| Half Way There
Teakettle Mountain 13,819’ (5.3)
“Coffeepot” 13,568’ (5.2)
Yankee Boy Basin TH
RT: 4 miles (estimate)
Climbers: Ryan, Holly, Matt
Ryan and I had big plans for the second weekend in August, but the team kept changing as people expressed interest, committed, dropped out and repeat. By Friday morning it was just Ryan, myself and his friend Holly. The plan was to head down to Ouray on Friday night, sleep near Yankee Boy, and then get an early start Saturday to attempt one of Colorado’s toughest Centennials, Teakettle Mountain. If all went well, we would make the drive to Telluride Saturday night and go after the Big One, Dallas Peak, on Sunday.
As expected, the drive went on and on and on. The closer we got to Ouray, the more I began to wonder how our team would fare on such a tough peak. It turned out that though Holly was a solid rock climber and good pull a 5.9, she had only done 4 peaks before, and they were spread out over 5 years! Those peaks were Sherman, Quandry, Grays & Torreys. “Great,” I thought, as I wondered if this was reckless.
We headed to bed somewhere along the Yankee Boy basin road around 11pm. Since I trusted Ryan’s judgment, I wasn’t too worried.
We were up a bit after 4, packed our gear and drove the rest of the way to the TH. As expected, it was a small city as people gathered their things and got ready to attempt Sneffels. We past a duo on the road with huge packs and deduced that they likely shared our goal for the day (or were REALLY over prepared for Sneffels).
Upper part of the horrendous slopes leading to "Coffeepot"
There is no defined route to start up the slopes, but some social trails lead directly out of the parking lot. Though Teakettle can be seen from the “TH,” in the dark we couldn’t see anything, so we relied on GPS. Up we went, up, up and up through trees and steep terrain. Some of it felt like class 3 right off the bat. However, I knew what lie ahead; lots and lots of loose rock just waiting to make my day.
We quickly left the trees and picked a straight line towards “Coffeepot.” There really is no easy way to do this. It is steep and loose. Frustrated and watching the minutes tick by, all we could do was put one foot in front of the other, but at least the sun was up now and we were treated to fantastic views. I had only been to Ouray and Yankee Boy once before, this past winter when 3 of us made an ascent of the SW Ridge on Sneffels and then spent a few days on ice at the festie.
A view of the upper route, the loose rock traverse, the Black Gully and the "Island in the Sky."
We made good time considering and Holly’s performance so far was impressive. We gained the rib below “Coffeepot” and got a clear view of the route ahead. We were going to have to descend horribly loose and steep slopes before traversing across to the bottom of the Black Gully. The gully looked absolutely horrific from this vantage point, but everything we had read said not to even worry about it. Ryan sped ahead as he often does and Holly and I took our sweet time descending the slope as there was a drop off not too far and neither of us were feeling very sure footed. As we approached the entrance to the Black Gully, the duo from the road caught up with us. They were cool guys and had a lot of international experience. We talked of our plans coming up and they gave some advice (thanks guys!). Turns out their third teammate, Wyoming Bob, had decided to hang back as he already had Teakettle.
Looking up the "ferocious" Black Gully
The climb up the gully is very simple and not nearly as loose or steep as it looks. It is class 2/2+ all the way until your each the exit. I took the 4th class exit (right), while the rest of the team took the 3rd class exit (left). Once out of the gully we relaxed a bit and visited with our new friends. We were now sitting on what I had affectionately called “The Island in the Sky.” It really is just that as it is only accessed via the single gully and is very tame once on it. There are cliff bands and towers all over. I took a moment to enjoy this beautiful place that few will ever see.
What most of the terrain on "The Island" looks like
The trail to the summit tower is the easiest part of the day, a well-defined trail leads unexpectedly to the summit tower without a single difficulty. We got our first view of the tower and I could barely hold my excitement. Our friends were already getting ready to lead, but since the weather was perfect and it was early in the day, we had already agreed that we would wait for them to finish and then our trio would set our own rope.
All racked up and ready to lead the summit pitch
Looking up the summit pitch
I studied the route a bit and then started racking up. This was exciting. We were below the summit of one of only 3 5th Class Centennial Peaks and better yet, I was going to lead it! We brought a light rack with us (set of nuts, Camalots .5-2) and a 30m single. The pitch goes at 5.3 and is roughly 30 feet long. There isn’t a tremendous amount of exposure on the pitch, but you certainly don’t want to fall.
Leading the summit pitch
By now our friends were on top and decided there would be plenty of room for all of us (quite unexpected!). “Ok, here we go,” I thought and I tied in. I placed a #2 cam and a nut to protect my belayer and I started up. With rock shoes, the moves were extremely easy. The other team had left a nut in place just before the last move and that was the only piece of pro that I clipped (aside from my anchor). Within seconds I was standing on top. “Woooooo!!!!”
There is a solid anchor up top with many slings around it. Just to be safe, I wrapped my own sling and clipped my PA in. I was no secure and on top of my 49th Centennial.
It is a shame that this next part happened, but it did, and I feel compelled to tell about it.
Ryan was standing rather far back to get some good shots and a solo hiker approached him. “Good thing I run into you,” he said, “I am going to use your rope.”
“uh…ok???” Ryan replied, and tried to make further conversation with the guy, but without any luck. The solo hiker proceeded to walk to the summit pitch, cut in front of Holly and started to tie in.
The other team had begun to rappel as we decided not to put 6 of us on the top at once, but the solo hiker didn’t seem interested in waiting for a belay or letting them rappel off. It must have been a half dozen times that we told this absolutely rude hiker to wait his turn. Eventually the other team was off and I called out “on belay.”
He made his way up slowly and it was painfully obvious that he was not a rock climber. When he got to the top and sat down I was horrified to see that he had not tied in!! He simply put the rope through his ATC as if he were going to belay someone. Had he taken a fall the rope would have done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I tried to tell him this, but he wasn’t interested. “it’s ok, I put it through the carabineer” was his defense.
Feeling very uncomfortable being roped to such an incompetent climber on a 5th class peak, I was anxious to get him off the top. I quickly realized he did not know how to rappel and that lowering him wasn’t much of an option since the rope would drag over sharp rocks. I made a split second decision to get him down as fast as possible. Since he was set up for a single strand rappel, I had him lower himself. I didn’t get a good view of his descent, but I was told it was not pretty.
All through this ordeal, the other team shared confused glances with me as we were all baffled to find someone like this on the mountain. I wondered if his plan all along was to hope there was another team up there to take him to the top…who does that?!? And who attempts a 5th Class peak with ZERO TECHNCIAL KNOWLEDGE?! As you can see, I am still bitter.
Finally, it was time for the rest of my team to join me on the summit. I belayed Holly up while Ryan freed behind her. We shared some moments on the summit together before I set up the rappel. I went first, then Holly, then Ryan. The rest of the climbers had already begun their descent, so we were alone. With the clear sky above and our watches in our favor, we decided to go for “Coffeepot” (and secretly hoped for Petosi as well).
Holly rapping down
Fantastic views near the summit tower
Getting back to the top of the Black Gully goes by very quickly, but progress slows to a halt once you are there. We took turns downclimbing the Class 3 section. Ryan went first and was down faster than I could even see, then I went next and finally Holly. At the base of the gully, we got a good view of Roach’s suggested gully descent, but we all agreed that “Coffeepot” was on the table.
"But I don't wannnna!!!"
Ryan and Holly make their way across the traverse (taken on descent)
Up until know she had done amazing, but the loose rock on this horrendous slope was catching up with her. Ryan and I agreed that they would travel together and I would go on ahead to “set up” for “Cofeepot.”
“Don’t free it unless you feel comfortable!” Ryan yelled as I went ahead.
“yea, yea,” I muttered.
I was very grateful to be going up this slope instead of down it and it was infinitely easier this time around. Before I knew it I was looking at the summit pitch.
Summit pitch of "Coffeepot"
Summit of "Coffeepot"
“That’s not so bad,” I thought and I threw my harness back on. I tied a rope to my haul loop and headed into the chimney. Within seconds I pulled the final move and sat on top, clipped my PA into the anchor and took a rest. Ryan and Holly followed much quicker than expected. Ryan was next to me within minutes and we set up a belay for Holly. The 3 of us enjoyed a quick summit moment before setting up a rappel. The rappel was quite awkward to get into, so I went first. The 3 of us were on “solid” (yea right!) ground pretty soon after and began to make our way back to the car as the clouds were threatening.
Storms a brewing (looking towards Petosi)
Pleasant grassy slopes enar the tail end of our day
The descent is awful. Loose and steep and a total mind game. Holly and I lagged behind, but we eventually made it down to the car feeling quite accomplished.
Ryan and I were both extremely impressed with Holly’s performance, but it was clear that an attempt on Dallas the following day would invite disaster. We would head into Ouray for lunch and decide what to do instead.
We settled on a visit to Telluride that night and a climb of Wilson Peak via the Rock of Ages TH on Sunday, which was an awesome time! If anyone wants any pictures or beta from that climb let me know.
This was an awesome weekend in one of my favorite parts of the state and I am now officially HALF WAY DONE with the Centennials!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):