The Spanish Creek Redemption – Winter Kit Carson

Spanish Creek. For 48 hours it remained untouched this winter until a brave and unsuspecting foursome went to work during the wee hours of Christmas Eve. By noon we weren’t even approaching treeline. We never stood a chance. For the next 30 days Spanish Creek would remain untouched.

December 24, 2015 – Jeremy Kreis, Justin Martin, Will Coleman and myself make it to treeline after 7 hours of masochistic trench building.

Peak: Kit Carson Peak (14,165′)
Date: January 23, 2016
Trailhead: Spanish Creek (8,260′)
Distance: ~11 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 6,000 ft.
Participants: Natalie Moran, Dillon Sarnelli
Time: 16 hours

Route Overview. (Click to Enlarge)

January 23, 2016 –  With the Sangres flashing green and a perfect weather window, it was go time. I set out solo from the Spanish Creek trailhead at 2 AM to rendezvous at 1st light with Natalie who had skinned in solo the day prior and was camped near treeline. Sometimes it can be difficult to accurately describe an approach. I think Natalie nailed it.

After a car to camp blitzkrieg that I’d pay for later, I arrived at a tent in the middle of god knows where at around 5 AM. Natalie, sleeping obviously, began throwing projectiles in my general direction. Ok, that didn’t really happen. In fact, quite the opposite. She couldn’t have been more inviting for someone who just lost 2 hours of sleep.

Not much to report below treeline. Think slog, then multiply it times 100 and add in 600 downed trees. So without further adieu, the fun part.

Finally, the good stuff.
Good Morning Crestones.
Giddy up.
The Prow.
The Prow (L). Our route up Cole’s Couloir (R) to the east.
The man likes to play chess. Let’s get him some rocks. When the snow was bulletproof and/or a post holing crapshoot, we shifted gears to the rock on our left. (Photo by Natalie)
Drytooling Natalie.
The gully starts out pretty low angle. (Photo by Natalie)
Then it steepens before the exit near the Avenue.
Topping out of the couloir. (Photo by Natalie)

Natalie – “Dillon, I think we should go for Challenger”. Dillon – “Umm”.

This is actually the 2nd third of the avenue after traversing the 1st section to the 1st rib. It was here we decided that we wanted to live to see the Broncos game on Sunday. The picture doesn’t really do it justice.
Retreating. Not a great picture, but this one gives some perspective. (Photo by Natalie)
Get it. (Photo by Natalie).
Summit of Kit Carson Peak (14,165′) – January 23, 2016 (Click to enlarge)
Summit of Kit Carson Peak (14,165′) – January 23, 2015 (Click to enlarge)
Natalie is smiling, but she really wants Challenger.
Hard to see, but I haven’t shaved since Xmas.

Funny thing happened on the summit. Natalie says, “Dillon, those tracks over there, they’re human. Someone else has been here.” I called bullshit, but on regaining enough energy to stand upright, I realized she was indeed serious. They appeared to come off the Prow, but no one’s been up Spanish Creek or across the Avenue?!? WTF

Later I’d get this message on the way home:

It was good to put a human to the feet and reassured us that our decision to stop was probably the right one. Good luck to Jason on his quest to climb 59 in 90 this winter.

Kit Carson from Crestone Peak – Photo by Ryan Marsters. Danny, Nate and Ryan were simultaneously doing some work over on the Crestones and shot this one. Well done to all 3 of you gents.
Follow them size 5’s.
Up your butt, Jobu. (Photo by Natalie)
Found this note on my windshield upon returning to the Jeep. Ryan, I apologize for my tardiness, but the death march back to the TH took longer than expected. Next time I owe you 2 waters! Oh snap. And Gilbert, I expect you to help me drink Ryan’s beers.
Go Broncos!

Spanish Creek, where you come home with one glove and one snowshoe and still consider yourself lucky. Natalie, this was a grind and a half, but looking back it sure was a bomber day. Thanks for feeding me at Camp Moran and being awesome! If you’re on Challenger right now, you’re my idol.

T minus 79 days, 12 hours, 4 minutes, and 33 seconds.

Thanks for reading all!

8 thoughts on “The Spanish Creek Redemption – Winter Kit Carson

  1. What confuses me is how Spanish Creek can resist trail formation, when it’s so easy for social trails to appear on every other 14er. It defies logic!

    Solid work Dillon and Natalie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mike! Nice work to you too! Exactly. In December I tried to make sense out of Spanish Creek. It made my brain hurt. This trip I just said let’s roll. Keep up the good work this winter! Love the RMNP mission man.


  2. My favorite TR of yours, Dilly (at least that I can remember)! Congrats to you & Natalie. Man, I miss climbing down in those Sangres. So cool. Love the landscape, couloirs, rock, everything! You guys rock. Makes be very envious 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brando, thanks buddy! Everyone will be jealous when you tell them what you’re gonne do on Halo Ridge and how many beers you drank on the way home. Sawyer called me last night. She said giddy up!


  3. Another solid write up dude! You know….for a guy who is suppose to be this ever reclusive/elusive hermit during tax season you sure manage to get out more than us average folk!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ricardo! Sunday’s in January, we’ve been over this. haha. Switched it up to make this one happen, though. Obviously, I have my priorities in order! Let’s order another pizza in February sometime. Seeya soon! 76 days


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