| Jagged - WHO CLIMBS UP
For those who have read Gerry Roach's Transcendent Summits, you'll remember the acronym WHO CLIMBS UP. The acronym is derived from the following words:
Weather (p. 75)
Honor (p. 200)
Om (blessing) (p. 84)
Inspiration (p. 25)
Mantra (p. 32)
Balance (p. 94)
Strength (p. 80)
Understanding (p. 175)
Perseverance (p. 80)
Now, I'm not going overreach and create a trip report that incorporates each of these elements for my climb of Jagged, as that would be insulting to Gerry Roach who took many years and climbs to develop this acronym. Rather, this acronym comes to mind because of the word "Honor."
Two types of people climb Jagged: those who possess good climbing and technical skills and can climb it easily, and those who are perhaps okay at climbing but need to rely upon the goodwill of others to reach the summit. I am the type of climber who is in the latter group.
Being a so-so climber, I was long familiar with the pursuit of trying to find a lead climber to handle the technical aspects of Jagged. Perhaps as the chase of the centennials heats up in the climbing community, this will become a little bit more of a well-recognized problem: how to climb Jagged?
And here's a true story on what not to do. Do not seek out a lead climber because you lack the technical skills to climb Jagged, and then after a successful ascent, come back to town and post on the Internet that you were the leader of the trip. That occurred, and it's disparaging to Honor. If you ever find yourself needing to rely upon the skill and expertise of another, Honor the leader and give credit where credit is due.
Okay, onto the climb. My climbing friend Marianne was on 99 of 100 centennials and in the unenviable position of All-But-Jagged, and she of skilled persuasion managed to talk Marty into leading this endeavor for we two of limited technical expertise. The three of us agreed upon a week-long trip in the Weminuche months in advance of July, and although I might have preferred something a little further away from the beginning of the monsoon, vacation schedules dictated otherwise.
As the week of July 15-20 and the trip approached, the weather forecast became worse and worse. Upon arriving in Silverton on Monday, we found an Internet connection and looked at the 48-hour futurecast projection of the weather. Unfortunately, it indicated low clouds and no sun for the morning of our planned ascent on Wednesday. I suppose if vacation schedules didn’t dictate otherwise, we might have rescheduled the trip for another time, but absent this option, we decided to give it a shot and head into the Weminuche.
As we drove up to the train depot in Silverton to catch the 2:30 train, I noticed a couple climbers loading their backpacks and technical gear into a SUV. I went over and talked to them, and as I suspected, they were returning from Jagged. They didn't seem too enthused or overjoyed, but rather more like they were just happy to be back. One of the climbers talked about shoes not having good traction as a result of the recent wet weather. Hmm, I do imagine that could limit one's enjoyment of climbing Jagged.
After getting off the train at Needleton, we began our march along the Animas River in hopes of reaching our campsite a couple miles up the Animas trail near Noname Creek. About 30 minutes into the backpack, rain began to fall. Ordinarily that's not too big of a deal to seasoned backpackers, but you can find accounts of rain making the descent off of Watertank Hill somewhat treacherous. Surprisingly, the rain didn’t affect us at all at Watertank Hill, and we reached camp a few hours after we began. The rain died off in the evening and we comfortably pitched camp.
The flooded campsite
The next morning was cloudy and we knew the prospect for sun today was low. As we reached the meadow near Jagged cabin, all of the peaks were obscured by clouds, although on occasion the clouds would part to reveal Knife Point's spectacular west face. Today's modest goal was to reach a campsite at about 10,800' that I believe Kevin B. and his two young climbing buds used last summer when they climbed Jagged. It seemed like a nice site when I saw it then, but due to the amount of recent rain, we arrived to find that the low-lying areas in this camp were under water and a footpath leading into the area fostered a small "stream" an inch or so deep.
We knew it had been raining a lot in the Weminuche, but what happened next one would never expect. As we stood around camp talking, a small trout swam right up to us in the small stream of water that flowed down the flooded footpath. After this confused off-route trout flipped himself out of the shallow water of the footpath, Marty provided the needed relief to this poor little guy and released him back into the nearby stream.
Off-route trout now knows he has messed up big-time
The footpath through the wildflowers that the trout used to our camp
Wednesday 7/17 - Jagged
Wednesday morning arrived and at 4:30AM we set off for our climb of Jagged. Although a few stars made an appearance when we emerged from our tents earlier that morning, the fog and low-lying clouds quickly reestablished themselves and dashed any hope that we might receive some early morning sun.
Locating the first crux from Jagged Pass
We soon reached Jagged Pass, and although not terrific, the visibility allowed us to identify the location of the first crux and the start of the real climbing on Jagged. After arriving at the first crux and as Marty and Marianne arranged their climbing gear, I headed up the 10-foot class 4 crack. Okay, not so bad initially, but as I got a little higher, I found I was about to suffer the same fate as my friend back at the train depot - wet and muddy boots and reduced traction on the rock.
I immediately dismissed the idea of exiting left onto the class 4 ramp that had water running down it, so I waited for Marty to catch up, and he being of exceptional talent and skill, he easily climbed the ramp. Thereafter, he established a belay for Marianne and me. Not exactly the way I envisioned climbing Jagged - needing a belay at the first crux. Yuck. Psychologically, I had just lost it. I had no confidence in my boots or ability at this point, but the summit still beckoned.
As noted by Roach and others, the climbing from here to the second crux is surprisingly easy. Indeed, I was able to regroup and gather up some hope that I might do better at the second crux. And that was not to be.
The second crux - Marty and Marianne went left on the way up, I went right
Many people at the second crux head down towards the right, but Marty decided to climb the wide crack to the left, and he made it look pretty darn easy. All those years of caving and technical climbing have a way of paying dividends on a real mountain. Marianne decided the moves looked like fun, so she gave it a shot and succeeded with a little upwards shoving from yours truly.
Since nobody was left to shove me up if need be, I decided to do the usual down-and-to-the-right route. It wasn't that bad, except that to make the last move, it might have helped if my boot wasn't sliding off the rock to the left. With the aid of some webbing provided by Marianne, I was able to conquer the second crux, albeit in pathetic fashion.
To find the third crux, look for the pie in the sky
We continued on and easily spotted the third crux. Some people overshoot this crux due to a maverick cairn, but the key here is to look up and spot the large rock high above that looks like a slice of pie. We did the left option here, and it went fairly well, although the last move to reach the upper bench wasn't the easiest, at least for me, as nothing on this day was to be easy. Indeed, as I turned to make a move, my left arm started to pop out of the shoulder socket, but thankfully I adjusted quickly to prevent disaster and it slipped back into place. Yikes!!! Make no mistake, this mountain was certainly having a good laugh at my expense on this day.
If I were to only have relied upon Roach's route description in his guidebook, I would have been in good spirits at this point, as the route is only class 3 beyond the third crux. But I knew the backside of Jagged was not a walk in the park from online trip reports, and I surmised that Wyoming Bob had more than likely fallen to his death on the backside of Jagged but six days earlier.
One trip report describes the backside of Jagged as having five mini-cruxes, and the first one was already throwing me for a loop as I just couldn't get any traction from my boots to climb up. Eventually, somehow I made it which then brought us to the second mini-crux that involves a downclimb and a step out onto a exposed rock. Forget about being a hero, after Marty easily climbed this crux, Marianne and I took a belay.
After climbing the third mini-crux that is again very exposed, we reached the famous class 3 chimney. Well, I suppose there are some horror movies that have times of comedic relief when one is allowed to relax before the impending doom and gloom, and despite my issues to this point, the chimney similarly provided some relief and this climbing I was able to enjoy. But the joy was short lived, as just before the summit ridge (in Roach's words), "There is a long step across in this section, but the rock is very clean." Yeah, great, but suppose my boots happen to be wet and muddy, what happens then? After struggling with this and refusing the webbing that Marianne dangled in front of my face that undoubtedly manifested the joys of climbing, I somehow managed to gain the final few feet to the summit ridge.
Marty on the summit - No sweat!
Marianne on the summit - No more centennials!
I pray on the summit - Dear God, please stop jerking me around . . .
And then came the summit! Marty gave a symbolic "no sweat" pose that befits a real good climber and caver, Marianne celebrated her 100th centennial, and I just prayed. "Dear God, I now realize that I have angered you greatly, and I promise to try to be a better person. But for now, could you please stop jerking me around on this big rock and give me a break on the descent? Thank you."
From the photos on and near the summit, you can tell the weather was just peachy. Lots of sunshine and just a great day to be on Jagged. But we made it, and all that remained was getting down.
The weather was just peachy
Both Marianne and I took a belay from the summit ridge, and a 30m rope is sufficient to belay from the summit ridge and down to the start of the chimney. The chimney is not hard to downclimb, but I sure appreciated the belay on the long-step-across. And similarly, Marianne and I again took belays on the two exposed sections on the backside of Jagged. When your confidence is shot, you take what is available to safely get down.
The rappels on the two upper cruxes went smoothly, and a doubled 30m rope is sufficient for both rappels. The real fun came on the last rappel of the first (and lowest) crux. Based upon other trip reports, we decided to take a 30m rope and a pull cord. This allowed us to do a single-rope rappel here, and after we were done, we used the pull cord to retrieve the 30m rope. It worked like a charm.
A single-rope rappel at the first crux, with the pull cord off to the right
Now safely at the bottom of the first crux, Jagged had been climbed and we returned to camp where it again rained. Surprise, surprise. Although, it should be noted that we did see a little sun at Jagged Pass on the way back. I would hate to imply that the weather totally sucked. It just mostly sucked.
Thursday 7/18 - Leviathan, Vallecito
From our camp in Noname meadow at 10,800', we again climbed to Jagged Pass and climbed Leviathan and Vallecito. The key for Leviathan is to stay left at about 13,200' and not climb to point 13420. To reach the summit, the route stays off the south face, and one should again bear left beyond the saddle east of point 13,420, and then find the class 3 path of least resistance on the north side of Leviathan.
Point 13420 in the background and why you go climber's left
Marty lounging on the summit of Leviathan
Climbing Vallecito is straight forward and class 2 on its west ridge. The west ridge is gained by climbing a short and simple class 3 wall just slightly beyond the Vallecito-Leviathan saddle. (Note: we stayed away from Leviathan’s southeast ridge to get from Leviathan to Vallecito. It looks like a special kind of project from what I saw of it.)
Friday 7/19 - Knife Point
Ormes suggests Knife Point should be climbed by entering a prominent gully and then finding an exit couloir on the right to gain grassy terrain. Marty found a grassy ramp to the north of the main gully that allows you to enter the gully higher up at about 11,700' as opposed to 11,400'.
After the climb of Knife Point, we backpacked out to the "camper's meadow" a short distance from Needleton.
While lounging around camp waiting for the 11:15AM train, I spotted a stump that stood near a campfire ring. It read "Gerry's 637 13ers." Now I knew what that was about, because I recalled Gerry Roach finished up his 13ers with climbs of Monitor and Animas. No doubt the stump was a remnant of a celebration a few years ago.
An unexpected find . . .
Now perhaps I was in the wrong to do so, but I found the stump to be somewhat out of place. It could just sit there in obscurity beside the camp fire ring, so I decided it best to move the stump to the trail intersection that climbers need to take to hike to the upper meadow that then leads to the beginning of the Ruby Creek trail. Just the night before, I helped a couple climbers find the Ruby Creek trail because they missed this turnoff. Perhaps the stump might assist future climbers, and the presence of the stump can channel Om as a simple blessing to those who pass into the Weminuche.
I look down at the Animas River as I contemplate taking up fishing as my new hobby
- In sports, when a team plays poorly but still wins, the team is said to have "won ugly." And that sums up my feelings about Jagged - summiting ugly.
- Congratulations to Marianne for finishing the centennials. Well done!
- And thank you, Marty! Needless to say, we couldn't have done it without you!
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