LoJ: #423 (G & M: #422) / 13,270' UN 13270 Crestolita

Quadrangle › Crestone Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 57' 17.71", W 105° 34' 31.88 (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Broken Hand Peak

Peak Summary

A short but entertaining little Class 2+ and/or Class 3 peak, easily added to a day that includes Broken Hand Peak. Easily accessed from Broken Hand Pass.

Crestolita North Face Route

Class 3
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From South Colony TH: 7 mi / 2,300'
RT From Upper South Colony Trailhead: 2 mi / 1,200'
  • Trailhead
    • South Colony TH

      From the town of Westcliffe: Drive south on HWY 69 for 4.5 miles and turn right onto Colfax Lane (CR119). Proceed about 5.5 miles on this partially paved and graded dirt road to an intersection where you must turn right or left. Go right (west) on CR120 and in about one more mile, if in a low clearance passenger car, park at a fence line. This is referred to by some as the "lower trailhead." If you have a better clearance vehicle (CRV, Outbacks or better) with care you can drive another 2.5 miles to the "upper trailhead" close to and before where the road crosses South Colony Creek. This last 2.5 miles has deteriorated significantly over the last few years. The Forest Service has put in a parking area here that they say can hold about 50 vehicles. On summer weekends, you may find even this amount to be insufficient. Also, the FS has considered introducing a "use fee" of $20, however at the date of this writing, the idea appears to be in limbo. Best to go prepared, however. From the parking area, a bridge takes hikers over South Colony Creek so no need to prepare for wading.


      Camping

      On the 2.5 mile drive into the upper trailhead, there are some at-large spots available and then at the trailhead, the FS has installed 4 - 5 camp spots that have tent platforms and fire rings. There is presently no fee for using these spots. Wag-bags are supposed to be available from a dispensary of some kind to help with the human waste problem. There are no vault toilet facilities. Here's a hint for those peakbaggers spending multiple days in the Westcliffe area and in need of a shower: The Westcliffe Inn, a little south of town on HWY 69, may offer use of their showers for a $5 fee. We last availed ourselves of this in 2009. Stop in and inquire.

    Approach
    • From South Colony TH via Upper South Colony Trailhead

      From the upper trailhead, walk up the old roadbed for 2.5 miles to the old terminus for the road where it crossed the main creek. Last time we were on this road in 2009, we could still drive it and sections of it were unrelentingly rocky. Still, you should be able to cover this access in about an hour. Where there use to be parking at the upper terminus, look for the "shortcut" trail that heads more directly west to the lower and upper South Colony Lakes. This trail is the main access for Humboldt or Kit Carson if heading in that direction.


      Camping

      There is plenty of camping available in the vicinity of where the road used to end at 11,000 ft. and all along the trail "shortcut" trail to the lakes and at the lakes.


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    Route Info Crestolita North Face

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2009

    There are two possible approaches we'll provide here:

    1. If you're coming from the summit of Broken Hand, descend to the Crestolita/Broken Hand saddle just below 12,800 ft. From the saddle, proceed to contour across the north face of Crestolita on primarily tundra and tundra ledges with embedded rocks until you arrive at the large couloir that splits the north face. (When you first arrive at Broken Hand Pass, it will be helpful to make note of this couloir.) At the edge of the couloir, you'll probably find access into it blocked by steep, rocky drops. Also. much of this side of the couloir is flanked by a prominent rock rib. Climb up the rib along the left side of the couloir utilizing a steep, narrow, tundra gully watching for a reasonable access down into the main couloir. We found such access after gaining about 100 vertical feet. It was a small and not very wide ledge that led us into the couloir over about 40 feet. (3rd class) Once in the couloir, you'll need to navigate through the steep, loose boulders and rocks to cross to the other side. Since this is all north facing, the earlier in the season, the more likely it is you'll encounter snow and/or ice. An ice axe could be handy for a short section. Once across the couloir, scramble up and out onto the other side and begin your final ascent to the ridge above on a very steep mix of tundra with embedded rocks and some loose rock and scree. Hopefully you'll find that you are above a prominent rock rib that delineates the western side of this couloir. (3rd class) If you head mostly straight up, you'll come out just east of the true high point, western summit. Turn right and walk on much easier terrain to finish. (It took us 35 minutes to reach the summit from the Broken Hand/Crestolita saddle.) For your return trip, drop north along the edge of the great couloir, delaying a drop directly into the couloir for as long as is reasonably possible. Then drop on into it and continue gingerly down whatever remains of the 600 foot gash until it opens up into the tundra above Cottonwood Lake. Intercept the trail from Cottonwood back to Broken Hand Pass and enjoy much firmer footing as you regain nearly 500 feet back to the pass.

    2. If you're not doing Broken Hand Peak, then from the top of Broken Hand Pass, follow the trail down toward Cottonwood Lake and before reaching the lake, cross over the tundra and enter the great, north face couloir. Early season this could be a challenging snow climb requiring ice axe and crampons. If the snow has cleared out, then begin the arduous task of heading directly up the couloir on steep, very loose rubble and exit it as described above when you think you can easily reach more stable terrain.  Alternately, you can also try staying out of the couloir by scrambling on the right side on a steep, rock rib with tundra with embedded rocks and rocky ledges. We would rate almost all of this route as high 2nd to 3rd class scrambling. Return by the same route.  The rib may be more in the order of 4th class.

    Depending on the route you choose, total elevation gain may vary from about 1,200 to 1,500 feet measuring from Broken Hand Pass. You'll only cover a mile or less.

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