Crestone Needle's Ellingwood Arete

July 2009

Crestone Needle, Colorado
14,197 Feet

In 2001, Alan and James Lee climbed Crestone Needle via the famous Ellingwood Arete.  Since the mountain and route are both such a classic, we always wanted to return to allow Jackie to have that experience.   Our long-time climbing partner, Andy Leach, along with Fabio Somenzi, drove down to the Crestones to join us on this great climb.  The Ellingwood Arete is a 5.7 technical route which follows the long knife edge that you see above.  It was first climbed in 1925 by Albert Ellingwood and Eleanor Davis.  We were successful on our climb, but spent 14 long hours on the mountain.  Afterward, we were pretty tired, but happy about the day.

Luckily, you can drive your 4-wheel drive to within about two miles of base camp.
Along the trail, the Needle looms in the distance while Jackie hikes toward camp.

After the sun came up (We started at 4:30am), we found ourselves on the lower ledges of the mountain.
The fun was just beginning.

Jackie and Fabio continue to ascend the lower ledges of the route.  South Colony Lakes are below.

Alan and Jackie are now about 750 ft above the lakes.  Photo by Andy Leach

Jackie and Fabio enjoying the day.  Shortly after this is where the real climbing begins.

Andy, Fabio, and Jackie solo dicey class 5 moves above the famous Red Knob with 1000 ft of exposure below.

Alan and Jackie making final moves just below the summit.  We did this climb in two rope teams of two.  Alan had a great time leading the technical pitches.  Photo by Andy Leach

Finally on the summit.  Andy and Fabio blazed their way to the top and patiently waited for us to summit.
Photo by Andy Leach

Decending the narrow ridge just below the summit.

Andy and Fabio in the descent gully.
The gully was a steep mess of loose rock which took hours to descend.

Finally off the mountain itself, Jackie crosses one of the last snow fields above base camp.

After the climb, we spend time contemplating our 14-hour day.
The route to the summit is indicated in the photo.

Now....check out this great video of our climb that Andy Leach filmed and produced:

Click here for my comprehensive route description on

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