I was drawn to this view from the first time I saw it. Then when I saw it on the cover of a fourteener book I got a few years ago, I knew I had to give it a try. Sure enough, we got to see people ascending the steep trails up to terrain that (in my mind) clearly crossed the line from hiking to climbing - definitely cool to see. The note above shows the easiest route up to the needle from the east side - ascending up through the saddle. The route is rated as very difficult with a reputation as having the most difficult descent of any of the Colorado fourteeners. I'm guessing that means a few people have died on the way down...
As it turns out, this area used to be easier to get to and was extremely popular - on the order of 10,000 visitors each year. So much that the damage to the terrain was greater than it could bear. So the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (a non-profit group out of Colorado Springs) got involved to move the trailhead a few miles down the hill, clean the area up, and improve the trail up above timberline (a major deal, by the way). The result is a beautiful, secluded area below a couple of Colorado's most impressive fourteeners.
This image was taken just after sunrise from South Colony Lake (the lower one) below Crestone Needle in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado. With all the wind, finding some calm water was a challenge. In the end I did find some but I ended up liking the rippled reflection even more.
January 23rd, 2013
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