The large Southeast face of Sawtooth is quite visible from the area around Boulder and from a number of places along the Peak to Peak Highway as well as numerous private, national forrest and national wilderness lands. It's profile, especially during a sunset, is dramatic compared to the relative flatness of neighboring Audobon.
This is a serious committing climb. There is a lot of loose stuff up there and there is always the chance that people could start throwing stuff off the summit or you could do a pull-up on a piece of rock that pulls out. This is also, to the best of my knowledge, a very very undeveloped climbing site. I did not see one trace of humans on that face. No fixed gear, no chalk, no slings, no bolts, no wrappers, nothing. ( I left a 00 Metolious up there so there's something.) So if you get into trouble don't count on yelling to other climbers for help. I also don't think there is cell phone reception up there because at that point you are about 6 miles from the nearest paved road, which doesn't have any service.
From the Peak to Peak Highway (State 72) take a left (West) 2.5 miles North of the Millsite (in Ward, CO) on county 96. This is a dirt road that does not get plowed much in the winter although there are permanent residents that live along it. Continue up the road a little less than 3 miles just past the concrete spillway. This is the Beaver Reservoir parking lot on the North side of the road. It is small but I've never seen more than 4 cars there, even on the weekends in July. If you have a 4WD go up the road for four miles to Coney Flats. It is a gated road that heads Southwest from the parking lot at the bend in the road. It is open from sometime in June to September, usually, it depends on the snow that year. It's a rough road, there, you've been warned.
When you get to Coney Flats (just after a large stream crossing where you see the wooden pentagon sign for the Indian Peaks Wilderness) hike West on the very obvious trail out of the Coney Flats parking lot. After 1-2 miles, take a left and begin bushwacking uphill along the broad ridge between two intermittent streams. Continue up the ridge until the top of a small knoll roughly in the middle of the cirque between Sawtooth and Pawnee. This small cirque probably holds first ascent possibilities. At this point there is a lake to the Southwest and the face is to the North. Look for a break or gully in the middle of the lower cliff band. Head to the bottom of that gully.
1. Start at the bottom of the break in the middle of the lower cliff band. Rope up and climb a short pitch (50 feet) to get to the sloping meadow above (5.3-5.4). It may be possible to go far to the right and go up 3rd or 4th class terrain to get to the sloping meadow.
2. Simul-climb or unrope or something and make your way a few hundred feet up the middle of the sloping meadow to a right facing corner on the middle to left side of the face.
3-6. Climb up first to the right and after about a pitch move over to the left then climb more to the right. We ended up topping out about 100 feet below the summit on the East Ridge. So if in doubt it is easy to go right to get to the ridge. Sketchy route description I know. The thing is there are so many options on this face that choosing to go one way or the other may not change the difficulty much at all. There are several large (20 foot wide) ledges that make nice belay stations and are good places to help a terrified partner calm down. You can also make shorter, or perhaps even longer, pitches as this can be somewhat windy and the large ledges make communication between partners more difficult. (5.3-5.6 several sections with 20 foot run-outs and TONS of loose rock both washing machine and dime sizes)
7. Simul-climb from the ridge to the summit on 3rd class terrain.
Descend via the standard route: Go North to the saddle, downhill on tundra, where there is a large rock cairn and follow the trail, sometimes with required snow crossing but it can usually be done in running shoes, East to get back to Coney flats.
A standard rack. I used 00-7 Metolious cams, full set of Black Diamond Stoppers, and the four smallest Camp tri-cams (white to red). I think I carried Black diamond hexs but I don't think I used them.
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