Sheeprock from the northwest
Stepping out of the Jeep from the parking area, Sheeprock looms to the east. It's the sort of sight that makes the heart beat a bit faster as you think: Wow, we're climbing that today! We shouldered our packs and began the descent into the Goose Creek Valley. Here we ditched our shoes and waded across the cool, pleasant water. Despite the calendar reading mid-April, the day was already starting to get unpleasantly hot!
Crossing Goose Creek Barefoot hippies
We crawled back out of Goose Creek and started flanking Sheeprock to its south. Sometimes the going was simple bushwhacking. Other times, we were weaving in and out of sticker bushes, scrambling 3rd class boulders and running into occasional route dead-ends. Persistent route-finding, some solid scouting and the occasional cairn or - whodathunkit - orange painted arrow on the rock finally got us to the arm southwest of Sheeprock.
|The surrounding views are wide-open, though the land is still struggling to heal from the massive Hayman Fire in 2002. Ask anyone who lived in Colorado (especially the Pikes Peak region and Colorado Springs) where they were "when Hayman broke out," and they can tell you down to the time of day and pinpoint the location when they first saw the plume or heard the shocking news. |
Funky hut Key to reaching shoulder Pikes Peak South Ramp Bighorn Sheep
And then we encountered a sight that took our breath away! Several Big Horn Sheep, ewes with their yearlings, on the South Ramp Route! These brave, noble beasts were working 4th and 5th class rock like a walk on a sidewalk. After striking a pose for us (and giving us stink-eye), the critters briskly moved down-mountain, through a notch in the overhanging roof, and out of sight. We were left with zero doubt as to how Sheeprock got its name! This experience, alone, was worth getting out of bed for; worth the drive, the scrubby approach...all of it!
Me with Sheeprock
The views from the arm of Sheeprock were at once amazing and slightly intimidating! The runnels through the granite were impressive and the rock seemed surprisingly large and massive. From there, we descended from the arm down nice, sticky granite friction slopes into a drainage.
Southwest arm of Sheeprock Sheeprock comes into view Runnels, runnels everywhere Descending the SW arm
|The cactus (plus random wildflowers) were blooming like crazy here! |
Blooming cactus Sandstar wildflower Blooming cactus
Ascending the southern aspect Boots don't fail me now!
We crawled out of the drainage onto more sticky granite. We really didn't need our hands here, but had to put a lot of faith in the soles of our hiking boots to get us to the batch of trees where we would gear up. The granite was certainly grippy, but at points the pitch became steep enough that you certainly did not want to trip and roll down the rock face.
Working the 1st protected pitch
We reached a small bundle of trees and scarfed down some well-earned lunch. Then we started the process of stepping into harnesses, changing footwear from our broke-in hiking boots to the torture devices known as "rock shoes," and sorting gear.
|At last...the rock climbing begins! |
The first pitch was more of the same super-grippy granite, more of a crawl than a climb. Minus one crack/bulge, this pitch is a matter of watching hands and feet, being mindful of how your weight is distributed, and working your way up the slope.
Running up to first protection opp Onward & upward First belay set up Ascending the pitch
AstroClimber rounds the corner Views rounding the corner
From the two-cam belay set up at the top of Pitch 2, we had to make our way under and around the cracked room system. (This is the same roof that the Big Horn Sheep were so casually navigating earlier in the day.) From the top of P1, we traversed to climber's right, on granite that had plenty of grip but also served up a slope and exposure that would not suffer fools. We were amazed by the wide-open, exposed locations where sheep droppings were found!
Fully rounding the roof boulders placed us in a pleasant little notch below the summit ridge. The shade was enjoyable, but the odor of sheep droppings a bit overwhelming in the heat!
|Omigosh, is that sheep crap that reeks? |
AstroClimber out of the notch
Pitch 3 involved climbing up and out of a crumbly notch, out onto more of the now very familiar granite slopes. All hearts were beating excitedly as we knew we were getting close to the top. Like hound dogs, we could smell the summit! The slope of P3 relented nearing the top of the pitch, and from the final belay station, we were able to untie for the final jog to the summit.
Final Summit Scramble
Sheeprock Summit Register
What a joy this final 70 feet was! Unfettered, we strolled happily to the top of Sheeprock on crytal-ly granite. The summit dome was wide-open and wind-swept, pocked by water-filled potholes.
Here we temporarily removed our evil rock shoes, snapped a bunch of photos, and enjoyed a snack and some water. I discovered a hitchhiker, the first tick of the season, which was unceremoniously dispatched with a few whacks of a carabiner.
Our time on the summit was over too soon and it was time to down-climb to the first rappel station.
Leader extraordinaire! Summit cairn
Final scramble to summit AstroClimber nears the summit Cheeseman Reservoir from summit Signing the register
Ascent team Pikes Peak from the summit
Rappel & Outhike
Looking down from first rap station
We scurried on down to the first rappel station, a comfortable place to set up shop with grand views of the surrounding countryside. The first rappel is a pleasant glide down the bulbous granite face of Sheeprock.
Heading down to the first rap station Starting the rappel Looking up to midway rap Part way down final rap
It was the bottom of the first rappel that we all got lined up like sardines at a canning factory on a tiny little ledge. No one seemed to mind but me. The longer I stood there with my left calf cramping, the more unpleasant the experience became. To be honest I wanted off that ledge "right now!" but knew I had to just be patient and tolerate the situation.
When it at long last was my turn to descend, I fumbled with my ATC, setting the teeth in the wrong direction, until AstroClimber's motherly-calm voice urged me to relax and take a look at what I was doing. Finally, I got my ass off that too-small ledge and merrily returned to the waiting earth below. The rest of the party soon followed and we re-coiled the ropes for the scramble back to our gear.
AstroClimber returns to terra firma
Close-up, upper South Ramp South Ramp Route Sheeprock from the northwest
From our gear pile at the tangle of trees, we eased ourselves back down the slabs, heading first east and then north to position ourselves for a circumnavigation of the peak. We nearly danced for joy upon stopping at a log to ditch our evil rock shoes and replace them with proper hiking footwear. We crested a small ridge, then side-hilled west-northwest across the northern slopes of the peak enjoying the wild-flowers along the way. We occasionally leveraged sheep routes and equestrian trails but mostly traveled cross-country back to the stream. At Goose Creek, the rest of the party crossed on a log, but I was thrilled to cool my hot, tired toes in the chilly waters. Before long, we took those last few uphill paces out of the creekbed to the parking area, and thus our journey ended!
|We got back to the Jeep and opened a cooler full of cold beer. All different varieties were available, and thirsty climbers clawed at the bottles and fumbled for the opener to get that first long draw of suds! |
Map, Stats & Epilogue
Net Elevation Gain:
Number of Pitches:
5, included unprotected scrambling pitches
Maximum YDS Rating:
Pikes Peak Granite
|It's days like these that make me wildly grateful to live in the beautiful state of Colorado, USA, and have friends with the spunk and sense of adventure to share these outings with. |