While growing up, I was always fascinated with space and the space program. Perhaps this fact is because I grew up in Orlando and was able to watch all of the launches. Perhaps it is because I viewed space as something to reach for in life–challenging the status quo and pushing the limits. Either way, I am honored that this weekend I get the opportunity to climb Challenger Peak which was named after the NASA Shuttle that exploded on January 28, 1986. The sacrifice those brave astronauts made in order to further scientific discovery is truly inspiring. While my sacrifice is not so life-threatening or impactful, I am proud to be challenging my body to do more than I think it can. This weekend I will be traveling south to take on 5 peaks in 2 days.
Saturday will be a long and most certainly exhausting day. My first, a 17 mile hike, will take me straight up the East side of Humbolt Peak on a similar route and path as Quandary Peak. Named after the German explorer and geographer, Humbolt Peak sits at 14,064 feet. After starting at 8,000 feet, it is a straight up fight to the top. After the summit, I will travel down the west side to 12,800 feet and traverse the 2.5 miles over to Kit Carson Peak.
Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was the most famous guide and scout of the Southern Rockies. Local legend holds that he actually lived in a cabin near the base of the peak for several years. As a Colonel in the U.S. Army, Kit Carson commanded Fort Garland at the southern base of Blanca Peak from 1866-1867 to keep the peace and negotiate with the Utes. His courage, character, and exploits are the subject of numerous myths and stories. In addition to his widely-acknowledged skills as an outdoorsman, Carson had the reputation of absolute truthfulness and honesty.
Climbing back up to the 14,165 feet summit will take me directly next to Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle for some magnificent views and a real preview for what I have in store. After the summit of Kit Carson I have a 3/4 mile trek and 650 feet of elevation change before I summit the final peak of the day, Challenger Point. After completing Challenger Point, I will hike just below Kit Carson and into the Gulch between Humbolt Peak and the Crestones as I hike along the river back to the car for the day.
Sunday will be a true test of power and stamina. I will climb my first class 5 trail, the Crestone Traverse. Getting an early start on this adventure is definitely a requirement as afternoon winds could make for an even more challenging climb. Crestone Needle was first named “The South East Spanish Crag” by the U.S. Land Office Survey of 1883. However, locals referred to the mountain as simply one of the Needles. In 1921, the Colorado Mountain Club named the mountain “Crestone Needle.” In 1923, the CMC officially accepted this name for its list of Colorado high points. This peak will definitely have some significant rock climbing as the last 100 or so feet of the traverse will be nearly straight up and considered “free climbing” because of the lack of harness and ropes. With cliffs on both sides of this rock face, it will challenge my mental awareness and toughness.
This traverse is only topped by the Maroon Bells traverse in difficulty and exposure. I am looking forward to a great weekend at 14,000 feet and am ready for the mental and physical challenges it brings. I will be further outside of my comfort zone than I will have ever been in my life. For that, I am eager to face the challenge head on.