Intro/Stats"East Partner Pk" (13057')
"West Partner Pk" (13041')
"Outpost Pk" (12362')
August 13, 2010
12.3 miles RT, 6000' gain
From Pitkin Creek TH (8440')
Participants: Steve, Derek, Pete, & Kevin
The Partner traverse in the Gores has been high on my list of high quality scrambles to hit during the summer. A great forecast for Friday got better and was now saying mostly sunny, reaffirming my decision to give it a shot. A strong team was formed and we took two cars from Evergreen to the trailhead since I wasn't sure what I was doing the next day. Pete and I had yet to hike with Steve or Derek and we knew we had our work cut out to keep within sight of them!
The Partner Traverse: Will It Ever End?
We set out at 4:30am in anticipation of a long day of challenging scrambling and routefinding. The Pitkin Creek trail is not that steep for Gore standards as after an initial grunt out of the valley it mellows out nicely. We all had a lot to talk about and it make the trudge in the dark go by quickly. The trail actually does not follow the map at 11K' as it actually heads west for a bit. We could have shaved off a bit of mileage by leaving the trail there. Instead, we left it at 11160' and headed for the south ridge of East Partner. The bushwacking was easy and we headed up steep, grassy benches to the ridge.
East Partner looms:
The south ridge is a nice warmup for things to come as it offers some nice, solid scrambling. We ended up traversing out onto the east face for the finish as the ridge steepened near the top. We reached the summit at 9am and 4600' vertical was already in the books. Steep is the name of the game in the Gores!
Pete enjoying the south ridge as Derek looks on from near the summit:
I was the caboose for most of the day and was already feeling it at this point. We didn't hang around long as we were all looking forward to seeing what surprises the traverse to West Partner held.
Dave Cooper has both these peaks in his fine CO scrambles book, but they are listed as separate climbs. Sarah Meiser and Jared Workman have some nice reports to go off, but both don't go into much detail because the terrain gets all jumbled up in your memory because of the many towers! At least we knew that the rock was going to be solid for the most part near the ridge crest, where the most difficult scrambling lies.
The traverse to West Partner with many hidden challenges:
It doesn't take long until you are faced with some 4th class downclimbs, but we found the rock to be very solid. Probably the most awkward move for me on the traverse was a spot where we had to sit on a slab at a corner which had some loose rock perched on top. We all used various techniques to get across it and I used the butt scoot for 5 points of contact.
Derek at a tricky downclimb:
The ridge mellowed out to a brief section of grass. Could this be the saddle already? It had only taken an hour so far, but the ridge would hold more surprises. Tower after tower was either climbed or skirted below. Most of the bypasses were done on the west side. We came to a deep notch that Steve bravely downclimbed while the rest of us decided to rappel. Pete's 30M rope was long enough to get us down. We came to a shall we say interesting slab that was not quite a knife edge. Steve butt scooted his way down and reported that there was a chimney behind it to downclimb. I decided to walk across the slab and grabbed the top of it.
Steve inches down the slab:
The chimney was perfect for utilizing canyoneering techniques to descend using counter pressure. I actually felt pretty comfortable going down even though it looks pretty tricky from the top. It's a pretty long reach to get your feet across to the other side of the chimney and get into it, so Pete opted for a belay from Derek since he is much shorter than the rest of us. Derek did a great job setting up a quick, airy belay for Pete about halfway down the chimney and Pete downclimbed underneath him.
I had a fun time giving Pete a hard time for being too short as he downclimbed. Here's a short video of the sequence:
More routefinding challenges awaited and we were all starting to get pretty tired from this long traverse! Derek gave Pete and I a belay near a cool pyramid tower where it made sense for us to regain the ridge crest.
Pete climbing low 5th class terrain on belay:
The last bit to the summit involves finding a key narrow ledge to enter another notch. There are two summit candidates that are very close in height, so we visited both. The south summit is pretty airy! I toppped out (lagging behind again) at 12:35, so the one mile traverse took us about 3:15! It was still pretty early and it was a bluebird day, so could we run the ridge over to 12er Outpost?
Outpost, Where Art Thou?
The Gore guidebook says the route is class 2+. The dude must be smoking crack. We reversed our tracks until the south ridge split and we took the s.w. branch down to the Outpost saddle. The going was much easier once we got off the upper mountain.
The ridge to Outpost. Plenty of grassy slopes, right?
The descent down to the saddle wasn't bad, although for the sake of time we skirted a lot of the ups and downs on the grassy east side. There was a bit of a trail in spots to follow. Pete decided to call it a day near the saddle. Above the saddle, things get interesting again. The theme here is to generally avoid any nasty stuff on the west side, although some are fun to go right over. By this time, I was looking for the path of least resistance as this 1.8 mile traverse seemed to never end.
One particular nasty tower, Point 12241, took awhile to figure out how to get around. Derek started climbing it and backed off. We went down an insanely steep grassy gully for a bit on the east side. Steve traversed below on narrow ledges while Derek and I climbed back up to the notch and had to drop 200 feet down the other side. From here, it was an easy grass traverse back up to the ridge. 3 false summits later and I finally topped out at 4pm. Why is the highpoint always the last summit?
Outpost summit finally in view:
After about 2.8 miles of sustained scrambling, we were all pretty beat. For the descent, we bailed off the south ridge of Outpost at 12040' down a scree gully. I was able to avoid most of the boulder hopping and the bushwacking wasn't too bad except for a steep section right above the trail. I hit the trail at 10440' and slogged my way down at my own pace since Steve and Derek would give Pete a ride. I stopped a few times to dip my hat in the cool streams as the trailhead is very low, arriving at 6:45pm. Little did I know that i would be slogging up the same trail 10 hours later with Dominic and Sarah for another Gore adventure!
Partner traverse from Outpost: