Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point make a great backpack adventure with an overnight at Willow Lake.
Despite being 40ish miles from us as the crow flies, it’s a 3:15 drive to the Willow Lake Trailhead outside Crestone due to the mountain ranges separating us.
The village of Crestone is a weird little enclave in itself, well known for spiritual oddities bordering on cult craziness. There was some beatnik festival happening as Dasani and I drove through and the entire place was filled with hippies. Weird, but I don’t judge just as long as they keep it to themselves.
The hike up to Willow Lake isn’t much to write home about, although there are some beautiful views up the valley and down to the flatlands to the West as you head up.
We encountered a hunting party coming down the trail with horses, and a huge buck deer strapped across the front horse. We didn’t realize it was muzzleloader hunting season, all the better reason to wear bright colors!
After being treated to a gorgeous sunset, we turned in early for an alpine start.
0400 comes early when it’s cold out, and we didn’t realize just how cold until we started our ascent of Challenger Point and the entire route was covered with a layer of ice. Out come the microspikes, and travel slows down fast.
After you summit Challenger Point, you drop down a ridge and head up the famous Avenue to Kit Carson Peak. Because of the recent snow and shaded location the first section was covered with a long snow section with a long drop below – good thing the snow/ice was rock-hard as Dasani was getting his first taste of alpine winter climbing.
No oh-crap moments though, and after some fun Class 3 scrambling we were standing atop Kit Carson Peak looking at the Crestones only a mile or two away to the east. Next summer!
The return trip went much faster than the inbound since the heat of the sun melted the ice sheets on the approach route, and we cooked lunch, packed up camp, and were back to the cars by 230pm. We logged just shy of 20 miles and 6,700 feet of vertical roundtrip, no wonder we’re exhausted.
#43 and #44 done, next climb – the El Diente Traverse and Wilson Peak!

Into the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness
Into the wilderness I go to lose my mind and find my soul


Perfect Campsite

Perfect Campsite
This is a perfect campsite at Willow Lake


Willow Lake Mirror

Willow Lake Mirror
Mirror image at sunset on Willow Lake


Purple Morning

Purple Morning
Purple colors light up the peaks as we start up the Kit Carson / Challenger Point route.


Slow Going

Slow Going up Challenger Point
It’s slow moving heading up ice-covered rock!


Everything Iced

Everything Iced
Everything on this slope is covered with thick ice in the cold morning.


Sure Looks Happy

Sure Looks Happy
Dasani is happy to have that ice behind us.


Adjusting

Adjusting
Taking a moment to adjust footwear before pressing on.


Challenger Point

Challenger Point
An ice-caked memorial plaque at the summit of Challenger Point.


The Crestones

The Crestones from Kit Carson Peak
Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle as seen from Kit Carson Peak


Looking Out

Looking Out from Kit Carson Peak
Taking a break to look down from Kit Carson Peak.


Kit Carson Peak Summit Sign

Kit Carson Peak Summit Sign
Gotta have the summit sign photo!


The Avenue

The Avenue below Kit Carson Peak
Coming down the snow-covered Avenue from Kit Carson Peak.


Downclimb

Downclimb
Coming back down some snow and rock from Challenger Point.


Up The Valley

Up The Valley towards Kit Carson
Looking up the valley from Willow Lake.


Willow Lake

Willow Lake below Kit Carson
Dasani pauses above Willow Lake for a photo op



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