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Humboldt & Crestone Needle (Ellingwood Ledges)

Author: Gary Clark

Participants: 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.


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