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Archive for August 28th, 2010

What was really grating was that our driving day to the Tetons was also supposed to be the best weather day. Was it worth it to drive up there to possibly get shutout of any climbing? Jeremy and I decided the answer for us was a “no” and a perfect forecast and last minute acquisition of a bivy permit for two nights at Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park convinced us to turn our trip into a “staycation”.

Still, we had a bit of driving to do, dinner to eat, permit to pick up and last minute shopping. We began the four mile hike to Sky Pond at 8pm – pretty much using headlamps from the beginning. At least it was a beautiful night and the varied terrain meant we got to watch the moon rise a few times. The stars and reflected night sky in The Loch also kept me enthused on the approach.

I started to get a little sleepy as we began to gain elevation near Glass Lake, but the scrambling with a full pack up to the lake in the dark (“Is this really the trail?”) woke me up.

We stumbled on to Sky Pond and found a bit of a climbers trail, went past a couple others who were also bivying (hope we didn’t wake you), then luckily found a perfect spot tucked in amongst the boulders. We set an alarm for 6am and went to sleep watching the Petit Grepon illuminated by the near-full moon.

The same moon eventually worked its way across the sky and shined into our faces and I discovered another use for a Buff as an eye shade.

After getting our caffeine dose in the morning we packed very light packs and hung the rest of our gear from salt-starved marmots and made the short approach to the base of the South Face route.

Knowing that the 5.8 crux moves were on pitches 3 and 5 we made a plan that we’d split up the leading A-B-A-B-B-A-B so both of us would get one of the crux pitches. To decided who would take the first lead, we ninja-grizzly-cowboy’d and Jeremy won yet again.

We stashed our approach shoes and Jeremy started up a grungy chimney to a nice right facing dihedral and nearly a full rope length to a substantial grassy ledge.

We moved the belay a little to the left and I started up the wide chimney of pitch 2, past a chockstone and into a left leaning crack. With only a little rope left I stopped on a tiny ledge to belay, probably a little past the traditional end of pitch 2.

Jeremy quickly followed and left my small ledge to head up the first section of 5.8 above, then easier terrain to a much nicer belay spot.

Pitch four lead up to another decent stance with some pitons that I backed up.

Now, instead of alternating leads, I’d again head off on the sharp end. Pitch 5 started with a run-out section of 5.7 then just as I could get gear in the difficulty increased for a continuous section of 5.8. Lots of fun alpine jamming had me smiling by the time I hit easier grassy ledges above and ran the rope out for nearly its full length.

I was still smiling as Jeremy arrived at the belay. Since I’d drawn the classic pitch and more sustained crux (pitch 5) and maybe taken a bit of his pitch 3 with my long pitch 2, I offered him the last two pitches to the summit. We weren’t entirely positive where to the route went from here, there seemed a lot of options and Jeremy settled on a left-rising grassy ramp into a shallow dihedral and ended up out on the narrow south arete.

I struggled to remove one of his cam placements for a while, but otherwise climbed okay to his belay. He set off on some slightly run-out terrain then hit the ridge crest where he radioed that he “could see the other side of the formation – take a lot of photos when you climb up here!”. I followed up the pretty wildly exposed 7th pitch to find Jeremy sitting on the summit block surrounded by the taller peaks of the Saber and Sharkstooth.

It was about two in the afternoon and we were stoked to have climbed this classic route on such a perfect day and have the whole formation to ourselves. Now we just had to get down. Jeremy located the rappel bolts just off the summit and we threaded our single rope through the rings and tied it to our 6mm tag line. It was the first time setting up a tag line rappel for either of us, so we double and triple checked the knots before I committed to the very exposed descent.

50 meters down I located the next set of bolts and Jeremy soon arrived at my stance. When we tried to pull the tag line it was stuck. 160 feet below the summit, in the shade, with light clothing and no expected to hear from us until late tomorrow. Dang, why couldn’t there be another party on the route, behind us, who could easily untie our knots and free the ropes? After trying every trick we knew to free the lines, Jeremy volunteered to ascend the line back up while trying not to think of John Harlin.

After a very strenuous ascent, Jeremy reached the anchor, found the tag line and rope running separately over different sides of a block, reset the lines and carefully descended directly to me. Thankfully, this time the lines pulled smoothly. Only 4 more rappels to go.

Another 40 meters brought us down to the next anchor, then the shortest rappel of the bunch, just 30 meters to a huge grassy ledge. That one allowed us to descend just on the climbing rope and pack away the small tag line momentarily.

The last 3 rappels were all longer and we had to deploy the tag line again. Being smaller it tended to tangle more and we had to slowly rappel with autoblocks and un-knot the line on descent.

A few of the rappel anchors were also not so obvious to locate and I was really looking forward to our final rappel, dinner and a beer back at our bivy.

I breathed easily a little too soon once I was on the ground. The ropes refused to pull again. My turn to ascend the rope up the slabby lower face. I got up, found the tag line and rope were twisting around each other, reset the knot further from the anchor and had Jeremy do a test pull. It seemed okay, so back down I went.

Uggh, damn rope! Once again it pulled only 10 or so feet before twisting around and placing too much friction to budge any further. Jeremy went up this time, completely undid the knots, re-flaked the climbing rope and tossed them back down. This time he didn’t clip the butterfly knot into the climbing rope which should keep the two ropes from twisting around each other.

Meanwhile, I was devising other strategies for getting the rope down, such as ascending while placing gear on our first pitch ascent line, then down-leading instead of rappelling. Thankfully, Jeremy’s fix worked and we (and the ropes) were all back on solid ground.

The short hike back to our bivy spot had us completing the round trip in just under 12 hours. About 6+ for the climb itself and an incredibly long 5 hours for the rappels with all the snafus we experienced.

At least I could enjoy one of the best warm beers I’d ever had, then sunset, dinner and some organizing by headlamp.

Another beautiful, star-filled clear night had me sleeping deeply and waking occasionally to check the moon light on the Petit Grepon’s south face.

Between the longer-than-expected climb (and descent) of the Petit Grepon and a bit of rope damage, we decided not to stick around for a second route. Waking up with dawn we packed up and started the hike out.

The scramble below Glass Lake went much more easily in the light and we were even greeted by an elk before reaching The Loch.

Back in Estes Park we stopped at The Donut Haus, then ran back to Jeremy’s place to pick up his climbing rope. With time to kill we headed to the decidedly-less-alpine Boulder Canyon and repeated a few climbs I’d done before on the shaded Cob Rock (Empor, North Face Center).

Ripe and exhausted bodies were then showered and treated to a wonderful home cooked dinner with friends.

Complete photo album

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