14er TBT: Crestone Needle Ski (11 April 2010)

(Last Updated On: March 24, 2016)

This is part of an ongoing series re-telling Brittany’s fourteener-skiing story. Look for the reports every Thursday, as part of a Throwback Thursday theme.

In 2008, I ended my fourteener-skiing season on Snowmass Mountain, my 45th fourteener skied. I began 2009 with only 9 fourteeners remaining, and high hopes of finishing within that year. But, while teaching a woman’s ski clinic in Crested Butte in February 2009, my dreams were instantly shattered when I feld that dreadful pop in my left knee after a bad landing during a cliff jump. I’d torn my ACL, and I didn’t ski a single fourteener that season. I focused on recovery, but ACL tears take a long time to really heal from- both mentally and physically.

Yet, I began my 2010 fourteener-skiing season with one of the hardest fourteeners I had left – Crestone Needle. I first gazed upon Crestone Needle while skiing Crestone Peak. My jaw-dropped when I realized that someday I had to ski that.
Crestone Needle

That day had finally come – and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But in the end, I did. I was back in the game! Below is a slightly modified version of my report for skiing Crestone Needle, which would become my 46th fourteener skied.


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.

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 3 years ago, my jaw dropped upon gazing up at it’s 55-degree slopes. I knew what I was about to face….

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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!

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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From the top of Broken Hand Pass, we caught our first glimpse of Crestone Needle. It had been 3 years since I’d gazed my eyes upon this line, and my reaction was the same. My jaw dropped, I got that nauseous feeling in my stomach, and my hands began to tremble. You mean, I really have to ski that?
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I said to Pam, “I’m not really sure I can do this. It just looks so…. scary.” “I know what you mean,” she replied. “But, you can do it. I know you can.”

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. I went into “put one foot in front of the other and get it done” mode.
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climbing Crestone Needle

The traverse involved a few rock maneuvers.
Pam Rice climbing Crestone Needle

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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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Brittany Walker Konsella climbing Crestone Needle

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.

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But, that’s another trip report: Broken Hand Peak Ski 🙂

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

Skiing Crestone Needle gave me the confidence I needed to propel my goal, and I felt back in the game. So, what would be next?

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!

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Summary
Crestone Needle Ski
Article Name
Crestone Needle Ski
Description
Crestone Needle is one of the most aesthetic of Colorado's fourteeners. Join Brittany as she recounts her ski on this intimidating peak!
Author

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!

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