All the claims and history put forth in this TR are completely false. I did not attempt to verify any of them. It's possible I got the physical layout of the mountain entirely wrong. In addition, most events surrounding our ascent are highly exaggerated to make us look awesome.
Tigger Peak: aggressive first ascent of the north face
We first laid eyes on Tigger Peak during our failed attempt on Mount Princeton in October. Since then, Jeff and I have been obsessed with this imposing mountain, discussing it endlessly, poring over reports of prior expeditions, debating possible routes, and watching the weather. When we learned no group had ever been successful on the north face, we knew we had to climb it. Furthermore, we decided to attempt the unthinkable--we would do it in one day. For months we awaited a break in the perpetual storms on the north face as we prepared ourselves, mentally and physically, for the endeavor. Finally, a fleeting window appeared in December. We packed our gear.
In the early morning of December 12, 2009, Jeff and I loaded our gear and left the comforts and security of civilization behind us. We drove silently, each brooding in his own tumultous world of hope, fear, anticipation, doubt. After three agonizing hours, at 0710 we reached base camp, the meager jumping-off point for expeditions on Tigger Peak and Mount Princeton, just as the sun stretched its first morning rays over the horizon. Before its brilliant onslaught the usual weather plaguing the summit of Tigger had retreated, furled up into the recesses of some desolate crag. Our window was holding.
We suited up quickly and began the long and arduous trek to the base of Tigger's north face. For some time we followed tracks set by another group and wondered if we would have company. Our next glimpse of the mountain came at 0830. The snowy massif rose starkly against the sky, resembling a small sun with flaring spindrifts and chaotic movement obscuring the ridge crest, reminding us of the legendary winds which had stopped short so many expeditions, often fatally. Here the footprints stopped, and we knew we were alone.
The serene beauty of this alpine wilderness and the mild weather below timberline were deceiving. We tried to put this out of our minds as we enjoyed views of expansive valleys, jagged cliffs, and thickly-forested slopes giving way to brilliant white peaks. But we were jerked back to a harsh reality when our path crossed the track of a recent avalanche. This had been a place of violence: undergrowth had been uprooted and hurled down the mountainside, stands of young aspens flattened, and sturdy pines stripped. The trail zig-zagged several times across the track and bed surface just under the crown before turning towards the east ridge of Tigger in a grim segue from one deadly hazard to the next.
Avy track, first crossing
A cornice on the trail
Avy track, second crossing
Avy bed, third crossing
Looking down the track
At 1140 we reached Camp Sorrow, so named because of the many who perished at its gates. The deserted camp is situated below the east ridge, which on the northern aspect rises sharply to form an impossibly steep and unstable wall of icy talus that is the north face. For as many minutes as we could spare, we sat silently contemplating the equal magnitude of effort and loss this approach had witnessed; in those few moments our souls bore the weight of all the expectations dashed against the unmoving and remorseless north face. After what seemed like hours had passed, we said a brief prayer to remember the fallen and shouldered our packs.
Gazing at the mountain, we cracked some jokes to calm our nerves and then focused our attention on the task at hand. Our intended ascent would take us from the base of the north face diagonally across a prominent, unnamed gully which obscures the true summit for most of the traverse. This has been home to several widely publicizied rock slides which resulted in more than one attempt to have the route banned. That it remains open is a testament to the sway the north face holds over the heart of anyone who lays eyes on it.
East ridge, north face on right
Stashing our snowshoes
A closer look at the approach
We climbed up to a small outcropping just below the talus and stashed our snowshoes to save weight, burying them under the rocks to prevent the gusting winds from blowing them off the mountain. At this point we realized we had left our rope at base camp. Some have attempted this route unroped, and at length we decided to continue. The going was not difficult at first, but the higher we climbed, the more unstable and slippery it became. A slight misstep would send fist-sized rocks cascading down the mountainside. Giant boulders teetered under the relative weight of a mouse. At 1330 we reached the gully. Here the winds started in earnest and with such intensity at times that we could only hold fast to the rocks and wait for a calm. We slowly but steadily crossed the gully and inched along the diagonal. The mountain fiercely resisted our advance at each step--wind forcing the cold into the minutest gaps in our clothing, blowing ice crystals scouring any exposed skin, shrieking spindrifts blotting out the sunlight. The isolation was terrifying. But the mountain did not break us; where before so many had failed, we would succeed. We knew it. Soon the summit commanded our gaze. All our lives had been leading to this moment: With a singular effort we staggered up the final incline and crested the peak! We shook hands and smiled triumphantly. It was 1515--we had achieved the first ascent of Tigger's north face in a mere 7.75 hours.
Near the gully
Looking east from the summit
Looking west from the summit
Jeff on the summit, looking south
Me on the summit, looking west
Tigger Peak is an unranked Colorado 13er connected by a saddle to its parent peak, Mount Princeton. We started joking about it after failing to bag Mount Princeton, and it got a little carried away. This time we agreed to summit Tigger first and then Princeton--time permitting. We fully expected to hike up Princeton also, but we had not counted on such an arduous trek. We broke trail through all types of snow over 4.5 miles, then climbed another 1600' up a treacherous and unstable talus slope in the strongest gusting winds I've ever experienced. By the time we had reached Tigger Peak, sunset was only an hour away. Not wanting to return across the slippery talus in the dark, we decided to take one summit and call it a day. This was not a disappointment as we felt quite successful having already achieved our goal. We reached our cache at nightfall and returned in a heavy snow.
Locating our snowshoes
Playing in the snow
The last mile
This route may have been done many times before, but probably never as awesomely as we did it.