Crestone Peak

  • Crestone Peak
  • 4357 m.
  • Primary factor 1388 m
  • 7th Highest in Colorado
  • Location: North 37:58.000, West 105:35.117
  • Climbed June 9, 2001.


How to get there: From the small town of Westcliffe, go 7 km south on Hwy. 69. Take the road called Colfax Lane right, then follow it straight south until it ends in a T, go right there towards the Crestones. Just before this road gets rougher there is a road that heads south (left), ignore this and proceed straight ahead. There is parking here for ordinary cars.
The jeep road that continues up the hill is quite rough, but I had no severe problems driving my Jeep all the way to the road closure (3371 m), about 8 km, however the driving time is easily 1.5 hours. The road crosses the creek about half way, on average the second part is quite a bit rougher than the first, so some vehicles/drivers may find it reasonable to park there.
The trail from the end of the jeep road to (lower) South Colony Lake (3554 m) is about 2.3 km. This trail starts out along the left side of the river, and stays to the left in the largely flat first section of the valley. Thereafter, the trail climbs a very distinct hill to get up to the lake while curving right. In early June there was quite a lot of snow making it difficult to follow the trail. The hill has many fallen trees, but one can generally hike up pretty much anywhere as long as one stays well left of the creek.
Route description: From our Base Camp at the Lower South Colony Lake, the route proceeds on a trail heading for Broken Hand Pass. It initially heads in the direction of Broken Hand Peak, then angles right and (in early June) quickly hits a large snowfield. Traverse this and head for the somewhat steeper snow that climbs the pass between Broken Hand Peak and Crestone Needle. Crampons and ice axe should be carried and used. There are two distinct rocks in the middle of this slope, see also the picture below. This pass is at 3932 m. From here one descends on easier terrain along a trail to Cottonwood Lake and further down the valley until it is possible to contour right into a flat area below Crestone Peak. From here one should see a very distinct couloir that runs down the middle of the mountain all the way from its horizon. We climbed up on the right hand side, across the first rock band onto an easier slope with grass. The next rock section looked less attractive and we therefore contoured into the couloir at this point. It may be better to climb the rocks further (as Gerry Roach recommends), but then likely considerably further to the right. The first part of the couloir is quite gentle and easy, next one is faced with a steeper section where the small creek has created a waterfall. We easily climbed up the left side of the creek. It turned out on the return hike, that a much drier and, in fact, easier route can be found by climbing further left, starting about 20 m before this waterfall and following a natural path/crack among the rocks. Above this point we had continuous snow in the couloir, which we cramponed all the way to the notch where this route meets the route from the north.
From this snowridge one has the highest west summit to the left while the east summit is right. The scramble to the west summit is quite easy from this point. I also climbed the east summit, somewhat contrary to the guidebook I found the scramble to the east summit to be even quicker and easier than that to the main summit. The east summit is supposed to be 10 m lower than the west summit, while the north-east summit is supposed to be 6 m lower than the east summit.
Comments: I did this climb with my son Pål Jørgen, age 12. The East and West summits looks more equal in height than what is listed, in particular, when compared with the north-east summit which looks significantly lower.
We started from Base Camp already at 0530, reached the base of Crestone Peak at 0815 and the summit at 1115. One hour on the peak including the scramble to the east peak and two hours descending the couloir, back at the base at 1415. A somewhat hurried hike back in order to cross the Broken Hand Pass ahead of a local thunder storm (including a fast glissade down) brought us back to Base Camp at 1600. Ten and a half hours, a very nice day, we were the only party climbing the peak this day.