TR: Crestone Needle (11 April 2010)

Nothing like beginning my fourteener skiing season with a bang! Crestone Needle was hot on my list of fourteeners to hit early in the spring last year, before my desires were thwarted after tearing my ACL in February. This season, I knew that things would be the same- Crestone Needle is typically one of the quickest lines to melt out and usually has to be skied early in the spring. I’ve had my eye on skiing this peak since early March. But, the proper weather windows just weren’t there until this past week, and I was quick to snatch up the opportunity.

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I spoke with my mom on the phone the night before. “I’m skiing my first fourteener in two years tomorrow. It’s a pretty big one.” Pause. “Can’t you start with something easier?” “I don’t really have any easy ones left, except for Pikes Peak.” I tried to justify skiing the Needle to my mom as much as I was justifying it to myself. After laying eyes for the first time on the Needle 4 years ago, my jaw dropped upon gazing up at it’s 55-degree slopes. I knew what I was about to face. My mom hesitated, “Is your knee really ready for this?” “Mom, it’s not like I haven’t been climbing and skiing mountains all winter. I’ve been getting out there. Maybe the peaks I’ve been on haven’t been fourteeners. But, really, when it comes down to it, a few hundred feet isn’t a huge difference.” I was ready. It had been too long since I had been on top of a fourteen-thousand foot peak!

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Frank and I headed down on Saturday afternoon, leaving enough time to check out the trailhead and make sure that snowmobiles could be used up the South Colony Lakes road. After venturing up the road a ways, we confirmed this, though the snow was melting fast in the lower pitches. We headed back to Westcliffe and met up with our friends Pam Rice, Chris Webster, and Brad Bond, who would also be joining us the next day.

The next morning began before dawn. The snowmobile ride went smoothly. And before we knew it, we were standing at South Colony Lakes with Crestone Needle towering above us.
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Our ski route, the South Couloir, was on the other side, so we crossed over Broken Hand Pass.
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After reaching the top of Broken Hand Pass, we said goodbye to Brad, who decided to head over to Crestone Peak after seeing that the Needle looked a bit thin.
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The rest of us made the traverse over to the Needle.
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Photo courtesy of Chris Webster

The traverse involved a few rock maneuvers.

Photo courtesy of Chris Webster

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From there, the route was a nice couloir climb.
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As much as I enjoyed the climb, I was happy to be on the summit of my first fourteener in two years.
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The views were amazing.
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The Sierra Blanca.
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Crestone Peak and Kit Carson.
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Pam and I.
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Skiing from the summit was adventurous.
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Frank testing out the snow on the upper face.
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Frank.
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Me.
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A little straightline through an ice fall.
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We followed our route back to Broken Hand pass.
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Photo courtesy of Chris Webster

At Broken Hand Pass, we reunited with Brad. Brad and Frank continued up Broken Hand Peak to ski a line that Frank has had his eye on for years. Click Here for the Broken Hand TR.
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But, that’s another TR:)

Crestone Needle was my 46th fourteener skied. Eight more left!

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

11 Comments

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  1. NIiiiiCE work chica and good luck with the rest! May the forces of Ullr/Skade be with you through the spring season, providing you with the right snow conditions and weather windows. :)

  2. Way to go! That is a mountain that scares me to look at. Can’t wait to see more of your adventures this spring/summer.

  3. The Needle IS very intimidating to look at! Thankfully, at least for me, it didn’t seem so steep when I was actually on it, as it seemed when I looked at it from afar. Still, a fun, yet humbling, line!

  4. Wicked! Like Anne said, let’s hope Ullr and Skade provide you with the perfect conditions for the rest of your quest.

  5. How long after you tore your ACL did you feel comfortable on skis? I just had reconstructive surgury two weeks ago and am contemplating what to do about next ski season. Any insite on your injury would be helpful to me. Thanks.

  6. Chuck- That’s a tough question to answer. This whole season has been about progressing toward feeling better and more confident on my skis after ACL reconstruction, which I had done in March, 2009. At first, I started out on groomers in October. By December, I was touring in the backcountry. By January, I was generally skiing everything I wanted to ski. However, I’m not skiing 100% this year. I sometimes still get pain in my knee, especially in hard-packed, icy, or breakable crust conditions. Because of this, my skiing is a bit “guarded”. After my first ACL reconstruction (other knee) 12 years ago, it was much the same for the first ski season. Then, the second ski season, I came back 110%, because the pain finally went away. I have a feeling the same thing is going to happen this time around.

  7. Brittany, Thanks for responding back. After close to 1000 ski days under my belt, I fell victim to an ACL rupture. Trying to keep mentally (positively) prepared for the rehab and for the next year to come. I’m considering not getting a full pass next season and focusing on feeling better and gaining confidence doing short uphills for the groomers. Thanks to you and Frank for more inspiration.

  8. just had my 3rd ACL surgery in March ugh……jonesing hard this time of year but I will be back 110% also. Totally LOVING youseguyses pics, thanks for lettin me ski vicariously thru y’all. Gitsum…..

  9. Craig and Chuck- Well, here’s to happy healing for both your ACL repairs. I know how bad it sucks. But, you’ll be on your boards with a big smile next season :) Until then, hopefully our blog can provide you with a bit of entertainment :)

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