Pitkin Creek Trailhead
Distance- ~11 miles
Elevation Gain- ~4,700
Since finishing the 14ers a couple years ago I’ve been aimlessly wandering the mountains without any real goals or ambitions and have found nothing particularly inspiring to drive me forward. Sure, there has been learning to ski the big peaks (thanks Otina) and some really great routes with great people along the way but something was missing…until a recent trip to Keller Mtn. Something about the Gore has sparked my interest again and for the first time in ages I lay awake in bed at night thinking about the next adventure. A special thanks to lordhelmut for helping me get started in this daunting area, without his help these trips wouldn’t have been possible.
With scrambling season quickly coming to an end, my desire to hit the Gore Range one more time prompted me organize an attempt at the Partner Traverse this weekend. For the first time in a year Kris agreed to come on a “hike” sans keg, for some reason when you climb 5.17d, walking uphill doesn’t hold the same appeal anymore. As we discussed the plans on Friday night Kris and I decided we wanted more sleep and a shorter day than the traverse allowed. After looking at Kane’s route description on Summitpost I suggested that we do the South Ridge direct route which he describes as “could be class 5” as opposed to the standard east face route which is a chossy class 3 gully system. Kris was pleased with this option for a shorter day with some excitement.
We threw together a light rack with a couple 30m ropes and hit Pitkin Creek trail at 7:30am for the 4 mile approach to Pitkin Lake. Near 11k we decided to head straight up the south slopes instead of contouring around closer to the lake. This decision could have been better because what followed was 1200 feet of huge talus and typical class 3 grass. I was failing in my mission to convince Kris that hiking is fun…
Our ascent route to gain the south ridge
Still working up the slope
After finally gaining the ridge and having a good cry, our objective came into view.
East Partner with south ridge
The scenery is pretty good in this area.
Spider and Fly
After gaining the ridge you are in for some pretty fun class 3 scrambling as you work towards the summit pyramid.
south ridge scrambling (Kris)
looking down the south ridge
Just below the base of the pyramid you have a choice- Head out onto the east face where the chossy class 3 gullies are, or you can go left to stay on the south ridge, we went left. Things get interesting pretty quickly as you climb a dihedral to regain the ridge proper.
Start of the ridge direct route
The first moves after the dihedral are difficult and exposed. We briefly discussed breaking out the rope but decided against it in the end. Kris called the first awkward section 5.4...I would have rated it higher. After working through it he told me that there was some huge exposure but to be honest, I never looked down as my mind was occupied with a funky foot jam and looking for that hidden "thank god" hold.
Pulling the crux move (Kris)
Start of the difficulties
Once past the first ridge portion things settle down into the 5.easy range but the exposure is relentless. For the most part the ridge consists of 30 foot obstacles on super solid rock.
typical terrain on the summit pyramid
this route is exposed in places (Kris)
final stretch to the summit
On the summit you are greeted with typical Gore eye candy.
Q and L
We descended the standard route, picking your way through the gullies isn't too bad but it was nice to know we had a much more aesthetic climb on the ridge proper. Instead of retracing the lower ridge back down we decided to bail off the east slopes, this was a good decision.
looking back up during the descent
looking down the east slopes
a look back at East Partner from the lower east slopes
Kris and I have done a few challenging climbs over the years (Quandary's West Ridge in January, Missouri's East Ridge in May, and the Needle in May) and we've always failed to take pictures or write reports and there is always one overriding theme...we get our asses kicked. Gladly, this trip was different. I'm not sure Kris caught the Gore bug, but I did appreciate his company on this fun little day trip. Thanks.