Ascent of Crestone Peak on 2010-09-03

Climber: Eric Noel

Others in Party:Greg Slayden -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Friday, September 3, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Crestone Peak
    Elevation:14294 ft / 4356 m

Ascent Trip Report

We drove up in Greg's Tahoe to the upper TH. Rough but passable. Was very impressed to see a Corolla there. From here the old bad 4WD road is now gated. We walked this road until 11,100 and then hoofed up the trail to the upper lake where we made camp. Greg then went to tag Humboldt while I saved my energy so I could keep up with him.

After a restless night we hit the trail. It was cool and as we got higher it was somewhat windy. We fumbled our way around the W side of the lake but no matter. Then up some scree where we gained the ridge. There are several places where you can do so and while there is some loose junk there is no real problem getting to the ridge. I did spend the entire trip seriously lamenting my failure to bring my poles. From here we went L and traversed up for a bit and then we followed cairns that dropped us to our entrance into the NW gully. This gully was steep but mostly solid and class 3. Continuously angled and with good holds. I thought it pretty good travel actually. Some minor verglass but no snow or ice. Dark until late in the day and cold and one could easily see how it would hold snow until quite late in the year. It was steep and at one point my GPS said about 740 vertical to the summit and .10 air miles to the peak in the horizontal dimension. The route goes to the saddle rather than directly at that peak but even still that tells you about the angle. But we progressed and where I momentarily was wondering if we wanted to go R it turned out that heading straight would indeed gain us the saddle. We were there and then cairns took us up to the summit. Fun peak. It was now sunny and the wind on the ridge was actually less than on the other side of the ridge so we warmed right up.

After tagging East Crestone, I went along with Greg's preference to descend the red gully. I had regretted not bring my trekking poles and I did not want to regret a route choice as well so I felt it best to go with my instinct which was to stick with the route that I knew from the ascent. However, at the summit we ran into two other parties and this made me feel more comfortable about finding route-finding assistance if we could not find the route down (having no experience with it up). So we went down the red gully and it was not as steep as the NW one though I felt it was a little bit more loose at the top. It was mostly mellow though and we were able to connect the path all the way down. Then to Cottonwood Lake and a miserable slog uphill. Is uphill ever not a miserable slog? We crested Broken Hand Pass and then found a well scoured path down towards the Lower Colony Lake. This section was maybe the most tedious travel of the day. Perhaps because it was later in the day. Lower down, at about 12,400' Greg wanted to angle L away from the main path since our goal was the upper lake and the main path headed to the lower lake. I was skeptical that we could avoid getting cliffed out and stay high enough that the elevation gain savings would merit leaving the more established path. But after some annoying steep grass we made it work and Greg was right on that route choice. A little bit of easy terrain back to the lake and then the long relatively uneventful hikeout got us to the car a bit before dusk. The short approach was not quite as short on the way out. It never is.

I like the NW gully and frankly I would have been happy to go both up and down it. But it was alright to see both sections of our loop and it worked out just fine in the end. Greg felt that the way we did it was actually the best route as you get the easier route on the descent and the more direct ascent route. Without having down-climbed the NW gully I cannot say for sure but I liked the direct aspect of that route and the up and down and distance of the other route is avoided. Either works in the end to get you up Crestone.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5514 ft / 1679 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5514 ft / 1680 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13 mi / 20.9 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3 Hard
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Clear
Gully of Darkness
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4714 ft / 1436 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4414 ft / 1345 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:South Colony Lakes to NW Gully
    Start Trailhead:Crestone Upper TH  9880 ft / 3011 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5214 ft / 1589 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4414 ft / 1345 m; Extra: 800 ft / 243m
    Gain on way out:800 ft / 243 m
    Distance:7 mi / 11.3 km
    Route:Red Gully to Broken Hand Pass
    End Trailhead:Crestone Upper TH  9880 ft / 3011 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Crestone (1 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Crestone Peak2010-09-03 a5514 ft / 1681 m
2Crestone Peak-East Peak2010-09-03 b60 ft / 18 m
Total Trip Gain: 5574 ft / 1699 m    Total Trip Loss: 5574 ft / 1699 m

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