I have to admit that after Sneffles and Coxcomb I was feeling kind of pooped. If I had known what kind of climb Teakettle is I might have opted for something else. Kirk and I drove up to Yankee Boy Basin after having a very good meal at Buen Tiempo in Ouray. We parked in the same exact spot as I had two days previous and spent most of the evening reading our guides and peering up at Teakettle and Coffepot which hung dramatically above our cars.
Kirk had climbed this before (two years back?) and thankfully didn’t remember what a slag heap this mountain can be. If he had remembered I think he wouldn’t have agreed to partner up with me on this one. We left the cars at 5:50 or so and began what Roach calls the “steep and unrelenting” climb to the ridge beneath the Coffepot. The first half went quickly on grass slopes and we were soon onto the talus. GRRRRRRR. Kirk and I picked very different routes up and the consensus was that there is NO good way up this crap. It’s loose, it’s grungy, it’s steep, it’s long, and there really is no way around doing it. I reached the ridgeline at 13,300 and a small cairn about 7:30 and waited for Kirk to meet me (his route was much worse near the top).
From this viewpoint you can see the remainder of the route which goes like this;
(1) Descent of 150’ on climbers trail and then traverse into Black Gully
(2) Ascent of Black Gully (go to the left at the top)
(3) Traverse to brown scree gully
(4) Ascent of brown scree gully
(5) Traverse to Teakettle summit block
This part is actually pretty easy and straight forward. The Black Gully is NOT as steep as it looks from the viewpoint but it IS filled with loose crap (Helmets, everyone!) and DO NOT go to the right at the top of the Black Gully. I tried this and it best classified as “4th class dirt”.
We took some pictures in the handle of the Teakettle (really a remarkable natural feature, and I wonder if it’s the highest natural arch?), and slowly got ready for the summit pitch. I was starting to feel the effects of 9,000’ of elevation gain over this weekend and I took my time relaxing before I led up to the summit. This is an enjoyable climb and at 5.3, the loose rock is the biggest difficulty. I belayed Kirk up and we soaked in the views from the tiny and very flat summit. This is a great summit and reminds me of the summit of Spearhead in RMNP. We signed the register, once again noting several familiar names and made the very short rappel back down to the packs.
For the descent we backtracked back to the base of the Black Gully and then we went down what Roach calls a variation to the normal route. In retrospect I don’t want to go up or down either the normal way or the variation ever again. Kirk started down what looked like a dirt-filled gully and I made sure Kirk and I had some distance between us before I began. It is nearly impossible not to start numerous rock-slides and extra precaution needs to be taken to make sure you don’t kill your partner! It’s loose, it’s grungy, it’s steep, it’s long, and there really is no way around doing it. Wait, doesn’t that sound just like the ascent? Yup. We finally made it to a grassy area around 12,500 and that’s when the skies, which up until now had been very kind to me started to let loose it’s cold, frozen vengeance. Actually it wasn’t that bad. The hail turned to rain as we continued to descend after traversing to the grassy slopes that had been our ascent route. By the time I got back, the refreshing rain had rejuvenated me and you know what? Someday I’ll come back and climb Potosi. You know why? Cuz it’s loose, it’s grungy, it’s steep, it’s long, and there really is no way around doing it.
A big thanks to Kirk Mallory for being a great partner on these great climbs.