South Noddle Head
South Noddle Head (8260')
The Castle (9691')
Oct 18, 2008
Adam McFarren & Kevin Baker
South Noddle Head (~5.2)
4.2 miles RT, 500' gain
2 hrs, 40 min
With an excellent forecast for Sat, I was hoping to squeeze in a couple 5th class summits that have been high on my list for quite some time. Little did I know what surprises this day would hold! The Noddle Heads are a seldom climbed group of rock pillars in the South Platte area in Douglas county. The southern summit is the ranked one, and fortunantly for me it is the easier summit, going at low 5th class. The northern summit is a much more involved technical summit, and it is possible that it is higher as the map shows identical elevations for these summits. The southern summit is shown as 8224 feet, but it looks like the spot elevation on the map is incorrect as there is an extra countour.
Adam McFarren agreed to lead the climb and we brought rope if needed. This is the first time I have hiked with Adam, and we formed a nice team. We set out at 8:15am from a forest road off CR-67 about 3.6 miles south of Sprucewood. We followed the road for a bit and then bushwacked for to cut off some distance along the road. We chatted about recent climbs and I found out that Adam is a lower 48 state highpoint completer and is part of the club! We came across a few elk hunters in the woods and I was a bit concerned being that I was wearing black!
After only about 45 minutes, we were nearing the south Noddle.
I got some beta from Jeremy that the easiest line was on the n.w. side, so we headed over to the north ridge which afforded some fine slabby scrambling.
We were soon on the north side of the summit block.
To reach the easiest route, we traversed right across a ledge around a huge boulder which put us out on a nice ramp on the n.w. face.
Traverse this ramp and scoot around to the n.w. side:
From here, it's about 15-20' of exposed class 4-low class 5 up a bomber crack system with plenty of holds.
This is a cool little summit, and a worthy trip indeed. We performed a water bottle test to see if we could tell if the north summit was higher, but it was inconclusive. I think it is a matter of a few feet, which can only be determined by a professional survey. I'm sure this is not on priority list!
North Noddle from South Noddle:
For the descent, we played it safe and rappelled down the crux.
We found a nice class 3 gully descent on the east face and headed back to the car for an appointment with Pete on The Castle. Little did we know what would soon happen.
The Noddle Heads and The Castle are seperated by many miles of curvy roads. We headed west for Deckers and got on CR-126 hoping to meetup with Pete at Wellington Lake. These roads are very remote and not well traveled, but there was a fair amount of traffic on this fine day. We were just a mile or so west of Deckers rounding curve after curve and I saw a group of motorcycles approaching me just as I had come around a curve.
The last biker in the group leaned into the curve a bit too much and crossed the center line right in front of me! He tried to over compensate his turn and started going down right in front of me. I had probably less than 2 seconds to react and probably was just starting to swerve right at impact. My Santa Fe ramped up over the bike and headed for the ditch. There was no shoulder on the right side of the road, so I promptly slammed into a rock wall. Fortunantly, I was probably going no faster than 30mph and it was not a direct hit into the wall.
The impact was not as forceful as I thought, but my airbags did deploy.
The windshield shattered in a few spots, but I felt like I was OK. The smell of gunpowder quickly filled the car due to the airbags and I quickly got out of the car, fearing that I had ran over the poor biker. I was relieved to find out that he had bailed off the bike before impact and rolled behind me a good 50-75 feet. Adam was driving his Santa Fe behind me and saw the whole thing. He feared the worst for the biker when he saw him go down in front of me.
We raced over to him and he had came to a stop in the small ditch. Thank God he had a helmet on and had some nice safety equipment that he was wearing that saved him from some serious road rash. His partners circled back and we got the bike out of the road. The bike ended up ended up in the middle of the road a few feet to the left of my car. The biker was shook up but seemed to be OK considering the situation other than some lower back pain. I came out of it with a little cut on my pinkie finger!
It took about 30 minutes for any emergency personnel to show up as we couldn't get a cell signal. I was checked out in an ambulance and didn't have any signs of trouble. I'm pretty sure the air bag didn't even touch me! We waited a good 2.5 hours before the Santa Fe and the bike were finally towed. My car was totalled, but at least I got 143K miles out of it in 5.5 years. I guess on this day the driving was more dangerous than the climbing! This is the 2nd time I have had a car sacrificied to the pursuit of summits or highpoints. The first time my Pontiac Sunfire caught fire after getting stuck in the mud in pursuit of a prestigious county highpoint in the plains of s.e. Colorado!
The Castle: Would You Still Go Climbing?The Castle (~5.5 or 5.6)
S.E gully/West Face crack
1.2 miles RT, 1530' gain
2 hrs 40 min RT
I was bummed that my car got smashed, but happy that both me and the biker came out of this unscathed. Material possessions can always be replaced and our safety was of utmost importance. By the time my car was towed, there was still plenty of daylight left. Can we still go hit the Castle? Poor Pete had probably been waiting for us for a good two hours. Would he still be there? I wouldn't be able to get a hold of wife wife for at least another hour with the lack of a signal, so I might as well break the news to her with a call on the summit and tell her the whole story, right? Ah, if it only worked out that way.
I was really pumped to finally get a shot at The Castle and why make a bad day worse? Adam was game so we headed for Wellington Lake. Blame it on Adam I guess. We paid our $6 per person fee and saw a note from Pete at the store noting that he couldn't wait any longer. We rounded the lake and parked on the west side at 8160'. There were quite a few campers in the area. A family was awed that we were going to the top and we told them we would give them a yell when we got up there. We set off at 2:45pm and it would turn out to be a great day for a late afternoon summit.
Adam had been up The Castle just a few weeks ago and did a fine job with the routefinding. It was nice not having to do that for once. Up, Up, Up we went on a decent trail which eventually petered out and gave way to some stiff bushwacking. Trees, pinecones, fun slabs, and huge boulders added to the fun factor and I was really working up a sweat! This climb ascends around 1500 feet in a little over 1/2 mile, so it will get your heart pounding even at this relatively low altitude.
We made our way up to some steep slabby terrain which Adam made it up with no problem. I backed off when the angle kept getting steeper and found an easier gully to ascend to the left.
Adam on steep slabs:
Above this we encountered more bushwacking/scrambling until we came to a gully that we decided to rope up on. It had a couple low 5th class moves, but was very grippy. There was a nice tree at the top for Adam to set an anchor. I dropped one of his hexes in a hole, but he was able to fish it out with a stick on the way down.
Once above that we made our way up and around a maze of boulders and slabs to the amazing rock garden area, which is surrounded by the four summits. One could easily do some fine camping up here. After some more odd moves through boulders, we were at the crux on the west face of the highpoint. I switched to rock shoes and Adam easily led the 5.5/5.6ish pitch of 20 feet or so. This would be my first crack climb, so I was a bit worried how I would do.
Adam leads the crux:
The crack was wide enough to jam your arm in and the granite was taking a toll on my hands. My form wasn't pretty, so I resorted to brute force near the top. Once on the very airy ridge, it's a quick stroll to the summit. The exposure off the other side will grab your attention!
The exposed summit ridge and the hardest of the 4 summits in background:
I was able to finally get a signal on the summit after a few tries and got through to Jenni. The conversation pretty much went, "I only have a few seconds to talk, I got in a wreck with a motorcycle, I am OK. We decided to...... I think that is all she heard. I felt terrible as she didn't know where I was at even though it wasn't late yet. It was 4:45 on the summit and I wasn't able to reach her with the full story until nearly 7:30. I guess it's time to make another deposit into the wife bank!
Plenty of playgrounds near The Castle to west:
We rapped down the tree route side without a problem. I had hoped to visit at least 2 of the other summits, but we just hit the easier 3rd class one and called it good. The walked over to the base of the "leap of faith" summit but decided we had gotten into enough trouble for the day.
The "leap of faith" summit:
The descent went pretty quick after the 2nd rappel and we were back at the car just before dark. Adam was kind enough to drive me all the way back to COS. At least we were able to salvage two fine summits today despite the wreck!