Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Challenger Point  -  14,081 feet
Date Posted:  07/16/2009
Modified:  07/17/2009
Date Climbed:   07/12/2009
Author:  DrewR
 Kit Carson & Challenger Point  

This climb definitely ranks as one of my favorite climbs. We arrived in Crestone on Saturday and ate lunch at the Harvest. Their buffalo burgers are tasty. After taking in the culture at the local outdoor market we hit the trail with a group of seven people loaded up with full packs and met three more at the lake. The weather was perfect all weekend and the views were spectacular.

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It took about four hours to reach the lake. On the way up we passed a large grassy meadow and crossed the drainage stream just below some waterfalls. The trail is loaded with switchbacks and is a fairly easy hike.

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The only negative part of the hike up was the insane amount of mosquitos. They were thick and relentless. Bring your repellant for sure. I've looked at a ton of pictures of the lake from previous posts and was looking forward to seeing it for myself. For some reason pictures just don't do it justice. The lake is breathtaking.

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After a marginally good night sleep we hit the trail at about 5:30 am on Sunday. The trail takes you up and around the lake on its north side (left) and up into the valley. The view of Kit Carson is awesome. Challenger Point's summit, however, is not visible from the valley floor.

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We ascended Challenger's eastern slope while hugging a rock wall on our right. About two thirds of the way up the trail became much more rocky and we ran into some snow fields. It was at about this point that we lost the trail. Our first inclination was to stay left and follow a snow filled gully. This quickly proved to be difficult without crampons and axes. The moon was just above Challenger and made for a great photo.

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We decided to go to the right and were glad we did. This path took us to the northern end of Challenger's northern ridge, which provided awesome views and a great ridge walk. I highly recommend this approach. It's worth it.

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About half was along the ridge we finally saw Challenger's true summit with Kit Carson in the background. It was at this point that the adrenalin really started to kick in. The hike up the ridge to Challenger is pretty easy with expansive views to the west and south.

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Once on the ridge it's an easy walk up to the summit. We soaked up the views of Humboldt, Kit Carson and Crestone Peak while grabbing a bit to eat.

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From Challenger Kit Carson looks massive. You get a good view of Kit Carson Avenue (not shown here). The avenue still had some snow and from Challenger appeared impassible. The ledge was wider than it looked and only required crossing snow in two short locations (no ice axes required).

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The avenue starts as a short ascent. As you turn the corner around Kit Carson's southern side the avenue descends a few hundred feet. It's at this point that you get an awesome view of the Crestones. The snow is pretty much gone. It is an impressive path.

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At the bottom of the avenue you turn left and ascend a steep gully. This is the final ascent to the Kit Carson's summit. The center of the gully is filled with scree and loose rock. We stayed to the left where the footing was much more solid.

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It took us five hours to get to Kit Carson's summit from the lake. It was well worth it as the view of the Crestone's is incredible. Off to the right of Crestone Peak you can see the sand dunes national park and the Blanca Massif (planned for 8/1-8/2/09). Humboldt stands tall to the left of the Crestones. This is probably one of the better summit views in the state (my opinion).

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Looking back to the south you see Challenger, which looks significantly lower than Kit Carson.

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The guide books have the route back down going back over Challenger's summit. Thinking that we had enough elevation gain for the day we chose an alternate path. After dropping down the connecting saddle we traversed Challenger's eastern face below two snow fields (pictured) and connected with the low point in Challenger's northern ridge. It's an easy walk across large boulders and save some good time.

We arrived back at camp by mid-day and broke camp. While there we were greeted by some mountain goats. The trip back to the trailhead took about 2.5 hours. We were accompanied by a swarming pack of mosquitos. Bring your spray.

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Happy hiking!!



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 Comments or Questions
vorticity

Exceptional Report
07/17/2009 13:47
We are headed out today. These final words were a BIG help. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Vort.


DrewR
Awesome!
07/17/2009 13:57
I rely on the posting/pictures of other for my climbs and am glad that my report is helping you. These are awesome mountains and I hope you have a safe climb with good weather like we had. Enjoy!


SummitGoblin

Looks Good!
07/19/2009 07:16
Great report. It‘s nice to know the avenue is clear. Gonna have to get these two before summer is over!


MountainHiker

Nice Report
07/24/2009 16:28
We plan to head down there this weekend. Thanks for the update.



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