Peak:  Challenger Point (Unranked 14er)
 Route:  North Slope
 Range:  Sangre de Cristo
 Posted By:  Brycer18
 Date of Info:  08/09/2021
 Date Posted:  08/10/2021

Had a nice day out with my dad, kept it light (or so we thought) doing standard routes up Challenger, then to KC via avenue, and then back and down. But I'm here to talk about the shit show that is the north ridge up Challenger. Like many, I've been seeing a lot of commentary on it, but would like to emphasize the current state of conditions for the sake of public servitude. After all, we live in a society.

I found this stretch on the North Ridge (for clarity, right as you leave the lake and begin the altitude schlepping), to be my least enjoyable 14er experience in recent memory. From a choss, slippery, and danger perspective (missile city), I honestly found the last ~600 feet to gain the ridge sketchier at times than ridge-gains like Broken Hand Pass and Little Bear up to ridge from Lake Como. Feel free to debate me and I'm not trying to be a 14er hardo here, but the point I'm making is don't look at this and think "oh Class 2, right on, I'll rip right up that with my 60 year old dad". Wrong. I'm really not trying to be dramatic, but what inspired me to write this post was a large missile came down from above on us with some SERIOUS speed, thankfully it was about ~25 yards to our climbers left, but if this thing caught someone it'd be instant bye bye. Again, I'm not trying to be dramatic, but as a disclaimer I've been smoked by couloir rock fall before and landed in the ER, so maybe I have a PTSD-driven bias that's an outlier to a statistically relevant reality. But whatever, take my commentary and decide what you wish.

Also, it seems like a lot more people these days are going north ridge up Kit and then down this shit on Challenger. That's awesome, super sick climb, but please pay attention to these posts b/c it's even worse going down. Point of this whole post is just keep your wits about you out there b/c it's a narsty, unpleasant climb in its current state. Late summer monsoons will only make it worse.

Comments or Questions
Strongly Agree
08/10/2021 10:19
Can confirm, was also up there yesterday (up n. ridge kc, over to challenger and down) and luckily, because of my route choice I had a helmet. I would highly recommend bringing a helmet for challenger in its current conditions. Loose dirt and scree over hard, slick conglomerate. Snowmelt on conglomerate slab. Loose, sendable boulders as well as moderately sized rock. Difficult to manage to say the least. Reminiscent of lavender couloir on sneffels, but slicker. It was an unpleasant surprise after the ample holds and solid rock of kit carson on the ascent.

08/10/2021 11:02
I'd agree the standard route on Challenger is a serious rockfall hazard. Just as bad as anything in the Elks although not as rubbly. Definitely bring a helmet! And be mindful of where you step. Don't to be the launcher.

08/10/2021 15:03
Climbed the same route this past Saturday and after chatting with my climbing partner and another group that had gone up the KC north ridge and down Challenger, can confirm this route is terrible both going up and down. Thankfully I didn't experience any major rockfall while I was on this section but the group about 30 minutes behind us kicked down a decent sized boulder that went at least 100yds down the mountain.

08/11/2021 06:18
Anybody have photos of these sections?

Considering a drive in from out of town for a few 14er summits, and Kit Carson & Challenger is high on my list.

Challenger sucks
08/11/2021 08:20
We did the North Ridge up on KC then Columbia point then over to Challenger then down the standard route 3 weeks ago. It was complete crap going down that route. If I do them again I will just do them all from South Colony lakes, I have done it a couple of years ago and 100 times more enjoyable.

Photos reponse
08/11/2021 08:56
You don't need photos. The hazard gets progressively worse the higher you go. The trail is tough to spot on your ascent. Much easier on the descent due to your point of view from above. Just depends on the line you take during the last few hundred feet or so. Because its so steep, once rock gets going its going FAR and FAST! The last couple hundred feet before reaching the ridge are ok. There's just that "zone" near the top third that's real sketchy. Stay alert.

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