Sunday, November 10, 2013

Peak of the Week: Kit Carson

Kit Carson Peak (14,165 feet)

Kit Carson Peak
At 14,165 feet, Kit Carson is Colorado's 23rd highest peak. Overshadowed somewhat but its more famous neighbor, Crestone Peak, Kit Carson is the king of an impressive massif that also includes Challenger Point (14,081 feet, rank: #34) and Columbia Point (13,980 feet, rank: #56). It is an impressive mountain and like many of the high peaks in the Sangre De Cristo Range, it is not an easy one to climb. Its easiest route is class 3 and there are several worthy technical routes also on this unique mountain notable for the wild conglomerate rock.

Though they are relatively narrow, the Sangre's are one of Colorado's most dramatic ranges, and Kit Carson deserves to be listed as one of the range's premier peaks. Every Colorado mountaineer, matter what their skill level, should put this mountain on their list.

Kit Carson is most commonly accessed via South Colony Lake. To get there from Westcliffe, follow Highway 69 for 4.5 miles south. Veer south (right) onto Colfax Lane (County Road 119). Follow this road straight until you reach a T-intersection with Country Road 120 (South Colony Road). Turn right and follow this road 1.5 miles to the trailhead. 4WD vehicles can continue for as many as four more miles to a high trailhead at 11,000 feet. This road is notoriously bad and sometimes a gate may block it off at 9,800 feet.

Kit Carson Avenue is a common part of several mountaineering routes on Kit Carson Mountain
Kit Carson Avenue
East Ridge (class 3-4)
This is a popular route since it is the easiest way to reach the summit from South Colony Lake.

West Ridge (class 3)
The West Ridge is the easiest way to climb Kit Carson but cannot be done from South Colony Lake. In the process you also climb Challenger Point (14,081 feet). After reaching the summit of this lower neighbor, the route descends to a saddle, finds Kit Carson Avenue and joins the East Ridge for the summit pitch gully to the top.

North Ridge (class 4)
This climb is reached via the Willow Lakes approach on the opposite side of the mountain from the usual South Colony staging ground. This makes the North Ridge a good route for anyone who is looking for a more technical and off-the-beaten-path way to reach the summit than the standard West Ridge.

The Prow (class 5.8)
The Prow is one of Colorado's best technical routes on a 14er. It deserves to be named alongside other great Sangre climbs, like the Ellingwood Arete. While most of the Prow is 5.6 or easier climbing, the route is known for funky, hard-to-protect rock and exhilarating exposure. This is certainly not a place you want to be in a bad storm. The bottom of the technical portion of the route is also guarded by the crux moves of the climb. This overhanging beginning leads to some fun moves above. This is the most proud and enticing way to get to the top of Kit Carson or the experienced rock climber.

The South Colony Lakes are in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness Area and special regulations apply. These mostly focus on the carryout of waste. Check out the fact sheet for the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness Area for more information.

Kit Carson mountain profile on

The Prow on

Kit Carson mountain profile on

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