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Liba KopeckovaHistory

Liba Kopeckova

Voted 10/10

Lizard Head has an intriguing climbing history. At the time of its first ascent in 1920 by Albert Ellingwood and Barton Hoag, Lizard Head was probably the hardest rock climb then completed in the United States. Armed with three soft iron pitons, hemp rope, and nailed boots, Ellingwood and Hoag made a couple of abortive attempts on cracks near the SW corner before rounding the corner to the west face. Ellingwood reported that "most of the enticing small holds crumbled at the touch, and large masses of the loosely compacted pebbles would topple dangerously at a slight pull." In spite of the difficulties, they struggled up and placed two of their rustic pitons in the lower cliff, saving one for the higher cliffs.
After spending about a half hour on top of the summit, Ellingwood and Hoag began an epic descent. Ellingwood's rope became stuck on the lower cliff. As he shook it, a rock cam loose and hit him on the top of the head, almost knocking him from the wall. Hoag was also hit by rockfall but was on secure footing at the time. After more effort, they had to abandon the rope and begin down climbing. Ellingwood reported that Hoag "slipped and, leaving a section of this paint behind, drifted relentlessly downward until the wall became vertical and then jumped (perhaps 15 feet) to the rock below. I followed with more caution, regretfully saying goodbye to my rope that had served me well for five good seasons."
Elingwood and Hoag's climb was well ahead of its time. This is reflected in the comments of Harold G. WIlm who made the second ascent on June 9, 1929 with Dobson West. Referring to Elingwood, Wilm noted: At the time, it was considered an impossible feat, and little credence was given his performance by many who knew the peak. For some time, therefore, Dobson West and I had planned a second ascent, chiefly as a proof of his climb, but also as a mountaineering stunt of our own."
Wilm and West did in fact confirm the first ascent by retrieving Ellingwood's old rope and finding his old rusty pitons still in place. Several more ascents of Lizard Head were made during the 1931 joint outing by members of the Colorado and Appalachian Mountain Clubs. SInce the early efforts, interest in Lizard Head waned. The horror stories have taken their toll.
The first winter ascent of Lizard Head was made on January 18, 1970, by a strong party from Colorado Springs which consisted of Art Howells, Mike Dudley, Don Doucette, Chuck Behrensmeyer, R.J. Campbell, and Fletcher Smith. Although the first 100 feet of the climb had snow on all the hold, they made excellent time and got on and off the summit cone in about four hours.
Posted Jul 28, 2013 3:21 pm

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