Peak & Needle Combination
(The Long Way)

13-14 Aug 2004 - by Jon Bross

I felt I should post an entry, as I hadn't found many trip reports of summiting both the Crestone Peak & Crestone Needle - the long way. The difficulties of the traverse had me concerned, so despite the extra work, I chose the safest route, which is dropping to Cottonwood Lake between summits.

Starting on 8/13, 4pm, we hiked the 5 miles up S. Colony road, to the trailhead, then another mile or so up to Lower S. Colony Lake. We drove this road once before to the trailhead, and broke a sway bar and leaf spring on a Toyota Tacoma, hence our decision to walk this time. We were there by sunset. Some trucks that made it up South Colony Road to the trailhead had chicken-wire around them to keep the marmots out of the engine (good idea). One truck blew a tire on the way up.

At 4:30am on 8/14, I started my solo hike. (I'd never recommend a solo hike anywhere, but my friends were doing the Class 5+ route up the North Pillar on the Peak on this trip, leaving me to fend for myself) I made it to the 12,900 ridge on Broken Hand Pass at 6:00am. This trail is well marked, and a nice morning warm-up. I dropped to the South side, reaching Cottonwood Lake by 6:30 am, then up the Red Couloir, reaching the summit of the Peak at 8:40am. I found this route to be relatively safe, just very long and steep. If wet, I can see this entire route, and mountain, being extremely slippery and dangerous. I headed back down the Red Couloir, and reached Cottonwood Lake again by 10:30am. The weather was beautiful, so I continued back up to Broken Hand Pass, and turned west toward Crestone Needle at 10:50am. I scrambled the South Couloir up Crestone Needle, and reached the summit at 12:10pm. (Again, I don't recommend messing aroung the high country that late in the day with anything less than perfect weather) I found the downclimbing on the South Couloir to be slow, its very steep and hand-holds all the way down were necessary for my piece of mind. I made it down the South Couloir and down the North side of Broken Hand Pass to our camp at the Lower South Colony Lake by 2:30pm. The clouds and first sprinkle of rain came in at 4pm. (Noon on the day before!) The difficulty is this route is dropping the 2,000 feet back to Cottonwood Lake, gaining it again, and completing all this before any weather comes in. If you're in shape, its not bad. Total Round Trip from Lower South Colony Lake: A grueling 10 hours.

I saw (2) groups of bighorn, tons of Marmots - its an amazing area. Lower South Colony Lake is seeing an increasing amount of camps, and activity. I saw several people getting lost trying to find the traverse between the Peak & Needle - and many starting way too late in the day - I stress caution and common sense - it is easy to see why so many people die here.


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