At over 2,000′ on the side of a 14,000′ peak, Ellingwood Arete, sometimes called Ellingwood Ledges, would not be an easy climb. Crestone Needle is a beautiful mountain that tops out at 14,107. I was here in the summer of 2000, and while I brought technical climbing gear for the Arete, I only ended up climbing neighboring Humboldt Peak a few times.
Our line would take us up the right side of the peak, through the grassy ledges in the middle of the picture.
Keenan and I arrived at the top of the (serious) 4×4 road and slept in the back of the truck, ready for a 4:30am start. We woke to rain and immediately went back to sleep. The rain was over by 5:30 and we were quickly on the trail, packing a small climbing rack and 60 meter rope.
Shot from the side on the way down, our route follows this buttress almost all the way to the top.
This basin holds Upper and Lower South Colony Lakes; a beautiful place to camp, though we’re pushing through light and fast to climb in one day.
The ledges are fun, but tiring after a few hundred vertical feet.
Helmets are mandatory here. The grass is plush, but gives easily when walked on, making us feel like we’ll fall 800′ down to the lake. Ropes would be nice, but the rock is also loose, so no place to put protection.
In the background is the west ridge of Humboldt Peak, the standard route up.
I’m very happy to have reached solid rock.
Keenan is below, just leaving the ledges. We’re not roped up yet, though solidly 1,200′ off the ground. Storms are moving in and we agreed it’d be safer to climb unroped in the easy stuff to move fast.
As the storms moved in and we had to rope up (three solid, full rope length pitches of 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7) I had no time for pictures. A pack full of metal climbing gear didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy.
At the top with a view to the southwest, and ominous storm clouds all around.
You’ll see North America’s biggest sand dunes down there. Yup, in the middle of Colorado.
Again, no pictures of the descent. Just as we got back to the Upper South Colony lake, we were hit with ice, then snow. Climbing helmets sure are handy in ice storms. For the next three hours, we hiked out in the rain. A very cold, miserable rain, but thankful for a great climb.