Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  09/16/2019
Date Climbed:   09/15/2019
Author:  Jon Messah
 Crestone Marathon+  

So I had the bad idea of attempting to link all these peaks from the Crestone (city) side of the range, mainly because I don’t have 4WD to hit South Colony Lakes.

So I began climbing up the Cottonwood Creek drainage just after 4am Sunday morning; there was a 50% chance of rain around 3pm which is why I started so early. Also, the Cottonwood trail is I pretty great shape for around 3 miles before it becomes harder to follow... also I was in the dark which didn’t help.... Anyways, it took around 3 hours to gain the Red Gully (6:30) and I summited Crestone Peak around 7:30. On the way up the Red Gully I ran into another who was doing the traverse so I quickly began the traversing towards the Needle in hopes of getting some decent beta. The trip over to the Needle was mostly uneventful. I got a bit lost finding the final pitch, I went up the gully just before the correct gully, but soon I was climbing bomber Glom rock towards the summit (this pitch was enjoyable and airy on the left side, and steeper/exposed on the right). I got to the Needle around 9am and met up with the guy I saw on my way up the Red Gully. After a sip of whiskey shared on the summit, Andrew kindly showed me the way down, having done the Needle the day before via the standard route.

After the steeper section of the decent I left Andrew and romped to Broken Hand Pass. I took the first exit heading to S. Colony Lake and then maybe a quarter mile later followed a faint trail down the drainage ditch heading directly for Humboldt. I filled water, ate an apple and charged through the talus arriving at the base of Humboldt around 10:30. I gained Humboldt’s saddle by 11 and was on the summit around 11:40. I ran back to Humboldt’s saddle, collected my dropped backpack, and headed for Bears Playground around noon.

This is where I make my biggest mistake. Instead of gaining the ridge which lead up and over to bears playground, I dipped out right onto the steepest chaos-fields I’ve crossed yet. It took me around an hour to cross this field and re-gain the elevation into Bears Playground. This is also around the time when that 50% chance of rain started rising, with dense grey clouds forming on both the Crestones and Kit/Challenger. It was also getting cold which was actually a good sign for my “goal” of not getting struck by lightning, so I proceeded. I made Bear’s around 1:30 and met another who was tagging Columbia. We tagged Kitty Kat and Columbia together (at 2:30) before parting ways at the steep down climb off Columbia. Midway through the down climb was also when the skies began opening and it started lightly raining. I made it down and over to the base of Kit as the rain started picking up a bit. I checked my Elevation and was surprised that Kit was less than 400’ up. Being stubborn and seeing as there still hadn’t been any lightning I decided the 15 minutes of chance would be OK. I tagged Kit at 3:20 and made Challenger by 4.

It was on and off hailing/snowing/sleeting this entire time which made everything slippery and terrible. This was about the time I started suffering a bit. Decent off Challenger was wet and very slippery + my legs were shot. Didn’t make Willow lake until 5:30, S000000 Sl0W. All the peaks were completely obstructed by clouds at this point and so was I, sopping wet in a raincloud. I got some water, ate a bar, and started trotting down Willow Trail. I’d had a friend who was doing Kit + Challenger who’d offered to drive me back to my car at Cottonwood Creek, but I had a feeling they’d be long gone, and I was right. I made the trailhead as dusk was setting in, around 7 or 7:30. Google maps said it was 4 miles to my car so I donned my headlamp and began. I ran the downhills and just normally walked the flats. Ended up getting back to my car at 9pm making it a 17 hour day. Not bad for my first time in the area. Ended up being 29 miles and upwards of around 11k vert I believe. Good soul crushing day out.

I feel like if I did this again I would take the same route, tagging Crestone Peak then Needle, before hitting Humboldt and the Kit group. I would however consider going down Spanish Creek as to be closer to Cottonwood, where the car is. It’s only around 2 miles from Spanish to Cottonwood. Also make sure to gain the ridge heading for bears playground. If it was a completely clear day I would consider parking at Willow lake and doing Challenger, Kit, Humboldt and then climbing the NW gully (or buttress) on Crestone Peak and finishing with the Traverse before heading down Cottonwood Creek drainage. Also, now that I know the route, I’d say I could easily shave 2+ hours off this attempt, just because I won’t be getting lost or figuring out where I’m going all the time

Either way you slice it you’re in for a long day... 34th fourteener and 32nd since middle of July, so I’m psyched. Be Safe Y’all.

 Comments or Questions
Nice job
09/17/2019 00:05
Wow, what a trek! Very cool to read about, much more endurance than I'd have.


Small World!
09/17/2019 11:12
I hit up the Peak and Needle on Saturday from the Cottonwood Creek side. Long day is an understatement... Not sure if I just lost the trail or what but it felt like a solid 50% of that Cottonwood approach was a bushwhack.

It was a 17 hour day for me, too, but I didn't even do KC/Challenger, or the slog from the Willow Lake trailhead back over to Cottonwood. Very impressive!

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.