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Posts Tagged ‘Bottomless Pit’

After climbing New Era, Kevin and I drove to the Barr trailhead for Pikes Peak and ended up parking several blocks away. After some re-packing, we hit the road, then the trail and started marching our way up the 6+ miles to Barr Camp.

I was amazed at all the hikers and runners coming down this trail after doing the steep ascent of the Incline Trail. Once we passed that trail junction, traffic slowed considerably. After 3 hours we reached Barr Camp, and even had some time to spare before they served dinner.

While waiting for dinner, Kevin and I selected one of the three leanto’s to occupy for the night and spread out our gear before returning to the main cabin. Dinner was an excellent and hearty round of spaghetti and fresh garlic bread. Stuff, I walked out to the leanto to fish out the beer I’d buried in a snow patch when we arrived. Beer finished, I returned to the cabin and talked with all the other guests and the caretakers.

The wind began to pick up and it really hadn’t cooled off much. Kevin and I both had problems sleeping since the temperature never dropped below 50F. I wondered if the warm night would cause us problems in the morning in the Y Couloir, but hoped the wind and clear night would solidify the snow just enough. Around 11p Hoot arrived and we verified our plans for a 4:30a departure.

My alarm was set for 4, but since I wasn’t sleeping I got up 15 minutes early to start a cup of coffee. After packing up the three of us departed only 6 minutes after our planned 4:30. Other guests were already up and moving and getting ready for their own trip up the standard east slopes route.

30 minutes of hiking brought us to the junction with the Bottomless Pit trail, some old tracks were evident, but it hadn’t seen much traffic. After fighting through a few postholes, we broke down and put on our snowshoes while Hoot led us along the path.

Sunrise came along the trail and the magic hour brushed the cliffs with a clear golden light.

Approaching the Bottomless Pit we were occasionally hit with a strong wind gust. Still the temperatures were very mild and it kept the number of layers were were wearing down.

Once we arrived at the Bottomless Pit, we got our first view of the lower portion of the Y Couloir.

After a break we started up a mix of snow and rocks leading to the base of couloir.

Taking advantage of some sunny rocks we packed up the snowshoes and strapped on the crampons and switched from trekking poles to ice axes.

The three of us started up the snow slope, finding fairly solid snow where the sun had only just arrived.

Hoot stopped to adjust his boots and told us to start up. Feeling excited for the first couloir of the season, I hammered up the slope installing a staircase past old roller-balls of snow.

In the couloir we were out of the wind and quickly warmed up. I was thankful for a shady stretch even if the snow was softer than I’d have liked.

After 500 feet or so the couloir branched (hence the “Y” name). This was the fifth year Kevin had done this climb, and he’d already done both the standard right and left branches. Last year Hoot had looked at a far-right branch and found a little ice step. Prepared, we’d brought a light rope, harnesses, a little bit of rock pro and a second tool each.

Just at the splits we gathered up and verified we’d be going for the far right branch.

After leading a little further, Hoot took over to show us the way.

The little ice step was wet ice and snow this year. Our gear was overkill, but most of us used the second ice tool.

By now I had decided that this couloir was one of the more scenic ones I’d climbed.

With all of us through the crux, we only had easier slopes leading to the summit.

Kevin mentioned that we were moving pretty fast this year, so I asked what the quickest they’d made the ascent in prior years was. 5 hours and 30 minutes came the answer, and some quick math said we had about 15 minutes before that time had elapsed from Barr Camp. Fired up, I passed Kevin and Hoot and pushed up the couloir.

Just below the top I heard the wind screaming above and yelled down that it would be very windy up top. Climbing onto the summit plateau I was nearly knocked down by winds I estimated at between 50 and 60 mph. Leaning into the wind and covering my face from the blowing dust and snow, I lurched towards the summit buildings and took shelter on the lee side. While donning extra layers I noticed I’d made the summit in 5 hours and 24 minutes from Barr Camp. Kevin and Hoot weren’t far behind and we moved around to the east side of the building were we meet some of the climbers from Barr Camp who were just reaching the summit.

We were on the summit from just after 10am to about 10:40am – and later learned that the weather station on top recorded a wind gust of 109 mph at 10:38am!

None of the three of experienced anything like that however (not that 60 or so mph gusts are something to disregard).

Geared up with many more layers, we quickly began a descent of the standard route, shedding clothes rapidly and enjoying some fine glissades on the way to the A-frame. From there to Barr Camp the trail was intermittently clear, and filled with packed snow in other spots. Once we repacked at Barr Camp we each descended on our own schedule.

Adam’s complete photo album
Hoot’s trip report and photos

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