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.