| Choss of the Southern San Miguels.
June 27, 2012
~10.2 Miles, ~4,900 Gain
TH: End of the Cascade Divide Road. (High clearance required.)
Rumors were that driving up Cascade Creek Road was time consuming and long and those rumors were not a joke. I departed work at 3:30 PM with a short stop in Durango for some supplies and started driving towards the trailhead. It takes over an hour to get to the trailhead from Purgatory ski area since the driving is so slow. Eventually I arrived at the trailhead around 7:30 PM to find a trail maintenance crew of ~15 people camping out.
The alarm went off at 5:00 AM and I was hiking down the Colorado trail around 5:30 AM. ~150-200 yards after crossing the main stream east of Sliderock ridge I departed the Colorado trail up a less traveled trail angling upward around Grizzly's extended south ridge.
I followed this trail to ~11,600 before it disintegrated into a scree/boulder field. From the boulder field, I climbed towards Grizzly's south face aiming for the left couloir. Climbing up the boulder field was a bit obnoxious since the rock was loose and at ~11,900, I was able to depart the scree and hike up grassy slopes to the base of the left couloir on the south face.
First view of Grizzly.
Looking back towards Cascade Creek.
South Face of Grizzly.
Looking back at Engineer.
At ~12,800, I climbed into the left couloir, climbed to the top of the couloir and then up the south ridge to the summit, all class 2, where I arrived at ~8:00 AM. Being at a high point in the southern part of the San Miguels had some outstanding views. Great views of the Ice Basin peaks and expanding views to the south.
Looking up the left couloir on Grizzly.
Upper south slopes of Grizzly.
“V 10” from the south ridge of Grizzly.
“V 10” from the south ridge of Grizzly.
Looking north from the summit of Grizzly.
Looking down the south ridge of Grizzly.
Traversing to “V 10” via Grizzly's north ridge was not going to be an option so I returned back down Grizzly's south ridge to the top of the couloir that I ascended. Even with good beta (Thank you SarahT), I underestimated the descent west towards South Twin Creek. I started down a gully which I thought was far enough south but after ~100 feet down the gully, I couldn't descend any further due to a 30 foot cliff. I reascended back up the gully and continued even further south on the west side of Grizzly's south ridge. Meandering my way down class 3 ledges, I was able to find a weakness in the cliff which allowed me to descend into the small basin near South Twin Creek.
Class 3 ledges on the western side of Grizzly's south ridge.
Problematic cliffs on the west side of Grizzly's south ridge.
Once on safe ground, I traversed back north below the cliffs on the Grizzly's south ridge towards “V 10.” Heading towards the Grizzly-”V 10” saddle, I found a dying fawn which was rather sad. The last portion of the traverse to the saddle was on extremely junky talus and scree. The great choss of the San Miguels.
First gully I attempted to descend.
Working my way towards “V 10”
Ah, only the finest scree.
Battling the scree, I eventually made it to the Grizzly-”V 10 “ saddle. From the saddle, I started climbing up “V 10's” east ridge. About ~200 feet up the ridge proper I was forced onto small chossy ledges on the south side of the ridge as cliffs and spires on the ridge proper blocked easy access. I followed these class 3 ledges ~100-200 feet below the ridge proper through several gullies. This was some of the sketchier class 3 scrambling I have done in the San Juans due to the chossy rock. One slip and I would be launched off 200-400 foot cliffs off of the south side of “V 10's” east ridge.
Class 3 ledges on south side of “V 10's” east ridge.
Initially, I missed the gully back up to the ridge, which isn't marked, and when I found myself on exposed delicate class 4 scrambling, I knew I was off route. This route should only be recommended for the seasoned San Juan scree tango dancer. Daintily, I found the correct gully to the ridge. Once back on the ridge proper, I made my way to the summit where some minor class 3 moves were required to reach the summit. I reached the summit at 10:00 AM and my stay was short due to a massive storm building to the west. I returned back to the spires on the ridge proper but instead of descending back down the south side of the ridge, I descended the north side of the ridge. The descent off the north side of the ridge was class 2 but on very questionable blocks but a much safer option.
The gully to regain the east ridge on “V 10”
Looking back at Grizzly from “V 10”
Upper east ridge on “V 10”
Looking back on the east ridge on “V 10”
Summit of “V 10”
Just below the ridge, the storm hit with rain and some small hail. Working my way towards Cascade Creek was a daunting task as I maneuvered my way down an endless scree field. Before reaching Cascade Creek, I had to bypass a cliff by heading to the northern side of the valley. In an effort to save some gain, at ~11,180 I started an angling upward traverse to try to regain the upper trail back to the Colorado Trail. It was a horrendous willow bushwhack and I would have been better off just following Cascade Creek proper until I intercepted the Colorado Trail.
Descending off the north side of “V 10's” east ridge.
Although I had good intentions of trying to intercept the upper trail, I was defeated by cliffs and was forced back down to the Colorado trail anyways. After that obnoxious willow bushwhack, I welcomed the Colorado trail and worked my way back to my car where I arrived at 12:30 PM.
Route up the south face of Grizzly.
Route up “V 10”
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