Ascent of Crestone Needle on 2020-07-19

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Jorge Hinojos; HC Liang
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, July 19, 2020
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Crestone Needle
    Elevation:12600 ft / 3840 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bottom line is we got bad weather on our last day to grab it and had to abandon to get people back to their cars - just bad luck but details for our records below:

We had hiked up Humboldt earlier that day and then played at the lake and the plan was to climb my remaining peak in the area the following day. But 2 in our party HC Liang and Jacob Jansen elected to get the peak they needed Crestone Peak. Jacob got back early at 2PM with sights on running up Humboldt before dinner and HC was hiking back alone and much slower than Jacob. Jacob informed us that he saw some potential rain coming and wanted to scoot up quickly and keep an eye out for HC. If he was not back by 5PM go look for him. What appeared to be small gray clouds started to turn into a graupel storm and my rain jacket apparently lost its waterproofing as the wetness started to come through to my lower layers.

Then all hell broke loose with rain and big hail. I Headed for my tent to dry off. Jorge worried about HC started up Broken Hand Pass to look for him. I had a walkie talkie and kept calling him but he was apparently far back near Cottonwood Lake. Jacob on his way up Humboldt had lightening crashing around and rain and came running back soaking wet around 4:30 PM and let me know he was back. The storm was bad and now I was worried about both HC being trapped on the back side of Broken Hand Pass and Jorge going after him and getting caught in the deluge. Both Jacob and I were trying to dry off knowing this was the type of storm that could easily cause bad hypothermia.

With no sign of Jorge or HC and the storm acting like it was over, I packed light and some gear and started slowly up the pass myself, Then more lightening and thunder booming around more rain. I found Jorge without a light and only a raincoat hunkered down under a rock ledge trying to stay out the hail and rain. By 5PM the weather let up but now the hike up the pass was a muddy slog so we very carefully and together made our way up most of the way using the walkie talkie trying to reach him. HC had been gone for 12 hours and was still not up on the pass and we knew he was tired and possible soaked. We finally saw him on the top of the pass and we got hold of him by walkie talkie

After confirming he was not chilled and had hunkered down for over an hour in rock cave he was OK, had poles, a light, and his microspikes on for safety in the muddy scree. We agreed so meet him just at the bottom of the class 3 section not wanting to risk injury for people in the muddy rain. He took a long time coming down to us but we stayed with him by radio. He was bushed. On the way down we found the mud was making rocks slide down on many steps at one point I step in some mud about 3 inches from a large rock and the water pressure made a 50 pound rock start to slide down near people below. We realized that this rain was so intense it made the pass very unsafe.

Jorge was sent back to camp to get hot water going and dry clothes for HC and I stayed with him till he got back to camp about 13.5 hours after he had left. He was bushed and we were soaked. on the way down we heard to rock slides give way on the Needles on close enough that it made a horrible noise near us. Back at camp 4 of us had soaked clothes. I was wet down to my fifth and final layer. Between the mud, rock slides, wet clothing, we decided that getting up early to climb the needle was not a good idea as the conditions would not dry out till late tomorrow and we had to get people back to Denver. It was a struggle just to get enough clothes dry to sleep well and make sure no-one got chilled or hypothermia.

Jacob still wanting the much easier Humboldt said if it was not raining in the morning he would like to run up Humboldt before breaking camp and I agreed to join him even though I has just climbed it today before the thunder storm. Our clothes were dry enough in the morning that despite a small drizzle we left at 5 AM and got up and down and back to camp in under 3 hours. As we hiked out more storms looked like they were brewing by 10 AM and we were glad we made the decision to abandon the needle and try again on dry day with no rain, lightening, mud or landslides. As a result the trip I planned to go and get the needle ended up simply being a double ascent of Humboldt. Disappointing but we all agreed was the right call with the hand that we were dealt with the weather.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1020 ft / 310 m
    Total Elevation Loss:80 ft / 24 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.6 mi / 2.6 km
    Grade/Class:1 thru 2+
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cold, Breezy
Bad lightening and hail storm
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:980 ft / 298 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 940 ft / 287 m; Extra: 40 ft / 12m
    Loss on way in:40 ft / 12 m
    Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
    Route:Broken Hand Pass in storm
    Start Trailhead:Camp site  11660 ft / 3553 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:40 ft / 12 m
    Gain on way out:40 ft / 12 m
    Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
Ascent Part of Trip: Crest-Humbo

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Humboldt Peak2020-07-18 a4554 ft / 1388 m
2Point 132902020-07-18 b440 ft / 134 m
3(Attempt) Crestone Needle2020-07-19 c1020 ft / 311 m
4Humboldt Peak2020-07-19 d2609 ft / 795 m
Total Trip Gain: 8623 ft / 2628 m    Total Trip Loss: 705 ft / 214 m

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