|Peaks:||Kit Carson Peak - 14,165 feet|
Kat Carson - 13,980 feet
"Kitty Kat Carson" - 13,980 feet
Challenger Point - 14,081 feet
Leaving Colorado Springs after 4PM on Saturday, we decided to stop in BV for some dinner at Pancho's. I have frequented this place this season and have always been pleased with the beaf and bean combo burrito mondo'ed with salsa. It never fails to hit the spot.
At around 8PM, we arrived at the trail head. I would like to clarify that when they say "high clearance," the road is only 2 miles from the pavement of Crestone and could be driven over half of that with a Honda Civic. A CR-V could make the other half all of the way to the TH without any problems. We readied our gear, had a couple of cold brews and set off down the trail at about 8:30.
There was a sign just after the start of the trail and this was Sean's reaction,
Shortly after we passed a larger group of people who pad pack goats. I wish I had a picture. Their goats were carrying about 4X what my dog usually does. Half an hour later we lost the sun
At about the same time, I realized that the moon was almost full and was on the rise. As our eyes adjusted to the dark, we realized how bright the moon was. We ended up hiking all of the way to the largest river crossing under the headwall before the valley below Willow lake (It seemed like about 3/4ths of the way).
After crossing that last larger river, we donned our headlamps and continued on up the headwall. There was a tent literally right on the left side of the trail. It looked like a really crappy spot! We made it to the "300' away from the lakes" sign at about 1130. This made our hike about 3 hours. We did not hike too hard but did not stop either. After being surprised by the amount of tents in that valley, we began to look for a spot. It seemed like everywhere we picked had someone else's bear bag hanging over it. Eventually, we settled with a spot right at the start of "tent valley." It was actually hidden from the trail a bit and ended up being a great spot. We set up the tent, had a couple of snacks, set the alarm for 4:25 and were asleep by midnight.
A few short hours later we awoke and readied ourselves. We hiked up to the edge of where the trail comes near the lake and Steve and a guy named Chris from Denver was there waiting. Less than a minute later Mike arrived and we all introduced ourselves and took off. We were headed for the "truck sized boulders." Because you can find pictures of that part of the route everywhere, I will not post one of the boulders. We did a little class 3 scrambling through the boulders and then came to a wall. It was either continue around on the talus or begin the class 4 at this point. We all drank some water, dropped some layers, and I put on my rock shoes. After climbing up about 20', the options were do a little lower class 5 up some cracks or skirt more left around the face. 2 of the guys skirted left, Mike climbed over the middle and Sean and I found a nice ladder up a crack. The start of the face just to the bottom right of the Outward Bound Coliour we all decided to flank each other so as not to kick any rocks on each other. Here is Sean…
To keep it easier, you either have to stay left for a way around a steeper portion or head right over to the ridge. Hearing stories on other's beta, I heard it is possible to stay left too long and come into some uncomfortable terrain. Sean and I stayed left of the ridge about 50 meters and quickly got into some class 5. The holds were sort of running out so we skirted over to the ridge that was beautiful easier class 4.
Another good one of Sean…
And one of me having a good time…
I was happy, but every hold must be taken seriously. Mike reminded us before the hike that they hauled a body out off that route last year. I was glad he reminded us of the seriousness of the route. Every hold I would grab, shake, and pull on before putting my weight on it. For the most part, the rock was awesome, but all it takes is one loose hold. Every once in a while a few rocks would come apart that looked fully attached.
For as sustained as the class 4 was said to be, there were places every 100-200' to stop and catch a breath before the next pitch. You can see all of these notches in later pictures. Nearing the top, Sean snapped this one of the Sand dunes and the Blanca group.
He also got these flowers, who figured you could see that at over 14000
Soon after, we arrived at the summit. Everyone took their turn on the Flask with whiskey in celebration of the Awesome route. It was only 7:30 and we were the first ones on the summit of Kit Carson for the day.
On the way up, we saw others on the summit of challenger who were making their way over. They made Kit Carson before we took off. They said they got some pics of us on the ridge and would get them to us through this TR. I am looking forward to those!
Before 8 with great weather we headed over to Kat Carson/Columbia Pt. It was a class 3 scramble for the most part down the top of the ridge and to the saddle between the two mountains. I got this photo of Sean looking out over a cliff with his "Man" face.
There was a cool gap to step over so I decided to hang off the rocks for my new Avatar photo.
Looking down into the next couloir there were some huge boulders wedged between the rocks making a window to below. Sean posed nearby for a pic.
Headed up Kat Carson, Mike climbed the infamous Shark Fin
I wish I had a picture of it's sharkiness.
After a quck 3+ scramble, we made the top of Kat Carson. I would say there is only one 25' section of harder class 4 in the whole way up and was actually able to face down and out and not in on the down climb of it. I always face in when it gets too tough so that tells you that it is definitely doable.
Looking over to kitty kat
From Kitty Kat looking out, I labeled everything else in the picture,
Sean and I decided to do some hand stands on the summit of kitty kat
Once back on Kat Carson we searched for the Columbia shuttle plaque that MattPayne11 couldn't find last week. 5 of us searching and the thing is not there. We signed the summit log as well. Someone either stole the whole rock or sent it down the hill. From here Mike setoff for Obstruction point to the South and planned on dropping back into our valley farther around the cirque.
Here is the remaining route back over the avenue below Kit Carson…
I'm not really going to show any pics of the Ave because they are all over the web already. The thing is almost 10' wide and the exposure is not as bad as it looks. At the top of the Ave, Sean said he was about exhausted. Chris took off to climb this beautiful fin. Before getting on top, he realized the exposure and posed here for a pic. He is much braver than I.
Sean bolted Challenger Pt. While Chris and Steve trailed behind me. As soon as I began up Challenger Pt, I finally felt some fatigue and Chris, the animal, blew by me and almost caught Sean before the top. I made it with Steve trailing behind me. By this time, I think it was about 1130 and the weather was still looking great. Our route was awesome because we missed all of the other hikers almost in one fashion or another. While we climbed KC, they did Challenger Pt, While we did Kat, and Kitty, they did Kit and we snuck under neath them on the way to challenger. It was great! I got this pic of Sean Enjoying the San Luis Valley nearly 6,000' to go.
After some whisky, we began our descent down Challenger point. You just follow the ridge until you hit a trail and follow it down through the nasty scree. I felt sorry for anyone who has to come up that. It was bringing back memories of Mt. Columbia in the sawatch. Yuck! We passed hikers who were still headed up after 1:30 as we continued our meandering descent. I didn't say a word to them, but you can't sleep in and then just decide to summit a 14er. One guy said he was trying to make both summits still and was not going to let anything stop him to make 50. He was talking like a new climber was on their first few peaks. I don't know how anyone with that many peaks could have such a mindset. Every man is entitled to his own opinion but that is just asking for search and rescue to come recover your corpse. The weather held for a couple of hours so I'm sure they made it. I never want to become complacent like this in the mountains. So far I learn lessons every time out and tighten up everything a bit and adjust accordingly. I put the notches on my belt as learning experiences. Back to the story…
Here is a pic of the nasty scree
Here is looking back up our route down (the standard Challenger route). This snow is what the guy fell down a few weeks ago.
Here is a look back at our route up Kit Carson. Right up the ridge.
We made it back down to look at the waterfall and then pump some clean water from above. From there Mike caught back up with us and we all set back for camp. Sean decided to take a while crossing over this log
And the infamous shot of Willow Lake
And our campsite
While resting the notorious big horns decided to pay us a visit. We were so quiet that they just walked right on through. I was slow to get the camera so as not to spook them. After a while, Sean grabbed it and followed them around snapping a few pics. One was kind of ugly, but this one was near perfect. I wish there was a better shot of him.
We packed up camp and left for the car at 3:25.
Here is a typical shot of what you might expect up there
And lastly Sean crossing a stream up higher before dropping down to the headwall.
It took us a little over 2 hours to make it back to the car from camp. Just as we were approaching the car, it began to rain lightly. We changed clothes, pulled out the chairs and cracked open a couple of cold ones. I thanked God for another safe Journey.
Next stop- Amica's for some pizza and green chili beer in Salida. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the end of a road bike race and about 50 people outside of Amicas so we went to the red and yellow striped Mexican place right off of hwy 50. It was awesome…and the rest is history.
What another great journey. This is 10 weekends in a row for me with a total of 12 weekends for the season. I have sixteen 14er summits this year since may. 15 of them are new to make a total of 25 peaks for my list out of 58. That makes 33 to go. Kat Carson was my first non 14er centennial and I was excited to check this one off.