Ascent of Crestone Needle on 2017-08-31

Climber: Tarush Bali

Date:Thursday, August 31, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Crestone Needle
    Elevation:14197 ft / 4327 m

Ascent Trip Report

Crestone Needle

Started the hike from the 2WD trailhead and walked almost 3 miles on a dirt road suitable for 4WD before actually hitting the trailhead. I had a Jeep rental but had almost no experience with rough roads and hence decided to walk the extra bit. It took a long time to reach the 4WD trailhead.

Another group of 3 hikers had started around the same time. My competitive self kicked in and I went much faster than I usually do when I'm alone. After a few hours of walking on a wide trail flanked by trees on both sides, the view finally opened up and I had my first full glimpse at Humboldt.

About an hour of hiking was left when I stopped to take a photograph of storm clouds far away. A part of the cloud was connected to the earth but I didn't realize what it was and thus didn't think much of it. A few minutes later, I noticed the clouds getting closer. Suddenly, I realized what that line of cloud connecting to the earth was - precipitation. I could see the start and end of these clouds. They were moving towards me.

I only had a half hour left and so I quickened my pace. It started to rain just as I got epic views of Crestone from near South Colony Lakes. Even with this weather, I was in search of that ideal campsite. I reached it 10 minutes later - a hill right next to the trail that had paths going to diffeeent parts of the hill, allowing you to get different and panoramic views of all sides. This was the spot. I had a few hours of daylight left but the sun had gone beyond the mountains. Rain and thunder were a little miserable but I was also mesmerized by the scenery. I planned to wait for the clouds to pass. I dropped my pack under a tree to minimize rain and then sat beneath another few trees to minimize rain. It was pouring really hard and my rain jacket was soaked. I waited under the trees with barely enough space to move around but mesmerized by the sound of the thunder and rain and the great view of Crestone Needle. After 20 more minutes, I was getting cold and the rain was not relenting. I decided to set up my tent next to a tree, hoping to use it to avoid getting the inside of my tent wet. In a few minutes, I was trying to warm my numb hands inside the tent.

The rain stopped pretty quickly. I found a giant rock on my hill where I cooked my freeze dried lasagna and simultaneously discovered the wonders that drinking hot water can do. Every once in a while, I would pour more water into the Jetboil and drink it. Why had I not done this before? This elongated and improved my experience of eating dinner while enjoying the massive Crestone up front. By 8pm, I was in bed.

I waited for the sun to come out on summit day. I still had to filter my water for the day and thus headed to the lake. Bush whacking through rain soaked brush was no fun. My pants were wet for hours.

On the steepest last portion of broken hand, my left knee started hurting - remnants of my Alaska trip. At the top, I started using my hands more. This helped take a lot of stress off my knees and frankly the route was much more enjoyable this way. Scree and dirt were not so stable after the rain. I made it to the top of the Pass in about an hour from the lake. On this cloudless and windless day, the chances of making the summit were looking fairly decent.
I crossed the sketchiest part of the hike - the rib connecting east and west gullies - and was at the summit around 11. Two parties came before me and two after. I was at the trailhead by 5.


Thoughts on the trail
- Alpenglow is rare in the mountains. Cherish it. I still remember my favorite alpenglow memory - Helen Lake sunset on Mt Shasta.
- Thunderstorms seem common in Colorado/ Wyoming/Montana in Aug/Sep but don't occur at all in California.
- Sometimes if you look up, you can get a good idea if it's going to rain and also a good idea about how long it will last. Just see the clouds and where they are moving. The darker and closer they are, the faster you should try to become more comfortable through actions such as setting up camp or getting off the summit.


* Day 1 : Backpacking
2WD Trailhead : 8,800 ft : 13:30
Colony Lakes : 11,680 ft : 17:45
6.5 miles & 2,900 ft : 4 hrs 15 mins
* Day 2 : Summit and back to tent (daypack) and back to car (backpack)
Left Camp : 8:00
Summit: 11:10
Left Summit: 11:30
Camp: 14:07
2WD Trailhead: 17:21
1.3 miles & 2,400 ft uphill with day pack and 1.3 miles & 2,400 ft downhill with day pack & 6.5 miles & 2,900 ft downhill with medium weight backpack : 9 hrs 30 mins


Day 1 : Backpacking with medium weight (no ice axe/crampons; 2l water; 6k calories) : 3,110 calories consumed; 6.5 miles & 2,900 ft : 4 hrs 15 mins
Strawberry Banana Smoothie : 300 calories
Chorizo Sandwich: 500 calories
Nature Valley Dark Chocolate Granola Bar : 190 calories
Chinese Leftovers : ~ 500 calories
Nuts Over Chocolate Bar : 200 calories
Mint Chocolate Chip Clif Bar : 250 calories
Ruffles Chips : 410 calories
Lasagna Freeze Dried : 760 calories

Day 2: Backpacking downhill + Summit : 1.3 miles & 2,400 ft uphill with day pack and 1.3 miles & 2,400 ft downhill with day pack & 6.5 miles & 2,900 ft downhill with medium weight backpack : 9 hrs 30 mins : 3,630 calories
Mint Chocolate Chip Clif Bar : 250 calories
The Snack Artist Sweet and Salty Chili Crunch Trail Mix : 720 calories
Clif Bar : 230 calories
Chocolate Brownie Clif Bar : 250 calories
Pizza (after hike) : 1000 calories
Reese Bar (after hike) : 240 calories
McDonalds French Fries (after hike) : 380 calories
McDonalds Chocolate Shake (after hike) : 560 calories

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble

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