Total Elevation Gained: about 6300 feet
Starting Point: Willow Creek Trailhead
Time: 12.5 hours
|Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak right before sunset from the road out.|
|Not the best photo but this was at the trailhead as I started off.|
|First light on the mountains. The red dot indicates my first destination. The headwall that leads to Willow Lake.|
|A clearer view of the headwall with the red dot marking the same place as the previous picture|
|In light of the early morning's events I found it eery that I have never seen more deer on a hike than this day.|
|Getting closer to the headwall which is at about 11,300 feet and a mile and a half or so from where this was taken.|
I finally reached the headwall and started to get some the sun that was previously blocked.
|My car is parked about 1.5 miles past the clearing you see. This was taken at the headwall previously shown.|
|Just above the headwall where snow began to be more significant. Looking back.|
|Willow Lake is just above this waterfall.|
|First glimpse of the Lake through the trees. Frozen waterfalls trying their best to stay that way.|
|Coolest lake I've ever been to in the alpine. The route takes you on top of the cliffs you see bordering the far end of the lake.|
From the top of the cliffs I was able to take a long break. I ditched my snowshoes and found the stream dumping into Willow Lake. I purified 2 liters of water and began to think about the next part of this hike. I decided to leave my pack behind to make it easier on myself. I brought a liter of water and filled my cargo pockets with fruit snacks, energy gu, and my cell phone and wallet. I put on my microspikes and some gloves and headed up. A parting shot of the lake.
|I threw a rock. The ice didn't break.|
|Kit Carson Peak 14,165 feet.|
|Challenger on the right and Kit Carson on left.|
|Taken from the summit of Challenger.|
|Challenger Point 14,081 feet! Crestone Peak in the distance.|
|Coming down Challenger this is the beginning portion of The Avenue.|
|From the Avenue looking back on Challenger. A human can be seen on top of Challenger.|
The snow got steep in some places and sometimes I had to travel just below the Avenue to find solid rock. About 90 minutes after topping out on Challenger I reached the top of Kit Carson Peak.
|2nd summit of the day!|
|Humboldt Peak on far left and Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle on far right.|
|Looking back down on Challenger Point|
|Looking way down to Willow Lake and figuring out how to get back down there. The frozen waterfalls are barely visible.|
Before I knew it I was back at Willow Lake and reunited with my backpack and stashed snowshoes. I took some time to filter some water from the stream and packed up to head on out. The way out was pretty clear with the trail disappearing at moments from the remaining snow. I always picked it up again shortly. I ran into some campers just below Willow Lake. Chatted with them for about 5 minutes and I wouldn't stop again until the car about 4 miles down trail from the lake.
My prayers were answered when my car started up just fine and was mechanically sound. Minus the power steering which was an annoyance but an acceptable loss all in all. The damage to my car would be about 6K and 1 week in the shop to repair. Luckily, insurance companies consider this like an act-of-God and all I had to pay was my $500 deductible plus the cost of a rental for a week (about $100). Given the days events, a second day of hiking would have to be passed up. Still a great hike and a beautiful area to have explored.