This is one of Colorado’s more infamous peaks because the steep and jagged climb can be deadly. It’s also one of the state’s most iconic, towering like the Grand Tetons at 14,197 feet over the San Luis Valley. There is little margin for error on this mountain, with only one safe way up and down and plenty of places to go wrong. The peak is usually climbed from a base camp at South Colony Lakes.

From the summit of nearby Humboldt Peak I once gazed over at forbidding Crestone Needle, site of so many disasters, and decided I probably would never climb all the 14ers because of mountains like the Needle.

Pro Tips

  • Wear a helmet. The route is steep and falling rocks a constant threat.
  • Backpack into South Colony Lakes for a base camp. You’ll start much higher and be better acclimated to the elevation.
  • Most accidents happen on the descent, so make strong mental notes or even take pictures with your phone of the route. Remember, it’s not enough to summit a peak. Making it safely back down is often the harder part.
  • Recommended season(s): Summer-early fall.

    —R. Scott Rappold


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