Rocky Mtns NP
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Crestone Needle

A geologist's bird's eye view. Quite instructive.

After a few days in Boulder and RMNP, we debated what to do next. Dissapointed with our attempt on Kieners, Victor wanted to try the Sangre de Cristo range, which appeared to have many class 5 mountaineering routes. I was not enthusiastic about the class 5 stuff, but liked the idea of going to a different, less crowded place. Our beta for Lumpy Ridge was of "no routes less than 5.6", confirmed by the guy at the local climbing store, so that alternative was out.

Away we go from Estes Park, driving 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.

An impending storm.

We got there, not having a 4WD vehicle, we trudged up the 5 mile or so very, very rough jeep road to the South Colony Lake trail. It got really late, and of course it rained again, so we camped at the end of the road 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. 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. Obviously the finer points of tent placement had eluded us ... Scrambling to move the tent and keep as much of our stuff dry as we could, we then waited for the rain to stop. All the rain was quite demoralizing, but hiking down that day (in the rain ...) was worse ... so we stayed on.

Peakbagging success !! Signing the Crestone Needle summit register.

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.

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.

That afternoon we promptly got rained on again, small wonder. We were getting smarter about it 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 really needed his class 5 mountaineering fix, so we decided to give it a go the following day.

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 challenges. The conglomerate (rock) was similar to that of the Bucegi mountains that are the cradle of Romanian climbing, so Victor was feeling quite at home, and led every pitch on the climb. 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 get back.

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. Perhaps a craving for normal comforts ? The feeling was quite intense, but it only lasted for a couple of days, before wondering about and planning the next trip.


Rocky Mtns NP
Next Trip
Home
1996
1998