| Like a Fly on the Wall
May 17, 2012
The Fly: me – Darin
“The Fly” (12,560’)
The Fly comes into view as I hike up the Booth Lake trail
Trailhead (TH): Booth Falls (in Vail)
Route: S face --> E ridge
Distance: ~9mi’s RT (round trip)
Elevation Gain: ~4050’
Difficulty: moderate snow climbing (low to mid 30 degree range), class 3 scrambling on E ridge
Looking down parts of the S face from the E ridge
Gear: daypack w/Essentials, helmet, crampons, ice axe, 2nd tool (I wasn’t sure what kind of snowline I was going to find, so I brought it)
Resources Used For Trip Planning: Dave Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles guidebook for directions to the TH, NOAA weather forecast, prior knowledge of trail and area
Note: Yes, this is a climb & post a report in the same day! I had the time.
In Joe Kramarsic’s Mountaineering in the Gore Range, A Record of Explorations, Climbs, Routes, and Names he writes about nearby 12er, The Spider, and explains how it got its name. In August of 1958, while on a Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) outing, a group of junior members may have recorded the first ascent of 12,692’ (known as The Spider).
When they reached the summit, they found “a spider had spun a web big as an umbrella on the summit of the peak, which we forthwith christened ‘The Spider’.“ It wasn’t for some years later that the peak was actually given the official recognized name of The Spider though.
In Kramarsic’s book, he notes that 12,560’ was likely given the name “The Fly” in reference to “its close proximity to the larger peak to the north, The Spider .”
The first time I saw The Spider & The Fly was on a trip last summer when I went into the Piney Creek drainage to hike Mt Powell. At the head of the Piney Creek valley, sat this stunning peak! “What’s that?!”
A week or so later, I climbed West Partner with Kimo, and we got a good look at them again from the S ridge route on W Partner (a.k.a., Peak U). Well, someday I’ll have to climb those.
The Spider & The Fly (r. & l., respectively): September 2011, on the S ridge of W Partner
Luckily, the Avon public library has Joe Kramarsic’s book, so I was able to research the Gore Range, and I learned a little about the area and now I have a detailed map on my TOPO! program. I’ve had help from Mike (Chicago Transplant) too.
I’m back in Avon again for work, and our contract on the EagleVail golf course is coming to an end. With a day off during the week, I thought I would head into the Gore for a hike. I didn’t have an exact plan or destination in mind, other than hitting the Vail area TH’s, most likely the Booth Lake area. I wanted to check out W Partner for a possible snow climb, but I was also thinking about The Spider and The Fly.
A report from jbchalk last fall helped me with my “planning” on climbing The Fly.
His group had climbed both with new Fall snow on the routes; and his mention of a gully that accessed the E ridge was key to my route that I ended up taking.
I figured with Spring snow, I would get in a snow climb, and likely some scrambling on the ridge to The Fly. (I was not counting on going to The Spider, which is an out and back from The Fly.)
The trail is snow free until after Booth Falls. Snow isn’t an issue until the trail dips back down to Booth Creek. It wasn’t much of a problem though. Firm early in the morning, soft in the afternoon. Go figure!
Once I reached the valley floor beneath the N to S running ridge from W Partner to Outpost, the snow was mostly continuous but quite firm. In fact, the snow on the approach to Booth Lake was the best snow I’ve been on this season!
I think it’s probably because the valley floor gets pummeled by avalanches during the winter, therefore the debris piles are dense.
I don’t care, I’ll take the firm snow!
Access gully to the S ridge route to W Partner
I set my sites for Booth Lake, and The Fly that sits above it
Looking back down the Booth Creek drainage, with Outpost above
In the above photo, the saddle furthest to the left is the top of the access gully to W Partner’s S ridge route.
The snow continued to be firm, and it boosted my confidence of what I would encounter once on the S face of The Fly.
Above Booth Lake, I stopped to gear up, lather on the sunscreen, and took time to examine my route. I could see an entrance to a gully that probably would exit well on the E ridge, so I looked for the most efficient way to get to it.
Looking up at “my route”
Essentially I went up the snow cone at the bottom and center of the above photo, and then angled to the right and worked my way up to the gully – which is in the shadows.
Looking down my line, with Booth Lake below
Looking up at part of the S face route
The snowpack here on the S face is setting up nicely, compared to other aspects and ranges I’ve experienced recently, which was a nice change! The snow climbing was the best I’ve encountered all season, and I was stepping onto the steeper parts well after 8am.
The gully to access the E ridge
The short gully climb was the cold & crusty variety, and was great for crampons. The views getting over to it weren’t bad either.
“Vista Pt”, “Mt Solitude”, and “Climber’s Pt” (l. to r.) with the S ridge of W Partner in front
Partners (or Peaks’ U and V, if you prefer)
Looking up the gully
Views out of the gully, MHC and its Wilderness Friends
Take a look at the other side
At the col, I scrambled up and over a rock step and found a seat to enjoy the views a bit more, and to take off my crampons.
Wow. This area is kind of disappointing.
After getting the crampons off and stashing them along with my axe, I headed up the ridge.
Excitement was building, until I saw this:
And the other side of the above photo:
Hmm. The pictures make the snow look a little flat, but it’s a little steeper and narrower than it appears. I might be a sissy too.
What I know is that the top layer of the snow up there was a little bit rotten, and it was sitting on top of what…I don’t know. I suspect rock slab. I looked at it, probably about 40-50’ (vertical) shy of the summit, and thought that I shouldn’t cross it. So I didn’t. But I’m ok with that. I was having a good day!
The decision not to go higher was quick and easy really. There’s been times when I’ve turned back on peaks, anything from a class 2 walk-up or sometimes more challenging, and I’ve looked back afterwards with a bit of regret for not pushing a little harder. Not this time though.
I was quite happy to be a fly on the wall.
Might as well take some more pictures…..
Tenmile Range, I believe
Might as well go down too, those clouds are not thinning
As I retraced my steps down the ridge, I did spy a grassy ledge system that would likely take me to the top. But I still didn’t care. The summit will be there for another day. Besides, I don’t have a 12er checklist box to check. ;)
Back down at the lake, I repacked the gear, and headed down with still firm snow. Perfect.
And, I satisfied my curiosity about snowlines on W Partner.
Yeah, I think those would go in a good snow year; maybe even this year with a rock step to negotiate and a partner to go with.
Of course, one more of one of my other favorite areas, an area I was in several days ago
Thanks for reading,