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The Sangre de Cristo Range, from the San Luis Valley.

Mt Adams

Elevation: 13,931 ft
Rank: 66
Nearby Summits: none done in combination
Range: Sangre de Cristo
Date: Sept 5, 1984 ( ±1 or 2 days)
Route: Lk Fork N Crestone Crk to N Crestone Lk to WNW ridge/W face
GPS Waypoint Track
Quads: Horn Pk (7½') and Electric Pk (15') - it's on both
Time: prob at least approx 5 hrs (est)
Elevation Gain: 3000 ft from camp at 10,960 ft (below N Crestone Lk)

Mt Adams is a striking peak on the Sangre de Cristo range crest a little N of Kit Carson and the Crestones. It's easily visible from parts of the San Luis Valley as the roughly pyramidal summit in the group to the left (N) with a two-level structure at the very top (N side is lower). From the right spot in the Wet Mtn Valley one gets a good look at the respectable 2000 ft sheer E face of the peak.

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The main section of the Sangre de Cristo range, from across the San Luis Valley to the west. Adams Pk is farthest left, then Challenger Pt (w/Kit Carson behind), Crestone Pk at center, and Tijeras Pk extreme right.

I climbed Mt Adams by a route that I hadn't seen described before. This starts on the road leading N out of the small village of Crestone. At the base of the actual mountains the road angles right (NE) and proceeds 1½ miles to the trailhead for North Crestone Creek at about 8820 ft not far from the N Crestone Campground. I backpacked up this trail, staying right (SE) at a triple trail junction about 2 miles in, to a camp about 1 2/3 miles further on the Lake Fork of N Crestone Creek at the NW end of the valley which is one level below the N Crestone Lk basin. The backpack in climbs steadily, but the trail is good, and the higher start it allows on the peak makes it worthwhile to pack in. I think to do Adams by my route as a day hike would require an early start and a strong party -- it's 5100 ft vertical to the summit from the trailhead. By breaking it in half it becomes a 2100 ft backpack followed by just a 3000 ft climb.

For the climb from camp at 10,950 ft I continued on up the trail to just below N Crestone Lk, leaving the trail about ¼ mi before it gets to the lake. I angled right (SSE) to cross the creek just below the lake's outlet. The idea here is to contour around the SSW side of the lake and do a climbing traverse to get into the prominent gully that runs NNE right down to the main body of the lake. The hike gradually turns into a climb here, as the upper portion of the gully/couloir steepens to meet Adams's WNW ridge and the ridge coming ESE off the WNW satellite peaklette. The travel here is over moderately stable small boulders and chiprock turning into talus, for what turns out to be the poorest footing of the journey.

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Looking back down at N Crestone Lk from high in the rocky gully. Fluted Pk in the background.

From the top of the gully at 12,780 turn left (E) and go up the left (N) side of the W face on pretty good conglomerate for 1000+ vertical feet to the summit block. Some of the W face is chiprock, most is bare rock littered with only a little loose material; there are several larger than usual steps. I'm not great at classifying routes, but I'd guess that the W face is upper Second Class or easy Third Class climbing -- in good weather. This sounds much easier than Ormes's description of the NE ridge (which recommends having a rope along), which must be more broken up since it appears to have a shallower average slope than the WNW ridge on the topo map. Still, the W face is nothing to mess around with. In bad weather a descent would be tedious at best, and possibly dangerous. The exposure near the top of the W face is of the cumulative variety (as opposed to the immediate kind).

The summit block itself is N-S running and is composed of a series of interconnected grass covered tilted ledges. The climbing here is not difficult (again, in good weather) but the steps up are larger than any previously encountered, so you'll use your hands most here. From the top of the WNW ridge I found the easiest path up to the small summit to be generally around over on the NE or N corner for this last 70 vertical feet.

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Looking S across the summit of Adams Pk. Crestone Needle at left, with Crestone Pk to its right, then Kit Carson's three summits. The standard ascent route on Challenger Pt is at the extreme right.

Maybe it was the time of year, but Adams was really awesome to do. I didn't see anyone else in the area the whole time, got to experience a classic Sangre de Cristo sunset and alpenglow, and the entire area around the lake is just absolutely spectacular. It really wasn't until I did Vermillion and Golden Horn nine years later that I had such a memorable trip. If I ever run out of new peaks worth climbing, Adams would certainly be worth doing a second time.

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Copyright ©1996-2003 by Chris Wetherill, except where otherwise noted. You can use this "as is" for any educational or nonprofit purpose with no guarantee of accuracy.