Great peak.2008-07-19 - JeremyHakes
North Noddle Head
via S dihedral to SW face - "Beau Knows"
Partners (over time):
Beau has tried this peak before I ever got to it, and so has Dwight. Both were stymied, although Beau free-soloed some 5.6, followed by a terrifying "4th" class traverse to the walk off area.
Dwight hiked around it, but didn't get too high up on it.
Our first visit, Erin, Derrill, Beau, and myself went on an after work exploration, we also did S. Noddle. Based on early beta, we only brought a 30m rope, and had no way to install bolts. I got up the first pitch, and ran out of rope and time. I inspected our initial line above for P2, but realized I would never ever be able to climb it. Retreat. Walk out in the dark.
2nd attempt - Erin, Derrill, Liz, and Beau - Another after work mistake. We brought the set of twin 60M ropes, thinking they were our only previous limitation (in addition to time). I got to the same location, set up an anchor, brought up Derrill, attempted to install a bolt with a P.O.S. drill - barely even scratched the rock. Set up bail station, retreat. Walk out in the dark, even later this time.
Further research and some communication from some of the old-school South Platte boys brought into light the fact that there are no known ascents to the top, nor any way to get down from the top; ifthere were any bolts on top, they would almost certainly be more than 20 years old, and almost certainly be the 1/4" "death bolt" and possibly the recalled leeper hanger, too. The top is a smooth, featureless, giant block with no cracks, no weaknesses, nothing. Bolts would have to be installed to get down, and therefore a means of drilling said bolts would have to be obtained.
3rd visit, 4th for Beau - Fast forward more than 1 month. Derrill, Liz, Beau, and Dwight join me for a full-scale attempt. I have obtained a cordless hammerdrill. We have 60m ropes. We have the requisite gear (tri-cams actually would have been nice to have...), and we have all day.
I quickly dispatch the first pitch, having the moves almost memorized. I set up a belay, bring Derrill up. Break out the hammerdrill, install 2 bolts for a rap station for later (1 60m rope will now get you up and down in 2 rappells). Derrill ties into the new anchors, moves up. I begin the lead again, this time into unknown territory. Photos from the previous trip have led me to believe there is a protectable crack on the west face. I am optimistic. I stem across the first crux, exposed both down and out, as you climb across a bulge to get to the crack. I traverse around on a surprise ledge, which gets bigger as you go north, until it ends at nothing. I place a #2 cam at my feet, and look up at a blank face. No bolts, no cracks for protection, just lichen and little crystals. Great. I briefly consider building an anchor and bringing Derrill up and installing a bolt mid-blank face, until I see an old cord hanging in the crack 25' above me. Crap. Someone did this clean, and attempting to abide by the ethos of climbing, if I can't do it clean, I shouldn't add more bolts. Crap. I notice a small hueco at chest height that would take a tri-cam, except somehow I have neglected to bring any. Crap. All of my other cams are too wide for the hole. I finally try a #2 C3 camalot. It slots. With some wiggling, it sets nicely. Not hugely reassuring, because by the time I get to the rotten cord and the next ledge, it will be a good 20' below me, all while climbing thin, slightly licheny granite. That's about a 40' whipper, for those of you who are counting. I consider my options some more, and I do NOT want to have to come back to this thing! I need to climb it NOW! I need to do it!
I take a breath, suck it up, and take the high right step with a left hand mantle move, and commit to the face. It is thin, but fortunately not dirty. I move up about 6' and find a nice left hand ledge on the soft arete, big enough for 3 or so fingers. Nice. Keep it together. Feet follow hands. If it was good enough for my hands, it's good enough for my feet. Slow, keep the head in it. Lots of rope drag. I get up to the V-groove, climbing is easier, but I'm way above my last gear. I look at the cord, grab a biner, clip the cord... the crack is slowly seeping water. My feet are a little insecure. I'm insecure. I slowly pull up the rope, clip my biner, and step up onto the much smaller ledge. I stuff a hand in the crack above me. Quickly, I slot a nut, grab a draw, clip in again. LOTS of drag. I slot another nut - clip it, too. Safe. HUGE SIGH. Dwight notices from below that if I can remove my life-saving C3, it will remove a lot of drag. I downclimb back to the cam, Derrill keeping me on. I can barely get it out, which is a good sign that it would have held had I fallen. I reclimb the face, get back to my pro. I take a minute, calm the nerves, think about what I'm doing. The crack above me requires another high right step, committing to the hands and foot, stepping high onto the rock before you can slot another hand. I test it, test it again, and then tell Derrill, "Climbing!".
I commit, and the funnest part of the route gives itself to me. The hand crack is spectacular, but too short. I slot a cam, then fly up the rest, enjoying it to the fullest. The fun crack turns into some 4th class, and a large chock blocks my path, but I sling it and use it as natural pro. On the other side, a HUGE trench gives itself up, and I am able to use 3 #3 cams (barely) to build an anchor. #3.5 or #4 would have worked, too. I'm just grateful I had 3 #3s to do it. I equalize the anchor, and bring Derrill up. He follows the route, and gets into the trench. We switch belays, and I finish the last 3 moves - over on the east side, another exposed and unprotected (except for the belay) move get you into a beautiful Thank God upward facing crack, giving great purchase to pull myself up. I finish. SWEET.
I sit on the summit block, and then Derrill ties on the drill to a sling and I install the 2 summit rap anchors. I belay Derrill to the summit, then the two of us get down back to the big trench. Fix the ropes, and down he goes. Next up, Beau, Dwight, and Liz make short work of the route, and we all celebrate on the summit. Down they all go. I clean the place up, double check it, and then rappel off myself.
This was a surprisingly tough little peak, but it sure was a great one! The climbing was fun, and other than the blank face, very protectable. Clean holds and cracks made it a special summit. We did install a new register and canister. We did not find any evidence of any other ascents, but we would be surprised if this was unclimbed, especially back in the heyday of early 80's South Platte climbers. Congrats to all on getting this one.