Crestone Needle

  • Crestone Needle
  • 4327 m.
  • Primary factor 139 m.
  • 19th Highest in Colorado
  • Location: North 37:57.883, West 105:34.600
  • Climbed June 10, 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: The first part of the route from our Base Camp at South Colony Lake to Broken Hand Pass is the same as described on the route to Crestone Peak. From the pass, there is a good trail that climbs the first part of the ridge towards Crestone Needle. The first climbing move comes as one traverses a small ledge and steps across to reach a distinct small notch. From this notch we climbed up, partly in a narrow crack to reach easier terrain above. However, as indicated by a cairn, one can alternatively descend along a trail (heading left) from this notch and avoid this initial climbing. In both cases one will find a distinct couloir that leads all the way to the horizon. This couloir is termed the west couloir in Roach's guide. At this time it was completely filled by snow and since we had left crampons and ice axes behind on the ridge further below, we just touched the snow in order to move around a corner, then scrambled right on dry rock. Given the conditions as described, we proceeded to climb what is termed the east couloir all the way, this is parallel to the west couloir, but a bit to the right. This couloir is really quite shallow and wider than the more inset, distinct west couloir. The slope is initially gentle, then a bit steeper section followed again by more gentle terrain. At the top, we hiked across the top of the west couloir on a narrow rock band, then proceeded to the summit proper. There is great exposure to the right, all the way down to Base Camp.
Comments: I did this climb with my son Pål Jørgen, age 12. We started from Base Camp at 0715, reached the Broken Hand Pass around 0830 and the summit 1115. About half an hour on the summit, then back to Broken Hand Pass around 1330. The weather looked stable and we proceeded directly to climb Humboldt Peak, see this entry. We were the only party to summit the Crestone Needle this day.