| 5th Class Mud on the Mohling
8/26/11 – Cascade Creek Approach
This is undoubtedly my favorite hike in the state. Brian and I left the trailhead around 5 Friday evening and made our way through the waterfalls to arrive at our campsite around 8 pm. Pictures tell the story best…
A friend of mine found this incredible camp site near the turnoff for the Pawnee Pass trail when we were back there on a fishing trip a few years ago. It requires a little bushwhack, but once there, the views can’t be beat. I set up the tent while Brian got to work on the Italian Sausage dinner. After a great backcountry meal we went straight to sleep to get ready for a big day.
8/27/11 – The Mohling Traverse (Well 95% of it)
The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 3 am and after an oatmeal and tea breakfast we were on the trail a little after 4. There was absolutely no moon out so our only light was from our headlamps. It was so dark we actually walked within 5 feet of the shoreline and didn’t realize the lake was there. Long story short, we lost an hour wandering through the forest until some daylight illuminated the ridge and we had our bearings.
Now on course, we made our way above Triangle Lake on Lone Eagle’s Solo Flight route. While taking a break on the ascent, I admired “Limbo” and “Iroquois” trying to figure out how in the world we were going to pull this off. We hit the ridge around 7:45 and started to descend towards the “summit” of Lone Eagle (yes, I did say descend to the summit). We dropped into the first notch back to the east side which proved to be another mistake. While trying to find a bypass we descended some nasty rock before realizing, once again, we were off course. While climbing back up to the ridge the ledge supporting my feet gave way and luckily I caught myself after about a 6” fall or I would have gone for a ride. I escaped with only some cuts/scrapes on my hands and legs. I finally got back up to the ridge where I dressed my wounds and we decided that since we had already lost way too much time with a questionable forecast we would forego Lone Eagle’s summit. We were probably only 30-40 yards from it.
A look at "Limbo" from our break point on Solo Flight
On to the Traverse… Helmet-ism #1: “Scot, my feet are hamburger.”
We had read SarahT’s trip report so we had a vague idea of what to expect. The traverse is an exercise in route finding – jumping from ledge to ledge with challenging scrambles while dealing with some exhilarating exposure. Her TR showed a protected scramble to “Limbo.” But in an effort to save time, we tried to find passage that we could do without ropes. My pictures from our break point on Solo Flight showed good terrain on the east side of the ridge. We descended a grass ledge to a notch before the last gendarme prior to “Limbo.” We dropped to the east side where we found a nice Class 4 gully straight up the notch between Limbo’s 2 summits. After a short break we set off for Iroquois. Some light scrambling ensued before we cliffed out just before the notch at the Iroquois saddle. From here we had a 20-25 meter rappel down to the saddle. This would be my first alpine rappel and first of any type in over 6 years (through waterfalls during Costa Rican honeymoon). After a quick lesson in the art of the rappel, I pushed off the steep east face. There was an exposed step around after the descent so I stayed tied in and after reaching the saddle I swung the rope around the rock so Brian could descend direct to the saddle instead of dealing with the exposed step.
Me trying to catch a breath (photo by Brian)
Brian comfortable on the traverse
Must be comfortable with exposure
A look back at the rappel (Brian lower right)
Iroqouis: Helmet-ism #2: “I think that was 5th class mud”
The traverse was going very smoothly until our mistake of locating the ascent route on Iroqouis. Sarah’s trip report showed a class 3 talus gully which we thought we found. A couple hundred foot line of white rock. DO NOT GO INTO THIS WHITE GULLY.
STAY OUT OF THIS GULLY
We dropped into the gully and began the tedious climb up. It started harmless enough, some steep loose class 2 junk, but after we were committed it got exponentially more serious. There were a few SmartCar sized boulders kicked into Peck Glacier below which caused quite a scene as they crashed into the snow. We ascended side by side until the gully narrowed to the point that we had to go up single file. Since I had a helmet, Brian led. At one point he ascended a very steep rock/ice face but his tracks scraped any dirt away leaving me without any traction which prompted this conversation:
Me: “I’m stuck”
Brian: “Not to increase the urgency, but a boulder up here is about to fall and if it does, it’ll kill you.”
Me: “You have that rope?”
Me: “Then throw me the damn thing.”
Brian anchored down and I hand-over-hand climbed the rope the 7 or 8 feet up to the step. Eventually we topped out and had an easy class 2 walk to Iroquois’ summit at noon – 4 hours after hitting the ridge. That gully alone took over an hour and all of our energy along with it. We would have liked to sit and enjoy this summit but clouds were building and we were a LONG way from home.
Brian finishing the gully with a decent background
Hopi: Helmet-ism #3: “Relent, you ----ing cirque!”
The easiest descent route back to Crater Lake goes over Iroquois’ neighbor, “Hopi.” The route over to Hopi descends ~800 feet leading to a tedious class 2 side hill which leads to a slightly less tedious class 2 climb. Since our energy level was essentially null, we basically put our heads down and trudged until hitting the summit while storms seemed to rage all around us, but our basin was clear and sunny. Wild Basin seemed to get the brunt of the storm and everything on the east side of the divide looked pretty ominous.
We descended Hopi Glacier which we hoped would either be a nice glissade or allow easy plunge steps. We got neither. There was only about an inch of soft snow before it got too dense to kick into. Glissading was extremely painful with all the bumps/suncups and you had 2 speeds: Fast and Stop. Once we put the head of our axes into the glacier we came to an abrupt stop which torqued my elbow pretty good a couple of times before I simply gave up. Once again, we were stuck with a very tedious side-slide step all the way to the bottom. Here we refilled our water in some waterfalls before setting off into the most beautiful area of Colorado I’ve ever seen.
Hiking off of Hopi Glacier (Descent route in background)
Descent to Crater Lake/Hike back to camp: Helmet-ism #4: “C’mon you ---- basin, I’m trying really hard to like you!”
We were led into the lushest basin imaginable. Literally dozens of waterfalls surrounded us while we walked through waist-high wildflowers. Problem is, it was so dense, we had no idea if we are walking on rock, dirt, or dropping into a creek or a pit. Using an axe as a machete at times was the only way through it. Yes, several wildflowers were harmed in the making of this trip report. At one point we had to use a tree as a belay that should have bought Brian dinner and a movie before doing what it did to him. The next obstacles were the hidden cliffs. We probably got cliffed out 10 times before reaching the lake – a couple of hours after leaving Hopi’s summit. We returned to camp at 6 pm, 14 hours after leaving that morning. What followed was a ravenous attack on our mac n’ cheese, tortellini, noodles and Pringles. We had essentially written all chances of a Sunday climb before turning in around 8:30.
Lush landscape (Mt. Achonee in background)
Chessmen Ridge (Apache) with Crater Lake in foreground
Lone Eagle reflection in Mirror Lake
Me Relaxing at camp - Our Traverse and Cherokee are background (Photo by Brian)
Not a bad view from camp
We slept in until 7 am thinking we were just going to leisurely pack out. Brian mentioned he was up for Blackfoot so we decided to pack up and over back to the trail. We were off by 9 am. The south slopes route ascends steeply from the Pawnee Pass trail and we expected class 2 with a short class 3 scramble at the end.
Helmet-ism #5 (My Favorite One): "These are days we're livin'"
Steep grunt up Blackfoot (Photo by Brian)
Me, very mountain goat-esque - Pawnee Pass background (Photo by Brian)
Brian approaching the Class 3 stuff
Instead we found ~400 feet of sustained class 3 (some 4 mixed in) and the 30-40 pound packs on our back made for some exciting times on this loose route. At one point, I started to slide back over a drop off leading to the natural reaction of “Oh ‘Shoot’!’” and I immediately heard another “Oh ‘Shoot!’” from Brian above me. After stabilizing myself I braced for Brian’s rocks that I thought he was triggering. They didn’t come, leading to this conversation (Edited, of course):
Me: “Were you ‘Oh Shooting’ me or you?”
Me: “Oh, don’t ‘Oh Shoot’ me, I’ll ‘Oh Shoot”me. You just ‘Oh Shoot’ you. I thought you were ‘Oh Shooting” you and if we were both ‘Oh Shooting” then I was in deep ‘Shoot’.”
It’s always nice to know we can keep things light hearted in times like these. We topped out around 11:30 and I challenge anyone to find a better view in the IPW. Paiute looks like one bad mo-fo from this angle and the view of the Lone Eagle Cirque, well…
Brian on Blackfoot - Toll/Pauite in background
We descended back to the Cascade Creek trail and it’s class 2, but slicker than snot, loose, and rotten. I slipped no fewer than 12 times and at multiple times chose to descend a flowing creek bed using the willows on either side as balance. Mercifully, we got back to the trail around 2 pm and high tailed it to the trailhead, stopping to refresh and water down in the pool beneath a spectacular waterfall (photo 1). Again, storms seemed to hit everywhere but on us as the grumblings of thunder could be heard, but all we had was a little drizzle to keep us cool on the way out.
We were at the car by 3:45 and then off to Idaho Springs where we gorged on BBQ at Smokin’ Yards. Sorry, no picture of the post-climb feast since we left the cameras in the car and both were too tired to go back and get them. Plus, I could have put 60 or 70 scenery/climbing shots from this weekend, I wasn't going to burn 1 of my allotted 30 pictures on brisket, pulled pork, and ribs - although they were darn good. Thanks for reading.
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