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It took two tries and “a little help from my friends,” but I finally stood on the summit of Mt. Vigil. (It gets identified sometimes as “Vigil Peak,” but I believe the correct name is “Mt. Vigil.”)
In May of 2006, I had soloed up to the crux step as an early morning run, but was unable to push myself up that formidable step. Then, finally, in the summer of 2008, shknbake (Kevin), who I knew was one of the few to have successfully climbed this peak, and with whom I had done a couple of exciting climbs in the interim, indicated some interest in going back to Vigil, hoping to bag both of the western minor summits. To me, the main summit and these two slightly lower points looked somewhat like teeth on a jawbone. I, like Kevin, felt sure that both could be climbed, probably more easily than the main summit. Since I was ecstatic to have the benefit of his previous experience in climbing this peak, I readily signed on.
The rest of the crew, shknbake, Thornley (Patrick) and dhatfield (Doug) showed up in Patrick’s jeep at my home in Cheyenne Cañon about 4:20 pm MDT, and we headed up to Old Stage Road and the Bear Trap Ranch. We set off from the BTR trailhead just after 5 pm and reached the crux of the climb in about half an hour. Once there, Kevin smoothly showed me the correct way up the impossible-looking eight-foot step. On my previous attempt, I had been fooled by the early morning light (coming from the climber’s left). The proper route is on the west (right) side of the rock, utilizing a crack which was in shadow when I had been there before. The late afternoon sun, however, showed it to good advantage, and I had surprisingly little difficulty following Kevin’s lead up and over the crucial rock. Hint: it helps to be tall! I’d hate to try this move if the rock were even a little wet, but, dry, it went down without a hitch.
After that one short pitch, it’s all anti-climax. There’s a “pinch” about halfway to the summit, where you have the choice of enduring some more exposure, or sliding yourself through a narrow, but enclosed, gap between two rocks, but it’s child’s play compared to what you’ve already mastered! (Both Kevin and I opted for the narrow gap.) After that, It’s really just a walk-up to the summit. There’s exposure, especially on the east side, but it seems like nothing by comparison!
Doug, despite being sans helmet, decided to climb up toward the summit after us. Shortly thereafter, all three of us were milling around the spectacular of Mt. Vigil. I had mentioned in previous conversations that I thought a weakness existed on the east face of the summit block, which might permit a slightly easier ascent from that direction, leading up to the southeast ridge. So, of course, Kevin wanted to venture down in that direction (we really did have plenty of time) and check out that possibility. Off we went!
A little reconnoitering led to the consensus that it might just, indeed, be possible, but there were clearly some difficulties that would have to be evaluated from below. Another project for another day. Wondering whether or not Patrick T. had concluded that we had all gotten ourselves killed, we finally turned around and scrambled back to the summit, then headed down.
It turned out that Patrick T. had waited patiently for us below the crux (having already claimed this summit on his previous expedition with Kevin), and very graciously spotted me on my descent of the crux. It wasn’t actually as hairy as I had feared it might be, but I still appreciated his help!
Then, it was off to the two western minor summits. The first one (“Middle Vigil”) was harder to reach due to trees and brush, but the second one (“West Vigil”) proved to be the more extreme and exposed of the two (see my picasa photo album). Both went down in fairly short order, however, putting a nice exclamation mark to a vary satisfying climb.
My photos can be seen at: