Ascent of Crestone Peak on 2019-09-21

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Dan Connors
Date:Saturday, September 21, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Crestone Peak
    Elevation:14294 ft / 4356 m

Ascent Trip Report

My account of the trip. First of all I took my climbing partner Dan Connors with me as he loves class 3 scrambles and this is the best rock in the state for scrambling so they say. But first the ride up. This is the hardest 4 wheel drive road I have taken my stock 4 wheel drive Nissan Frontier on. It is the first time ever, I had to use 4 wheel low and instead of 4 wheel high and with only a 9 inch clearance on my stock 4 wheel (it is not one of those Toyota Tacoma off road packages you see up there a lot or a 4-runner) we had to get out and move a few rocks to make sure we did not damage my stock undercarriage.

Checking with which rates the 4 wheel roads it lists this approach as a 4 out of 6 and is in the category with some of the most difficult roads to go up. All the vehicles we saw up there were meant for off road and 4 wheel drive except ONE. I am always amazed what some people can do with a vehicle that should not be able to make it. We saw a Ford Edge SUV AWD up in the upper parking lot. Wow!

We elected to take the short cut trail shown on the map which is to take you to the upper colony lakes for Humboldt TH and then we cut back to the junction sign for Crestone Needle. I will say that the trails in the Upper Colony Lake area are confusing and we were disoriented a few times. Arriving Late in the day our goal was to carry backpacks up and over the Broken Hand Pass and then descend down to the Cottonwood Lake and pitch a tent at 12,300 and hit the summit early in the morning so we could get back and see college football SAT. But things did not go well.

On the way up the steep class 2+ to class 3 broken hand pass we passed some folks coming down from a FRI ascent of the Crestones and they complained that the wind was horrible up on the pass. I have been in gale force winds on peaks before and assumed there was some exaggeration going on. No they were right. As we got within the last 200 feet of vertical climbing the winds picked up to very uncomfortable strength. Sand in our eyes; heavy backpacks; and no standing up. The wind moved us around and made the scree areas and scrambling quite nerve racking. I would guess sustained above 40 and gust to 50. Worse, it made it impossible to hear your partner yell out "rock" so we had to climb separate lines. Near the top I remember simply running up on all fours as turning back was not an option this close to the top.

Dan and I hurried down the easier backside of the pass and after about 200 feet descent the winds were quite manageable but the energy exerted going up with full backpacks in the wind was considerable. We found a nice site beyond Cottonwood Lake somewhat sheltered form the wind and went to bed early. But Dan did not hydrate well from the strain of the day and woke up with altitude sickness in the morning.

The next morning we climbed Crestone and the rock was amazing. The classic red striped stone in the gully in the all the scary photos is actually very sticky sandstone and my boots clung to it easily. I was surprised that nearly everyone bipassed the striped red sandstone in the gully and chose the more chunky class 2+ and 3. My boots ran up the red rock easily. About 1000 feet from the top Dan confessed that he was hurting. I have never known him to get AMS before and we stopped and hydrated and he chose to climb on but was very slow. We summitted and let him rest and hydrate keeping close watch to the intensity of his headache and making sure he did not get dizzy or nauseated.

He ended up drinking all of his water and most of mine but we took our time getting down. I had to go grab Crestone East as it was another county HP and needed that off my list. I had Dan take a rest at camp as I broke camp and packed up and he felt better. We hiked up the Broken Hand Pass again but took it real slow for Dan and the wind was not bad. By the time we got down to the Colony Lakes he was 90% himself.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5295 ft / 1613 m
    Total Elevation Loss:890 ft / 271 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Very Windy, Clear
Beautiful day
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5295 ft / 1613 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4405 ft / 1342 m; Extra: 890 ft / 271m
    Loss on way in:890 ft / 271 m
    Distance:7.9 mi / 12.7 km
    Route:Standard Class 3 see GPS
    Start Trailhead:South Colony Lakes upper 4 wheel parking  9889 ft / 3014 m
    Time:7 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Route:see GPS track
Ascent Part of Trip: Crestone-1

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Crestone Peak2019-09-21 a5295 ft / 1614 m
2Crestone Peak-East Peak2019-09-21 b1000 ft / 305 m
Total Trip Gain: 6295 ft / 1919 m    Total Trip Loss: 1944 ft / 592 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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