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Archive for September, 2010

Summer didn’t seem ready to end so it was hard not to take a day off work and venture up into the alpine. Jonathan and I departed at 4am from Golden and were headlamp hiking by 5:30 from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. Headlamps turned off a bit after The Loch when we turned up towards Andrews Glacier.

The side valley known as “The Gash” opened up to our left with our first view of The Sharkstooth.

Passing a few bivy spots at the mouth of The Gash, we scrambled up a break in the lower cliff band, then zigged left and zagged back right through large talus blocks to reach the base.

The Northeast Ridge route that we had parked ourselves beneath was only 5 pitches at a maximum difficulty of 5.6+/5.7. Still, I didn’t feel my best this morning and offered up the first lead to Jonathan so he’d get the majority of the pitches when we swapped leads. The cold rock may have also had something to do with my reluctance to take up the sharp end.

Jonathan quickly reached the alcove belay stance and I forced my feet into some cold climbing shoes but kept my gloves on for the climb.

At the belay we both shivered a bit while I took the rack and read the pitch 2 description.

Climbing above Jonathan and stemming between the alcove’s walls I soon reached one of the technical cruxes of the climb – a 5.7 finger crack. I shouted down that the climbing was fun, but would be twice as fun if my fingers weren’t numb. After the crack the climbing eased off and I passed someone’s bail rappel and eventually reached a nice grassy ledge that seemed to match a photo I’d seen of the route. Unfortunately, I never found the “2m wide black ledge”. Well, I didn’t see it while climbing, but looking down I thought the ledge might be 30 feet below me, which means I’d somehow bypassed the 5.7 layback that started pitch 3. Oops.

When Jonathan arrived at the belay to enjoy the sun I explained where I thought we were as I passed off the rack to him. He agreed that we’d missed the layback section and seemed a bit disappointed. At least the climbing ahead looked fun.

Perhaps to make up for missing the layback, Jonathan started to look for more challenging lines above, “I’m not taking the easiest line” was his warning shouted to me below. Once he finished the pitch I got to see first hand how he’d found some 5.7 or so variations to the easier climbing.

He’d wrapped up the pitch on a small belay ledge and thought I’d need traverse left. When I did so I found some loose blocks and then pulled onto a huge ledge right below the pitch 4 offwidth crack. I looked down on Jonathan’s belay and told him it would be better to come straight up instead of doing the loose rock climbing that I’d done.

The offwidth had well featured faces on the sides, so I only did a few foot jams in the crack itself. Higher up many of the cracks available for protection were formed by loose blocks that I didn’t want to place a cam behind, so it became a little run out. I was happy to pop into an exposed saddle with a giant horn to sling for a belay. My final lead was over.

While Jonathan came up the forth pitch I watched as a climber reached the top of the Petit Grepon and then proceeded to bring up 3 others.

Jonathan finished the pitch, took the rack and looked at our route description before setting off on the final pitch.

After passing to the left of the white face he stayed far left from the edge, robbing us of the exposed views down the NW side of the peak, but also giving us a bit harder climbing to finish up with. We untied and walked the last few feet to the summit for lunch.

A cairn marked a little down scramble and walk to a set of 3 pitons and a nut that formed the first rap anchor down the east gully.

The first rappel took us 50 meters down to a second anchor and I was happy that the 6mm tag line that had proved so problematic on the Petit Grepon pulled cleanly. Our 2nd rappel went a full 60 meters down to a nut/chockstone/piton anchor. And a final 25m took us to the ground. With a 70m rope it looked like it would be possible to do this rappel with just a bit of scrambling after the first rap.

We were now at the saddle between The Sharkstooth and the Saber and just had to scramble back to the base of the route to retrieve Jonathan’s pack.

Then we repeated our approach hike in reverse to finish the day.

Adam’s complete photo album
Jonathan’s photo album

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On the short hike to Mitchell Lake Jeremy mentioned that he’s been trail running recently. I wonder if I need to put down the muffin I’m stuffing my face with and get ready to pick up the pace.

From the lake we head north up to hanging valley via large blocks of talus and hit the southeast ridge that leads towards Mount Audubon.

Simple scrambling leads to a gradually more defined ridge and we decide it’s time for helmets.

Having failed to read the guidebook description, I’m surprised by the sudden notch we encounter. The point I’m standing on seems to overhang in 3 directions, but we eventually find a scrambling route off to the north side then down to the notch.

Some fun (Roach says “nifty”) ledges lead out of the notch.

Beyond the ledges we encountered just a slog up grass and easy talus slopes. At least more of the scenery presented itself and (somewhat) made up for the lack of interest in the terrain at our feet.

After a brief break on top of Mount Audubon we descended off to the west to continue the ridge on to Paiute Peak.

This portion of the climb is a Roach “classic” but the terrain seemed simple and neither of us ever felt like donning a helmet.

Though short, the north on the other side of Audubon turned out to be our favorite section of the day.

The summit register had a few names we both recognized, but neither of us felt compelled to add our own signatures. Lunch brought out a discussion on the merits of different breads for “un-crushable-ness” vs “jelly absorption” and the benefits of different sandwich ingredients (Bread is for Strength, Cheese is for Courage).

From the summit we dropped down on the ridge leading to Mount Toll for a short ways, then continued directly down to the valley down a loose dirt and scree gully. I had thought the descent might be steeper, but we could pretty much scree-surf most of the way.

Blue Lake’s waterfall was impressive as always.

A nice finish to the climb was having Mountain Sun’s staff mess up the serving of my stout and getting a second pint free.

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Hoot (Dave) arrived at the Springer Gulch campground to announce that he’d forgotten his sleeping bag and tent. Well, he says he didn’t forget them, since he’d set them out with the rest of his gear, he just didn’t move them to the car. With a low expected in the 30’s we cobbled together a few spare blankets and I lent him my down jacket for the night.

He survived the night and we tanked up on coffee and let the sun hit before we moved back down the canyon to Turret Dome. The rest of our group hadn’t shown up yet, so we hiked up to the start of the Guides Route (5.6) and started behind another couple.

After leading the first pitch, Hoot took the short second pitch.

The third pitch made some zig-zags back and forth to add some rope drag and connect the easier climbing but I reached the summit and belayed Hoot up.

Unlike last year, we decided to scramble off in a different direction and returned to our cached gear at the base of the route more efficiently. Rich and Brenda had now arrived and were doing their own climbs and Emily had also showed up itching to climb. We decided to head over to Elevenmile Dome.

Emily was interested in learning more about trad climbing and to start leading, so we decided that I’d lead up the 5.7 route Moby Grape, then Hoot would follow and clean the route.

Because the climb was longer than half a rope length, he’d rappel back down on the single strand, give the rack of gear to Emily and she’d tie in to both ropes. I’d give her a loose top belay, while Hoot belayed her from below as if she was leading on the second rope.

On the way up both Hoot and I encouraged her to place gear often and then after she arrived at the top we had both ropes to rappel on.

Doing a tandem rappel, Emily and I descended the route and I offered some pointers and reviewed her gear placements.

We had time for one more climb, and I wanted to try The Overleaf (5.8+). The climbing wasn’t too bad until just below the roof where I tried to move directly up to the roof on the left and took a short lead fall. Rich and Brenda drove by, stopped and having done the route before yelled up some beta – “Move right first, then back left”. I re-did a few of the placements to reduce the rope drag, rested and moved right to scrunch up beneath the roof. Traversing back left with some awkward fist jams and arm bars while hunched below the roof I placed a few cams then setup with a decent hold just below the roof.

Standing up I was able to slot my hand into a very secure jam, and place a .75 cam. Down below, Rich yelled up that I should back down and rest. No way – I was too tired and with the jam feeling secure, switched hands, made a small mantel with my right hand and a heel hook with the left foot. Exhausted, I pulled over the roof, moved up 4 feet and built a quick anchor.

Tired and with plenty of rope drag it took forever to pull in all the slack. Emily had to go, so Hoot followed. He had his own demons on this route – having backed off the crux move once before. Following he quickly reached the roof, struggled to find the right sequence, rested for a bit then he too flopped up and over to reach the belay.

I was a bit more rested now, so I grabbed the gear from Hoot, re-flaked the rope and set off on pitch 2. It seemed like fairly consistent, but very fun, 5.6/5.7 climbing until reaching some easy, but run-out bathtub formations, then a small headwall to pull over. With only a couple feet of rope left I thought I could pick out the walk-off to my left so built an anchor and Hoot soon followed.

Even if we had more daylight and time I doubt I’d have had the energy to climb anything else. So we packed up and headed to our respective homes happy with the day of climbing.

Adam’s complete photo album
Hoot’s complete photo album

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The clouds have been gathering, but Gary and I really want to get out climbing so we hike up to North Table Mountain’s Golden Cliffs and watch the weather for a bit. A few rain drops, a couple bursts of thunder, then all seems to have calmed down. Gary gears up for the trad line Natural Fact (5.7).

I split my eyes between Gary’s lead and the weather. Both of us are wishing we’d gone to Eldo or Boulder Canyon where the skies seem clearer.

Since I should be rock climbing this weekend, I let Gary select another lead after following Natural Fact. He jumps on the sport route next door – Pack O’ Bobs (5.7).

The crux moves are hard for trad climbers like us – requiring balance and finger strength. Not wanting to commit to the moves, Gary lowers and I manage to finish the climb. Gary then offers me the next lead, and I find some shade in the route War with a Rack (5.8).

Wow, this climb is fun and worth more than the single star the guide book grants it. While technically a harder climb than Pack O’ Bobs, the climbing style suits Gary and I better and we both have a big grin after finishing it.

Smiling, we pack up and head down the trail as lightening flashes in the distance and drive off as rain starts to pelt the windshields. I’m extra happy since War with a Rack was my first trad 5.8 at Golden Cliffs that I haven’t taken a lead fall on.

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Dyke Trail

After Saturday’s partial Ruby Range traverse (Grant’s altimeter recorded over 6,000 feet of gain for the day) and, probably more importantly, after a night of Vinotok we didn’t get a very early start on Sunday. The 6 mile Dyke Trail seemed like a good way to see the aspens changing and take advantage of the smaller time window we had.

After shuttling one car over Kebler Pass, we returned to Lake Irwin and started hiking.

The aspen color was coming early this year and we wondered if the dry conditions had something to do with that. Also, some trees were dropping their leaves already and I worried we wouldn’t get a really spectacular color display this season.

We only saw a few other hikers and just a couple bikers on this two hour stroll. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get better views of the namesake rock formation above us.

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Two years ago my brother Grant and I set out from Paradise Divide to Yule Pass and Purple Mountain with the objective of hiking the crest of the Ruby Range to Ruby Peak in the south. Weather was one of the factors that caused us to bail half way into the traverse at Mount Richmond.

We debated trying the complete traverse again, but ended up settling on just trying the southern half – from Oh-be-joyful Pass to Ruby Peak. The shortest approach involved starting from Poverty Gulch and hiking up to Daisy Pass (just east of the crest), then reaching Oh-be-joyful Pass from there.

With a shorter hike and a great forecast, we didn’t start in the dark, but shuttled one car to Lake Irwin and were hiking by 6:30 am.

The sun caught us on our hike up to Daisy Pass and quickly warmed us up. At the pass we stripped down to shorts and t-shirts and debated how best to reach Oh-be-joyful Pass.

We could follow trail and drop down into Oh-be-joyful Basin, then regain elevation to the pass, or we could try dropping just a little way and then contour around the basin off-trail. While debating which would be faster or more efficient we caught sight of a slight trail heading up the ridge towards Mount Richmond. Humm, maybe we should be a little sporting and try to connect with our path on the crest from two years ago?

Fresh footprints on the path showed it had been recently traveled. In spots the path faded out and we picked our way around the vegetation, avoiding the steep cliff off to our right.

It was more hiking than scrambling, but one or two sections required a bit of thought. Additionally, the rock was very loose and after I knocked several large blocks into Oh-be-joyful Basin, we decided it was time for our helmets.

This portion of the Ruby Range seemed less jagged than the northern half, so while we brought a light rope and harnesses two years ago (but never needed them), this time we only brought our helmets.

Soon we reached Mount Richmond and officially connected with our old route. We also got hit by the west wind and thin jackets went on while we hiked down to Oh-be-joyful Pass, often on the shaded side of the ridge.

From the pass we had a simple hike up to Hancock Peak, then a small drop before gaining altitude to Oh-be-joyful Peak.

Ahead, it looked like there might be a small notch that could give us some problems, but th shadows deceived and the notch barely registered up close. On top of Afley, a large cairn marked the summit and Grant and I timed the 10 second delay on my camera well.

From a distance, the ridge leading up to Purple Peak looked steep. In particular, one section in the middle appeared like it could cause us difficulties, it might be very loose (like pretty much all the rock encountered today) as well as steep.

While descending Afley’s south ridge I keep watching that middle portion of the ridge and trying to spot a weakness. Luckily, the closer we approached the lower-angle it appeared, however I still thought it would be loose.

I was very surprised when we hit that section and found that it was actually quite solid rock, and it turned out to be the best portion of the scramble.

A little more scrambling and avoiding a few loose sections led us to the summit of Purple Peak. It was almost noon and the sky was cloudless. Perfect time for a lunch break.

Grant knew most of the terrain ahead, so decided to take off his helmet now and get out his trekking poles. Partway across to Mount Owen (the range’s high point) we stowed the poles away as we still found a few sections where having your hands free was a help.

Once on Mount Owen it felt like we were almost done.

Grant took over the lead as we dropped down to the last saddle of the day.

Along the way he stopped to point out the beautiful shade of Green Lake.

The wind was gusting over 20 mph at the saddle, heads down we hiked up the loose dirt to our last peak of the day. 400 feet later we found a nearly windless summit on Ruby Peak and took a last break.

Descending back to the windy saddle we picked up the trail heading down to the east and passed right by Green Lake before reaching a 4wd road.

A longer-than expected hike on the road brought us back to Lake Irwin where one of our cars was parked. Feet were cooled off in the lake before driving back to town and retrieving the other vehicle.

Like two years ago, we’d timed our Ruby Range hike with Crested Butte’s Vinotok celebration. We missed most of the trial of the Grump (surprise, they decided to burn him), but definitely caught the burning itself.

I edited together a short video of the event: Burn the Grump!

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The North Face of Lone Eagle Peak is a classic alpine rock route that had been on my radar for years. It’d probably been on Jim’s for even longer and scheduling worked out for us to attempt it. We scheduled three days as we weren’t sure how long the route would take us and wanted the option to sleep off the climbing before doing the 8 mile backpack back out.

Doug joined us for the hike in on Saturday, but wasn’t planning on attempting the climb.

8 miles from the Monarch Lake Trailhead up Cascade Creek went more quickly than expected on the easily graded trail. We took one short lunch break, but otherwise kept up a conversational pace.

As we neared the junction with the Pawnee Pass trail we finally had a view of Lone Eagle.

We found an open campsite as near the base of Lone Eagle as possible and wondered what to do with the rest of the afternoon, it was only 2pm.

Armed with the route description we scouted out the approach and identified the start of the first pitch.

Killing time turned out to be a non-issue as I wandered around Crater and Mirror Lakes enjoying the scenery.

After dinner the three of us crammed into Jim’s Hex tent for a cold night. Plentiful frost greeted us in the morning as we woke before dawn with a goal of starting our climb at 7am. Doug split off and headed toward Cherokee Peak while Jim and I went right to the start of our climb.

Jim decided to take the first pitch and found a piton part way up that confirmed we were on route.

The next couple of pitches were even easier than the start, and since it was still pretty cold I decided to climb for a while in my approach shoes. Following the first pitch would make that more reasonable than leading it, and I could do some of the easier portions with my gloves on.

Our second “pitch” was a long simul-climb across easy terrain on a broad ledge. A few spots were maybe 4th class or 5.0, but with both of us moving we combined what would have taken 3 traditional pitches and much more time.

Where the ledge system faded out I setup a belay and reeled in Jim for the remainder of the walking. The next pitch was a bit harder was was supposed to end just before a chimney pitch. Jim ended up combining these two pitches into our third.

When he went off belay I mock whined into the radio that he was getting to lead all the good stuff and I was stuck with the hiking pitches. Jim promised me the crux pitch and I decided to keep my approach shoes on while following the chimney pitch.

My next pitch was more hiking and a couple short 5.4 or easier rock walls.

At least I’d been keeping warm and now climbing easily without gloves. Jim led the next pitch, our 5th and similar to my 4th, except that he probably didn’t take the easiest line to finish and hit slightly harder (5.6?) climbing for a couple moves.

We’d reached a large grassy spot with a great view down the other side of Lone Eagle towards Crater and Mirror lakes. Jim also thought he saw Doug on top of Cherokee while belaying me up.

Unfortunately, we were also now on the windy side of the peak. Extra layers came back on as we scouted for the twin cracks that marked the crux pitch of the climb.

Jim settled into a semi-sheltered belay and stacked the rope while I dug out my climbing shoes and slipped them on.

A white sling around a large block had helped ID the start of this pitch and I climbed past it while still wearing my gloves and clipped a stuck tricam.

I needed to bare my hands to continue climbing, but would have to make a move or two then try to warm them up. At a snails pace I crawled up the climb, but at least was really enjoying the climbing itself.

After passing 4 pitons letting me know I was definitely on route and using up most of our light rack I reached the north shoulder of the peak and setup an anchor with the gear that remained on my harness to belay Jim up.

We warmed up by moving to the east, sunnier and lee, side of the peak for the final pitch.

Jim led up a left leaning chimney then over terrain with lots of options. There were some fun moves in here and climbing from 5.4-5.6 depending on the line taken.

A couple feet of our 60 meter rope remained when he hit the summit and belayed me up.

We’d reached the top at 11:30 am and were pretty happy with that pace. After packing away our climbing gear and switching back to boots and shoes we started to figure out the descent route.

Dropping off the knife-edged crest to the east we followed some easy ledges with a few cairns.

We probably didn’t find the best place to begin ascending back to the crest, but it still worked as a scramble and we picked up the normal route again.

The steep sections ended and we were left with a lot of talus and tundra walking back down to the valley.

Once we arrived back at camp and realized it wasn’t even 1:30 pm yet, we packed up and made a forced march hike out. Forced, because the last hour I felt like I’d fall asleep if I stopped.

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