October 10, 2012
~13.7 miles, ~6,000 Gain
TH: Piney Lake TH (2WD, ~2.5 hours from Denver)
Route: Northwest ridge on Peak C (5.4) – Ripsaw Ridge traverse to Peak G (class 4)
Thanks to jbchalk and lordhelmut for excellent beta on the Ripsaw Ridge traverse.
A weekday partner is hard to come across. Ryan mentioned he had Wednesday off so we debated on what was going to be the best peak selection considering the snow depth and weather. Since I had flown over the Gores on Friday and a good conditions report came back from Powell, we decided to give the northwest ridge a shot on Peak C and if time, the Ripsaw Ridge traverse.
Many rumors existed on the difficulty of Peak C's northwest ridge ranging from 5.4 to 5.6. I don't like being unprepared for an unknown technical route so I packed an alpine 50 M rope and a full rack with some doubles cams. I anticipated the worst and packed for a 5.8 climb.
With a pot-holey drive to the trailhead, I arrived at the trailhead around 7:00 PM on Tuesday night and was able to get a decent nights sleep. I woke up around 4:00 AM, packed and met up with Ryan who had also slept in his car at the trailhead.
We were walking up the “Piney Lake trail” around 4:45 AM but it wasn't the correct trail. Ryan and I hadn't been in the area and since it was dark, we missed the trailhead which is located north of the parking lot. Instead we followed the hiking signs south (trail to Lost Lake?) from the parking lot and did some hiking inside of the Piney Ranch until we got back on track. After some consulting with our topo, we found the trail and continued our journey towards Peak C passing some angry signage on our way out of the Piney Lake Ranch.
Early profile of Peak C's northwest ridge.
Despite the heavy packs, we made good time to the Powell turnoff which was well marked with a cairn. After the turn off, the trail was steep but in good shape as we traveled into the basin to the west of Peak C and Powell. We followed the Powell trail until ~11,500 before we exited the trail and climbed directly to the Peak C-Powell saddle.
Ryan working his way to the Peak C-Powell saddle.
Before reaching the Peak C-Powell saddle, we followed a ledge south to an upper saddle at the base of Peak C's northwest ridge. There was a nice cold breeze as we geared up and I could tell this wasn't going to be a comfortable warm climbing day. From the upper saddle, we traversed east looking for the best line to start up the ridge. We started climbing up the ridge at 8:15 AM.
First view of Peak C's northwest ridge.
The start of our climb.
Coated with a light dusting of snow, we decided to climb up a chimney just to the right of a steep couloir with a rock choke. Because of the snow and questionable rock, we decided to rope up for this short section. We set up belay and I climbed up the chimney. After about 50-70 feet, I was out of the chimney and set up a belay for Ryan. I would rate this first chimney at 5.0-5.2 with some decent exposure.
Looking down the first 5.2 roped pitch.
Once Ryan was at the top of the chimney, we un-roped and continued upward. The deep couloir with the rock choke still separated us from the ridge proper so we ended up doing a short 30 foot class 4 climb on the right side of the ridge which led us to a class 3 ramp that took us back into the couloir.
Ryan traversing the rock choked couloir.
Terrain was easier in the couloir as we climbed ~200-300 feet before reaching our next set of technical climbing. A large cliff band blocked easier progress so we headed left/east on a ledge up to the base of a very large headwall located directly on the ridge crest. Climbing to the base of the headwall involved some class 4 friction climbing with good exposure. Once at the base of the headwall, we followed a dihedral upward. As the dihedral steepened, we decided to rope up again.
4th class friction slap to the base of the headwall.
Friction climbing with boots and a large pack was worth roping up for as I did a ~50 foot 5.2 friction rope pitch up the dihedral. At the top of the roped friction pitch, we continued up ~150 feet of blocky class 4 climbing before reaching the crux of the ridge. After setting up a quick anchor, I climbed up 5.4 terrain to a ledge which joined the west ridge. Ryan climbed up and we enjoyed some fine class 3 scrambling to the summit of Peak C where we arrived at 10:30 AM.
Looking up the 5.2 friction pitch.
Looking down the 5.2 friction pitch.
Looking down the 5.2 friction pitch from the top.
Looking up the 5.4 pitch.
Ryan climbing the 5.4 crux.
Class 3 moves near the top.
The northwest ridge ended up being easier than we expected at only 5.4 and since we had plenty of daylight left, we decided to continue with the Ripsaw Ridge traverse. We descended down Peak C's south-southeast ridge where we encountered some slabby class 3 scrambling to the C-C Prime saddle. Since C Prime isn't ranked, I really didn't have any desire to climb it and neither did Ryan. From the saddle, we followed a good ledge down and around to the southwest of C Prime which took us to the C Prime-D saddle.
Ripsaw Ridge. G is a long ways away.
Class 3 slabs off of Peak C.
Peak D from the Peak C-Peak D saddle.
Excellent beta provide by jbchalk's report made things easy for the rest of the Ripsaw Ridge traverse. For our ascent up Peak D, we headed southwest around the first set of gendarmes and then up a class 3/4 couloir to the summit of Peak D where we arrived at 11:45 AM. Heading too far southwest before ascending Peak D would certainly would have made things more interesting. Thanks to lordhelmut for pointing that out.
From the summit of Peak D we descended easy class 2/3 terrain on the southeast side of the ridge to the Peak D-Peak E saddle. Once at the saddle, we climbed the short 15-20 foot 5th class chimney which was a bit interesting with the heavy pack. This chimney could be bypassed by dropping ~50-100 feet on the southwest side of the ridge.
Peak E and G from our descent off of D.
Continuing from the top of the chimney, we hiked to the southwest side of the ridge and climbed up to a small notch directly west of Peak E's summit. From the notch, we continued east on the southwest side of the ridge until we could find easy class 3 scrambling to the false summit of Peak E. From the false summit, we climbed up a small class 3 ledge system to the south of the Peak E's true summit. We regaining the ridge which led us to the summit where we arrived at 12:50 AM. Still breezy and cool.
Summit of Peak E from the false summit.
Peak E's summit register is a gem dating back to 1948 and is in excellent condition. The cast iron register tube holds up significantly better then the PVC tubes. Are you taking note CMC? The PVC tubes suck! Our heavy packs with ropes and a full rack was starting to wear on us.
For our traverse from Peak E to Peak F, we descended ~100-150 feet below the ridge on the southwest side and followed a good ledge system to the west side of Peak F. I was anticipating hard scrambling across the ridge but it only involved class 3 with a class 4 finish. Harder climbing could easily be found closer to the ridge crest. I am sure one could spend hours climbing over the 5th class gendarmes.
At the base of Peak F on the west side, we climbed directly up enjoyable class 3, with some minor class 4 sections, to the summit where we arrived at 1:50 PM. Peak G was close. We decended Peak F's east ridge staying on the ridge crest which was mostly class 3 with a short class 4 section near the saddle.
Peak E and Ryan climbing 4th class on Peak F.
Route from Peak E to Peak F.
Class 4 down-climb off of Peak F.
Route off of east ridge on Peak F.
Such a delight to ditch the heavy pack at the Peak F-Peak G saddle. Feeling freed, we made excellent time to the summit of Peak G. We bypassed one gendarme on the southwest side and then up a class 3 gully which led us to the summit of Peak G where we arrived at 2:20 PM.
Peak F from near the summit of Peak G.
Ryan descending off of Peak G.
Returning to the Peak F-Peak G saddle, we picked up our pack and descended a loose rocky couloir south towards the Piney River. Our knees screamed at us as we lost ~2,500 in a mile with our heavy packs to Piney River. We found the Piney River trail and started our exodus out of the valley. It was a long hike out and we found the correct trail back to the car without having to walk through Piney Ranch. Tired, we arrived back at the car at 6:20 PM. I think the Ripsaw Ridge might have been a bit more enjoyable with a summer day pack, but nevertheless, an outstanding scrambly day in the Gores.
The Spider from our descent off of Peak G.
Thoughts Peak C's northwest ridge:
If a rope and rack are desired, I would consider a single rack with small selection of nuts and a 30 M rope. All 3 roped pitches were short and easy to protect.
Topo up Peak C's northwest ridge. Original Photo by Brian (lordhelmut), Thanks)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):