RT Length: 14.33 miles
Elevation Gain: 4842’
I started from the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead at 4:30am. This trailhead tends to fill up in the summer, but on this fall day my truck was the only one there.
I started out following the class 1 trail east
The trail is easy to follow for the first 4 miles
Then I came to what looked like a wall of rock. This wall goes for about three quarters of a mile, and should not be attempted in wet conditions. There are plenty of cairns here to mark the way. If you don’t see a cairn, you’re off route. You head straight up.
After 4.6 miles I came to a junction between Trail 743 and Trail 861. It’s not obvious, and there are no signs, so you need to be looking for it. I was at 11255’. One trail goes left, the other right, and crosses the creek. Don’t go right, go left and continue following the trail.
This trail led me to a camping area, with a boulder the size of a house. The goal is to make it to the upper basin. There are trails that go on each side of the boulder that will get you there. There are a lot of cairns in this area.
If you take the trail to the right, there’s a pretty cool cave to check out, but be careful: there was a rather large hornets nest at the entrance this time.
I followed the cairns northeast, through rock fields and willows.
There were a few class 3 moves to do to make it to the upper basin, but plenty of cairns to guide the way
I went behind this rock, and caught up with the trail to Cottonwood Lake, now heading east.
I followed the trail until I was at 12430’, and then turned right, starting up tundra
My advice to you is to go straight up the gully, as it stays at class 2+. I however, did not do this. I went up the right side. This goes at class 4, and was unnecessary. In addition, it included a drop of about 40 feet on class 4 terrain. I’ll show pictures of the route I took, but I really recommend taking the easier gully.
My route: Solid line up, dotted line down
Here are some pictures of the route I took up. Once again, I do not recommend this
I don’t recommend this route, because this is where it led me: That arrow points to a 40-foot class 4 chimney I’d have to descend.
I seriously considered turning back at this point, and trying again with the gully. After some careful consideration, I realized I could navigate the current terrain. I gingerly climbed down 40 feet, then up another 40 feet
Here’s looking back at that chimney, and the route I took both down and then back up. Both sides were steep, and I was glad to be wearing my microspikes.
From here, I could now see the route to Crestolita to my right
This took some navigating, but the terrain remained at 2+, with some added exposure. First, I headed to the saddle
At the top of the saddle I turned right
Then it was a fun scramble to the summit of Crestolita
I turned back and saw a bighorn sheep watching me. She watched me for so long I eventually left her there and kept going.
Here’s the last bit before the summit
I summited Crestolita at 9:25am
I took the gully down. There were several options to make this happen. When I had options, I went right, and wasn’t disappointed. Here are some pictures of the way I took down.
First, I made my way back to the saddle
Then turned left, and followed the tundra until it turned into scree
At the base of the gully, I picked up the trail again and took it towards Cottonwood Lake
I once again rounded the large boulder, then followed the cairns back to the trail
Back at the 861/743 ‘junction’, I followed the trail back down the granite slabs, and through several transition zones back to the trailhead.
I made it back to the trailhead at 1:30pm, making this a 14.33 mile hike with 4842’ of elevation gain in 8 hours.