Back in April the skiers had all but given up for the year which left us eagerly preparing for an extended alpine rock season. Tragically, the blissfully snow-free winter was followed by repeated late spring snows and unyielding winds. This was finally the first favorable weather forecast so we set off to tackle the ultra classic Culp-Bossier route on Hallett Peak. It ascends the center of the 1100' north face of Hallett peak and is widely considered to be one of the best moderate lines in the Park.
Culp-Bossier Overview. Orange Pitches: Me Yellow Pitches: Chris
When we left Boulder at 5:00am we had originally intended on climbing the smaller, more obscure Zowie tower. It was only at the last moment, with clear skies and an improved weather forecast, that we changed our plans and continued a half mile further down Glacier Gorge. Minutes after pulling into the parking lot, another team parked and we discovered they had their eyes on the same route. We double-timed packing up our gear and set off from the parking lot at a comfortable 7:00 A.M.
One of my favorite things about Hallett peak is its superbly maintained approach trail. A wide, stair-stepped and finely-manicured path yields to talus after 2 miles. From there it's less than a mile to the base of the route. When we arrived at the base of Culp-Bossier at around 8:00 A.M. We discovered that another party was already in the middle of the first pitch, so we were left waiting for them to clear. Fortunately they were an efficient team and we didn't have to wait terribly long before it was our turn to start up.
In this report I'm going to quote the MountainProject description and add my own comments to make the route description slightly less useless.
MP: P1-Climb up light colored rock, head up a left-leaning corner a short ways, traverse right on a ledge to a short thin crack, and climb that to another ledge (5.6, 140 feet).
Despite the first pitch only rated 5.6, the route is all business from the moment you step foot on it until the last move where you top out. Chris made quick work of the pitch but had trouble locating the thin crack the route description referred to. He ended up setting up the belay on a ledge 20 feet below a huge death flake a short ways past two fixed pins.
MP: P2-Go up past rappel slings, turn a roof and head up and LEFT into a nice right facing corner (the middle of three such corners). Belay at the bottom of the corner (5.6, 120 feet). Be sure to traverse LEFT to the larger dihedral - going straight up the smaller dihedral above the roof is much harder. There are several sets of bail slings to the right - don't get sucked over there.
Starting up the second pitch
Once I set off on the second pitch, I had to start with a leftwards traverse, followed by a short climb and rightwards hand traverse over the death flake before rejoining the route as described. A chock stone with many slings on it leads to a weakness between two roofs. After pulling through the roof you are left at the bottom of an inviting dihedral, but the correct route is to traverse across an exposed and unprotected face to a small ledge at the bottom of another right-facing dihedral. This pitch foreshadowed the rest of the day: easy to moderate climbing with large run out sections making for mentally taxing leads.
Looking up the third pitch
MP: P3-Climb the corner, traverse right on a ramp past fixed pins, pass a bulge and climb past more pins to a belay on a ledge (5.8, 160 feet).
Pitch three is one of the mental cruxes of the day. Sustained but easy climbing in the dihedral opens up to a run out traverse on light-colored quartzite underneath a huge roof. A committing, slabby move leads to adequate holds but little protection. Fortunately, an old pin protects the moves over the roof onto easier terrain. It never ceases to amaze me how old-school climbers kept their cool with far fewer resources than we have today.
Looking down the third pitch after the traverse
Seconding the upper half of the third pitch
MP: P4-Head sharply left on easier, broken terrain to a huge grassy ledge on the left side of a prow.
We followed a slightly different, less-accurate route description which failed to emphasize which ledge we needed to end up. We set up a belay too far to the right on a modest ledge, below a right-angling roof handcrack. I started up a very run up pitch with only thin gear. After using well over half a rope length my gut told me that I was off-route so I started downclimbing. Eventually I wasn't comfortable downclimbing the lower terrain so I backed up a sling on a large boulder and finished the downclimb with a toprope backup. We retreated left onto the correct ledge. If you end up on a grassy ledge that isn't large enough to have a BBQ on, you're not there!
Going the wrong way on the 5th pitch. We should have been way left of this picture
MP: P5-Continue left of a blunt prow for 140 feet of outstanding face climbing, but beware of a loose block in mid pitch (5.6).
Pitch 5 was full of excellent face climbing which at times reminded me of a gym route. Every time it seemed to start getting hard, perfect foot holds seemingly appeared out of nowhere! The pitch was frighteningly run out at times, but sections of it had thin cracks which devoured stoppers. I had a set of DMM HB offset stoppers and found myself reaching for them before my cams. Unfortunately, I never found a great option for a belay ledge and was forced to set up a hanging belay in a large, left facing corner with fantastic exposure.
Leading up the correct 5th pitch
MP: P6-Traverse out of a left-leaning corner and angle up slightly right to a belay below a right-facing corner (5.6, 140 feet, runout).
The traverse out of the hanging belay was exposed and terrifyingly run out. Chris had to traverse 30 feet on solid but thin features before getting in his first piece - a #0 C3. I don't think either of us spoke a word during that entire section, but I was mentally rehearsing how I would catch the huge pendulum he was set up to take on our anchor. Fortunately, the traverse yielded to easier terrain where we could breathe. Chris set up a belay on a small ledge above overhanging terrain providing fantastic exposure 700 feet off the deck
Looking back along the sketchy traverse
Exposure at the Belay below pitch seven
MP: P7-Climb the face to the left of the corner (somewhat dicey), and head straight up extremely exposed cracks with decent pro to an easier section (5.8, 140 feet).
I left the belay going straight up the corner and stepped left out onto the face. with 2 good pieces below me, the crux pitch yielded to a section of completely unprotectable, steep 5.7 face climbing. Sections of the face were so run out a fall was simply unthinkable. Just as the face steeped, plentiful protection options opened up to provide mental relief. The crux move was to pull over a small roof. I really needed a large stopper or a #2 TCU to protect the moves, but had used both at the end of the runout and had to settle with gear at my feet instead. The terrain eases just after the roof and leads to a staircase-like belay.
Looking up the pitch seven crux
MP: P8-Continue straight up cracks towards a large roof, which you will leave on your left. Traverse out right and climb the face to avoid some dirty looking overhangs, reaching easier ground and then a very loose summit (5.8, 80-100 feet).
This was probably the most misleading description of the day. The large, dark roof is obvious but dodging it to the left seemed difficult. Instead, Chris pulled through an awkward chimney/constriction with phenomenal exposure on the right side.
Looking down the final pitch, after pulling the chimney
We finally topped out at 4:30 P.M. exhausted and out of water. We couldn't be bothered to continue to the true summit, and instead suffered our way down to the rappels in our rock shoes. We brought a 60m tag line so a single rappel brought us to the bottom of the gully. The rest of the downclimb was an annoyingly loose 3rd/4th class gully which dumped us out just below our packs.
Torched at the top of the route
My thoughts on the climb:
The Culp-Bossier deserves every part of the praise it receives. The ultra-sustained climbing is uncharacteristic for a route of its grade - not a single easy pitch interrupts the line. The rock is solid and the protection is good, though a bit tricky at times. The climbing is not particularly difficult but the run out sections make it mentally tough. It's definitely not a route for the 5.8 leader since you often need to be prepared to make committing moves well above your last piece. The routefinding is confusing since just about everything seems climbable. Nevertheless, it's a fun route not to be missed so long as you're prepared for the challenges.
We made a critical mistake of not bringing approach shoes along for the descent. We had assumed that rock shoes would work well, but our toes were aching by the end of the day. It would have easily been worth the weight and bulk to bring more comfortable shoes for the descent.
This route gobbles stoppers. I would have been happy to have doubles of smaller stoppers, especially the offsets. Doubles in cams are a good idea too but more importantly I wish we had brought more slings. We had a dozen but the pitches are so long I found myself needing to conserve them to make it to the belay. We made it work, but bringing a few more would have been nice.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):