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Crestone Needle South Face

Very Difficult
 4.9 (7)

A stunning, exposed route up the last Colorado 14er to ever be summited.


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Map Key

0.6

Miles

1.0

KM

Point to Point

14,143' 4,311 m

High

12,877' 3,925 m

Low

1,266' 386 m

Up

0' 0 m

Down

39%

Avg Grade (21°)

75%

Max Grade (37°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Description

For many years, Crestone Needle was considered "unclimbable" by Colorado mountaineers. The last Colorado 14er to be conquered, it was finally summited in 1915 by climbing legend Albert Ellingwood via the more technical "Ellingwood Arete," a low class 5 route with a 5.7 crux. Start early, wear a helmet, and be safe! Any rocks knocked down the gullies will get funneled right toward unsuspecting climbers.

Nowadays, however, many a hiker can summit Crestone Needle via the South Face route, an impressive climb in its own right. From the summit of Broken Hand Pass, turn right on an obvious dirt trail. Don't get too used to the terrain, though, as once you hit class 3-4 terrain you stay on it. Shortly after adjusting to the nice trail after a rocky scramble up Broken Hand Pass, climb over some rocks and drop into a large gully at 13,300 ft. This is the "east" gully. Continue up it until you get cliffed out after gaining about 300 vertical ft. While it does continue to the summit, it is a harder route.

To remain on easier terrain, climb up a 15-20 foot wall to your left (see photo). Many consider this the crux of the route. Once atop this rib the "west" gully will be readily apparent. Make a mental note of this spot so you don't miss it on the way back down - if you go lower in the west gully you'll get cliffed out! Once you've got a mental image, climb the gully all the way to the summit of Crestone Needle, about 600 vertical ft, angling left as you approach the top.

Don't be too alarmed by climbers coming up other routes. The class 5 traverse from Crestone Peak, along with the even more technical Ellingwood Arete, attracts dozens of climbers every year.

Flora & Fauna

While you may see some wildflowers around Broken Hand Pass, there's nothing but rocks, marmots, and pika up high.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 7 votes

#509

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  4.9 from 7 votes
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Trail Rankings

#96

in Colorado

#509

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Photos

Climbing up some snow on Broken Hand Pass, July 2011.
Mar 4, 2015 near Crestone, CO
Class 3 move. Snowy scrambling just below the summit of Broken Hand Pass, July 2011.
Mar 4, 2015 near Crestone, CO
A hiker popping out of the west gully just before reaching the summit.
Mar 4, 2015 near Crestone, CO
Humboldt Peak as seen from the summit of Crestone Needle.
Mar 4, 2015 near Crestone, CO
This 15-20 ft wall separating the east and west gullies is the crux of the climb. Fortunately the rock is solid and the climb is short, with excellent handholds on famed Crestone conglomerate.
Mar 4, 2015 near Crestone, CO

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Check-Ins

Aug 25, 2019
Chad Englehardt
Aug 25, 2019
Jacob Bross
Aug 18, 2019
Private User
Aug 12, 2019
Reed Harrington
Jun 30, 2018
Leonardo Siciliano
Aug 13, 2017
Brayden Wuebbel
Make sure to go to the left of the broken hand pass 12.5mi