| In Wonderland on Alice.
July 23, 2013
~18.3 Miles, ~5,400 Gain
TH: Wild Basin TH. 2WD (~1.5-2 hours from Denver)
Max difficulty: 5.9+, should have been 5.8.
Route: Center Ramp 5.8, 7-8 pitches. III
Why we decide to do this as a day trip, my body is still trying to figure that out. Ouch. I met Justin at a Park 'n Ride off of US36 at 1:15 AM where we made the short drive to the Wild Basin trailhead. Sorting through some last minute gear, we started hiking up the Wild Basin trail at 2:50 AM. After 1.4 miles, we took the campsite shortcut saving us about ½ of a mile of hiking.
Before we knew it we were at the trail junction for Lion Lake where we geared up and ditched our larger backpacks. Going light was the plan for the day so I carried a small backpack with our rack while Justin carried the rope and runners. Reaching Lion Lake No. 1 at sunrise, the views were spectacular. We left the trail on the north side of Lion Lake No. 1 and started our bushwhack towards the east face of Alice.
Sunrise on Alice. From Lion Lake No. 1
Sunrise over Lion Lake No. 1
Pine trees and talus became annoying after our long approach and after 7.7 miles we finally reached the base of our climb. A few options existed for gaining the Center Ramp route. Option 1, an obvious snow climb on the left. 2, a long 5.5 pitch or 3, a chossy angling class 4 ramp on the right. We decided for aesthetics, to climb the 5.5 pitch from the very base of the massive face. It would have been silly to take snow climbing gear for 200-300 feet of snow climbing.
East face of Alice.
One of the larger walls in the park.
Justin enjoying the talus after 7.5 miles.
To gain the 5.5 pitch, we took a short grassy ramp from the right since directly starting from the base really isn't an option. On the far left side of this smaller grassy ramp we roped up. I led the first pitch climbing up a somewhat wet crack, 5.5, and when the crack became too wet, I veered right and then up broken bands. 5.2 to 4th class led me to the base of the Center Ramp.
Since the first 5.5 pitch was 300 feet, we decided to simul-climb the first pitch and once on 4th class terrain, we decided to continue un-roped to the base. The beta from Mountain Project was bad but at this point we didn't know it. According to MP, the start of the Center Ramp route starts up a 5.5 chimney or to the left, a 5.8 dihedral. Looking up at the complex face, we found what appeared to be the start.
Looking up the first 5.5 pitch.
Looking down the 5.5 pitch.
Climbing up the base of the Center Ramp. The 5.8 dihedral can be seen just above Justin's red jacket.
Justin took the first 5.8 dihedral pitch where I quickly followed. At the top of the first pitch, the MP beta reads, “From the top of the first pitch, you have a choice of following the huge right-facing dihedral up the left edge of the ramp or a left-facing dihedral/crack system that runs up the center/right side of the ramp. This is a description of the right option.” From our belay stance, we could easily see the right facing dihedral on the left edge of the ramp but couldn't really distinguish a crack up the center/right side of the ramp. We noticed an angling crack to the right. Perhaps that was the way.
Justin climbing the 5.8 dihedral on our second pitch.
Justin topping out on the 5.8 dihedral.
The not so good 5.5 chimney alternative to the 5.8 dihedral.
Looking down the 5.8 dihedral.
I took the rack and started the lead. A few nervous slab moves and I was climbing the angling 5.7 crack. About 50-70 feet up the crack, the crack ended into a sea of slabs. To my right, I noticed the roof the MP beta describes as the top of pitch 2. Looking over at the roof, I saw a fixed belay station but there was only a small problem. The belay station was around 5-10 feet below me and 30 feet to my right. Serious slab moves without protection would have been required to reach the fixed belay station.
Looking up the Center Crack from the top of pitch 1. We didn't go straight up.
Looking upward, I noticed a possible continuation of the crack I had been climbing. I placed a decent cam and started upward. The climbing quickly turned into 5.9+ slab climbing without any pro. There was high exposure along with a long fall potential, I started to sweat. Making a few more “OF” moves, I was now 15 feet above my last piece of protection and several difficult moves away from easier terrain.
All I could think about was the big whipper I was about to endure. My biggest weakness in climbing are slabs. Tricky friction feet with poor pro on slabs does not fit my fancy. I am nowhere near a 5.10 trad slab climber. Give me a 5.10 crack and I will happily climb trad all day. Finally, I reached a decent hand hold and did a short mantle onto a small ledge. 30 feet above my last piece of pro, I was able to get another piece of protection in. I sat on the ledge and looked onward. The only thing I could see was 5.9-11 slab climbing. I wasn't going to continue.
Enough features on the ledge allowed me to build an anchor. Justin didn't seem concerned about the hard climbing without protection so I brought him upward. I am glad slab climbing is his specialty; he is good at it. When he reached my last piece of pro 30 feet below me, he decided to traverse slab climb over to the belay station below the roof. At least he would have a tension belay on top rope for the tricky slab maneuvers to reach the anchor.
Justin starting the friction traverse from our botched pitch 3.
Once Justin reached the anchor, he put me on belay and I fixed a nut for bailing off of my small ledge. He lowered me to the belay station which we quickly learned, from appearance and fixed gear, to be a bailing station. We were not the first ones to have had this problem. Climbing onward from the fixed bail station wasn't an option so we decided to bail from the bail anchor. Justin started rappelling and after 40 feet, looked up and said, “I think I found the route.”
What the route description should have read is, “After the first pitch, do an angling descent on a small ledge and then traverse for 200-300 feet until reaching an obvious crack leading up the center of the ramp.” Justin built a belay anchor where I then rappelled to him. This route finding shenanigans cost us over 1.5 hours.
Justin took the 4th pitch up a hand crack. MP said a chimney which is a far cry from a hand crack. Maybe if I was hamster sized, it would have been a chimney. Calling, “Off belay,” I followed the pitch. Now in the middle of the ramp on the east face, Justin had found a pin anchor. At least we were on a route for something. The MP beta at this point was worthless and the Gillett book description was vague.
From the pin anchor, I continued upward on enjoyable 5.7 crack climbing and 180 feet later, I made it to a ledge and belayed Justin up. Since our description was worthless, we were unsure of where to climb from the top of our 5th pitch. Justin took the lead and started up a broken face and ledges above the ramp.
Looking down on pitch 5.
Justin finishing pitch 5.
He reached a large ledge 150 feet later and belayed me up. The big roof described in the beta we found but were unsure of the free climbing options to bypass the roof. The roof goes at A2. The Gillett guide book says to climb up a series of dihedrals to a hand crack. From our belay station, the entire face look liked a series of dihedrals. We made our best guess and decided to give it a go.
Justin starting pitch 6. The “big roof” can be seen above him.
Looking down from the top of pitch 6.
Since this was the money pitch and I had motivated Justin to bag this 13er with me, he was going to take the money pitch. Oh, my silly 13er disease, we should have been climbing The Barb on Spearhead in Justin's eyes.
Looking up pitch 7. Plenty of options.
Leaving the belay station, Justin traversed left of the roof about halfway between the arete and the roof to a dihedral system which did lead him to the 5.8 hand crack. He called off belay at the top of the hand crack and I followed the pitch. Wow, that hand crack was good if only it was longer.
The big roof on the top of pitch 6.
Looking up the correct dihedral on pitch 7.
Looking down on the stellar hand crack on pitch 7.
I took the last pitch and climbed a series of broken ledges to the top. It was a good thing the weather cooperated or this could have easily turned into an epic or more likely we would have bailed after our route finding shenanigans. From the top of the climb, it was a short talus class 2 hike to the summit where we arrived at 3:15 PM and took a long break.
Looking down pitch 8 at the top.
The summit is near.
Longs and Chiefs Head from the summit of Alice.
Tanima from the summit of Alice.
Still a diseased peak bagger, I needed to get a lone 12er, Tanima, to the north of Alice. I think any normal person would have said “*!” that after the climb we just endured. Justin certainly did. We descended Alice's grassy north slopes to the Boulder-Grand Pass. Since Justin didn't want anything to do with Tanima, he started toward Lake of Many Winds where I bolted ahead up Tanima's gentle class 2 west slopes and arrived on the summit at 4:15 PM. Amazing views of Wild Basin and of Longs Peak. Now for the extremely long slog out.
Alice and Chiefs Head from Tanima.
I returned to Boulder-Grand Pass and then descended down a talus gully to the north of the snowfield to the beautiful Lake of Many Winds where I met Justin. From the lake we hiked east, found the Thunder Lake trail and started our trek out. The long, but good, trail led us back to our car where we arrived at 7:25 PM. That was a beer worthy day.
Lake of Many Winds.
The Beta to the best of my knowledge:
Climb to the base of the “Center Ramp” using one of three options:
1) Climb the obvious snow field to the left of the east face for 300 feet. Exit the snow to the right.
2) From the very bottom of the east face, climb a short grassy ramp on the right to gain a prominent crack system up the lower face just right of the snow field. The crack can be wet, so start up the crack for 15 feet and then climb right up easier, dryer terrain. The initial moves are 5.5. The climbing above the initial moves is sustained 4th class with some short sections of 5.2.
3) Take a dark banded ledge from the right of the face and angle up and left to the base of the Center Ramp. Class 4. Expect loose chossy rock.
Pitch 1: Climb a 5.5 grassy chimney or 15 feet to the left of the chimney, climb up a beautiful 5.8 dihedral. Early season, the 5.8 dihedral may be snowed in. The chimney and dihedral are located on the left side of the face near the snow field.
Pitch 2: From the top of pitch 1, take a small grassy ledge descending right. Traverse on this ledge for 150-300 feet to a crack system leading up the center of the ramp. Do NOT climb directly up above the dihedral as that is the Center Crack route and do NOT climb an angling right hand crack starting with unprotected slab moves from the top of the pitch 1. After the traverse, climb up 5.5-7? crack/ledges to a small roof. Do not be tempted to head to a fixed anchor on the left side of the roof.
Pitch 3: Follow the crack to the right of the roof and follow the crack to a fixed pin anchor. The crack varies from wide hands, to tight hands with some OW. ~170 feet. 5.7.
Pitch 4: Continue to follow the crack up the center of the ramp. Belay on a ledge after a wide slightly overhung dihedral 50 feet below a larger headwall. ~180 feet. 5.7.
Pitch 5: Angle upward to the left up small headwalls to a large ledge with a very small cave located 30 feet below a large triangular roof. ~150 feet. 5.8.
Pitch 6: The money pitch. From the large belay ledge traverse left aiming for a dihedral system halfway between the left arete and the large triangular roof. Climb up the dihedral system to a wonderful hand crack. Belay on a ledge above the hand crack. ~150 feet. 5.8.
Pitch 7: Either head left up a gully system to top of the cliff, 5.5-6 or climb directly above the hand crack up broken ledges to the top of the cliff. 5.6-7.
Cams from small fingers up to #3, along with a set of nuts.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):