Sangres Climb
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Quite similar to the Old Cables Route on Longs Peak last Spring, it just would've been too easy to climb these peaks during the summer. So Bruce and I decided to attempt them in late fall given the lack of snowfall we had early this View on the way inseason. We were going to try climbing Kit Carson and Challenger from Willow Lake on the west side of the Sangres de Cristo's.  The idea was to backpack in, camp near Willow Lake, and make a summit attempt on Challenger early the next morning. Time permitting we were going to cross the saddle to Kit Carson too. On the ride in, there was quite a bit of overcast but it started clearing up when we got closer. Kit Carson and Challenger also got bigger and bigger till they almost filled up the entire sky in front of us!
Our plans were thwarted early when we started at the wrong trailhead. It seemed right but after hiking up the drainage for a while it got more and more obvious that we were in the wrong area, considering that we needed to head Southeast, and most of the time hiking we were heading Northeast. After a couple hours we turned back around and found our way back to the truck after a couple more wrong turns. WeOn the hike in found the correct trailhead, (named wrong in the book), and just camped nearby since it was too late to start packing in. We started out in the morning just as it was starting to get light and gained tons of altitude from the 8,800ft trailhead. We got to Willow Lake after a couple hours and started looking for View from above Willow Lakeour route and couldn't believe how steep it looked! There was snow on the slope leading up, but we were still able to stick mainly to the rocks. It was starting to get later and later and our pace was getting slower. After finally making it up to the high ridge before the summit things just got worse. The snow was getting deeper and harder to climb through and the terrain was getting tougher. By this point I had already given up on the idea of climbing over to Kit Carson after Challenger. But once I got around to the back side of Challenger it didn't look like I was going to be going much farther, even though to summit was just slightly above me. I followed the cairns up and over a small ridge and the pucker factor kept rising. I made my way along broken cliffs barely holding on to the side and my feet were slipping off the few inches of good trail, the snow didn't help atBruce on the way down all at this point. Looking to my right at about a 2,000ft drop I started thinking about how ironic it was that we were talking a lot about Search and Rescue. I made it past that short part and over the next small ridge it was just the same. Time to turn around. I was feeling quite uncomfortable and knew that I reached my limits. After working my way back across I told Bruce, and sat down to collect my shit for a few minutes. The down climb didn't go too much faster due to the slopes and conditions. But we eventually made it back to the trailhead after 10.5hrs of hiking and climbing.

Waterfall on the way in          Looking west from above Willow Lake