| Lost in The Weminuche Part 2: 99 Problems
Prelude to Jagged:
First, thanks Scot for the great write up of the first part of our journey! It was an interesting few days for sure, and it sure did feel good to ditch that 60 pound pack for a light day pack yesterday. Once back at camp that evening, Jamie on his way back from Vallecito and Leviathan finally met up with us and we were able to make plans for Tuesday to meet him on our way to Jagged. Even the prospect of carrying a rope all day for Jagged seemed to pale in comparison to 9 days worth of food and camping gear!
Jagged was the #1 goal for us on this trip, and is arguably the hardest peak in the highest 100, and to the four of us who have done the “Big 3”, it definitely tops our list. Dallas would be second, the tech pitch is short and not too difficult, but there are some class 3 and 4 ledges to get to it. Teakettle has a little longer technical section, but the approach is almost completely class 2 with basically one class 3 move. Jagged was a huge mental and physical challenge, once you engage the first crux you basically have to be “on” until you get off the mountain, the class 2+ and 3 ledges demanded more attention than expected, and the cruxes were sometimes wet, and oftentimes devoid of confident holds. It is a mountain that intimidates many who see it, in fact on the approach hike a lady on the Vallecito trail told Jamie not to climb it, her words were “You can’t climb that, you’ll die”.
Jagged Alpenglow on Approach
If you’re having peak problems, I feel bad for you son,
I got 99 problems but Jagged ain’t one.
The year is twenty twelve, and packs are getting raw
In our rearview mirror is a peak that most would awe.
We had two choices y’all, climb to the summit or –
Bounce back to camp afraid to climb it anymore…
--Chicago Transplant parody of 99 Problems by Jay Z
Day 4: Tuesday August 31, 2012 – Jagged Mountain and PT 12890 (maybe 3 miles, 3000’ vertical)
For the first time we were not awakened at 3am by rain on the tents, instead it was the typical “beep beep” of the 4am alarm that pulled us from our slumber. Encouraged by the dry night, we woke with excitement and of course butterflies in our stomachs for the climb that lay ahead. After not even 5 minutes on the use trail, we took off up steep slopes, our morning double of shot of espresso in hiking form. In the dark, this unfamiliar area was tricky to find the best way through as it is strewn with willows and hidden boulders. We crossed a creek and headed up the left side, but when we spotted Jamie’s headlamp on the slopes above, we had to cross back. We made our way towards him where we found him sitting along side a use trail. Hopefully in daylight we would find that to make our travel easier in the future. Finally our full team was assembled, and we exchanged greetings and introductions. We charged on through the grass covered ledges and interlocking boulders towards Jagged. A fitting preview to our day!
We reached a crescent shaped lake and morning alpenglow lit the way towards our very intimidating objective. As we traversed around the basin to get above some lower slabs, we tried to spy the route’s start - at least we could make out some nice interlocking grass ledges above - so we aimed for the rocks below them. The route describes a class 2+/3 approach leading to a 10’ high class 4 crack that is “usually wet”. We found one and stashed the poles, but decided it was probably too close to the couloir to be the correct the start. Heading farther right, we found another candidate and Jamie and I shimmied up the indeed wet chimney. Once above, we didn’t like what we saw. More wet rock. While our position seemed to correspond to the description, the wet slab to our left that would need to be crossed was looking mighty dangerous. Not wanting to put anyone at risk of slipping off the exposed slope, we descended back and began to weigh our options.
Back to the crack at our pole stash we went. To the left, we found some nice broken ledges that led to the 10’ high class 4 chimney we had spied earlier, was this the route? The more I look at other people’s trip reports and photos, I am inclined to say “yes”, as the rocks in their pictures matches those in mine. Above is supposed to be some class 3 terrain and then a left angling wet class 4 exposed ramp for 50 feet. From our low vantage point, this seemed to fit as far as the class 3, but we couldn’t see a ramp. Thinking we found our route, we carefully ascended toward the wet chimney. Nobody really wanted to climb it, so we went up a stiff bulge on slabby rock just next to it. We used all manner of technique from hip scooting to panicked groping to claw through this initial bulge. We hoped that was the hardest move for this section, but we were wrong.
Ascending wet class 3 ledges, we came to what we thought from below was going to be class 3 terrain, but with the nearest foothold being waist high, we quickly realized we were wrong. Stuck between a bulge we didn’t want to descend, and a wall we didn’t want to ascend unprotected, the mood changed and from this point on Jagged got into our heads. In retrospect, the very steep wet slab slightly to the left above us was probably the route, but it was less “ramp” than wall, and nobody in our party ever really gave it any consideration! We just figured we were off route, but actually in hindsight, we were in the right place, just that we went right on harder terrain to keep it dry. Confusing is a good adjective to describe the first crux, or at least how we all felt about it.
I was towards the back of the group at this point, and I had the rope. I gingerly passed by the others to get to a spot I could flake out the rope and Jamie took the sharp end and started his way up. Unfortunately there was nothing for me to tie into as an anchor except for a shaky #1 cam placement that would likely have come out in a fall. Clinging to our uncomfortable positions, Jamie led the way through the initial 15-20 wall, placed a solid .5 cam, and ascended wet grassy ramps to reach an anchor point of 4 pieces of webbing and cordelette that turned out to be the rap anchor for this crux. We successfully avoided the wet slab, but were certainly glad to have the rope in order to make it work!
One by one we tied figure eights on a bight and locked in to pull the 40 feet or so to the anchor. Following the moves were not too bad, you just had to commit and dive in. It was a big pull to get the first step, but if you trust the rope and just go for it, the move was not too bad and had decent enough holds. It probably went 5.4 for us in this section, but felt better than that wet slab would have. No pictures of us climbing this section, I guess we were too focused on the task at hand to take any! We regrouped at the anchor and began up the interlocking grass ledges.
More Grassy Ledges
The rating of class 2+ with an occasional class 3 move is accurate, but the ledges are a mix of wet grass, mud, loose kitty litter, and no-joke exposure that keeps you on your toes constantly. We moved through this section with intent and focus, but the climbing is surprisingly easy from a technical standpoint and the elevation racked up quickly. The exposure demanding the attention here over the technical difficulty
Exposed Ledge (photo by Sarah)
We consulted our copy of Roach’s description from his book, and recognized the big boulder wall from the photo. It could mean only one thing: It was time to get on crux number 2. First we had to downclimb slightly and then go back up some exposed kitty litter ledges to a fairly nice gathering place against the wall where we could weigh our options. We checked out a bulge to the left with a chockstone, that we ended up writing off, but later in reading the summitpost description found out was the way that the author of that page went. It might be easier? Certainly less exposed than our way.
Contemplating the Second Crux
We went right up a grass to dirt to rock slope that ended with a bulge that though technically easy (class 4), was made unnerving by a lack of holds and some serious exposure. There were two big steps and the exposure was a little nerve wracking to say the least. The hand hold at the top consisted of wet grass, not the most confident thing to mantle up to! Kevin gave Jamie an extra foothold with a hand boost, and Jamie dropped some webbing people could use as a handline to follow for a little extra comfort if they wanted.
Second Crux Ascent (photo by Scot)
Two cruxes down, and the technically hardest advertised one (5.2 in the guidebooks) to go. So far the first 2 seemed harder than expected, would we find similar results here?. The third crux has 2 ways to go, the book describes the harder of the two as being “easier to protect”, a leader’s favorite words, and we found our way through the interlocking grass ledges (now very familiar!) to the base of this surprisingly short wall.
More Ledges Betweeen Cruxes
It’s only about a 20’ pitch. Once again there was no where for me to anchor to, a serious problem on this mountain. At least this pitch was dry, which made a huge difference in the comfort level. Halfway up Jamie found a rock “tunnel” he could thread a sling through – with enough cordelette one could probably make this an anchor for their belayer – and we were in business. He popped over it, set a tri-cam, and followed more of the class 2+ grass ledge system to the anchor and brought the rest of us up. Surprisingly, this crux felt the easiest – maybe it was the more bountiful holds or the dry rock!
Jamie Starting up Third Crux (photo by Scot)
We left the rope in place, threatening the curious marmot that he would become on the receiving end of a gold medal worthy “punt” if he dared to touch it, and stepped through the generous notch. Now on the south side, it was time to find the ledge and finish our climb before any clouds got too excited. We thought we would be on easy street, but Jagged has no easy street.
The Backside Ledges
First, we found out that to get to the ledge we had to ascend a 10 foot class 3 slab that was, you guessed it, exposed and lacking in holds. This was the first of at least 5 “mini-cruxes” that make up the back side. Now on the ledge, there were two exposed step-around moves. The first gap could be bypassed by downclimbing a wet chimney and back up around the other side of a large rock. This looked sketchy to me, but to my 4 companions, they felt it worked best. After watching 4 people squeeze through, I decided to just do the step around and found a good hold on the back side of a rock that I could leverage myself with – dry rock over wet grass/mud for me any day, but I guess I was alone in that thought today.
Tight Corners on the Backside
The second step around was more awkward, and had a large bulging rock above. This rock was hard to step around, but we all managed to do so – except for Scot, who at 6’-5” was too tall to find a good center of gravity. He ended up having to crawl under it! Just what you want to do on an exposed class 3 ledge, right?
Tight Squeeze (Photo by Sarah)
From here the ledge widened and we easily walked to a sandy bench next to a large wall with a sort of stacked triangle rock pile. We turned to our left and saw something we recognized from Cooper’s book and some previous trip reports – the final class 3 chimney. It looked steep, but was better protected than most of the other moves and we felt less exposed for once. The exit at the top felt stiffer than class 3 though, we all thought class 4. We pulled out of the gully and were relieved to see the summit!
Climbing the Summit Chimney (Photo by Sarah)
Not out of the woods yet, the 5th mini-crux awaited us on the final climb. While mostly class 3 and fairly straightforward by Jagged standards, there was one last trick up this mountain’s sleeve. A final exposed step around move on slabby rock. There are good hand holds (see Jamie’s hands on image 13 below), but it’s a bit of a stretch to reach your foot to safer ground. There was a possible intermediate foot hold, but it’s thin and down sloping. Use with caution!
Final Exposed Step-around
Finally we reached the top. My 99th, Kevin and Sarah’s 98th. RGP, our intended finisher in about a month, peered out in the distance and it started to set in that this goal we had set of climbing Colorado’s Highest 100 peaks, was about to become a reality.
Summit Views! (Photo by Scot)
Jagged’s summit was wide and felt like the safest place on the entire mountain. It was an enjoyable place to lounge, snack and reflect. A hard earned but well earned summit and I think we all appreciated the great company of our solid group. A special thanks to Jamie for the lead! We peered over the 165’ rap slings at our earlier grass ledges, however, and were brought back to reality. Somehow we still had to get down…
Headed Back Down (Photo by Sarah)
We retraced the 5 mini-cruxes of the back side and were back at the rope where the marmot had wisely left it alone. No punting today. We replaced the anchor and then each rappelled our way over this short crux, and headed to set up a second rap. The anchor was good so we left it in place. The third rap had 4 pieces of webbing and cord, at least 2 of which were good so we left them in place. This rap came straight down along our ascent path, and as I cleared the large boulders I landed squarely on the wet slabs (the ones that are probably the route) and felt my feet slip but recovered and finished the rap. It certainly reinforced the decision to skip any wet slabs on the way up though!
Mike and Scot on Rap (Photos by Kevin, Photoshop by Mike)
I think we all said the same thing as we came off that last rap – we climbed up this? Yes, yes we did, and we managed to touch down safely at its base and despite earlier warnings, did not die.
Pitch One From Bottom of Rap (Photo by Sarah)
Our day was not yet done though! The weather was looking decent enough to take a run up neighboring peak 12890. Lo and behold, more interlocking grass ledges! Somewhere in the dictionary there must be an alternate definition for Sunlight that is “a basin surrounded by interlocking grass ledges”. This place is like a maze of them.
Heading to PT 12890
We made its summit, admired Jagged’s slender E-W profile, and started to descend to our camp.
Jagged from 12890
Dinner tasted a little finer that evening, the views of Jagged a little sweeter. A nice evening of hanging around camp soaking it all in (some of which was done in the creek and nearby waterfall – which we affectionately called the “ice bath”) and it was off to bed to do it all again the next day.
Back to Camp - Notice Kevin/Sarah's Yellow Tent? (Photo by Kevin)
Day 6: August 1, 2012 – Leviathan and Vallecito (Probably 4 miles 3000 vertical)
“Beep, beep”, ah must be 4am again. Man, sleeping in next week when I am back at work is going to feel kind of good. We started out on the same path and soon were slogging up “double shot hill” towards the willows. We learned one thing yesterday in the daylight, to stay a little farther to the right and to not cross the creek. We picked up the use trail from yesterday and headed towards our old friend the interlocking grass ledge system. Again, we chose to stay farther right and were able to hit the low point of the Jagged-12890 saddle perfectly.
Leviathan and Vallecito from PT 12890
Somehow in our AM stupor the drop to the basin on the other side seemed really far, so we contoured around to the left and picked up steep slopes up Leviathan at a high point between two lakes. This ascent went pretty good and afforded some great early morning alpenglow shots of Jagged! Leviathan is a prize if for its views of Jagged alone.
Jagged Alpenglow from Leviathan
We reached the ridge crest at the base of a steep step, thinking the ridge was supposed to be class 2 (and wanting to avoid a notch higher up) we decided we were supposed to go around. This is wrong, just go up it. The ridge crest is wide and gentle, the backside, a chossy mess. Sarah, Kevin and I waited out a barrage of loose rock that Scot was sending down the back face. He wasn’t cleaning the route either, it was just that loose that he couldn’t help it. One rock the size of my oven came tumbling down, hit another rock and bounced 200’ before a few more bounces landed it in a remaining snowfield. I watched its whole path and could go there right now and pick out the exact boulder.
After rounding a corner, the loose crap transitioned to a more stable talus field but we were still on guard. At least progress was smooth at this point, although it was disappointing to look back at the ridge and realize we should have just stayed on it!
The notch was easy to clear, and was cairned. Across the notch the ridge got rough again, but was in a quartzite rock that reminded me of the Grenadiers and was delightful to climb. The broken class 2+/3 ridge made for a nice finish and we soon found ourselves lounging on the summit basking in the glory of Jagged across the way. We took some zoom shots of our route from the day before, and enjoyed the rich blue of Leviathan Lake below us to the north. We actually saw a tent at the lake, I bet the oven sized rock from before caught their attention, but luckily it was nowhere near their tent.
Loose Trace of Jagged's Route from Leviathan
We retraced to the notch because we have heard some stories about staying directly on the ridge crest to Vallecito that made us not want to deal with it. Solid, it could be fun, but we heard it was “very very sketchy”. Two “verys” on the sketchy scale? Not today. We’d rather munch on a Bhut Jolokia pepper with no milk to chase it.
Our downclimb of the south gully from the notch started out a little loose, but if you hug the edge of the massive slabs that make up the south face, it’s not too bad and goes pretty smoothly. Soon we reached a long upward trending grass ramp that hits the ridge crest just above the saddle with Vallecito and we were on our way. Scot decided not to lose 15 feet of elevation and followed a crack in the face that nearly cliffed him out but he was able to downclimb onto the ramp overcoming a short class 4 headwall.
Scot's Detour (Photo by Kevin)
The ridge up Vallecito was mostly a class 2 talus romp, and the easier terrain went quickly if not even a little mundane.
The summit was another winner, however – I mean, it’s the Weminuche, is there a bad view? Not likely.
Vallecito Summit View Towards Grenadiers (Photo by Scot)
For the descent we retraced the ridge until we found what looked like a fairly grassy slope to descend back to the lake below our earlier pass from this morning. It was looser than expected, but went quick. We hung out at the lake for awhile snacking and taking in the view of Jagged once more. Our conversation turned to if we would ever want to repeat it, at the time I said no, but now with 2 weeks of reflection, I think maybe I would given the right conditions (translation: Dry!).
Jagged from our Rest Tarn
We made our way back through the interlocking grass ledges and the willows and the double-shot of espresso hill we had come over the last two mornings. Back at camp it was a bittersweet afternoon and evening. We were moving on from Sunlight Basin in the morning.
I guess we weren’t the only ones upset that we were leaving as the skies gave us a shower of their tears that evening. Enough to make sure we packed up a wet camp in the morning and had to bushwhack through wet willows and grasses. Joy. At least we had 5 days less food to pack over. So far we hadn’t got on each others nerves too much, half the trip down, and so far it was a success!
Jagged? Check... (Photo by Kevin)
Again, big thanks to my partners and to the guidebook authors and forum members that helped us with our planning efforts. To all those who aspire to Jagged in the future, good luck with your climbs, this is a great mountain and a highly rewarding experience.
My partners will take you through the finish of our journey on Part 3, until then, thanks for reading…
Floyd’s write up for Part 1 here: Lost in The Weminuche Part 1: Sunlight Basin
Papillon’s write up for Part 3 here: Lost in The Weminuche Part 3: Bringing it all Back Home
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):