Challenger Point  
Condition Updates  
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2019-04-25, By: Will_E
Info: Trail is dry for first 3-4 miles for the most part, then off and on snow until just before Willow Lake. From willow lake until the final ridge I wore snowshoes. I attempted Kit Carson, but the snow on the avenue made it tough to get to the nice climbing line so I bailed. On descent I wore spikes across Challenger slope, then had to put snowshoes on and off a few times around the lake. Even with snowshoes I had a fair bit of postholing, the snow really got soft (and deep). 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2019-02-11, By: jscully205
Info: Trail up to the upper valley is mostly packed down. From there, very deep snow through Willow Lake on up to the North Slope. Bring your snow shoes. Skis not advisable. Snow on the way up the North Slope was highly variable between firm and wallowing. I climbed the rock ribs where I could on up to the ridge. I was solo and did not attempt KC because I did not have a belay to get across the avenue. Down climbed Kirk Couloir where I found the snow much more supportive/consistent and made it easily down. The whole trip was an over-nighter with camp at Willow Lake. 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-10-26, By: Sean G
Info: Trail from parking to above lake is clear. Camping spots a bit muddy but possible. North slope is snow loaded. Expect 2-3 feet of loose, bottomless powder. Didn't bring snow shoes, not sure they would have helped. Bring but be prepared to ditch on ascent. Microspikes a must. Avy awareness and ice ax definitely needed as well. Found route finding very straight forward from pictures. Did not attempt Kit Carson due to time and conditions. Avenue looks sketchy with amount of snow. Didn't get eyes on class 3 back side. Great day though! 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-06-17, By: dwoodward13
Info: Trail up to the gully is clear of any snow/deadfall. Nice camping below the lake (and no mosquitos!). Trail up to the ridge is as advertised...slick, lose and not much fun. Helmets are required. On descent, our party sent several rocks accidentally down that picked up speed fast so wear your helmet and call out rocks kicked down!! Small snow gully to cross where spikes/ax were useful, but others in party didn't use either. Did not continue to KC due to persistent fog limiting visibility to just a few tens of feet. Still a great day on the mountain! 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-06-04, By: BobbyFinn
Info: Here's the view from 13,541 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-05-28, By: emily_m
Info: We followed a trail towards the grassy northwest part of slope, and avoided much of the snow described in other reports. This route also avoided a lot of very loose rock. We only encountered a few small snow patches in the last couple hundred feet before the summit, all of which were easily avoidable with the route we took. The Avenue between Kit Carson and Challenger still has a significant amount of snow/ice. We did not feel comfortable crossing without at least microspikes, if not crampons. 
Route: North Slope w/West Ridge Variation
Posted On: 2018-05-29, By: andrew85
Info: Summer conditions up through Willow Lake. Large snowfields still remaining up the north slope standard route. Early start is key, should be able to navigate or avoid snowfields with minimal traction. Upper waterfall still frozen but the trail became increasingly swampy as the day progressed. Got a late start from the trailhead and was already postholing when I got to the snowfields so I opted to gain the ridge from the west (approximate route pictured). Definitely more technical but easier than postholing IMO. Didn't continue to Kit Carson because it was getting to be late afternoon and there was still a lot of snow in the Avenue (and I was already postholing just on the scree slope). To my knowledge only one person with crampons was able to get it earlier that morning. Everyone else I ran into turned around before KC as well so I'd say crampons and an early start for KC are strongly recommended. 
8
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-05-27, By: Gatsby
Info: Snow slopes up Challenger's N. Slopes started softening early with direct sun - around 8. Watch out for rockfall if you choose to ascend via the gully. Spikes, at a minimum, still necessary for the last ~300 feet below the ridge line. From the notch on the ridge to the summit, all rock is dry and snow can be avoided on the excellent, solid class 2 ridge direct. The large gully made an excellent glissade back down to the basin at 10:30. When the snow ends, there is still ~400 feet of mushy terrain to negotiate back to Willow Lake. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-05-27, By: emroka
Info: Camped at Willow Lake and started climbing around 4:30. Snow started midway to the ridge. It was mushy even descending around 7:30. The loose snow made the descent from the summit of Challenger pretty slick. We turned back before Kit Carson because the Avenue was snow packed in places and looked a bit treacherous. 
5 2
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-04-17, By: Mountainadventur3
Info: Not much snow in the approach to Willow Lake. Definitely some use for traction near the end of the lake approach where areas are iced over. Snow in the basin was light for the season due to a soft winter in the sangres but traction definitely required for the Challenger ascent. Enough snow was windblasted on the avenue of Kit Carson to look unnecessarily dangerous. A regular hiker of the basin I met said when the avenue on kit is like that, it can take months to thaw. I wouldn't plan on doing Kit Carson right now unless you have some serious snow and ice climbing experience. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-03-26, By: JakeHouseknecht
Info: Willow Creek trail head is open, barely any snow on the approach up the willow creek trail. Starting at roughly 10k there is several inches of well packed snow for most of the way to the lake... doesn't look like it has snowed here in a long time. No need for flotation at any part of the trail but the loose snow on the upper part of the mountain made for a long day and an intense down climb. 
4 7
Route: From Kit Carson
Posted On: 2018-01-29, By: bmcqueen
Info: Did KC from the South first and decided the Avenue, while spicy looking, would go to allow us to get to and from Challenger as well. Crampons and axes are a necessity. I carried a 30-meter rope as well just in case we needed to give each other a belay. In each third of the Avenue, there are 1-2 sections that get your heart pumping a bit. We never pulled the rope out - just took it slowly and carefully and followed Wilderness Jane's great lead. 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2018-01-18, By: LiveAndLetDie
Info: Snow from lake all the way to the summit. Was a very difficult ascent/ descent - much harder than the kit traverse. There was no trail as it had not been climbed recently. I stuck to the right side which was a little bit steeper, but had rocks that were easier to climb than the snow. Stuck right until I got on the NW ridge. Took the NW ridge all the way to the summit. Hardest part was the middle of slope as it held bad snow that was not packed and difficult to get any traction on. Made for a difficult descent. There was also a large ice patch in the middle on the descent that must have melted/ re-froze with the current temperatures. Forced me to do a self arrest. The NW ridge is holding good snow and makes for an easy ascent outside of the notch you have to climb through. The stream that feeds the waterfall at Willow lake is currently frozen. There are notable cracks in it and ice made a large cracking noise while I was crossing on descent. Be extra careful on crossing as ice may not be completely stable with current weather. Bring ice axe and traction if planning on doing. Would not do in current winter conditions. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-11-22, By: bmcqueen
Info: To expand on latest CR with a couple pics, trail is dry to 10,900, then switches to snow and even an ice flow around 11,300. I did Adams, not Challenger, but here is a pic of the route above the lake. See mountain man's CR for route beta. 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-11-22, By: Mountain Man
Info: My buddy and I hiked the switchbacks up to Willow Lake. We hit snow around 10,000' and were on it for the duration (including camp). Class 1 hold true for the approach to Willow Lake- there were a couple spots that were so icy we cut a switchback or walked adjacent the trail for a few steps, but the trail is easy to find and in great condition. With sunrise Sunday morning we headed up towards the North slope of Challenger Point. Navigation and finding the "rock rib" are easy once you locate the obvious shoot. After a good pace up to about 12,500', we came to a near halt and postholed for a couple hundred feet. Finally approaching the notch, we hit some good crusty snow/ ice and could easily walk with crampons. Once on the ridge, the finish was easy (although the exposure and awkwardness from walking relatively flat rocky ground with crampons was a little sketchy). Took about 3 hours to climb from the lake to the summit with perfect weather. Beautiful, blue sky day with views of the Crestones, dunes, valley, Pike's Peak, and the whole world it seemed. The avenue to Kit Carson was visible but looked quite skinny and exposed in one spot. On the way down, we were able to glissade the majority of the chute with frequent self-arrests (we both slipped at least once and legitimately had to self arrest before zooming away down the shoot). Conclusions -Crampons and ice axe are a must. We saw a couple parties had made it to the ice around 13,400' by postholing and then turned back. -We probably would have found crunchier snow pack in the shoot for the ascent and could have made better time than postholing on the other side (near the rock rib). -There were 2 layers of snow on the face. Any deeper or added layer would come with serious avalanche risk. Check snow conditions and recent storm history if climbing in early November. -This is a lot of elevation to climb down back to the parking lot. Very satisfied with the decision to hike in and camp rather than day hike. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-11-13, By: grahampa
Info: Went up to about 13,500 on Challenger's standard route yesterday. Snow was relatively easy to manage up until about 12,700 when the slope starts to get very steep. The fresh snow on top is powdery and gives way to a virtual sheet of ice on the entire slope. Our trail was very difficult to gain traction on even with microspikes, one of our members did not have an ice axe and my dog was terrified by the slippery ground so we went down. Be prepared for waist deep snow in spots up top and a long, difficult day if you plan to climb Kit Carson via Challenger. We started at 6 am, made willow lake by 845 a.m. but didn't return to the car until 6 pm. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-11-10, By: kentmw
Info: Good amount of snow above 13K. Be prepared for class 3 scrambling on snow covered rocks if you do this route. The trail is covered in snow and very difficult to locate especially if you are up in the clouds like we were that morning. I am sure this route received more snow in the storms that rolled through on Tuesday and Wednesday. 
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Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-10-30, By: donkrier
Info: We climbed from the Willow Ck TH to the base of Challenger on this cool, clear day. There was (last week's) light snow covering well above us (~13,500') on the Challenger/KC Peak ridge, and the usual gullies were snow filled. We turned back ~300 ft below the Challenger due to ice and poor footing on the steep slope. Tried the gullies but the "snow" was hard ice and dangerous without the proper gear. Micro-spikes didn't cut it. We retreated to climb another day. We'd summited before in better conditions, so we knew which way was up. We saw two climbers descending the couloir from CP. Don't know if they had axes/crampons but they looked pretty wobbly, cautious, and slow, and they made it. Loose rocks flying down are a real danger. Making an enjoyable overnight at Willow Lake, summiting the 2nd day (CP and Kit Carson), then packing out is a great idea. It's a long day otherwise. 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-08-27, By: Thevirtualsherpa
Info: Route from top of waterfall to summit is just s--t, no other way of putting it. If you are starting from the lake, pass the top streams and locate a small rock cliff, this is where the new trail starts. You will notice yellow/orange trail markers here, DO NOT continue on old trail unless you are hiking different way to summit. You can follow these markers about 1/2 way up Challenger and it will make your life much easier. Once you leave that, you are on your own...god speed and bring hiking poles. Feel free to message me on IG for more details about either mountain. @thevirtualsherpa 
Route: North Slope
Posted On: 2017-08-19, By: sibyllec
Info: We hiked up challenger Point and Kit Carson on Friday, Aug. 18, in ideal weather conditions. We hiked in to Willow Lake on 8/17, and camped below the lake. the RMFI crew is building a new (re-routed) trail, and has occupied a large site below the lake. A sign jsut past their site says: "No stock or camping past this point". We hiked up both peaks on 8/18, and hiked back out. On our hike out, we encountered numerous (more than 5) parties coming in to climb the peaks. A popular spot this weekend! The road to the trailhead looks like it's been graded, has new gravel, and is passable with a 2WD car. However, some of the camping sites off to the side of the road require 4WD, as they are deeply rutted. There's also a new toilet at the traihead. 

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