I feared my lungs would wear out from overuse. We kept on hiking up into the basin towards Mount Adams and stumbled upon a pair of really nice looking ponds. We got near the lake and I decided to take some shots for this pano of our surroundings. Lots of people were up here to climb the 14ers. I’m glad I didn’t wait until my 50th birthday. Due to the fact that this trail is off-limits to the general public, trail maintenance has not occurred on the trail for many years. From the lake you could see all the way up and down the valley, including nice views of Little Bear. Sarah and I were quite excited about our successful climb of a beast of a mountain in whacky weather conditions. After climbing up the west gully for about 600 feet, we reached the summit block of Crestone Needle! While it may make sense to simply use the only existing data available regarding mountaineering accidents in Colorado to determine 14er difficulty, my experience has been that the difficulty of a peak is more than just cold, hard facts. We took a somewhat different route out of the South Colony Lakes basin this time, aiming to come out nearer to the Crestone Peak.

And yet another view of the upper South Colony Lake beneath Humboldt and with the Sangres to our south. On our way down Broken Hand Pass, we encountered a ton of those funky spikey flower plants called Frosty Ball Thistle, and I just had to get some photos of them with the back light coming through. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather. We rested there for a good 30 minutes and took some photos. We descended this section pretty quickly, having to shift directions a few times due to the bands of ledges terminating a few times. We refueled and began the traverse over to Blanca. We finally made it to the town of St. Elmo and stopped for awhile to enjoy the fresh crisp air and fall colors. We set our alarms for O-dark-30 and hit the sack, hoping for better weather on Tuesday... [Click Next to continue reading]. As we continued up, Crestone Peak came into view, and eventually Crestone Needle as well. Packing for a longer backpacking trip involving a lot of photography gear with limited space in the backpack due to travel constraints was quite a challenge. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. We then took Hwy 69 south for 4.5 miles to Colfax Lane, which we took (right turn) to a T-junction. The weather was absolutely perfect - no wind. Ryan … I decided to around the ice and then right through it, using my hand to pick up ice and snow and throwing it out of my way. It takes significant time & resources to maintain my blog. The entire traverse was characterized by challenging Class 3 scrambling. We followed cairns towards the saddle between Ellingwood Point and Blanca and heard the sound of rocks falling above us. From what I understand, this is one of the most incredible places in Colorado and I cannot wait to see it myself. This turned out to be a horrible mistake! I've intentionally left out un-ranked 14ers such as North Maroon and El Diente - assume they can be bundled with Maroon Peak and Mount Wilson, respectively. Second, the sunset as we were leaving Salida was insane. Many mountains in this range have never been named, mostly because of the remoteness of the area. What a rush! Work your way along a slope and then up a moraine to reach the South Colony Lakes area. The approach is terrible - either a long slog on a rocky road in hot weather or an insane jeep ride over some of Colorado's toughest jeep obstacles (OK - those are kind of awesome). We then drove into Blanca to have some good food to prepare us for the drive home.

We arrived at the Willow Lake trailhead around 10 PM, set-up Ethan's tent, and hit the sack, with our alarm set for 2 AM. Drinking the iodine treated water brought back fond memories of working at Colvig Silver Camps in 2000 near Durango – I did not mind one bit. The biggest challenge isn't the distance, but … It will require several difficult and exposed Class 3 moves to cross, take your time. I am a decent lead climber, but my wife doesn't climb much. You can purchase it here and help support the site. That begins with a rappel from some fixed bolts on the Needle summit down some exposed class 4 terrain. Monday night and Tuesday morning will filled with lots of strong wind, which came in predictable waves down the valley and through the pine needles above. I didn’t find going up Crestone Peak very difficult at all, probably the safest I’ve felt on a Class 3. So we headed west to find a way down the cliffs that guarded the approach to the Upper lake. We tried as best we could to stay on the route we came up on and for the most part were successful in that. Ethan had a bit more trouble, mostly because he was schlepping his trekking poles on his pack still (I opted to not bring any), and his camera bag was not of the LowePro Toploader variety that I have grown to love. Brian got off work around 6pm on Friday, which is in itself a miracle. I was too far away to make much protest, so I hurried to catch up climbing up some nameless couloir off to the left (north) of the south facing couloir. Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is located northwest of Denver, Colorado, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. All that was left was the descent. I was confident we could find out way up and back down without incident. As you get closer, begin your Class 3 action with a short down-climb to reach a notch below you. More wind. I personally found the peak quite a bit more fun to climb than the needle. (pictured below the flower). Seeing Crestone Needle brought some anxiety mixed with excitement to me, and I began thinking about the difficult climb we were about to attempt.

At right are Crestone Peak with Kit Carson, Challenger Point, and Kat Carson to its right. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.

I really wanted to bring my Nikon 70-200 for wildlife and other landscape uses; however, that lens weighs a ton and takes up quite a bit of space in the pack, so it had to stay behind for this one.