersar.org

Custer County SAR Facebook... https://www.facebook.com/CusterSAR/?fref=photo

Colorado Search and Rescue... https://coloradosar.org

CORSAR Fund... https://cdola.colorado.gov/funding-prog ... escue-fund
User avatar
JQDivide
Posts: 1133
Joined: 6/25/2007
14ers:summits58 winter33 
13ers:summits95 winter3 
Trip Reports (43)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by JQDivide » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:13 pm

Trailrunner wrote:
On the ascent, the line we took on Sunday was definitely difficult C3 if not C4. We ended up most of the way up the dihedral, having missed the crossover spot (we were pretty much on line with the C4 arrow Bill has on picture #26 in the route description). Based on your assessment of being on the left on the downclimb, and referring back to the photo, that side does look perhaps a little less steep, but I wouldn't venture to say C2. I can't attest to the gully above the dihedral, as we ended up descending and finding the correct crossover spot. When downclimbing back to the crossover I faced out, but I just about never face in on a downclimb anyway.

The dihedral was distinctly steeper than the west gully, which we found "easy" in comparison to the steepness of the start of the east gully.

I think the issue with this area is that it can get real steep real fast, but sometimes people find that perfect line - sounds like perhaps you did, although you're a tall guy, so maybe my C4 is your C2!
True, I do have some reach.
But the second time I did it, I was with three other people of average height, they didn't have much trouble either. I think we all faced in for those few steps.
But other than that, I don't recall much in the way of issues, or much time spent route finding.
Again, we stayed left (going down) as much as possible.
jchapell wrote:
pfiore1 wrote: The biggest issues we had going up the Needle on a weekend was that about 50% of the 40+/- climbers did not have helmets nor did many feel they needed to wear one.

Just as we entered the East Gully - thankfully as we were standing at the very bottom looking up - we heard tremendous crashing. We ran to the west, and then heard "ROCK' yelled from above, just in time to see a 4' X 4' boulder crashing, bouncing 10 feet into the air, and side to side down the gully.
NOT FUN...
I've tried to stay away from groups without helmets on El D and N. Massive recently... If they aren't knowledgeable or cautious enough to care about their heads, they surely won't be thinking about me head.
User avatar
highpilgrim
Posts: 3037
Joined: 3/14/2008
14ers:summits58 
13ers:summits82 winter1 
Trip Reports (1)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by highpilgrim » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:22 pm

We climbed the east gulley all the way. I found it to be class 3 with maybe a couple brief class 4 areas. It was seldom open and airy which is good for me; I like to be more "closed in" on steep terrain because it helps me manage my issues with exposure.

We had no route finding issues and I had a young son with me who had no problems on the route. I've posted images before, but here some are again. Three more to follow.
needle 2.jpg
needle 2.jpg (607.8 KiB) Viewed 1256 times
needle 3.jpg
needle 3.jpg (623.48 KiB) Viewed 1256 times
needle 1.jpg
needle 1.jpg (611.9 KiB) Viewed 1256 times
Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
Hunter S Thompson

Walk away from the droning and leave the hive behind.
Dick Derkase
User avatar
highpilgrim
Posts: 3037
Joined: 3/14/2008
14ers:summits58 
13ers:summits82 winter1 
Trip Reports (1)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by highpilgrim » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:23 pm

Three more images. Sorry I didn't sequence them correctly.
needle 4.jpg
needle 4.jpg (616.25 KiB) Viewed 1250 times
needle 5.jpg
needle 5.jpg (676.11 KiB) Viewed 1250 times
needle 6.jpg
needle 6.jpg (643.51 KiB) Viewed 1250 times
Last edited by highpilgrim on Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
Hunter S Thompson

Walk away from the droning and leave the hive behind.
Dick Derkase
User avatar
handonbroward
Posts: 262
Joined: 5/21/2015
14ers:summits42 
13ers:summits28 
Trip Reports (5)

Re: Crestone Needle Cairns

Post by handonbroward » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:26 pm

There were 2 women who had summitted Crestone Peak on Sunday, just before I came across from the NW Buttress and NE Crestone. They were wearing barely any clothing, no helmets and had piece of paper with a "description" of the traverse that was about 3 lines long.

She asked me to point out the first cairn for the traverse, which I was actually able to pick out from the top of Crestone Peak. Her response was "oh, then you just go tick, tick, tick and that is pretty much it right?" ](*,)

At first I kept my mouth shut as they started to descend before more. 10 minutes later, as I started to descend and catch up to them, I realized they were absolutely not equipped for the traverse, physically or mentally. As I passed them all I said was "not to be rude, but you should put some serious consideration into your decision to attempt the traverse."

As I started across the traverse, I was relived to see that they made the decision to just continue descending the standard route. I was dreading being the last person to have had contact with them, it was a recipe for disaster if they had decided to attempt it.

One of the very, very few times I have actually given advice on a 14er, but I am glad that I decided to.
"I hurt, therefore I am" - Barry Blanchard
Post Reply