I want to climb 7000 and 8000 meter peaks and not just the walkups. I figure to be the best alpinist I can be I have to work at it. My only goals for the summer were to trad lead a 5.7 and do a technical route on a 14er (or 13er but I left the guide book in Massachusetts). I had an earlier rock climbing road trip fail to even get to the trailhead of Capitol so as I was looking for other routs this seemed appealing. A 5.7 Grade III would be plenty of learning experience. Thats really the reason I picked the climb not superior rock quality or a 14er I hadn't done or whatever I just liked the lay of the route.
I led three week backpacking trips all summer so logistics are no problem for me. In fact, I love to go through everything and make sure we are all set because I feel that the more people that double check the better chance that we won't leave something necessary behind (like my plastic boots for an ice-climb (oh that was a fun eight hour drive)). John and I went through making sure we had all the stuff for a four day attempt because we weren't sure what the weather was going to do so we figured we might have some down time. Previously this summer I led my first 5.7 at Lumpy Ridge a little two pitch thing so I wasn't worried about the difficulty. It also helped that John considers himself a 5.10a sport climber even though he is better than that.
I drove up to Ponil where he worked and we met up and after stopping at the Work-Crew PhilFiesta we headed up to colorado to the South Colony Lakes trailhead. The drive was pretty uneventful its only a few hours. We drove my little half-ton 1990 Toyota just to the 2WD parking lot cause I had hiked the road about a month before and I figured better safe than a broken truck. We arrived at 12:20 am and decided we might as wekk hike to the lakes and set up camp cause we were planning to take it easy tomorrow and practice ropework. Becuase of the usual campning stuff like my nine pound tent, bear canister and food that won't fit in the bear cannister we had a lot of stuff. Then we had all the climbing gear on top of that which really adds up I mean its probably like 40 pounds between the two of us. So with full packs we set off on a seven mile hike in the dark up about 3000' of elevation. It was very tiring.
We got to a spot just above the white trailbuilders tent and set up camp around 5 am. When we crawled in 15 minutes later there was just a bit of glow starting to come up the valley but we were both out in minutes so it didn't make a difference how light it was.
We woke up the next morning at 11am just in time for lunch. We took our time eating and mulling around camp and then at like 1 or so we packed up the trad gear and went to go have a look at the route and practice climbing with running belays (simul-climbing) and belay and anchor stuff. John's was having a great time learning all the trad stuff cause as a sport climber he clipped a bolt and that was it here he had to think. We spent a few hours just doing that kind of stuff until we decided it might rain or we were tired or both and we headed back to camp. We basically cooked supper and went back to sleep. We went to bed at 5pm which I thought was halirous but was too tired to do much about it. We slept for six hours then were awake for only 6 hours before going back to bed. The alarms were set for 6 am.
Tommy Cauldwell may be polishing off two free route on El Cap in a day but I am not him. However, he wasn't doing them at 14,000 feet. So we woke up promptly at 6 am and went through the process of gathering gear and checking to make sure we had every thing. By the time we were finally on the trail it was 7 am. I don't necessarily remember all the details and times until the summit so this is just the order it happened in. We made our way to the notch to the left of the big patch of grass above the cliff to the left of the arete. From there we traversed up to the right through ledges and gullies of sorts then across the grass patch to another shallow (3 -6 feet deep) gully that we did an ascending traverse in. That spit us out on the face and a little farther led to the arete.
I am no expert climber. In fact, I considered myself a beginner in the alpine world until after this lead. Anyway I decided it would be safer if we did pitched climbing instead of a running belay because it just looked like a long fall and the less the fall and more the safety the better. The sky was cloudy the entire time and the clouds were moving in and out and all over the place but never dense enough that we talked about a retreat. Instead our vibe was just 'lets do this cause it will storm and we don't want to be up here when it does.' So we did five pitches of 4th class stuff and perhaps a few moves of low fifth class but that just may have been my micro route finding skills.
Then we got to a place where Gerry Roach talks about multiple chimmmney's and we took the one on the far right cause it had pitons and other left over gear in it and was quite a bit easier. After two pitches I was starting to get worried it was like 3 or so and we were still heading up with plently of vertical above us. Also add the fact that to save time (we got down to two minutes) at each belay station we weren't really drinking much and eating nothing cause that would just delay us and we had planned lunch on the summit. So we arrived at what must be the head crack. I started up and after like 30 feet was somewhat blown so I set up an anchor and John moved up a little farther and put in some gear. It took like 20 minutes or something. Anyway I was ready to go so I led up and just a bit farther after pulling some moves with my backpack on that are in my oppinion a tad impressive I got to a flat spot. I belayed John up and by then it was like 4:30 pm and we looked up and both quickly agreed on a running belay cause it was much less steep and judging by Humboldt peak we were around 14,000' so we should be really close.
It was kind of funny because throughout the entire day I had been protecting the route well in case of a fall but this last section I just put in a few pieces and just climbed quick because the mountains are all about efficiency and the weather looked like it was starting to get even worse and I figured well I just won't fall. Fortunately, I didn't fall all day so when I got to the ridge and saw the summit 70 feet away I yelled down to John that it looked like a few more pitches, It's also funny cause I'm usually really honest in the mountains I mean it just doesn't make sense to lie. He thought it was hularious when he got up there so we marched over to the summit and took a picture and ate. It was 5 pm.
We spent about a helf hour on the summit realizing and letting it set in what we had just done. We also ate, drank and looked around. Crestone Needle looks ferocious from that angle. I am really not one for summits but this just was so big to me such a harder summit than every other mountain i had done that except for the weather and the darkness I was in no rush. We made our way down the stout class 3 that neither of us had seen but was easy enough to follow even as the clouds rolled in. Then like right after 7 pm it started to hail and rain and we sheltered for 45 minutes in a very shallow overhang by the side of some rocks to wait out the storm. At 7:45 it quit enough for us to go and we rushed over the pass and down the gully to camp following the four inch deep hail covered trail to our campsite arriving at 8:30 wiped out and thankfully not having to use the one head lamp we brought. After cooking supper we got to bed and slept after a thouroughly successful day.
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