Peak(s):  Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  05/09/2013
Date Climbed:   05/03/2013
Author:  Carl
Additional Members:   XC Snowboarder, pioletski, rmiller, Gueza, Bean
 Skiing the Needle   

Crestone Needle via the South Couloir
May 3, 2013
Approx 13 miles
Approx. 4,600
Group: Marc Barella, Eric Sangueza, Rob Miller, Mike Bean, Matt Kamper, & me.

We had made a couple attempts in the last few years, turned around three weeks ago when things were less than ideal, and continued to follow the weather in the Sangres on a daily basis. On Friday the weather was perfect, the snow was adequate, and we had a grand time climbing and skiing Crestone Needle.

Regarded as one of the premier lines in the Rockies. I think Frank's photo does a good job of explaining why...

Photo taken April 2010 by Frank Konsella

We made it within a mile of the upper trailhead the night before and left camp around 4:15 a.m. By sunrise we neared South Colony Lakes

Rob leading the way, followed by Mike, and our friend Austin Porzak who was headed for Crestone Peak. The couloir in the distant middle was our ascent and descent route to/from the ridge between Broken Hand Pass and the Needle.

Mike, Matt, and Austin headed towards the low point on Broken Hand Pass.

The rest of the group headed up a slightly different route in hopes of keeping the skins on longer. Marc attempting the 30+ degree skin:

Eric climbing what we've been calling the Consolation Prize. We skied it in 2011 when the Needle was too thin, and we would have skied it a few weeks ago but it looked a little loaded.

Enjoying the windless day with a break above the Consolation Prize couloir. Generally, I think a group of 3 for this type of trip is preferred. We made an exception, but it wasn't without careful consideration of the fact that this group knew each other, had experience climbing/skiing together, and had made the decision together to heed to conditions on previous occasions. Having this number also meant we were able to divide the weight of a couple ropes and various other gear, take turns kicking steps, and even with two raps and no sled roundtrip the route in under 11 hours. Rob on the left, Matt standing in the center, Mike in the blue helmet, Marc in the visor, and Eric on the right.

Rob, Eric, and Mike

Rob and Mike, still on the traverse to the start of the Needle's south couloir.


photo by Eric

Most parties that have skied this line make this descending traverse unroped. This is the point where we turn around a few weeks ago in high winds. Since we knew there was a good anchor for a rope here, and had plenty of people to divide the weight of the 30 meter, we decide to bring it. The traverse didn't look nearly as bad as before, but since it took only a few minutes to work together and set up the rap, we played it conservative. Matt on rappel.

After the very short rappel we dropped a little vert before climbing a couple short ice sections to enter the couloir proper. Bean on the rappel.

And on the ice.
Photo by Eric

After the ice Mike and Eric starting making the boot track towards the summit, the other 3 worked on finding an anchor/setting up the rappel for the descent, and I went for a walk to scout a potential rappel that would drop us into a more convenient spot on the ridge. Marc hollered that they had a good anchor so I grabbed this shot and aborted plan B.

Climbing the couloir.

photo by Eric

Eric a few hundred vert below the summit.

As we neared the top Mike hollered back that the rest of us should hang a left instead of following his steps. I communicated this to the rest of the group and, very slowly, traversed to join everyone else. Marc had measured the couloir at 52 degrees. My inclinometer was in my pack which I wasn't about to reach for. Sure felt 10 degrees steeper than anything we climbed below, especially as the snow became thin near the rock.
Photo by Matt

Almost back to the group, just below the summit.

Made the summit a little before 11 a.m.

photo by Bean

At this point Marc and I had skied/snowboarded more than 50 different 14ers together. A stat beat only by my skis and skins; which had been with me for 57 of the 58 (on my list) 14ers. The skins I bought used from a member before I had skied my first 14er.

Rob and Matt skiing the top section as Marc watches from above and I from below.

As we climbed the sustained narrow section I wondered how Marc would handle it on the board. We were entertained and impressed with his linked jump turns. If this wasn't the 4th snowboard descent I'm sure it was close.

Me making some turns.
Photo by Matt



Matt skiing down to the rap station.

By the time I skied to him and clicked my skis off he was almost ready to toss the rope.

They let me go first on the rappel.
Photo by Eric.

Eric exiting the couloir.

At this point we were back to the first rappel of the morning. I had tied the rope off earlier and left it as two fixed lines so we could anchor a prussic cord on the climb out.

Able to relax a good bit after 8 hours on the go, we enjoyed our first long break.
Photo by Matt

Mike and Rob traversing towards Broken Hand.

This time we won and still got to enjoy the Consolation Prize.

Matt skiing towards South Colony.

photo by Bean

We enjoyed a group ski down to the lake, quickly found our way through the trees having done it a few times now, and I don't even think anyone complained about the 4 mile ski, pole, hike out on the road. Maybe that's just my perspective since I remembered to wax my skis the day before this time. After a beer we headed to Westcliffe for Pizza and beers.

Sure, there could have been more snow, but the snow that was there warmed up just to that right amount, the sun was shinning, and the winds tempered. We had been intimidated and excited by photos like this for a while and we all felt lucky to have gotten the Needle in such good condition. The neat thing about this particular photo of the south couloir on the Needle is that we're in it. At 27 miles away we'll just have to take Bill's word for it that he shot it at 11:45 a.m. Friday, which happened to be the time we were finishing skiing.

Skiing the 14ers has been an incredible journey. I've certainly enjoyed following this thread with great appreciation for every comment. But since I didn't ski a single peak alone, much credit goes to all the ski partners I've met along the way, who have since become good friends. Brian, Ben, Bill, Caroline, Rob S., Rick, the folks in this TR, the other Carl D., and many others. Thanks! Best of luck to Matt and Marc as they ski and ride the final few 14ers.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions

Fine Achievement!
05/09/2013 10:20
Congratulations man. Impressive determination and persistence. And maybe just a little crazy.


Best TR ever
05/09/2013 10:26
Yeah buddy!


Fantastic Achievement
05/09/2013 10:28
Congratulations, again, Carl!

Skiing all of them is a lofty goal which requires serious skills, good partners, time, patience, perseverance and dedication. Some try, a few succeed and many of us watch.

The 14ers don't always have the fattest lines or best snow conditions but I think there's something special about cranking turns high above surrounding peaks. It provides a vastly different experience than the usual up-and-down on these rock piles - the snowy views, spotting lines all over the place, watching partners ride the mountain. Good stuff

Sweet shot of Marc, levitating in the narrows!

And a BIG congrats to Eric, Marc, Matt, Mike and Rob for skiing the Needle. Very cool


05/09/2013 13:30
Congratulations on the accomplishment and on finishing it in style.


The wait was worth it
05/09/2013 14:00
Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment. Almost two seasons of waiting for enough snow on the Needle finally paid off. Great Job!


Happy for ya Man!
05/09/2013 14:06
It's great to see the journey you started several years back came to such a fine end with such a great crew. I still remember our first ski together on Yale like it was yesterday. It's been sweet getting out there with you on a few others throughout the years.

Now hang up those swiss cheese Kamasutras and come ski some 13ers with Brian and I


Premier lines in the Rockies eh?
05/09/2013 14:19
Nice work Carl. Like others have said - persistence (and an arsenal of rock skis....). Nice of you to pay homage to Marc - these things are best experienced when shared, for both sentimental value and motivational purposes. Feeding off each other can be paramount when pursuing projects such as this.

I know its another list - but hopefully the Centennials Ski Project will inspire you to expand your horizons. There is much to explore in this great state.

Must've been nice to finish off your journey on the ”Consolation Couloir”.


05/09/2013 14:25
”Great job” doesn't even begin to express how in awe I am of your accomplishment. Looks like it was the perfect day and the perfect crew for a finisher.


Glad you finally got it done!
05/09/2013 14:40
It's the end of one chapter, but the beginning of another.

Well done guys. That's on hell of an efficient group effort!


Congrats Carl!
05/09/2013 16:30
Awesome accomplishment. Looks like an amazing day in the Sangres.


05/09/2013 16:34
I'm in awe.

Dave B

05/09/2013 16:47
Not sure what else to say.



Amazing work, Carl
05/09/2013 16:59
If it's already been said, it needs to be said again: The highest congratulations to you and your team. I've enjoyed watching your quest all this time. Well done!


All this talk of
05/09/2013 17:26
skiing non-14ers . . . something tells me that we have a 14er skiing addict on our hands and there will be some repeats in the years to come. Great report -- it must feel incredible to get the weight of the Needle off your back. Congrats!


Congratulations Carl!
05/09/2013 18:51
And thank you for including me on your finishing day, it was excellent in so many ways. It's a privilege and a pleasure to know you and ski with you.


Congrats man!
05/09/2013 19:54
You done it right!


Well Done!
05/09/2013 21:09
Very nice line! Winter skiing is pretty fun, but this time of the season is something I always look forward to.


Nice work guys!
05/09/2013 21:28
and congrats on doing them all, Carl. I was about to head down there with Austin to do the needle until he informed me there was going to be a party up there. I'll have to save the needle for another year, but I'm glad you guys did it...those 14ers aren't going to just ski themselves


Congrats on the finish
05/09/2013 21:46
Congrats on the finish and finally getting the Needle Carl. Also Congrats in order for the rest of your crew; Mike, Rob, Matt, Eric and Marc. Classic peak to finish your project on. Now go ski a 13er....or 12er for that matter!


This is all I have to say
05/09/2013 22:08


Just one word...
05/10/2013 01:56


05/11/2013 02:47
A late congrats on an amazing accomplishment. Have enjoyed following your trip reports as you've knocked them off. Sweet video by the way.

XC Snowboarder

Can't think of
05/11/2013 05:03
a better way to finish. What a great day we all had!


Very nice!
05/11/2013 06:03
Congrats to Carl, and a GREAT team. You guys rock!! Absolutely love the sense of community and camaraderie.

Carl, HUGE congrats on an incredible accomplishment!


05/11/2013 18:36
Kings of the Mountain congratulations on an amazing feat!

Chicago Transplant

05/13/2013 00:27
Nice work Carl, glad to see you finish off the ski list! It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to get these ski descents in good conditions and I know the Needle has taken some time. Glad to see you get it done in style!


Worth the wait...
05/15/2013 03:28
I bet it feels good. Congrats!

Patrick Hollenbeck
Nice Job Guys!
05/18/2013 03:05
I climbed the same route on May 12th, and it took me 20 hours round trip from the 2wd parking lot. Judging from the pictures, there was a lot more snow on the mountain when I was there. Skiing the needle would have been spectacular, but a bit beyond my skill level. Perhaps some time in the future. Ski ascent and descent seems to be the most efficient way to travel. Nice work!


Jealous Flatlander
05/19/2013 06:12
Great video, Danse Macabre was a nice touch.


Congrats Carl!
05/20/2013 20:17
Awesome accomplishment to go along with a great TR and finisher peak.


05/23/2013 01:59
This was incredible to read. There are so many of us who learn so much from people like yourself. Keep doing what you're doing, Carl! It's simply amazing


06/05/2013 08:49
I am inspired. Epic achievement gentlemen. Well done.

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