We drove Aron's Toyota Tacoma truck to the 4WD South Colony Lakes TH. Rough road! We started out at 7:00am.
A splash of sunlight through the clouds on Crestone Needle during our approach.
Our first objective was to climb the Ellingwood Arete route on Crestone Needle. This is looking up the direct start pitch (5.4)
But it was raining at 8:00am so we sat at the base of the route for about 40 minutes debating...we eventually called it off.
Instead we contoured around to the trail up Broken Hand Pass en route to ”Crestolita“ (13,270') in the Cottonwood Lake basin.
View of Crestolita from BHP.
Fun scrambling on a route we decided to take up Crestolita. We called it the North Ledges. It goes up the north side on ledges east of the standard North Couloir route.
Aron scopes out the Crestones from the summit of Crestolita. The view of Crestone Peak and Needle from this summit is awesome!
We napped on the summit for 15 minutes and then it got cloudy again.
Our route up took the grassy ledges and rock to the left of the obvious snow-filled gully (North Couloir).
On our descent from Broken Hand Pass back towards the car we were lamenting about missing the Ellingwood Arete climb that day. However, the weather was nice so a little before 2:00pm we left the trail and contoured back to the arete. We stopped to fill up water first. We would climb it!
On the grassy ledges approach to the start of the standard Ellingwood Arete start (starting above the direct 5.4 starting pitch.)
Time to shoe and harness up--the real climbing begins! Upper and Lower South Colony Lake below. We started climbing at 3:00pm sharp.
We simul-climbed the first few pitches beyond the Red Tower.
Of course, the nice weather turned crappy again.
Looking up the route from near the 5.4 moves a little more than halfway up.
Better visibility but now it was raining. Wet conglomerate kinda sucks. We are now here on the 5.5 pitch of the upper 2 “real pitches”.
I setup an intermediate belay in the middle of the 5.5 pitch around the two closely-spaced pitons so we could regroup gear and that I could link the rest of this pitch and the next pitch to the base of the 5.7 crux, and final, pitch.
Full on raining now. This photo is looking down the from right above the 5.7 crux on the final 5th class pitch. The rock is significantly wetter than it appears here. Sticking my hand in the cracks led to water rushing down my sleeves. Good times. I'm actually clipped directly into the piton above the crux so that I could rewarm my hands that I could no longer feel.
Another view down the crux pitch.
Aron (and I) psyched to be above the 5th class climbing. Just one more pitch of 3rd class to the summit!
Looking up the final 3rd class section to the summit.
We reached the top at 6:10pm. Then the real tedious fun began! Descending the 3rd class gully on the south side (standard ascent route of the needle) in true wetness. Notice the flowing stream next to Aron. This gully appeared to drain all the water on the south side of the Needle! :-)
Looking down the descent gully with the raging stream.
Raging stream in the 3rd class gully on the descent! When we finally exited the gully the lack of water noise was substantially noticed.
Aron wore his blue La Sportive Cliff shoes for the entire ascent and 3rd class rock descent. The water in his shoes caused the blue dye in the leather to stain his feet. Cool!