Challenger Point Route Guide | A Fun Class 2 Scramble
Challenger Point is the most recently named 14er in the state, in memory of the lost crew of the space shuttle Challenger. It’s a tough class 2 scramble to the summit of this less travelled peak. The approach hike to Willow Lake is a 4.25 mile trek in itself, followed by the climb up the steep North Slope to the summit ridge. For those ready for Class 3 terrain, you can continue on to Kit Carson Peak to bag a second 14er. Take care, as several have died on that route. Plan your trip and prepare with this Challenger Point Route Guide.
Challenger Point Route Guide Fast Facts
Challenger Point Route Guide
Start by taking the 4.25 mile from the Willow Creek trailhead up the valley until you come to Willow Lake. If doing this trip as an overnight there are many campsites in the area here to use. Pick up the trail near the lake’s west side. It may be hard to locate among the numerous social trails.
Take the trail along the lake’s north side and turn left to climb up and around a large ledge ahead of you. Turn right at the top and continue along the top of the hill.
Cross the stream above the waterfall and follow the trail towards the North Slope of Challenger Point. Kit Carson Peak rises just past it and above you.
Nearing the bottom of the slope, here is a closer view of the route. It stays to the right of the large snow-filled gully the entire time, and gets rougher as you go. Find the bottom of the trail and start to climb.
The slope is steepest between 13,400 feet and 13,700 feet. Follow cairns and weave through the rock ledges to reach the summit. Be wary of loose rock here and take your time ascending the steep slope. A helmet here wouldn’t be a bad idea.
As you near the top of the slope, aim for a notch just to the right of the snow gully. This is the best way to gain the ridge.
Once you get to the top, turn to the left to begin climbing the ridge to the summit.
You have two options from the notch. The harder line is straight ahead and to your left over steep, exposed rock. The easier line continues through the notch and to the left along the ridge before regaining it.
If you take the easier route, follow small grassy ledges around the ridge and then follow a rocky scramble back up to the summit ridge.
Once back on the ridge, ascend the final 200 feet to the summit of Challenger Peak and enjoy your accomplishment. If you want you can continue along the Class 3 route to Kit Carson Peak – check the weather before going on. I hope you enjoyed my Challenger Point Route Guide.
Use this topographical map as part of my Challenger Point Route Guide. I recommending downloading and printing out a copy, and saving a copy on your phone so you have a backup in case anything happens.
Your preparation should include checking the weather forecast. I’ve included two sources to start with as part of my Challenger Point Route Guide.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe. Good Luck!
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Challenger Point route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.