Crestone Needle

In 1997, after a couple of days in Boulder and RMNP, we had some debate as to what we would do next. Not having done Kieners, Victor opted for the Sangre de Cristo range, which seemed to offer the most class 5 mountaineering routes. I was not quite sure about all the class 5 stuff, but liked the idea of going to a different, seemingly less traveled place. Since Lumpy Ridge does not have any routes less than 5.6 (or so the guy at the local climbing store said, confirming what was in the guidebook) we only stayed in Estes park for a little bit, and drove over the RMNP road ; Victor added the Ypsilon peak to his (our ??) tick list, and I must admit the two couloirs on said peak looked really enticing from the road.

Anyways, we got to the Sangre de Cristo range, and since didn't have a 4WD vehicle we trudged up the 5 mile or so jeep trail, again with really heavy packs. It got really late, and of course it rained again, so we camped at the end of the jeep trail, and hiked in to Upper South Colony Lake the next morning. It was sunny, and we went on a little hike to scope out some possible routes (at 5.7 the Ellingwood ArÍte on Crestone Needle was beyond us so we tried to figure out where some of the other class 5 routes were ; must climb harder before we come back to this state). It looked like this was going to be the one day when it didn't rain and we weren't doing anything ... As soon as I said that out loud, big jinx. Clouds came in, a whole bunch of hail started coming down, and when we got back, there was a small creek flowing down the middle of our tent. What a stupid mistake ... Scrambling to move the tent and keep as much of our stuff dry as we could, we then waited for the rain to stop. This was getting really demoralizing, but hiking down in the rain wasn't very enticing either, so we stayed for a couple of more days.

I wanted to climb at least one 14000 ft peak on this trip, so the first day we went up Crestone Needle, via the easy but engaging class 3 south-west face route.

A geologist's bird's eye view. Quite instructive. It was really interesting to have Victor explain the details of how different ridges and peaks were formed ; unaware of the specific forces which tend to shape each portion of a range, the complexity found in these details was surprising.



An impending storm. That afternoon we promptly got rained on again, small wonder. We were used to playing chess with the rain by now, so this time around we didn't get wet at all. I was kind of ready to go home by now, but Victor wanted to lead a real class 5 route so we decided that if the weather cooperated we would give it a go the following day.

Peakbagging success !! Signing the Crestone Needle summit register. Off we go the next morning ; getting a late start again. We picked the easiest route on the south-east face of Crestone Needle, which is called Merhar. Victor combined his first lead on gear with climbing in mountaineering boots. The route is mostly 3d and 4th class climbing, but does have a couple of 5.3 steps and some route finding difficulties. It took us a lot longer than we thought it would, but we only got rained on a little, on the descent. That night we packed up and descended to the trail head. It was time to go home.

On the way back to Denver we nearly ran out of gas before pulling into a highway crossing where the only building was a gas station. Onward to home, I had an insatiable craving for fast food. Must have wanted a return to normalcy. However intense the feeling, it only lasted for a couple of days so now I'm wondering what the next trip is going to be like.