Challenger, Kit Carson, Kat Carson (Columbia), Crestone Peak, and Crestone Needle (L to R) as seen from Hwy 17
Sarah and I joined Matt and Devin for a climb of The Prow, Kit Carson's impressive south ridge. The setting sunlight always vividly illuminates the west face of The Prow, as show here.
When we climbed Crestone Peak in 2008, we had this spectacular sunrise view of Challenger (left) and Kit Carson (center). The Prow is the obvious, sunlit ridge starting in the lower left corner and extending toward the summit of Kit Carson.
To avoid lugging overnight packs up Spanish Creek, we decided to do the climb car to car. The long approach meant that we had to get an early start. Here we are getting ready to leave the car at 3:45 A.M.
After three dark miles of hiking along Spanish Creek, we hit treeline and caught an awesome, predawn view of our objective.
The serious climbing starts at the end of the flat section of ridgeline where the ridge then grows vertical and head up to the obvious gendarme (top of second pitch).
We stashed two of our packs at treeline to save weight on the climb. Hoping to also climb Challenger, Columbia, and Obstruction, we filtered water here to get us through the long afternoon.
looking up the narrow ridge of The Prow toward Kit Carson (point just right of the obvious gendarme)
Matt, Sarah, and Devin scrambling up talus slopes to the start of the climb
Sarah posing with Spanish Creek behind her
We gained the ridge at the far left and scrambled to the shaded, V-shaped notch just left of center. We roped up at this notch for the start of the first pitch. The second pitch got us to the top of the obvious gendarme.
closer view of the first two pitches
I heart chockstones.
Matt getting his feet off the ground at the start of the very first pitch. The first move of the entire route up The Prow is the crux. Luckily, none of us got shut down. By this point, it was 9:15 A.M., and we had already been on our feet for 5.5-hours.
Matt nearing the top of the first pitch.
Sarah on the sharp end of the rope for the second pitch
Sarah peering down on us from the top of the huge gendarme at the end of the second pitch
Devin climbing above serious exposure on the first pitch
Matt following on the second pitch
Kat Carson to the east
Devin belaying me on the second pitch
Unfortunately, the weather moved in quickly. By the time I reached the top of the third pitch, the summit of Kit Carson was shrouded in clouds. Sarah and Matt opted to put away the rope after the third pitch and quickly headed up to Kit Carson Avenue.
peering down the third pitch at the large, Dr. Seuss-looking gendarme, which is such a cool feature
After the third pitch, the steepness relaxes significantly. Devin and I were afraid of getting caught in the rain, so we stayed roped up and placed a few pieces of protection. At one point we were bombarded with hail, but luckily it only lasted 5-minutes.
Matt and Sarah patiently waiting for us at the top of The Prow with the summit of Kit Carson to the right
Once we got to Kit Carson Avenue (unbelievable ledge cut in Kit Carson's otherwise sheer, south face), Devin decided to head down. It appeared that we had a brief weather window, so Matt, Sarah, and I continued up another 100-ft of climbing to the summit.
Sarah and Matt on the final, exposed section of climbing just below Kit Carson's summit
looking back down on the summit of The Prow
Though the stormy skies forced us to bail on the rest of our intended plans, at least it provided some dramatic light on the surrounding peaks (Humboldt, Crestone Needle, and Crestone Peak, L to R)
Sarah and Matt gaining the summit ridge
Sarah balancing her way across the summit ridge
With such ominous skies, we paused just long enough on the summit to snap this self portrait in front of Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak (L to R). It was 2:30 P.M. at this point and we knew we were really pushing our luck with the weather.
the Needle peeking around the Peak
Fearing the pending storm, we hurridly scrambled down from the summit. Here, Sarah pauses at the far end of Kit Carson Avenue.
profile of The Prow
This was such an incredible route. Climbing on the conglomerate rock was fun (yet runout) and the steep ridge offered insane exposure.
Back at our stash at treeline, a break in the weather enabled us to reorganize our gear and eat our lunches.
parting view of The Prow
The rest of the hike back to the car was quite wet. Even though it never rained super heavily, the overgrown trail made it feel like we were hiking through a car wash.
Buddhist temple at the base of Spanish Creek
weary legs and wet clothes emerging from the brush onto the road at 7:15 P.M., making for a thrilling, 16.5-hour day