Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: Warren Banks and Brad Shilling, both of Pueblo, c1986.
Page Views: 8,949 total · 40/month
Shared By: Todd Bauck on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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This route ascends the northern pillar on the NE face of Crestone Peak. Basically you climb the east face near the edge between the east and north faces. Protecting this climb can be tricky - expecially on the crux 7th pitch.

The specifics: Climb on the east face for approximately 6 pitches of up to 5.7 (with a 60m rope, you may be able to cut this down to 4 pitches). For the crux pitch, ascend from a ledge up and to the left to climb a small overhang (poor pro). Then do a rising traverse to the right (back to the edge). 2 or 3 more easier pitches will take you to the top of the pillar. From here follow the North Buttress route to the summit of Crestone Peak.

Keep in mind that the knobs which makes this climb good are sometimes loose/brittle (we broke off two!), so a fall could happen at any time. This route would be 2 or 3 stars if it wasn't for the occasionally bad knob and somewhat runout climbing.


Standard rack with additional shoulder length slings or shock absorbing runners (some of the placements are poor). For cams, bring narrow profile cams like Aliens and a #2 & #3 Camalot. Tricams also work well here.


This too should be under a Sangre de Cristos or Crestones area, eh? Mar 14, 2002
Ben Bruestle
Pueblo, CO
  5.8 R
Ben Bruestle   Pueblo, CO
  5.8 R
According to an old issue of "Climbing", Warren Banks and Brad Shilling, both of Pueblo, made the first ascent of this route around 1986. Sep 18, 2002
One star does not do this route justice. Its a matter of opinion, of course, but this is one of the best of the Crestone conglomerate routes, with good position and considerable exposure. It's true there is some loose rock near the top, but that's alpine climbing. Jul 20, 2003
Shane Zentner
Shane Zentner   Colorado
Awesome route. I'm not certain we climbed the exact route as we had to do some route finding, so take this description liberally.

Locate an obvious crack in the middle of the east face of the North Pillar. The crack widens considerably higher up. It is easy to use a full rope length on most pitches.

P1 Start at the crack. Follow the crack to a ledge with a gully at climber's right. 5.7, 175 feet

P2 From the ledge, follow a finger crack (fixed stopper) about a full rope length. 5.7, 175 feet

P3 Climb a runout 5.7 'slab' traversing up and right to a ledge. Belay beneath an overhang. 5.7, 200 feet.

P4. From the ledge, climb through the left side of the overhang(block) using small gear (awkward placement, yellow Alien), turn right after pulling the roof, then follow a crack to a grassy ledge. 5.7/5.8-, 200 feet

P5 Locate a 2" crack down and left from the grassy ledge. Climb the crack to a ledge, follow the ledge to a gully and belay. 5.6, 175 feet

P6 Climb through the gully, locate a piton, turn left and belay on the face. 5.4, 175 feet

P7 4th class scramble to the top of the pillar. 100 feet

Be careful of constant rock fall and loose cobbles that occasionally break. The protection is good but awkward in some places. Aug 16, 2004
Mitch Musci
Estes Park, CO
Mitch Musci   Estes Park, CO
Climbed this route on 9/19/04 and had a few comments to add. For the approach, follow the Colony Lakes trail and head left around the southern end of upper South Colony Lake. Continue northwest above the lake and through the drainage, finally heading up towards the base of the obvious north pillar near the head of the valley. The first pitch is the right of the two most obvious crack/flake features on the east face of the pillar, though the flake on the left looks climbable as well. Some things worth mentioning:

P1 - Surmounting the initial bulge off the ground seemed to be the crux sequence of the route, and the protection is a bit sketchy. About 60 feet off the ground I accidentally pulled off a flake about the size of a large TV. Be careful!

P2 - As a whole, this pitch had great rock quality and the finger crack/flake is awesome climbing. There is not much pro on the second half of the pitch and finding a place to belay is tricky. We belayed in the center of the face at a flake.

P3 - We climbed straight above the belay up a dihedral and then strayed left up easier slabs, finally traversing back right to a nice belay at a ledge. Going right from the belay seems to be an option as well.

P4 - The so-called crux pitch of the route, we found this to be in character with the rest of the route's difficulty. Protection was ample at the roof/bulge and nothing was very tricky. Following beta we headed up and right after the bulge, only to place ourselves in the middle of the face with poor rock and steep, runnout face climbing. I think the better way to do this pitch is after the bulge, continue up and left through the more obvious weakness to find the grassy ledge and the 2-inch crack.

After the first 15 feet or so of the 2-inch crack the difficulty lets up to lower 5th class which we simul climbed to the top of the pillar. Continue to the top of Crestone Peak via the north buttress if weather and time permits. Be prepared for some runnout sections on this climb and bring a 60m rope if you have one. All in all, a fantastic climb. Sep 20, 2004
Boulder, CO
  5.7+ R
Lordsokol   Boulder, CO
  5.7+ R
Climbed the North Pillar this weekend. We did a slight variation to the info above, and I thought it'd be helpful to post our progress.
The 4x4 road is still open to the trail head (about 2 miles from the lake). We got an early start (4am) and were walking off the top of the pillar by 11:30am. The crux of this climb may actually be the approach. Above the lake we crossed loose talus and some boiler plate snow fields in low morning light. That took a lot of concentration. Once at the base of the pillar, things eased off and the fun began.

P1. We started up the left of two possible crack systems at the base of the climb. It went at easy 5.7 but was a little tricky to protect. Larger cams 2 through 4 worked well, and a few hexes did the trick. Could also skillfully place some smaller stoppers and cams in the neighboring cracks. Belay on top of a spacious ledge.

P2. Follow a narrower crack that starts with a slight overhang (very slight) directly overhead. About 30 or so feet of this crack leads to angled face climbing that's a bit run out. Nothing over 5.6 here. Angle right to a small roof and set a belay.

P3. Follow a left-facing corner straight up, pass a small overhanging block, for a full rope length (60m). This was also easy 5th class. Set a belay on the obvious ledge.

P4. The most fun pitch. Goes up the open book overhead. Climb left around a small overhang (5.6) or pull the roof (easy 5.8). Run this a full rope length (60m) until you get to a grassy ledgy area. Tricky placing pro for a belay up here. Save a large cam for this if you can.

P5. From the belay, drop down about ten feet into a grassy gully and look for an obvious crack that goes up straight ahead. (Do not go up right directly above the belay). This goes for about 50 feet to another large ledge (easy 5.6).

From there we simul-soloed up the 4th class gully to the top. The rock was mostly solid, but watch for the occasional loose block. This was a very relaxing and enjoyable high alpine rock climb! Good weather and an early start, mixed with some great photo ops with mt. goats, made this a near perfect day. Jul 2, 2007
7 pitches. 5.7+. 1st two pitches were solid rock, next two pitches had some holds come off, stay cautious, helmet required. More sustained than Ellingwood Arete. Recommended. Jul 9, 2007
Malcolm Daly
Boulder, CO
Malcolm Daly   Boulder, CO
Jeff Lowe and I did a route up here in the early '80s. I wish I had had my camera, because then I wouldn't have to try to remember. Damn memory.... I recall walking up past Colony Lakes up to the peak, spying a primo buttress right up the middle, then going for it. I don't remember much pro, but there were tons of bowling-ball-sized cobbles and an occasional belay. We did a fair amount of simul-climbing, and it felt like 5.9+ or so. My memory tells me that the buttress went all the way to the top. Jul 11, 2007
Ft. Collins, CO
beavs   Ft. Collins, CO
I thought the first pitch was the crux but definitely no harder than 5.8 (runout in a couple spots unless you have large cams). We climbed it in 4 pitches with a 70m rope but had to simul-climb a bit on a couple of them. Jul 13, 2009
Ray Hellinger
Gunnison, CO
Ray Hellinger   Gunnison, CO
Did this climb last summer and it was a lot of fun. Good pro and solid rock. Pretty much the same route as the one pitured on the page, but, for the 1st pitch, we took the left side. It was definitely around 5.8. Wouldn't really give it an R rating though. Jul 16, 2012
Joshua Payne
Los Alamos, NM
  5.7+ PG13
Joshua Payne   Los Alamos, NM
  5.7+ PG13
Climbed this 9/21/2013. We started up the large crack to the left of the one shown in the topo. That start felt more like 5.9, and was significantly more difficult than the "crux".

We did the entire climb in 4 roped pitches plus about 200' of free solo. Each pitch was 200+ ft, with a couple reaching the very end of our 70m rope.

Protection was adequate. Much better pro than the Prow on Kit Carson but not as good as that on Ellingwood. There were plenty of excellent belay locations. The belay spots we used mostly involved slinging very large rocks (one was questionable and we didn't know how far into the ground this giant boulder went...).

Rock quality was excellent for the first two pitches but degraded a bit higher up. Most of it was super solid though. The gully to the top was scary and had several very large precariously perched rocks that wouldn't take much more than a sneeze to send them down.

The climbing was very sustained, more so than either the Prow or Ellingwood Arete. Solid, sustained 5.7 for 800', with a few harder moves depending on your route. The crux was easy, we didn't even realize that we had done it until we couldn't find another overhang above us. I would call the crux 5.7+, not 5.8. It was much easier than the crux on the Prow. Sep 23, 2013
Jeff Dobronyi
Ouray, CO
  5.8 R
Jeff Dobronyi   Ouray, CO
  5.8 R
This is a fun climb. Definitely not for the new 5.8 leader though, as many sections are 40+ feet runout above questionable gear. Leaders need to have experience running it out in the alpine, creative anchor building skills, and the ability to deal with loose and questionable rock. This should not be someone's first alpine rock experience, but if you are looking for something more challenging and sustained than the Ellingwood Arete, go for it. Aug 25, 2015
Dan Sneider
Denver, CO
Dan Sneider   Denver, CO
Surprised that nobody on here has touched on how to descend this route and what the options are after topping out:

1) Summiting Crestone Peak after climbing the North Pillar is NOT an option unless you are intimately familiar with the topography of Crestone Peak. The North Pillar tops out several 'summits' away from the actual summit and is separated by loose rock, 5th class terrain, and multiple gullies with over 1000ft drop off. DO NOT TRY TO PUSH FOR THE SUMMIT STRAIGHT UP FROM THE NORTH PILLAR!

2) If you are intent on summiting Crestone Peak, you could probably descend off the backside of the North Pillar down one of the gullies, moving south and east, and then re-ascend a different route (again, only attempt this if you truly know where to go, have the time, and have a solid weather window. Keep in mind you would still need to descend from the summit to the south and return over Broken Hand Pass.

3) The most obvious and safe descent option is to descend down and right following the Humboldt ridge line all the way around to the far side of Upper South Colony Lake. This route is safe, simple, and will provide great views of the Crestones.

4) There is a gully/chute that can be downclimbed (when snow is melted late in the season) around the corner from the North Pillar and will drop you back at the base of the route. This route is technical and has high potential for rock fall so should only be used as a last resort for weather/safety reasons. Aug 1, 2016