| Willow Lake 13ers at the Summer Gathering
Saturday July 28, 2007
Mt Adams (13,931') and "Montana Mujeres" (13,546')
Climbing Party: shanahan96 and Chicago Transplant
Guest Appearance by stevevets689
West Ridge via Willow Lake on Adams (Class 2+)
Northeast Ridge on "Mujeres" (Class 2+)
One of my goals for this weekend's Summer Gathering was to close out the Willow Lake area Centennial Thirteeners. Jamie and Stephen were game for an ascent of Mt Adams and the neighboring "Tri" known locally as "Montana Mujeres". After hiking in late the night before we didn't get camp set up until around 2am. We decided a 7am start time would be about right to give us a chance to at least try and get something resembling a decent night's sleep. Believe it or not, the weather at 7am was actually outstanding. Check out this view of Kit Carson from camp taken at 7.02am:
It quickly deteriorated and the first wave of rain showers started to move in by 8am: A theme that would carry for the day. We started off from camp and traversed over the lake below some cliffs on steep grassy slopes. The wet grass made things tricky and we found that "traction" was not a word we would be using to describe what our boots were able to achieve today. After a quick breakfast break under some overhanging cliffs, Steve decided to head back down so he could keep his gear dry for Sunday, having already been up Adams, Kit was #1 for him. Jamie and I continued on and rounded the cliffs into the lush upper basin. Here willows and tall grass made sure our boots wouldn't dry out for weeks and our second rain shower prompted a rain gear break. I wrapped my pack in a poncho (the would later be deemed the "Superman Cape"), put on my jacket and we headed on towards Mt Adams.
Our next objective was the scree gully (seen above) that leads to the 12,900' Adams-Mujeres Saddle. It wasn't too bad, but the rain made the slopes a little slippery. As we ascended Chris P. made his way across the ridge having gotten an earlier start. We reached the saddle and made our way up the steep ridge. The route is pretty clear until the summit block; you just follow the crest on class 2+ rock. You can skirt this on grassy class 2 to the side, but wet grass isn't much fun. As we neared the summit block the terrain got steeper, and soon we had to figure out how to bypass the imposing wall above
After going left proved to be futile, we traversed right until we found a class 2+/easy 3 gully to climb up the ridge. The wet rock made it a little difficult to get a good grip on the rock, but we were able to make it up without incident. Here is Jamie nearing the top of this gully:
Once back on the ridge crest it was a class 2+ scamper to the small summit where we were treated to views of the neighboring high peaks and the valley floor far below. From here the Crestone Group looks pretty good, even being threatened by rain:
We finished up our pictures and snacks and headed off the summit block the same way we ascended. We stayed lower on the ridge this time, choosing the wet grass over the wet rock for descent. The views of our next objective, "Montana Mujeres", urged us along before the weather decided to get any worse
The climbing up to the Mujeres summit was similar to Adams, wet grass and class 2+ rock on the ridge. Here is a view of Jamie heading up the ridge with Adams' west ridge in the background
The summit block is much more straightforward, just rounded talus and grass. The views are equally spectacular, especially seeing as you can see into the upper Willow Lake drainage unobstructed.
The sun even tried to poke out once or twice, but was intermingled with some rain showers. The descent went smoothly, and we were back at camp for a late lunch with Jamie Nellis (who had climbed Challenger) and Steve (who caught up on his sleep). Our lunch was immediately followed by a 4 hour soaker of heavy rain that had us all hiding out in our tents until 6.30pm.
Sunday July 29, 2007
Challenger Point (14,081'), "The Prow" (13,980'), Columbia Point (13,980') and "Kitty Kat Carson" (13,980')
Climbing Party: Chicago Transplant with many 14ers.com members along the way
North Slopes on Challenger (Class 2+)
Kit Carson Avenue with side trip to "The Prow" (Class 3)
West Slopes on Columbia Point (Class 3)
Traverse to "Kitty Kat Carson" (Class 2)
It was decided to have a 5am meeting time above the lake to get the summer gathering crew together. Originally some of us were planning on the north ridge of Kit Carson, but due to wet slopes and the threat of rain we decided to play it safe and stick to the standard route. After meeting several of the members of the site, I took off with Shad to try and catch up the Jamies. The sunrise shots of the neighboring peaks were inspiring:
After about a half hour of lung busting climbing on the muddy trail we reached them near the base of the steeper scree. We continued on as a part of 4 through the loose wet mess to gain the ridge at the notch. From here it was a quick jaunt over the solid ridge crest to the summit of Challenger. We took some quick pictures and headed off towards Kit Carson Avenue with a poor unfortunate climber who was not a site member that we kidnapped on the summit. We all traversed the Avenue together to the small saddle with "The Prow". From here myself and the Jamies headed over to the top of "The Prow", probably the only way we were ever going to stand on top of it. We headed back to the avenue and dropped around to the Kit Carson ascent gully. At this point I decided that with sketchy weather I was going to head over to Columbia Point seeing as it was my primary objective for the day.
At first I spent about 5 minutes staring at the face wondering how this was a 3rd class route. I saw a ledge down below that I hoped lead to easier terrain, and followed a climbers trail down. This photo looks back at the avenue (above the snow) and the slopes leading to Kit Carson's summit:
This turned out to be a good way to go, even though it took me well below the 13,620' saddle described in the route descriptions for this route. From this ledge there was a class 3 gully with plentiful holds on good broken rock. If you stay towards you left on this section you will find the easiest passage. To the right was a wet, slabby 4th class wall that I accidentally got myself on. I traversed off of it before I got too far because the wet rock and wet boots were not treating me well. There were some great misty views of Kit Carson from this section:
Near the top of this gully the terrain eased and looks down into the Outward Bound Couloir. Being this close up to the ridge the view is confusing, it seems this may be a spur of the Couloir because it seemed higher than where the saddle should be based on what I could see from the Kit Carson Avenue. Either way, the route from this point was cairned and followed the predominantly class 2 ledges the guidebooks talk about. This is a view of Shanahan96 climbing these ledges from our ascent a little later:
The ledges led around a rib where they gave way to a climber's trail that I can only imagine heads to the Bear's Playground. At this point I left the trail and scrambled up good class 3 rock to the summit. The dedication plaque is similar to the one on Challenger, but with an embossed version of the flight patch included:
The summit register is still the original one from the dedication as well, placed in August of 2003. It felt good to be able to sign the original, and I am sure it will be there for a few more years seeing as it was not even half filled. I hung out and had a snack while watching many of the 14ers.com members over on Kit Carson reaching the summit. You can see several of you in this picture, it was taken around 8.45am to give you an idea of whether you are visible or not:
I decided while I was there to pop over to "Kitty Kat Carson", an unranked summit of the same elevation. The drop between the two is about 80', but the route is easy class 2 along a good climber's trail. There are good views of the Crestones from here as they are unobstructed by other peaks. This climb completed my tour of Kit Carson's subpeaks, but no Kit Carson! Kind of a different way to experience the mountain, but it was great to add another Centennial peak to the tick list!
On the way back down Shanahan96 was coming around the corner on the ledge below the avenue and told me that I had to climb the peak again. I took a 5 minute break and ditched my pack then followed him back up. I guess with the wet rock and imposing looking face Jamie Nellis didn't want him climbing alone. We topped out in about 20 minutes, and then headed back down for the long descent. The clouds were starting to roll in again as well and I got some nice misty shots on Kit Carson Avenue of our return:
We met up with stevevets689 and KirkT at the Kit-Challenger saddle and all descended together back to camp. Jamie and Steve headed down the trail with Jamie and I finished up packing and had a little lunch before meeting up with them on the trail on the way out. We parted ways at the trailhead and headed out for the long drive back home. All together the weekend had in excess of 9600' of climbing! My body is still made at me, especially my right foot which is still sore from being smashed in wet boots for the long trail decent. This weekend is an off weekend, so maybe my feet will forgive me soon!
It was nice to meet all of you, hope you all had success with your individual goals. Hopefully the next gathering will have better weather!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):