Climbed Crestone Needle (and lived)

So this weekend, we climbed Crestone Needle and I have to say this is the hardest climb I’ve done so far. We packed in from the parking lot and hiked 3+ miles to just above the South Colony lakes. We got some sleep and then up at 4:30. We hit the trail at 5:30 with headlamps as it was still really dark.

We found the trail by following all the other headlamps, crossed the stream and started up the trail to Broken Hand Pass (I have no idea why they call it that, I couldn’t see a hand, much less a broken one).

This was the first after-dark picture I could take looking back across the valley toward civilization.

first photo of the morning

Once the sun was up just a bit, I could snap this photo of the Needle.

first look at Crestone Needle

It is as hairy as it looks. Here’s a look back as we’re climbing up toward Broken Hand Pass.

looking back down the trail

At the top of Broken Hand Pass, you see this view looking to the left.

top of broken hand pass

We turned to the right and started up the now very rocky trail. We scrambled up this little bit:

first scrambling

Here it is with the line marking our route:

first scrambling with map

After this, I don’t have any pictures because I was simply trying to survive. The climb up the East and West gullies was really technical (for me). I know the guidebooks say it’s a Class 3 scramble, but there were definite moments of strong Class 4.

Mr. Man had a brilliant idea to leave breadcrumbs – the high-tech glossy orange kind – in the form of duct tape where our route crossed from the East Gully to the West. After that, it was straight up climbing folks, and that that goes up must come down, so the down climbing was just as intense – belly to wall, feeling with your toes and whatever you do – don’t look down!

I’m sorry I can’t show you any photos, it was just too hard to stop and take pictures when my hands were always hanging on for dear life. I can, however, show you a few photos of the Crestone Needle.

Crestone Needle Sep. 2011

We topped out at a little after 9 a.m. and were down a little after 1:00 p.m. so about 8 hours round trip. The down climb took almost as long as the up because as I said, we were climbing, not hiking, it down. I’m sure Mr. Man has a few photos I can share with you of the gully climb and the last pitch, and I’ll try to post them soon.

It was a brutal peak. That’s all I’ve got to say about it. I’m glad I did it, but I can tell you that I am 100% gladder to be home. It took two showers just to get most of the grime off … I do not know how the pioneers did it. I truly don’t.

Over night, a cold front blew in to chill things down and rain on us for awhile as we were warm and smelly in our sleeping bags.

The next morning, the Needle looked like this:

Crestone Needle the next morning

Here is my guy signing us back off the trail. No bodies, no helicopters today.

signing off Crestone Needle

fourteenergirl Written by:

A mother, sister, wife, and daughter who writes, knits, hikes, and practices yoga on the west coast. Loves a zippy chardonnay or a tart margarita!


  1. September 10, 2011

    I love this!! It’s great to see another outdoorsy, ballsy chick on blogher! Those photos are MENACING.

    Melina from The wilder coast

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