“A moderate run along Willow Lake and up a 14er.
— Tyler Prince
Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The trailhead at the bottom of Willow Lake Trail
is fairly easy to access year-round. Dogs may struggle of this trail but should do okay.
Due to steep grades and rocky trail, this doesn't make for a great run.
From the top of Willow Lake Trail
above the cliffs, seek out a trail traveling East/Northeast. This is above treeline and wide open, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. That said, the trail's vague and covered with rocks. It will send you briefly through some willows before angling steeply to this right. Challenger Point is defined by the large ridge up and to the right, with Kit Carson Peak beyond it and to left, its knobby summit rising up from its North Ridge (Kit Carson North Ridge
Near 11,900 ft you'll locate the trail on the grassy slopes and continue up the steep path. In about 500 ft of climbing you'll pass by a rock rib on your right. Near 13,200 ft you'll reach the top of the rib and leave the grassy slopes. Continue up and slightly toward the left on some class 2+ rocks. While the base is solid, there are plenty of loose, football-sized rocks to slip on. Stay to the right of the gully just to your left, or else you'll get cliffed out and be on much looser terrain.
Reach ridge proper around 13,900 ft. From here, it's just a 0.1 mile hop, skip, and jump along some talus over to the summit. You may want to drop a little to the left of ridge proper to avoid some looser areas, but never more than 20-30 ft or so.
From the summit, Kit Carson Trail
provides access to Challenger's parent 14er.
If descending this trail as part of Kit Carson and Challenger
, the only landmark you need to be concerned with is the gully. Stay to its left on the way down and you'll be fine.
Flora & Fauna
Up this high there's not much other than alpine grass and marmots.