Humboldt & Crestone Needle (Ellingwood Ledges)
Gary & Lynn Clark
9/25: We did the usual Los Alamos to Colorado after-work commute, and
camped in our van at the parking lot at the end of the reasonable road,
choosing to cope with the 4-wheeling in the light of the morning.
9/26: Good decision. The road gets worse every year; this will be the
last time I try this in anything less than a HumVee. We beat the crap out
of our AWD van until it cried for mercy, then hiked the final 1.5 miles to
the trailhead. A short bit of trail got us to the upper South Colony Lake,
and we dropped our packs to hump up the recently rerouted and restored
trail to the top of Humboldt. Some folks did a bunch of work on this
trail, which was now better than the road. Conditions were clear, cold,
and windy. It's not summer anymore. We met some poor souls on the way down
who were suffering up the thing in shorts. I doubt they perservered; the
wind on the ridge crest was sufficient to blow my pack away along the
ground when I took it off. We camped as close as practical to the base of
the North Ridge of Crestone, and were treated to close encounters with a
beautiful mountain goat (which Lynn named Goatbert). Goatbert posed for
photos in front of Crestone, and followed us around waiting for one of us
to urinate on a rock. Someone should carry a salt block up there to
discourage this socially unacceptable behavior.
9/27: We got away from camp at 7:40, and were not too surprised to see a
party materialize below us as we began the third-class section. They were
a pair of very competent and genial climbers from Ft. Collins with whom we
see-sawed all the way up the route. Since I'd been up it twice before,
they benefited a little from beta, but it turns out I might also have
benefited from accurate beta - I finally found the best way up this route
on the third try! We did completely different pitches at the top than
before (in 1989 and 1980).
The day was crystal clear, chilly but reasonable in the sun, and not too
windy until we topped out at around 10:45. Again, the route-finding Gods
were with us, as we found the very best descent route down for the first
time, and arrived back in camp just after noon. A very satisfying climb;
definitely the best time I've had on the route yet.
The trip home would have been routine, except for destroying a tire on the
Gawd-awful road. The spare was flat, too, and another session with the
cell phone out in the middle of nowhere soliciting repair services ensued.
We got back to the Mt. San Antonio area late that night for another night
in the van.
9/28: Arrived at work in the clothes I had slept in - good thing they have
showers at the Lab! All in all, a fine adventure, except for the tire
thing and a speeding ticket on the way back.
PS: Part of the motivation for this climb was to get more photos and a
better description for my "North American Classics" project. There have
been a lot of folks getting lost on the route, bivouacing, and even rescued
lately. The new description and photos (and maybe a route topo) will be on
the web site soon.