This trip came together last minute when Jeff and I realized we had a similar weekend day available for hiking. John was a late addition to the trip and the three of us were driving towards Crestone, Colorado, around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Our objective for the following day was The Prow on Kit Carson Peak. After an early dinner in Poncha Springs, Colorado, we arrived at the Spanish Creek Trailhead where we scouted our approach and found a place to camp near the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead. I quickly determined that I forgot my trail runners and was lucky that John had an extra pair of shoes I used for this trip. Despite being a couple sizes too big, I didn’t really have any other options. We organized our gear and had a few beers before calling it a night.
We got up at 3:30 and were hiking up Spanish Creek by 4:10. We followed a faint trail for about an hour before loosing it and bushwhacking for then next hour. Fortunately, we picked up the use trail higher in the drainage and finished the approach to the base of The Prow. We left one pack with any gear we didn’t need in the drainage to lighten our load on the climbing section of the day. In order to get to the crux start of the route, we free-climbed a low class 5 gully and then traversed to the west side of a pillar on more low-to-mid class 5 climbing. John and Jeff have given up several ice leads to me over the years, so I told them to fight over the money pitch on The Prow. In addition, I’ve done little rock climbing over the past year and was certain I couldn’t lead the crux 5.8 overhang pitch anyway.
John took the sharp end of the rope and did a great job pulling the moves and proceeding up the most difficult climbing of the day. Once above the roof, he traversed left and then up on thin rock that provided little protection. I thought the climbing was hard for the first 50' and then eased up higher on the pitch. I went second and completed the crux section without coming off, but the climbing was desperate and I was glad I didn’t try leading it. Jeff followed us cleanly, and before we knew it we were off the deck and committed to the route.
From John’s belay at the top of the first pitch, I looked at the next section and decided to give it a go. The climbing was easier than the first pitch, but protection remained scarce. The term long run-out is an understatement on The Prow. I placed two pieces of gear and slung one horn on our second 60 meter pitch. After bringing my partners up, it was Jeff’s turn to take the lead. At this point, we were all warmed up and having a blast on a blue bird day with great climbing. Jeff’s pitch was similar to the second one and offered a bit more protection, but still required a fair amount of run-out climbing.
At the top of pitch three, John was up again to lead out. When he reached the end of the rope, Jeff and I broke down the anchor and we began simul-climbing as the terrain gets easier the higher up on The Prow you get. John got tired of rope drag after a while and finally built an anchor where Jeff and I joined him a couple hundred feet below the summit of The Prow. I finished leading over the top of The Prow as we continued simul-climbing to Kit Carson Avenue.
Jeff generously gave me the lead on the final pitch that goes directly up from the saddle of The Prow and Kit Carson Peak to the summit of Kit Carson Peak. This was another fun and easy pitch that offered better protection than The Prow. When I reached the top of the ridge, we completed the route by simul-climbing to the summit of Kit Carson Peak. After having some lunch and taking photos, we scrambled over to Columbia Point (Kat Carson Peak) and Kitty Kat Carson. From the twin summits, we descended towards the saddle of Obstruction Peak and then dropped back into the Spanish Creek drainage. We did get cliffed-out once and had to complete a rappel before reaching the base of the valley and hiking back to our cached gear near the base of the route.
We filtered some water for the rest of the descent and began the hike out determined to stay on the climber’s trail to avoid any more bushwhacking. This task proved to be much easier going out and in day light. We listened to loud thunder on the high peaks and got sprinkled on a bit during the hike, but remained generally dry and cool under the cloud cover. We reached the trailhead at 4:55 for a car-to-car time of 12 hours and 45 minutes. The approach took us four hours to the base of the route, the climbing on The Prow and Kit Carson Direct took four hours to the summit of Kit Carson, and the descent was 4 hours and 45 minutes. Descending the South/Cole’s Couloir between Kit Carson and Columbia Point would definitely be a faster way back to the base of the climb; however, we did not carry an ice axe or crampons and decided to go over Columbia Point since the couloir was snow filled.