Willow Creek trail climbing toward Challenger. A bighorn sheep is visible to the left of the trail.
Left: Looking south across Willow Lake. Right: Mike Bur traversing the west ridge of Challenger (class 2+, 200 ft. exposure).
Challenger (front) and Kit Carson (behind) seen from the west ridge looking east.
Left: Kit Carson from the summit of Challenger looking east. "Kit Carson Avenue" circles the mountain around the right side to the back. The Crestones are visible in the distance. Right: Crestones as seen from the summit of Kit Carson looking southeast. The north couloir route (class 3) is plainly visible straight up the middle.
Matt Mahoney (left) and Mike Bur (right) on the tiny summit of Crestone Peak. In the background is East Crestone on the left and Crestone Needle on the right.
Crestone Peak to Needle traverse (going left to right, class 4) as seen from Cottonwood Lake looking north.
An alternative to the traverse is to descend the south couloir from Crestone Peak (class 3). Left: Mike Bur. Right, Roger from Maui, climbing barefoot.
Left: Crestone Needle from the south. The traverse approaches on the ridge from the left side (class 4). The alternative route is to descend to the lake where this photo was taken, then climb the southeast ridge from the right (class 3). In either case you will descend the southeast ridge back to the lake again. Right: Crestone Peak as seen (or not seen) from Crestone Needle as a storm approaches.
Matt Mahoney nearing Cottonwood Lake after attempting to descend the southeast ridge of Crestone Needle (background, class 3) in a hailstorm. It is easy to get off route when you're in a hurry. There are two couloirs off the south side, and you are supposed to traverse from the west couloir to the east before it gets too steep. As I discovered the hard way, if you miss the traverse, the couloir turns to class 4 with an icy waterfall down the middle (center of photo from the horizon and more or less straight down).
If you decide to wimp out at Cottonwood Lake, here is the "easy" route back to Crestone. It is mostly bushwacking down the drainage through willows, swamp, underbrush, deadfall, and steep rocks until you find the faint trail at around 10,000 ft.
The photos below taken by John Genet on June 28, 2003 show the northwest couloir of Crestone Peak full of snow.