The centennial journey for me is one that is very similar to Mike Rodenak’s, a Midwestern flatlander slowly turned mountaineer. My love of the mountains started as a kid when my dad would drive us over high mountain passes all over the country. I was in love with maps and would plan out our family road trips in detail, writing down the times we would cross each highway! I gazed at the Rand McNalley road atlas and saw that little black triangle on the map signifying the highest point of the state. I must go there!
The Cub Scout map geek!
My highpoint infatuation started in ’97, and the 14er pursuit was spawned from it. The 14er journey started for me way back in 1998 when my best friend from college, my ex, and I got our butts handed to us on Elbert’s Black Cloud route. Elbert was on my radar as a state highpoint while living in KC back in the days of sweats, Jansport backpacks, and thin Nike boots. I came off that hike with blood blisters and I wondered if I would be able to do the harder state highpoints! Fast forward to 2002 when I came out to Denver for my MBA graduation from Regis and I picked up Roach’s 14er book at REI. Wow, there’s 54 of them? The seed was planted to move out here and it happened in 2003. Like many who move to Colorado with a passion for the mountains, I went nuts on the 14ers.
I got involved with the CMC early on and did a few 13er hikes with them and one day picked up Roach’s centennial book. Wow, there’s some 13ers that are tougher than the hardest 14ers! I was mesmerized at the thought of someday climbing peaks like Jagged, Pigeon, Teakettle, and Dallas. I’ll never finish that list! I started plugging away at those centennials in conjunction with the 14ers and really hit them hard after the 14ers were done. I guess you would call me a cherry picker early on! As hiking interests and goals evolved, the centennials kind of went on the back burner. I was sitting on 95 for quite a while until I joined my friend Sarah Meiser for her final centennials on the unnamed ones near Redcloud last year. Sarah was well over 500 13ers at that point, so she really put them off! Well, maybe I’ll finish them in 2012.
The summer was almost over and here I was still sitting on 97 centennials. I scheduled a Jagged trip and didn’t get commitments until a few days before the trip! Jagged went very well and it will go down as my favorite centennial.
That setup an awesome Rio Grande Pyramid trip over Labor Day to help celebrate a centennial finish for Kevin P, Mike, and Sarah (wooderson). I could have climbed Half the day before and joined them, but I didn’t want to miss out on the cool peaks I had left around Half. “Mowing the grass” has its benefits, but the entire 13er list can get very daunting, especially in the San Juans.
The weather was looking awesome for a Half finish but unfortunately most of my regular hiking buddies have already done Half! Anna and Keegan were the only takers and Keegan was game for mowing the grass on some 13ers I had left in the area. We met Anna at the Cataract Gulch trailhead, but she discovered in the morning that she forgot a key piece of gear for backpacking, so she decided to do the Half group as a dayhike Sun and meet us at camp. She went off and did Jones and American instead.
A nice waterfall near treeline
Keegan and I enjoyed the short pack in with fairly light packs for one night. The forecast was great, so we weren't in any rush. We somehow missed the hard left the trail makes just above treeline even though I’ve been up Cataract Gulch before. We ended up having a brief bushwacko fest in the tall willows in search of a little island of grass amidst them. We setup camp at around 11700 feet and had plenty of time for a “warmup hike.”
It would be a bit more than a warmup for Keegan as he would tack on Tundra Top and Cataract for a 6500 vertical day! The goals for me were Unnamed 13580 and 13581 southeast of Cataract Lake. We had a stiff battle to get out of the willows and find the trail on a ridge east of camp. It is not where the map shows it.
13580 is a very mellow summit that goes very quick from the pass above Cataract Lake via its gentle northwest ridge. This was Keegan’s 100th ranked 13er, so we had a little celebration at the top! Keegan has a bright future ahead of him with all these mountains to climb early in his life! The traverse to 13581 is pretty cool.
There are some towers east of Point 13568 that force us down the south side. We pass those easily on some loose junk and regain the ridge. A deep gash in the ridge forces us down again, this time on the north side. A fascinating “hoodoo graveyard” makes for some nice eye candy, and we bomb down more loose junk on the north side.
We're not downclimbing that!
Back up a gully to the ridge and we’re at the summit block, which goes at 3rd class wrapping around the east side. Very cool San Juan summit! I downclimb the sporty south side of the summit block and we drop quickly via a convenient gully on the n.w. side of the summit.
4th class line on 13581 south side and easiest line is to right.
Keegan takes off to hit Tundra Top and Cataract, while I enjoy a nice stroll on the CO trail back to the pass, happy to have those checked off! We got back to camp early enough to enjoy dinner and a nice sunset.
Sunset on Sunshine
I sleep well enjoying the final summer camp and wake up at 6am. I get out of the tent and see Anna’s headlamp not far away. It looks like she is on route, so we’re gonna have to catch her on the trail above!
Alpenglow on Half
There’s no way she will find our tents below the trail in the dark. We set out at 6:40 and I give her a summit yell when I see her headlamp again. We catch up to her right around Cataract Lake. That worked out well! Now a full group, we set our sights for hidden and forgotten Unnamed 13164.
Nice reflection in a lake off the CO Trail
This little tucked away peak is conveniently very close to the CO Trail. We follow it over a saddle s.e. of the summit and it contours straight for it! Nice little low 13er with great views of Half. The stroll over to Half is broad and gentle until the slope funnels you onto the dramatic south ridge. It can be kept at class 2+ with huge drops on the east side.
Looking back at 13164
The little catwalk section
It then drops you out onto the huge football field size plateau. The summit reminds me a lot of Potosi and it’s right at the top of the precipitous north face, which drops about 600 feet in short order. We top out around 10:30 and Keegan breaks out some chocolate cupcakes to celebrate! Anna bought me a little bluebird figurine.
Mr Bluebird celebrates #100
Maybe I’ll carry this little guy in my pack to keep the good luck with the weather going! It’s hard to believe this journey is over, but it’s only a small part of the journey of living life to the fullest. I have many memories with those 100 summits and many thanks go out to those who I shared those adventures with! Keegan worked it out to where Half was exactly number 50 of his highest 100. Nice work, Keegan!
I decided at camp to see how many pushups I could do on the summit while naming centennials. I started with the 14ers on Half and got through them after some hypoxic memory lapses! I was disappointed with my lack of focus at altitude, but I guess us dudes can only do one thing at a time! I was planning on doing pushups on Quarter for as many centennial 13ers as I could remember, but it took too long to get over there. I know, sorry excuse!
I had done no research on the traverse to Quarter. It looks fairly easy on the map and it doesn’t look bad from Half, but there are a lot of hidden difficulties! The north ridge of Half is pretty steep with a short section where you have to hang your butt out over a lot of air. We dropped down a gully from there and countoured over to easy terrain. Keegan called it a day at the saddle since he had already done Quarter.
Sporty downclimb of Half's north ridge
The first part of Quarter’s south ridge goes very quickly. We are greeted by a herd of elk that urge us upward.
My hunting friends are jealous
We crest a point and the views are discouraging. Lots of towers with steep drops. We make a huge mistake and stash our poles here. We don’t return to them because it’s way easier to go down the north ridge!
Looks like we have our work cut out for us!
We try regaining the ridge a couple times. The first time involves some stiff 4 class climbing on a lot of loose crap. I crest a notch and it’s a no go for sure. I purposely knock down a huge microwave size block to clear room for a safe downclimb from this notch. We regain the ridge a 2nd time and scramble on the right side for a bit, but the summit views look very discouraging. I’m not sure if it can be kept at 4th class, so we decide to cut out losses and sidehill below the cliffs on the west side.
Close to the ridge again, but it's not looking good
After seemingly endless sidehilling on steep but small talus, we wrap around to the northeast face where we find a doable line up the steep face on talus. We hit the saddle north of the summit and finally top out around 2:30. Wow, that was brutal! The downclimb initially to the north is not trivial with a lot of loose junk to watch out for. We part ways down the ridge as Anna takes a more northerly line down to the trailhead that I here was a brutal bushwack, while I find a fairly easy line southeast back to the trail.
Looking back at the towers on the descent. There were 8 big ones!
Keegan is waiting patiently at camp and I pack up quick for an easy cruise out on the sweet Cataract Gulch trail and we get down around 6pm. It was a long drive home. Thanks for celebrating with me, Anna and Keegan!
Follow the yellow brick road. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!
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