Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2009

Pete and I left the front range after work on Thursday and made our way to a campsite not far from Salida. Rain clouds and thunderstorms were hitting the southern Sawatch peaks but mostly moved south of us.

After a night of howling coyotes we woke to a clear dawn and drove over Monarch Pass and on to the town of Crawford. We were hoping to climb an intriguing looking formation called Needle Rock.

We’d heard it was loose, which I’d hoped was exaggerated, but looking at the peak from the parking area to its east I remarked “Pete, we’re about to try and climb a cairn.”

The approach up very unstable talus and bushwhacking through patches of scrub oak left me with few kind thoughts towards Needle Rock.

After traversing the north side of the peak we finally spotted a piton marked with white cord and knew we were at the base of the 5.7 route to the summit.

I thought long and hard about attempting this choss pile, and eventually decided to get a closer look. The rock was certainly loose, but not that bad on the lower-angle initial portion of the pitch. After clipping the piton (which flexed a little worryingly, but seemed solid) I made a few steps up until I reached a point where every possible handhold was loose or a hollow sounding flake.

Not willing to commit, I carefully down climbed and then told Pete I was backing off this route. Once down, we looked at a few other ascent options, but all looked bad. As a consolation prize Pete drove us up nearby Youngs Peak via the 4wd access road.

The sideshow over, we headed to Ouray and grabbed a campsite on the road to Yankee Boy Basin before returning to town for beer and dinner and the arrival of Piper and Dan. On Saturday morning we woke in the dark and packed up for the drive up Yankee Boy.

We started hiking right at 6:15 am, about as early as we could have started with enough light to navigate by.

Our objective was Teakettle Mountain, Colorado’s 98th highest peak and one of those requiring some technical climbing to reach the summit. Our route went up steep grass and then scree slopes aiming for a flat shoulder near the spire called “Coffee Pot”.

Once there we had an impressive view of Teakettle.

A cairned gully led us below the ridge cliffs off Coffee Pot.

Then a better-than-expected traverse took us across the talus and scree on a climbers trail to the Black Gully.

The Black Gully looked frightening from afar, but was much more moderate than anticipated.

A short class 3 scramble led out of the gully and onto easier terrain above.

Soon our approach took us to the base of the summit tower and the handle formation of the teakettle.

The harnesses, rope and climbing protection came out and I started up the easy 5.3 climbing, being wary of a few loose blocks. Two cams and I was on the summit and clipped into the rappel webbing.

Piper quickly followed the route, then Dan. By the time Pete came up and cleaned the pitch it was getting quite crowded on the little summit.

We tossed the ends of the rope down and I went down first. Dan had a bit of a live refresher course on rappelling, but I was below giving him a belay and Pete and Piper triple checked his setup.

After we were all down Piper ran (okay, safely walked) to the handle for a photo.

Then we traversed back to the Black Gully, dropped down it’s complete length and continued down very loose scree and talus yelling “Rock!” whenever a stone went flying down.

Thankfully the awful loose slope ended and only a steep grass descent remained.

We returned to Ouray where Piper introduced us to Mouse’s Chocolates and then drove around the San Juans towards Telluride to meet up with John, Renata and Dave at the Mill Creek Trailhead. Our next goal was Dallas Peak, another technical summit and Colorado’s 100th highest.

Our plan was to backpack in to a basin at 11,300 feet, but from below it looked dry. So we camped near some water at the much lower 10,000 feet meadow. Our 8th member, Dave (aka Hoot) arrived just as it was getting dark with a few cans of Fat Tire.

A couple short bouts of rain broke up the night accompanied by an elk bugling. Rain at 5am delayed our start and the weather wasn’t looking good for a large group on this complicated peak. We hiked up in the dark on a great trail through aspens and found that there was a little flow in the creek up high.

We reached the turn-off on the trail to ascend towards the peak and I let everyone know I didn’t think today was our day for Dallas. Maybe with a small group I would have been comfortable rushing against the weather, but certainly not with 8 climbers.

The Dave’s were willing and able to continue, so I lent them my small rack of cams and stoppers plus some additional webbing. The rest of us took off to have a look at “T0” – the basic named given to a nearby peak. Piper and Dan decided to return home and Pete and I followed John and Renata for a ways before deciding that our hearts weren’t in the climb (me) or we weren’t feeling well (Pete).

A short loose slope took us off the ridge and John and Renata continued towards T0, while Pete and I headed back to the trail and camp.

Already we were trying to work out how to return and visit Dallas yet this year.

Adam’s complete photo album
Dan’s photos
Pete’s photos
Piper’s photos

Read Full Post »

Work schedules and the possibility of threatening weather dwindled our little group outing on Wednesday night to just Jeremy and I. We’d originally though about visiting the Lower Peanuts wall, but decided to stay closer to the entrance of Eldorado Canyon State Park and visit the Wind Tower.

We hadn’t brought a full guide book, and I’d only printed out the pages for Lower Peanuts, so we started up a climb based on memory. Turned out we were on the route called Breezy (5.5), just left of the Wind Ridge route. Jeremy took the first turn at leading pitch 1 and a light rain started as he finished the route. I tossed on my rain jacket and soon arrived at his belay ledge to take over leading.

A couple moves on pitch 2 were made a little harder by the rain, but it stopped by the time I reached the ledge marking the end of the pitch. As soon as I was off belay I took off my rain jacket to cool down and belay Jeremy up.

We’d thought about climbing the lower pitches of Wind Ridge next, but another group had jumped on that climb, so we decided to continue with pitch 3 to the top of the tower. Jeremy took another turn at lead, then we scrambled down to the rappel anchors where I acquired a carabiner and sling someone left on the rappel anchor. I guess they didn’t realize it was okay to run the rope directly through the Metolius hanger.

We didn’t have enough daylight for another multipitch route, so we moved over to the west side of the Whale’s Tail formation and I led up the easy classic West Crack (5.2). Jeremy quickly followed and we rappelled down then left the park.

With any luck, we’ll start climbing regularly on Wednesday evenings, at least as long as the light and warm weather last.

Read Full Post »

Sunday began with a leisurely drive to Lyons where I enjoyed a civilized start to the morning at The Stone Cup with an americano and Dick Dorworth’s book Night Driving.

Jeremy (who I met at last weekend’s Guide Skills course) and his wife Jenn soon arrived. In the course of conversation we realized they’d been recently climbing with some I was climbing with this coming weekend. Tom and Maggie arrived just after 8am and we started the drive up to Estes Park and then to Drake before splitting off on back roads.

Our goal was “The Monastery”, a rock climbing spot we’d heard of, but none of us had visited. Directions were good and we parked a camping area then walked the road to a switchback and followed the well defined trail.

Our goal was the collection of spires and faces known as the “Outer Gates” which had many 5.7-5.9 climbs. A couple climbers were already working routes in the middle of the Outer Gates, so we moved past and studied the “Whine Celler” formation. Maggie jumped on the left climb with the alliterative name “Pandora’s Pebble Pinching Party Palace”. Jeremy led up the right climb “Table Wine”.

Once done, both talked about how the climbing felt off or strange. Tom and Jenn top-roped the routes, then I re-led “Pandora’s” and discovered that the climbing didn’t really suit me. Lots of sharp little holds, too many options that had to be searched for the “best” hold. At least we had a nice view from the top.

I didn’t feel like leading “Table Wine” but took a top rope to climb the route. Jenn was working on “Pandora’s” beside me.

After we’d each climbed both routes we had a long lunch in which no one seemed really motivated to jump on the next climb. We started traversing the formations, guide book in hand, looking for something that was calling us. I didn’t feel much energy for jumping on another 5.7 or harder pebble pinching route so I almost roped up for an easy 5.1.

The weather was beginning to look threatening and we managed to kill the rest of our time by searching for a 3 star 5.6 on the other side of The Monastery. Part way there we all admitted that we didn’t want to climb anything with the potential thunderstorms moving in so we just reversed the hike in and back to the cars.

Read Full Post »

I’d previously visited Mount Yale’s summit, but hadn’t been out for just a regular hike in a while so Helen convinced me to join her and Torrey the lab. After camping the night before off North Cottonwood Road we drove around the peak to the Denny Creek trailhead to hike Yale’s standard route (at least this was a different route than the way I’d last gone).

A 6:40 am departure let us hike through the cool forest and have many other hikers to catch and pass along the ascent. Above treeline we still walked mostly in shadow. However, the sun was illuminating the peaks to the south.

Only 3.5 miles separated the car from the summit, but we still had to gain over 4,000 feet which went by in well under 3 hours. We took a long break on the summit to enjoy the flawless day before deciding to head south and visit “Mascot Peak”, a 13’er about 600 feet below Yale’s summit.

We headed a little east of the summit before dropping down a loose gully (probably should have traversed further east and found the probably more solid ridge) and eventually hitting the saddle between Mascot and Yale.

The next 400 feet of climbing didn’t seem too bad and we were soon on this little visited summit. To return we had the option of climbing back up Yale, which would give us another 1,000 feet of ascent. We looked for another option and decided to traverse below the summit from the saddle and meet the trail around the 12,800 foot level.

The side-hill travel became a little obnoxious, but thankfully wasn’t too loose. The big treat was running into a herd of bighorns hiding out on this hidden aspect of the peak.

Once we hit the trail we could just hike out on autopilot.

Read Full Post »

On day two of the Guiding Skills course we started out with a parking lot based discussion of fixed anchors (bolts and pitons). Eli displayed a varied collection of bolts and pitons pulled off climbs.

Today was Jeremy’s turn to lead and he’d chosen the West Overhang route on Wind Tower. The start of the climb was on an exposed ledge, so modeling good client safety management, we were belayed to the base then anchored in.

Three pitches led us to the top of the ridge, with Jeremy leading all the way and the crux (5.7) moves coming on the second pitch at the overhang. Along the way we talked more about rope management, anchoring and belay transitions.

The traverse just below the top of the ridge to the rappel anchors was a great spot to practice short roping, terrain belays and seated belays.

At the notch in the ridge with the rappel anchor we talked about setting up releasable rappels with belays and then counter-balanced rappels. Jeremy and I descended together with a counterbalance rappel.

After a quick lunch break we made our way to The Bastille formation where Eli led up the first pitch of the route “March of Dimes”. After being lowered and cleaning the gear, Jeremy climbed up on top rope about 10 feet and then hung off the rope. Simulating a leader rescue, Eli locked off the belay device, added a foot prussik and then converted the belay device to auto-locking mode. Ascending to Jeremy he demonstrated how to connect to the leader and then rappel down.

I went up next and watched as Jeremy ran through the same steps.

With only an hour left of our day, we moved over to south side of Wind Tower and assembled a quick anchor to discuss hauling systems. 3-to-1 and 6-to-1 systems were both demonstrated and practiced.

Complete Photo Album

Read Full Post »

Since I’d been feeling a bit like a rock climbing guide recently, I decided I should work more on my “guiding skills” with a real professional. Eli Helmuth of Climbing Life Guides was offering a weekend course covering the types of skills taught in a full American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) course.

The other participant, Jeremy, myself and Eli met on Saturday morning. Jeremy had climbed with Eli before, but this was my first time meeting him. We quickly relocated from the Eldo Market to the state park and jumped right in with a discussion on anchor building.

All this was conducted at ground level and before moving to the vertical we discussed a few rappelling and lowering scenarios.

A short walk and scramble took us to the north side of the Whales Tail formation. Here we built an anchor for practicing staggered rappels, pre-rigged rappels and tandem rappels.

On the slabby east face of the Whales Tail formation I got the role of “guide” for a few pitches of easy climbing (4th class-5.1). The goal was to simulate a 2-client situation and practice dealing with rope management, belay station comfort, communication and more. Then we rappelled down the west side of the formation.

Then we moved to the Wind Tower where Eli led up the first pitch of the 5.9 rated Tagger route. I managed to follow and clean the pitch, which was the hardest rated climbing I’d done all year. With the rope now running through the rings above, we practiced ascending with a modern auto-locking belay device and cordelette, then switching to a rappel.

After 6pm we finished up for the day and made plans to meet earlier on Sunday.

Complete Photo Album

Read Full Post »

After a 3:30 am wake-up, Pete and I are heading to the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Thankfully, our drive has been shorted by being able to stay with a friend in Estes Park for the night. When we arrive at the trailhead we take a few minutes to scan the clear sky for meteors. I catch 3 in a couple minutes from the Perseid meteor shower.

Pete leads us up Glacier Gorge by headlamp, picking out a short cut that avoids Alberta Falls and speeds us on our way to Spearhead. The sky has lightened up by the time we reach Black Lake and the peaks around us begin to collect alpine glow.

Above Black Lake we pass treeline and pick our way along a cairned path through the willows and marsh to the base of the North Ridge of Spearhead.

Another group (who bivied here overnight) is already starting up the route and we begin to suit up in harnesses and helmets. The second is starting to climb the first pitch when I say I’m going to climb beside her on a different line.

I planned to follow the route information from Eli Helmuth’s site, which advised starting up the slabs then cutting into a gully before the main chimney system.

Above the gully I found some 5.6+ cracks that weren’t too much fun to climb in the cold morning with gloves on. I was nearing the end of the 60 meter rope when I reached the ledge we targeted for the belay. Pete soon followed the pitch.

Since we ran out the whole length of our rope we were already a bit ahead of the other group, whose leader was starting pitch 2 below me. He climbed past, as did his second just as I was starting the next pitch.

I found the other group just ahead of me starting their 3rd pitch and asked if I could climb the arete left of the chimney they were ascending. Above, the terrain mellowed and I quickly setup a belay and brought up Pete while the other group decided how far they wanted to push this pitch.

The terrain above was much gentler and could probably have been climbed unroped for a ways. Instead, I climbed up quickly and placed just a little protection and soon brought up Pete another 60 meters.

Our pitch 4 was just a little harder, but still fairly easy and by moving full rope lengths we increased the distance between us and the now 3 other groups below.

Pitch 5 contained several options of 5.6 to 5.8 climbing. I tended left (close to the Barb Flake formation) then up and a little right to keep the climbing closer to 5.6.

I was hoping to reach a belay ledge mentioned in Eli’s description, but didn’t have enough rope length so I setup on a smaller ledge that was shaded and windy.

Since the start of the climb, this was the first time I got a little chilled. Most of our route had been in the sun and the winds had been mild. At least the views of McHenrys Peak took my mind off the loss of heat.

Unlike our other spacious belays, this one was crowded and more exposed. Pete wasn’t totally comfortable here so I hurried up to make more room for him.

For our 6th pitch I followed a trail of chalk marks and a stuck tricam into a dihedral that tended left.

This led naturally to a leaning off-width crack that I got my whole body into and braced my shoulders and hips against the sides to make upward progress. Thankfully, it was short and the terrain quickly eased off above.

Pete had some trouble following this section with his pack on, but eventually cheated just a little to join me. We thought the technical climbing might be over now, so we started to scramble towards the summit.

We shortly came to a section that was 5th class. We could have avoided this by downclimbing and working around, instead we got the rope and rack back out to climb the short 25 foot section.

From here the summit was just class 3 scrambling.

But the views in all directions were amazing. Pagoda, Longs, Chiefs Head, and McHenrys dominated the views.

After enjoying the summit, we returned to a little notch where the the technical difficulties had truly ended.

From here a cairn marked the start of a route down the east side of the mountain. We followed some loose ledge systems and did a short class 4 downclimb to reach the boulders below.

The hike out was memorable to me for being able to see the terrain we’d passed through in the dark.

After our 11 hour and 15 minute day we drove to the Oskar Blues brewery for a dinner that would delay our drive through Boulder until after rush hour had calmed a bit.

Complete Photo Album

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »