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Posts Tagged ‘Yankee Boy Basin’

After climbing Independence Monument, Ryan and I headed to the Rockslide Brewpub in Grand Junction for a late lunch. Refueled, we continued our journey south to Ouray then located a campsite at the Angel Creek campground partway to Yankee Boy Basin.

The cool air and clear sky felt like home after the sand, wind and biting flies of the desert. After a nap we packed a completely different set of gear into our backpacks for the next day and debated when to get started in the morning.

I was pleased when the night remained clear and the temperature dropped to the mid-30s. At 5:40am we drove up to Yankee Boy Basin to find a couple headed for Sneffels and a set of skiers aiming for Mount Emma. No one else was destined for Potosi however, so Ryan and I set off the opposite direction to pick up the familiar slopes that lead to Teakettle and Potosi.

The sun was coming up across the valley, but we’d be in the shade for some time yet and we were both comfortable hiking in insulated jackets. For the first thousand feet or so we were able to keep to bare slopes and frozen tundra.

As we neared the Coffeepot-Potosi saddle we hit steepening snow and stopped to strap on crampons and un-holster an ice axe.

A steep snow patch below some cliffs was our last obstacle to the saddle.

In full view now was Potosi and the couloir that had attracted us here.

Getting to the couloir required some consideration. The saddle and ridge we were on was still corniced and had been getting sun for at least an hour by now. We knew of a party last year that turned back because they didn’t want to re-ascend these slopes later in the day. After talking it over, Ryan and I committed to descending the longer standard route.

Agreeing to proceed, we descended near a cornice, but off to one side of its fall line.

A traverse then brought us to the base of the couloir.

The slopes around us showed plenty of evidence of wet slides and rock fall. Glad that the night had frozen so well and that weeks of warm weather had settled the snow and melted off much of the cliffs above, I began to climb into the shade of the couloir.

A small rock came bounding down the couloir and I saw it take a beeline for Ryan, then pass harmlessly through his legs. Marble-sized ice bits musically descended the couloir encouraging me to quickly move higher.

Partway up the couloir the snow turned icy and I felt it was time to engage the second ice tool. Ryan did the same and a bit before 10am we topped out of the couloir.

We still had a bit less than 100 feet to the summit. The slopes above had been getting sun for a while, but the deep freeze had kept them from getting too soft.

If we weren’t concerned about softening snow and wet slides we could have stayed on top soaking in the view for hours. Ryan wondered if there was a peak in the San Juans that we couldn’t see.

Neither of us were familiar with the standard route, but we had a brief description and maps so we reversed our route back to near the top of the couloir then headed south down a gully which seemed to lead in the right direction.

A little face-in downclimbing brought us to the class 2 ledge that in summer is the standard route to the summit. Now, it was a sloping pile of snow with cliffs above and below. Still, the snow conditions were good and we were able to traverse around the south side of Potosi until the Coffeepot-Potosi saddle was again in sight.

A little scree hiking in crampons returned us to the saddle. We were a bit concerned about repeating our morning’s traverse after the snow had been exposed to the sun for hours. On the traverse I’d examined the terrain and been able to piece together a route through rocks and gullies that would allow us to reach our ascent route lower down.

We still had a few steep slopes to cross, but their high angle and aspect kept them from softening too much and before long we were back on muddy tundra and removing our crampons.

At the trailhead we had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Winger, whom both Ryan and I had purchased guidebooks and climbing gear from.

Adam’s photo gallery
Ryan’s photo gallery

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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

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Unshaven and just barely qualifying as clean after 8 days in the mountains, Pete and I showed up for the 8am departure from Ouray on a couple tour Jeeps for Yankee Boy Basin with the rest of the small wedding party.

Hiking and climbing friends, immediate family from both sides and a few older friends of Sarah’s and Dominic’s gathered in the alpine for this wedding.

Our Jeep of mostly hikers and climbers found some amusement from the driver’s explanations of ice climbing, mountain weather and avalanches meant for a typical tourist. The ceremony itself was just the right length and in a great spot with rushing creeks behind.

Below us, the tail end of the Hardrock 100 mile race was passing by with runners already on the move for over 27 hours. The wildflowers were beautiful as were the views. I was probably the only member of the hiker group who hadn’t been up here yet.

Clouds began to build and we all started down, with our driver again giving us the tourist route through some old mines when we all wanted to hurry to the reception and avoid the rain that soon came.

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