Completed: Humbolt Peak, Kit Carson Peak, and Challenger Point

Another early morning at the trailhead just as the sun was rising above the low hills that separated me from the East Colorado desert was a perfect start to the weekend. The curse of the two wheel drive vehicle struck again as I was forced to start at 8,000 feet and add an extra 2.7 miles of hiking to the trailhead and back. After hiking up the road from the parking lot, I quickly got warm and starting shedding layers thanks to the tree protection from the wind. As I hiked up the East ridge of Humbolt Peak, I luckily was able to enjoy the sun the entire time and a good amount of forest shelter from the wind that commonly blows West to East over the mountains. After blazing up the trail that was not yet covered by winter snow. I made it to the tree line and enjoyed my first real view–a look back to see what I had accomplished already.

Shortly after the tree line, I hit a false peak and then another false peak and once again, a false peak. Each peak took some physical and mental steam from me,  minimizing the motivation in me and making every step up a little bit harder. I took a break around 13,400 feet, looking back to see the work I had done. I was hiking the ridge which I realized was quite dangerous. Everything after the tree line was very steep. One wrong move could have sent me sliding down the mountain for a thousand feet. As I worked my way up the climb, the summit finally came in view. Gathering up some last energy and motivation, I was able to make it up to the summit for a wonderful view. It was quite strange to look behind me to the East to the plains and desert and then turn to the West to quite the opposite: the high mountains of the Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, and Challenger Point. After a brief snack at the summit, I headed off down the ridge toward Kit Carson Peak. Along the way, I encountered a wake up call for what was in store for tomorrow. As I descended down the ridge, I had a magnificent view of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. This view continually haunted me as I climbed the .75 miles over to Kit Carson Peak and for the rest of the day. While I am confident in my climbing abilities, this peak challenges even the most secure of climbers. As I climbed up Kit Carson Peak, I started to feel the heaviness building in my legs. I was spending a lot of time above 14,000 feet which I knew could be very dangerous, especially with 25-30 degree temperatures at the summits. Becoming hypoxic, hyperthermic, and dehydrated are very common when climbing at this altitude and this temperature. I noticed that I was cold but not shivering, which calmed my worries about hypothermia. I took shelter for a few minutes as I loaded as many layers, calories, and water into my system as possible. Finally, I made it to the top of Kit Carson Peak. From there, I had a short and steep descent and climb up to Challenger Point to finish the day.
As I finished the short climb to Challenger Point, I realized that I had a perfect view of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. After enjoying some time in the sun and blocked from the wind, I began the long hike back to the car. Fortunately I could bypass Kit Carson Peak and head straight down the gulch between a pair of peaks I just completed and the pair of peaks I had on the agenda for the next day. I was able to see what I had done to complete the three peaks. And I was humbled to find that they looked like a smooth highway overpass compared to the Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle traverse that I had yet to complete.  On my way down, I  was able to look back and take a mental snapshot of the exremely difficult individual hikes and the class 5 traverse between them, including the infamous 100+ foot free climb up Crestone Needle from Crestone Peak. I enjoyed the rest of my day knowing how easy I had it compared to what I had in store: the second most difficult climb in Colorado. I spent the evening relaxing but had the looming thought of the unknown wind conditions and other unknown variables I had in store. I, however, looked forward to pushing my personal boundaries and finding new heights to my achievements. 

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