| Coxcomb and Redcliff in the fall of 2011
After looking at these two peaks from just about every conceivable angle whilst hiking other peaks, it was time to check them out. I met a total of four buddies at the Wetterhorn Trailhead at the upper terminus of the West Cimarron drainage above Owl Pass on Saturday evening. As the weather forecast was predicting 50% chance of snow for Sunday, our summit day, we retired early and planned for an alpine start. In fact, it had been raining and snowing that Saturday afternoon, with some fresh snow in visible on the peaks during the drive in.
The alarms went off at 4:30, and we were hiking by headlamp under a brilliant star-filled sky by 5:10. Frost covered all of the vegetation on the hike in, and we arrived at the 12,500 ft. pass west of Coxcomb right at dawn. A decent sized herd of big horn sheep were clambering away from us as we approached the pass. It was a stellar beginning to the day as pink light enveloped the surrounding high peaks.
We descended south and east on the trail approximately 400 vertical feet until the trail intersected a gentler grassy ridge south of Coxcomb proper. We left the trail and huffed it north up the grass and talus slopes until we arrived at the southern base of the Coxcomb chimney, just west of the southern-most part of the summit cap rock. The sun was just reaching the area, and we snacked on food, drank water, and warmed up in the early morning sun.
To our surprise, the chimney was dry, with just a few solitary patches of snow in the deep nooks and crannies of the chimney. As a group, we elected to keep the ropes in our packs and 4th class the chimney to the top of the Coxcomb ridge.
Patrick beginning the climb of the Coxcomb chimney.
The group all falls in line. Photo by Erik Kling.
We continued up the chimney, taking the easier chimney on the climber's left:
Easier upper section of the chimney on the climber's left. Photo by Erik Kling.
The most difficult section of this chimney section was just above the top climber in the second photo. It was likely hard 4th class, or 5.easy. We exited the upper chimney on its right side, which delivered us on much easier, but looser 2nd/3rd class terrain.
We arrived on the summit ridge of Coxcomb a short while later, and traversed over to the summit notch. There were no anchors, so we slung a large rock with webbing and a couple of biners and took turns rapping into the notch.
Preparing to rappel the summit notch.
Once in the bottom of the notch, we continued back up to the summit ridge via exposed 4th class terrain. Here is Tom Courtright ascending a 4th class section with some air beneath him:
Tom Courtright reaching the summit ridge proper.
Once we all arrived on the true summit ridge, it was a short sky walk over to the true summit. Here is a group photo taken with a timer on the summit of Coxcomb.
The group on the summit of Coxcomb Peak. Standing from left to right, Tom Courtright, Patrick Kelley, Erik Kling, and kneeling in the front from left to right, Chris Bergman, and Cionnaith O'Dubhaigh (Lucky). Photo by Erik Kling.
Once we had taken summit photos, we quickly turned around and began to reverse the route. The summit ridge was like a sidewalk in the sky, and the views were insane.
Patrick, Tom, and Lucky descending the summit ridge of Coxcomb. Photo by Erik Kling.
We reversed the 4th class moves to the bottom of the notch, and then took turns belaying each other up the west side of the notch. The notch's difficulty was somewhere in the 5.2-5.4 range.
Chris watches, while Patrick belays Lucky on the climb back out of the notch.
Once on top of the lower summit ridge on the western side of the notch, we all retraced our steps to the top of the chimney. We found an anchor in good condition on the eastern side of the chimney, and made a 75 foot rappel to the easier lower chimney section we had climbed up previously.
After exiting the chimney and collecting our gear, we traversed east along the base of summit cap rock of Coxcomb peak, passing beneath its signature view.
Passing beneath Coxcomb's famous view on the traverse over to Redcliff. Photo by Erik Kling.
Once we were able to see the saddle between Coxcomb and Redcliff from Coxcomb's eastern side, we elected to drop down a bit and take the obvious weakness which was nearly perfectly between the two peaks. This deposited us in the saddle a short time later.
Tom Courtright taking in the view of Redcliff from the saddle. Io the wonder dog is resting in the saddle too.
Erik Kling and Io chilling in the saddle. Redcliff is in the background.
We made the short and quick hike up to the summit of Redcliff, celebrated a grand day in the highcountry, and then descended back to the saddle, where we dropped off a weakness in its western side which allowed us access back to the trail, and eventually our cars, where we arrived 9.5 hours after our start.
Ample cell phone service on Redcliff. No rest for the self-employed, but not a bad day at the "office".
It was an excellent day in all, and I highly recommend this hike to anyone comfortable scrambling at the 4th class level. If you have any questions regarding beta, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):