Challenger Point  
Condition Updates  
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-10-25, By: c13mueller
Info: Pretty rough conditions: There was very light snow by the trailhead when we started, but it melted during the day. There was more snow as you approached the lake, but an occasional drift was the only annoying part. There was no need for traction or floatation, but gaiters might have helped. I just slogged through in barefoot shoes knowing I had dry socks, gaiters, and boots in my pack. I put those on at the lake. Wrapping around the lake was also mostly dry. Snow got bad once you entered the shade of the north face. It is actually still mostly dry. There is insufficient snow to climb the couloir routes (Kit Carson too). However, the rocks were extremely icy and large sections of the standard route were buried in drifts. It is too powdery for crampons and too steep for snowshoes/skis. We descended the standard route without issue, but mostly ascended on neighboring rocks. While avoiding a large, steep drift section, we forced ourselves to continue full climber's right to access the western-most aspect of the summit ridge. It worked, but required pretty icy class 3+ scrambling. We managed in microspikes, but you need mountaineering boots with real crampons to really be safe. Also, for the easiest route, you'll want higher than class 2 mixed climbing experience, so you have flexibility to go off course. Obviously, you'll need extremely good route finding skills. Many cairns are buried and route finding only gets worse when you start choosing your own adventure. Remember days are getting shorter: we started and ended in the dark. 
1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-08-10, By: Brycer18
Info: 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. 
7
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-08-09, By: cvbuffs
Info: Summited Challenger Point on Saturday, August 7. Left the Willow Creek Trailhead at 4am and made it to the waterfall above the lake by 6:30am. This is probably the best water source to refill from for the remainder of the route under normal conditions, but given the recent rain there was a few small flows in the upper gully on Challenger which could have been used in a pinch (my assumption is these will dry up quickly if there is no recent rain so I would not count on them.) Trail from TH to the rock rib is well defined. Once you hit the rock rib following the trail becomes quite difficult and we found ourselves losing the trail in multiple places. Trail conditions become super loose and the elevation gains very quickly. IMO, this is the most difficult portion of the hike and could be considered class 3 in some areas given the steepness and rockfall potential (wear a helmet and be very aware of the people climbing near you) as once you gain the ridge its pretty smooth sailing to the summit. It took us 1 hr to go from Challenger to KC and found that the optional route listed on the 14ers.com description was the best bet for 2 reasons - 1. more direct and 2. super solid rock vs. the standard route and nothing exceeded an easy class 3; we summited KC at 11am which shows how long it takes to go up Challenger. A couple of groups we met at the summit of KC followed us back down this route after mentioning the looser conditions coming up the standard path. One note, you will get to the avenue very quickly (within 15 minutes of leaving the summit) so keep your eyes pealed for the trail. We had to call out to the group behind us to turn right onto the avenue after they initially overshot the trail and were continuing down. Back to the water — on the summit on KC there were a number of people who were running very low on water. One group had come up the north ridge and arrived shortly before us after leaving the upper waterfall at roughly the same time were all running pretty low, as was my climbing partner. Even with 3.5 liters leaving the waterfall, I was down to about 1.25 liters by this point and knew that we had a good 3+ hours before getting back to the waterfall to resupply. Thankfully we were able to scrounge up a bit a water to share it around and everyone got down without incident, but if you are someone that consumes water faster than others you should consider bringing extra. Coming back, going up the avenue is a bit of a slog with some tired legs but not too bad. once back to the start of the avenue we followed a couple of other groups heading back up towards the Challenger summit. While we didn't resummit, we were only about 100ft below the summit and skirted around on the class 2 talus to regain the ridge heading down. Once you reach the gully and start the decent the slog really begins. What we thought was bad coming up was worse going down. Tough route finding and loose conditions made for a pretty tiring decent before finally reaching the established trail. We managed to not kick down any rocks, but the group following us sent down a decent sized boulder at one point, serving as a good reminder to bring/wear your helmet in this section. Hopefully there are some future trail projects in the plans because I think a good rain could really wash out a lot of the looser terrain. After discussing with the other groups that had summited KC via the ridge, both parties were in agreement that the section from the ridge of Challenger down to the trail at the start of the rock rib is some of the worst extended conditions on a peak across our collective experiences. Refilled water at the waterfall and made the final 4.5 mile trek back to the TH on tired legs. Final time was 13hrs total with some breaks on top of Challenger and KC, and again at the waterfall coming down. Last note — I've been reading other reports on the smoke conditions impacting breathing, and both my climbing partner and I will confirm that it felt more difficult to breath than normal and we needed more frequent breaks. If you're someone with any type of breathing issue, it might be worth waiting on this one (or any peaks right now) until the conditions improved. Overall, a gorgeous place. It's a shame the smog/smoke was so bad that it impacted the visibility, especially with the beautiful Crestones right there. TH was easy to access, although we did need to help a fellow hiker who got a flat in her 2WD sedan on the way up (also good reminder to have a spare!) 
5 1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-07-10, By: JROSKA
Info: Grass and rocks very wet in the part of the climb that starts near the rock rib (between about 12,500 and 13k). With good route finding it's possible to limit to one minor 5 foot snow crossing around 13,200. Other than that it's summer conditions. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-06-29, By: Camden7
Info: We backpacked into willow lake and climbed Mt. Adams and Columbia Point, the two centennials that I missed on my blind 14 hunt, as I passed through this valley years ago... weather was challenging, with fog and clouds constantly blocking sunshine, and highs in the low 30s. Conditions were brutal. Several inches of fresh snow clogged everything above 13,300 feet. The 3rd class couloir up Columbia's tiny northwest face was coated in verglas, and choked with snow in many places. The Kit Carson Avenue was full of snow, and full on treacherous while frozen. Challenger's standard route is pretty good but has some unavoidable snow crossings. Mt. Adams was pretty bad, with a frustrating 8 inches of powder on its upper slopes. All in all, successful trip, but only because of lucky weather windows, and comfort/competence on serious terrain with snow and verglas. 
6 2
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-06-12, By: klawil
Info: There's still a lot of snow on the slope leading up to the summit ridge. On the way up I slogged through it and it alternated between icy and postholing. On the way down I stuck to the climbers left to gain the ridge to the left of the notch which worked much better (another climber used that on the way up and had good luck with it). The rock to the left of the standard route was pretty solid and seemed like around class 3 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-03-08, By: wintersage
Info: Just dittoing angry's report below, the warm temps did indeed make the descent a little more challenging. It also made the ascent a little dicey without crampons so we decided to stick to the rocks all the way up to the ridge, so we gained the ridge a little bit to the northwest of the standard route. 
4 1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-03-07, By: angry
Info: Previous tracks were completely gone. Thanks to Randy1983 who was camping out and put in a trench to the lake. From lake, had to break trail in fresh snow until heading up rock rib. Stashed snowshoes at ~12,400. KC avenue wind loaded and no evidence of anyone attempting since last storm. Very warm temps made for sloppy snow on descent. 
6
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-03-01, By: moon stalker
Info: Tracks to the lake in good shape. On the slope, the rock rib indicated by previous post is still good. Microspikes were helpful in addition to ax. There was a trench on the far side of the avenue, looks like maybe someone has been on it recently. I would have tried it if my partner hadn't turned around. 
2
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-02-23, By: malawi
Info: Good trench until about a mile before Willow Lake. Put on snow shoes a little before that. Had to break new trail as I got close to Willow lake, and after. Attempted to follow the summer route for the last 1000 ft, but there was 3-4 inches of windblown crusted snow, over a weak layer. I was poking through to deeper snow, so I opted to go up near the rocks (see yellow line on photo). Looking westward, the red line in the photo might have been an option. Ice ax was helpful on the way down, since the mix of snow and ice around the rocks made the descent slippery. Beautiful day, except for a windy summit. Frozen waterfall at Willow lake was spectacular. 
3 2
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-02-14, By: Will_E
Info: Long hard effort to reach Challenger's summit today. There was a really good trench nearly all the way to where the trail levels out before Willow Lake, I put snowshoes on just before reaching the plateau. Tough trenching from there to Willow Lake, there were a few places a trench appeared, but it was mostly windblown. And by the time I was on my return, much of that was windblown. After passing the lake and starting up Challenger's steep slope, I got partway up and started encountering parts that had really stiff snow, so used crampons. Left them on all the way to summit and back down because, you know, I'm lazy. 
15 7
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-01-24, By: RobLowe
Info: Road gated 1.3 miles below the summer TH. Boot pack or dirt to the headwall below the lake. Above head wall flotation is helpful. Crampons needed for the couloirs on the north slope. Avy danger is patent: the storms last week plus the high winds later in the week loaded the north slope from 12,500 to 13,900. Snow was waist deep and higher at these elevations. Long, variable glissade back to the basin above the lake. 
11 5
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2021-01-19, By: pboldt94
Info: Was able to skin from the trailhead to about 10,000 I would say. Had to walk ski's ~1 mile until snow reappeared up the trail. There are sections where there is absolutely no snow. Once I reached about 10,750, was able to skin all the way above the lake. to about 11,500-12,000. I would recommend skinning or snow snow-shoeing if possible. There were a lot of post-hole tracks from 10,000-11,500, especially near the lake. The north face is still relatively bare, but avalanche risk is obviously something to be cautious of. Saw clear signs of small avalanches that had occurred. Once to the ridgeline at 13,700, it has snow and dry spots that vary. Recommend crampons or yaktracks for 12,000 feet to summit. Higher winds were apparent at ridgeline. 
5
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-09-26, By: mountainmaestro
Info: Snow on the upper reaches of the slope to the notch will likely persist until next year (barring an abnormally warm and dry October). The snow was in decent condition in the early afternoon and is perhaps more comfortable to descend (with traction!) than dirt and loose rock. Everyone says the descent is hard after climbing the two peaks and they are right. 
1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-09-22, By: Araujo38
Info: Climbed North Slope route on Challenger Point from Trailhead at 8850'. My wife and I left TH at 4 am. We summited at about 11 am and were back in the car a little after 5pm. The excellent trail to Willow lake makes a one day ascent relatively easy and practical if you are fit enough to be comfortable with 5400 vertical feet gain in one day, but the camping near willow lake is very nice and makes the ascent much easier. There is some snow above 13,500'. We used microspikes from about 13,600' to the summit ridge. Microspikes made the ascent, and even more so the descent, easier and safer on this steep section. Once in the summit ridge microspikes are not needed. Helmets are probably a good idea if people are above you on the slope leading to the summit ridge as there is a lot of loose rock that can be knocked down. Most of the trail below 13,500' still has essentially dry summer conditions. 
2
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-09-20, By: terrysrunning
Info: Going up around 8am, didn't use traction. Didn't even need it going to Kit Carson, Columbia, and Kitty Kat. Coming back in the pm, the thousand feet coming down off Challenger to the basin were awful. Traction required, and still uncomfortable at times. Definitely goes though. A 75 year old guy did it the same morning I did, although he didn't continue on, so went down earlier and it might have been better. 
Route: From KC via Avenue
Posted On: 2020-09-16, By: k_fergie
Info: KC avenue is loaded up really thick with snow right at the start where it meets Kirk couloir. Bring traction, it wont melt out till summer 2021. Photo shows it being wind loaded with fresh snow, my tracks were nearly filled in after 30-40 mins. At least while I was there this morning, snow was being transported into that section of the avenue at 1-3 inches per hour. I didn't take the standard north slopes up, but they looked thick with snow from up on top. No signs of anything N facing melting much, if at all 
1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-09-15, By: dfralick07
Info: I don't normally post PCRs or TRs, but there were so many people ill prepared attempting to get up Challenger's north slopes, I decided it might help someone this time. The gully up to 13,900' has 6" to 48" of snow in it. Do not attempt this climb, this week, unless you have winter boots, crampons, and an ice axe. Once at the top of the gully, the ridge to the Challenger Point summit is fairly clear, no crampons needed. The downclimb to the top of the Kirk Coulior/the saddle to Kit Carson is fairly snow free, if you stay on the ridgeline. At this point you are going to want to put the crampons back on, as the KC Avenue has a minimum of 48" of snow against the wall, sloped straight to the cliff, the entire Avenue. Once you get to the upclimb on the backside of KC, no crampons or spikes are needed to the summit. P.S. don't forget about snow glare. Bring sunscreen. My face is purple... 
12 1
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-09-04, By: Eli Watson
Info: 99% summer conditions but fresh snow dustings are starting to linger in the shady spots of northern aspects observed around 11:00 AM. Easily avoidable, just watch your feet. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2020-07-15, By: jordanthebuff
Info: The hike to the lake is wonderful, but once you start going up towards the ridge, it gets rough. It's all mostly loose rock/gravel basically the entire way. It's classified as a difficult class 2, but if you don't take the best line, you can end up doing some class 3 moves. In addition, some remaining snow melt along the rock rib made some of the rocks wet and extra slippery, so be careful. I definitely felt better doing this with a helmet. The notch to summit portion is wonderful, really great ridge hiking! 
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