| Southern Weminuche: The Finish
June 28-29, 2012
Day 1: ~16.9 Miles, ~7,500 Gain
Day 2: ~20.8 Miles, ~8,400 Gain
Total: ~37.7 Miles, ~15,900 Gain
TH: Endlich Mesa Trailhead. High clearance highly recommended.
Today, I am not going to gamble with thunderstorms or at least try not to. The alarm goes off at 4:00 AM and the first thing I do is down two pain killers. I'm not going to gamble with pain and stiffness either. I ate breakfast, stashed my camping gear off of a cliff and started up the grassy slopes to the McCauley-Grizzly saddle from Hazel Lake in the dark. Observing a grassy angling ramp the day prior, I was able to make my way to the saddle.
I don't try to go too fast since I am trying to stretch out from the day prior. Nevertheless, the day pack is welcoming. Slowly, I reach the saddle at first light and start hiking up McCauley's class 2 north ridge. At ~13,400, the north ridge levels out and becomes a more blocky class 2 ridge hop. As I get closer to the summit a 20 foot cliff band blocked easy progress but I was able to easily bypass the cliff on the west side of the ridge. After regaining the ridge, it was a short boulder hop to the summit where I arrived at 5:45 AM. No sunrise yet.
First light at the Grizzly-McCauley saddle.
Returning via my ascent route up McCauley, I caught the sunrise on my descent back to the Grizzly-McCauley saddle. Viewing Grizzly from the saddle, a route to the summit of Grizzly didn't look promising at all. Thankfully, SarahT described a possible ascent route. Thanks! I think most people drop ~300-400 below the ridge on the west side of the ridge and then regain the standard route up Grizzly on the northwest side of the peak. Today, I'm up for some adventure and start my way up Grizzly directly from the saddle.
Alpenglow on Grizzly.
Morning light over Hazel Lake and Eolus.
More light on Grizzly. Windom and Jupiter in the background.
Staying on the ridge crest was challenging as class 3 turned into class 4 until I hit a small notch. I carefully descended to the west side of the ridge which required class 4 to avoid the notch directly. I think this first notch could be bypassed with class 3 on the east side of the ridge. From the small notch, I worked my way towards a large south facing cliff guarding the summit via grassy class 3 ledges on the east side of the ridge. Due to the recent rain, the wet grass wasn't exactly comforting as it felt slick.
Class 3 ledges on the east side of the ridge between McCauley and Grizzly.
The first small notch on the McCauley-Grizzly traverse.
South facing cliff on Grizzly.
Climbing on ledges, I hit another notch and a gully before the final south facing cliff. Fortunately, there was a narrow goat ledge that took me to the notch since crossing the gully wasn't a viable option. From the notch, the south facing cliff didn't look easy but I still decided to explore possible ascent lines. I traversed east on the bottom of the cliff and started climbing up the path of least resistance on small ledges on the east side of the cliff.
Goat ledge to the second notch on the McCauley-Grizzly traverse.
Most of the climbing on the cliff was class 3 with some short sections of 4 on excellent rock until the final 30-40 feet. The class 3-4 climbing had ended and I had to do some short moves of 5.0-5.2 climbing to bypass the final 30-40 feet of the cliff. Again, the rock was solid so I felt comfortable making the final moves. Once I hit the ridge crest, there was some minor class 3 climbing required to gain the summit boulder where I arrived at 7:10 AM. What an ascent line! Excellent climbing on exceptionally solid rock in a remote and beautiful setting.
Looking at the start of the class 3-4 climbing on the south face of Grizzly.
Looking down some of the scrambling on Grizzly.
The final 30-40 vertical to the summit of Grizzly.
My route up Grizzly.
McCauley from the summit of Grizzly.
Jupiter and Windom from the summit of grizzly.
Looking over the topo, the descent from Grizzly into Grizzly Gulch looked pretty straightforward but from the summit, I could see a large cliff band spanning across the valley not allowing easy access to the bottom of the valley.
Being early, I figured I would scout for a possible descent/ascent line into Grizzly Gulch. From the summit of Grizzly I headed northwest on blocky boulders on the ridge crest to a notch northwest of the summit (part of the standard route). Once I reached the notch, I started down towards Grizzly Gulch down-climbing on class 3 ledges and boulders. Without a doubt, I was feeling the 7,500 gain from yesterday and re-climbing this was certainly going to be a bitch.
Working my way downward on class 3 terrain, I started looking for a way to bypass the cliff. I started from the very southern edge of the cliff and scouted northward. Things weren't looking promising. I had to glissade down some snow below the Grizzly-Jupiter saddle losing more elevation. Why didn't I just go back to my bivy site and call it a day?
Class 3 slabs on the descent into Grizzly Gulch.
Windom on my descent into Grizzly Gulch.
Moving northward on the west face of the Grizzly-Jupiter ridge I just kept getting cliffed out. Eventually, I reached a deep snow couloir that appeared to be a possibility to get me to the bottom of the valley. I worked my way down more grassy class 3 ledges until I reached the deep couloir. It might be an option but it appeared sketchy. To the north, I was blocked by another deep red gully/couloir and decided to check a possible descent line from the red gully.
Looking back at Grizzly and the red couloir.
The route from Grizzly into Grizzly Gulch.
As I neared the gully, the possibility of descending into the gully looked slim. I descended another 100 feet and behold I found a sketchy wet rock class 3 traverse into the red couloir and from there, it was a clean, easier descent to the bottom of the valley. Once in the couloir, I was able to glissade to the bottom. The bad news was that from the bottom of the valley, it was another 1300 gain for Greylock.
Windom from my ascent up Greylock.
Large granite slabs on Greylock's southeast spur off of the east ridge didn't allow easy climbing. I headed up a small valley to the north of the southeast spur and at ~12,600, I was able to climb up ledges to the southeast spur which took me to the east ridge. Once on the east ridge, I was able to stay on the ridge proper except for a few sections which I bypassed on the south side of the ridge. All of the travel from Grizzly Gulch was kept at class 2.
Sweet view of Jagged from the east ridge on Greylock.
The final portion of the class 2 ridge on Greylock.
A bit exhausted, I reached the summit of Greylock at 9:20 AM. After some power gels, I was feeling much better and descended towards Point 13,121 via Greylock's talus class 2 ridge. Near the saddle, I ditched my pack and scouted a line up 13,121. Directly climbing up 13,121 wasn't possible due to a small cliff with rotten rock.
Grizzly and McCauley from the summit of Greylock.
Point 13,121 from near the saddle of 13,121 and Greylock.
From the saddle, I descended ~100 feet heading northwest until I found a descent gully to ascend back up to 13,121's east slopes. I climbed up the gully with some minor class 3 scrambling on questionable rock. After about 150 feet of crappy climbing in the gully, I reached some grassy slopes and hiked east to the summit boulders.
Point 13,121 from near the saddle of 13,121 and Greylock. The cliff near the saddle is bypassed on the left.
I meandered through the summit boulders and ended up on the north side of the summit block which required some short, solid but hard class 3 climbing to reach the summit where I arrived at 9:55 AM. There were 3 summit boulders and I wasn't sure which one was the tallest so I climbed all 3. The exposure traversing between the 3 boulders was sobering.
Greylock from the summit of 13,121.
Jagged from the summit of 13,121.
It was a good thing the weather was holding out because I was going to need it. Back at the 13,121-Greylock saddle, I studied the topo and had a bit of a sickening feeling. It was going to be a minimum of 2000 gain to get back to Hazel Lake. I was going to have to practically summit Greylock and Grizzly on my long return to “camp.” The terrain wasn't going to be forgiving enough to allow me to traverse Greylock's north face. I climbed up the talus north ridge of Greylock to just shy of the summit and then back down the east ridge and southeast spur.
Another break was in order at the bottom of Grizzly Gulch. Weather was starting to build so I was going to need to hustle the last 1200 feet back up Grizzly Peak. Knowing the route back up Grizzly made things easier and I was able to intercept the standard route on Grizzly at ~13,500 about 15 minutes prior to the weather hitting. Climbing over up to the Grizzly-Jupiter saddle would have required 5th class climbing and wouldn't have saved me any time.
Greylock from Grizzly Gulch.
From the northwest ridge on Grizzly, I descended an angling ramp heading northwest on the south side of the ridge where some rock cairns marked the way. I was surprised how much the route angled back north as I descended this angling ramp. At ~12,800, I was finally able to hike directly back to my stashed camping gear at Hazel Lake where I arrived at 12:50 PM.
The narrow ledge on the standard route on Grizzly.
Standard route on Grizzly.
Only 14.1 miles and close to 3000 gain back to the car from Hazel Lake. With plenty of daylight and boredom, I decide to go ahead and start making the long trek out with my camp pack. I packed up and I was off climbing up the faint trail back to the Hope-Jupiter saddle where I quickly joined the trail that traversed Vallecito Basin to Trimble Pass.
At Trimble Pass, I decided to cook dinner and let my body absorb the energy before making the long hike out from Durango Reservoir #1 back to the Endlich Mesa trail. The trail at times was somewhat difficult to follow between Trimble Pass and Durango Reservoir #2 but I managed in my tired state.
Around ~5:20 PM I reached Durango Reservoir #1 where I looked at my topo and the Trails Illustrated map. The Trails Illustrated map showed a “primitive” trail where my topo showed the main trail to regain the Endlich Mesa trail; however, depicted on the Trails Illustrated map was a better maintained trail to Endlich Mesa ~300 feet below Durango Reservoir. Being tired, I decided to follow the better trail.
I headed downward on an excellent trail but become more nervous as there wasn't a trail junction headed east back up to Endlich Mesa. When I reached Lower Park along Florida Creek I was unable to find the trail junction, I knew that either the trail didn't exist or I missed it. I was thinking one word, and it wasn't exactly a Sunday school word.
That's ok, I really don't mind bushwhacking. Right? It's even more fun when I'm tired. I left the excellent trail which wasn't marked on either map and started a direct hike back to the Endlich Mesa trail. I ate my last power gel and hoped for the best.
My camp pack was certainly demoralizing as I grunted 1600 vertical feet up the hill. Eventually, I reached the Endlich Mesa trail and enjoyed my hike back to my car. That's the last time I trust Trails Illustrated over my topo. I arrived back at my car at 8:10 PM and started my drive down the slow going Endlich Mesa road. At the bottom of the road after close to an hour of driving I pulled over and slept in the back of my car. I couldn't do any more. I was done.
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