| No one in No Name and a fine finisher
Balsam Lake - Tenmile Basin
...........(Continued from Vestal Group)
Day 4 - Tenmile scrambles with high camp @ 12,200ft
After a successful traverse of the Grenadiers of the Vestal Basin, we set our sights towards the next basin south, Tenmile. With Glen peeling out early, three of us remained, so the chances of cannibalism increased but we were like minded friends, so that was probably not a big concern. I will admit though, Kiefer and Chris both had some sort of sick fascination with Meatloaf (not the food) which was quite troubling to me, since I had written that assbag off as the worst thing to happen to Rock N' Roll in America early on in life. Apparently people from Detroit and Buffalo think differently, must have something to do with a way of coping with teams like the Lions and the Bills (I apologize for the low blow). I guess I'm grateful that no songs from Bat out of Hell 3 were played on the ride home.
Anyways, Meatloaf sucks, Tenmile Basin does not. We accessed this region by gaining the Vestal-W.Trinity pass at around 12,900 ft and made the tedious descent towards the large, imposing Balsam Lake, which lies just west of the Storm King region. We had brought along Sarah Thompson's trip report from her trip in the Grenadiers from last summer, which had some great beta on a few obscure climbs in the area. After searching around the lake for an ideal camping spot, we finally found one, along the southwestern edge near a creek and solid swimming hole. Worried about the food supply, we quickly set up tents and proceded to sprawl out the remaining snack and dinner selection we had from our packs. Soon after doing this, we realized food would not be a problem on this trip, pack weight would be, we practically had enough for 4 people for at least 9 or 10 days. After a nice Tuna and Ramen dinner, we were treated with an amazing sunset over Balsam Lake, with sunset reflection shots off the lake galore.
We woke up around 4:30 again and made our way for Peak 9, a route referred to by Sarah as an "interesting scramble". We would soon find out this to be true in a weird and tedious way.
Chris and Kiefer scouting out a sane route up Peak 9 from the 8/9 saddle
Basically, the only way to climb Peak 9 without condeming yourself to an awful death is to traverse southeast all the way around the mountain (similar to the way you traverse all the way around Longs, except this route is on PCP), gain the SE gully leading up to the very, very long, jagged summit ridge, find the path of least resistence, which we found to be the ridge crest direct about halfway along it and try not to slip off the edge as you near the summit.
Kiefer scaling the ridge direct with the Eastern Weminuche in the background
Kiefer gaining the exposed summit of Peak 9. This was a well earned summit to say the least
We saw an interesting summit register name on the forefront of the list - Jennifer Sears (Roach's wife before she was his significant other bck in 1996). We got a pretty good laugh out of one of the comments, with someone referring to this mountain as a "PNP peak" (a poop in pants summit).
The downclimb made us realize how dangerous a mountain Peak 9 really is. I mentioned before that you need to traverse all the way around the southeast ledges of the mountain. These ledges happen to be conveniently located directly under the upper ledges, which just so happens to be the continuance of the route, which means if anyone is below you as you pass by, they'll be greeted with some decent sized boulders flying down at them with nowhere to get out of the way. When you think Hourglass, you think a funnel effect where one, maybe two baseball (sometimes bowling ball) sized rocks will fly down at you, with the assumption you have the where with all to assess the situation and use your wits to get out of the way. Peak 9's ledge system works a tad differently and is nowhere near forgiving. When one rocks is dislodged, it picks up speed at an alarming rate, makes a couple friends on the way down (we'll call these friends sharp boulders with intent to harm) and the result is a rock slide frenzy of epic proportions. Simply put, Peak 9 was probably the most dangerous mountain I've ever climbed.
After eventually making our back to the 8/9 saddle, we decided against a summit of 8 and made our way for Storm King, which we heard had one of the best views and most unique summits of all the Weminuche mountains. We would not be disapointed. After a quick class 3/4 scramble to gain the summit ridge, we were blessed with this view looking West :
Chris reaching Storm King's exposed narrow summit
Its hard to make out but to his right is the 15 pitch 5.8 north face of the mountain and it was an intimidating drop off, all i've got to say about that.
We arrived back to our camp at Balsam with plenty of light left to make our way towards our next camp, which we all agreed should be at some place cool, like a high camp directly below the Peak 5 and 6 saddle overlooking the southside of the Grenadiers in upper Tenmile Basin. The hike from Balsam Lake to this location would be a bitch though, real big bitch. Kiefer was in lead, like usual for basin traverses, since his pace was ideal, nice, steady and slow. Carrying 45-50 pound packs was wearing on us for these steep climbs, but after a few loose rock scrambles, some bent poles from frustration and some hard, deep breathes, we were treated with a fine campsite at 12,200 ft and this view of the Vestal/Arrow :
Kiefer and camp @ 12,200 ft with our next day's objective, the Peak 5/6 saddle in the background.
We hoped for solid weather that night and surely got it, not even a peep of wind the whole night. I think the only thing I heard was the soothing sound of Kiefer's ass, which was just music to the ears. Then again, it really was no surprise since our chef for the night, ChrisJFerraro decided it'd be best if we mixed together one jumbled mess of rice, curry chicken, instant refried beans and a brick of cheese for dinner, covered with smoked tabasco sauce and Mrs. Dash. It was felt by all for the remainder of the trip.
Day 5 - Casual Day w/ quick assaults of Peak 5 and 6 and a high camp @ 12,600 ft w/ view of Jagged
Peak 5 was a nice surprise, at least for me. It had a solid mix of views, scrambling and a short climb with a very intersting summit, probably the best views we'd seen of the Pigeon Group yet, as well as Vestal-Arrow. The summit was only 300 or so feet from the Peak 5/6 saddle we had gained that morning, so it'd make for a nice, relaxing day.
Chris on the summit of Peak 5
Peak 6 was very different. It was a straightfoward, 800 foot scree slog and I was not happy about the loose boulders at all. I reached the summit quite disgruntled, but was appreciative of the view we gained of Jagged, our next day's objective. After a quick bite, we made out way for camp at a high alpine lake @ 12,600 feet, our highest camp thus far. I decided my joints needed a reawakening and took a very cold dip in the lake, with Chris filming the event. After a long nap and nice early dinner, we were treated to an amazing sunset shot of the west side of Jagged :
Day 6 - Jagged Mtn, Leviathon and our last campsite of the trip in No Name Basin under Knife Point
Since we were essentially directly under Jagged Pass, we got an extra hour or so of sleep and hit the trail around 5:30am or so, reaching the pass in about 45 minutes.
Our view of the route from the pass @ 13,020 ft. Scottsu, in his report of Jagged a year ago, drew out a pretty solid route outline of where to go. It pretty much traverses along the grassy ramp down low, heads up near the snow gulley (but never crosses), angles up and to the right along exposed, low class 5 blocks till you reach a notch in the ridge out of view from the pass.
Our view from the pass of our route
Chris climbing one of the 2 or 3 crux pitches, this one just below the notch to reach Jagged's backside
The backside was straighfoward, but definately exposed to our rightside, as shown in this next photo of Chris traversing towards a vantage point directly under the class 3/4 chimney leading up to Jagged's summit
The chimney was probably some of the toughest climbing of the route given its narrowness, but the exposure wasn't bad and counter pressure climbing made for an easy ascent of the section.
Chris looking down on me from the top of Jagged
The summit was all ours, as was the entire basin
Kiefer and I both agreed a downclimb of Jagged would be the most anxious part of the trip thus far, but we did bring along the rope and some gear for a possible rapp is we found it necesary. But once we began the downclimb, we found out that all this gear we hauled up into the Weminuche was all for nothing, since none of it was used the entire trip. We made it down safely nonetheless, with a few tricky downclimbs along the crux's to boot, ate some food and decided on a summit of Leviathon, right across the basin from Jagged and a possible attempt at Valecito, which would have to wait for another day/trip, since the ridge between the two would prove a more serious undertaking than we'd expect.
To make a long story short, when climbing Leviathon from Jagged Pass, stay along the left side of the ridge, skirting around the left side of the false summit (do not take the right, you will get cliffed out, be forced to downclimb back to 13,000 ft and climb some loose crap up to the summit only to realize you could've avoided all this by staying left).
Chris on summit of Leviathon w/ Jagged and Pigeon Group in the background
We made it back to camp unscathed, pretty pumped about another epic climb in the Weminuche, but reluctant to leave our surreal campsite at the lake at 12,600 ft. What was assumed to be a pretty straighfoward downclimb to our next camp at 11,100 ft at the basin under Knife Pt, proved to be the most problematic section of the entire trip. The trail was nearly impossible to find at times and wilow bashing would become a familiar practice, pretty much all the way to 11,800 ft. I downright lost my temper and my cool after getting stuck in a quagmire of marshes at one point and now am down to one BD trekking pole as a result. I finally calmed down when we were presented with this view of our last objective of the trip :
Upper No Name Basin
We finally found a trail leading us directly into the valley below, where we'd find a campsite at the merging of trails at the bottom of the slope. We had phenomenal access to a crystal clear stream and this view of Knife Pt with alpenglow around 8pm :
Knife Pt from camp
Day 7 - Knife Point and packing out of the Weminuche, including our first confrontation with homosapiens in 96 hours
Chris and I hit the trail at the usual time, Kiefer staying behind our of lack of interest and sleep. To make a long story short, the slope to reach the saddle below Peak 10 and Knife Pt is very steep. We gained the summit an hour and 45 minutes later, surrounded by alpenglow at 7 in the morning on our last day in this mind bending region of Colorado. It was a fitting end to our much sought after trip. The summit was small, exposed and since september of 06, the only names on the register were Gerry and Jennifer Roach, 2 other randoms and the infamous photographer Jack Brauer, who had been there a week before us.
Pigeon Group - next summer's agenda
We noticed a mountain goat and her/his cub down at the saddle. As we descended and reached the saddle, we again noticed the goats, it just so happened they were on the summit now and we were on the saddle. We thought, "how the f**k did they get up there?". With further observation, the goats seemed to have a "how did they get the f**k down there?" expression on their faces as they looked at us funny from above.
Anyways, the hike out was really long. I thought at one point I could ford the Animas to avoid the slog up Watertank Hill with Chris giving me odd looks. They forged ahead, I realized my stubborness and my ill-fated decision soon after, took a much not needed dip in the river, luckily salvaging my camera from water log, made the not so welcomed trudge up the hill, almost started to cry like a bitch when I realized I had only gained 150 feet, and met up with Kiefer and Chris at the Needleton train stop around 2:45pm to wait for the shitbox to take us home.
Night 7/Day 8 - A night in Durango, followed by many temptations on Saturday with an eventual decision to climb Coxcomb Pk
We got drunk on the train, well deserved in my opinion. Kiefer and I walked through the BK drive though across the street from our hotel, the Adobe Inn off 550, scrafed down some chicken tenders and called it a night, Chris nowhere to be seen.
In the morning, Matt (del sur) met up with us to get some grub at Carvers, a phenomenal breakfast joint with a solid IPA. After conversations ranging from our Weminuche Trip to a desert outing in the Maze District of Utah in October, we used all our willpower to avoid the San Juan Brewfest in town and make way for Cimarron and the narrow Coxcomb.
Day 9 - The Coxcomb
I commend whoever has read this far, I'm pretty much falling asleep writing this up.
The Coxcomb would be my first big mountain rappel or usage of any sort of rope outside a small canyon near Denver or rock gym. I kind of wish we could've climbed this peak on different terms, since the Weminuche pretty much hogged all my mental and emotional energy. Regardless of that fact, there was a no better way to finish off this trip, than with a climb of Coxcomb.
Coxcomb and the surrounding basin in the morning
The roundtrip from the parking lot for this peak was pretty long for a quick day trip, I believe it was about 12.4 miles and 3600 ft of elevation gain. The most annoying part of the day was the side hilling we did to keep from descending along the northern slopes of the peak. We free climbed all the way up the class 4/low 5 chimney to the notch, which was more or less, a mandatory rappel about 20-25 feet to a small saddle and then a quick scramble along an exposed ridge to the summit. I whipped out a pack of swisher sweets to finish off the trip with class, we fueled up on some last day rations and made our way back for the 5.6 clas 20 foot upclimb from the notch, a decision to rap the class 4 chimney (more or less for practice) and then we were home free.
Coxcomb's summit ridge looking West towards the Sneffels Group
What a fine finisher to the summer. Climbing with Chris and Kiefer has been one of the finest pleasures of my time in Colorado, all I've got to say about that. It was too bad Glen, a good friend of ours, couldn't join for the whole trip, but he had a legitimate excuse, not to mention a solid outing on Wham Ridge. For anyone seeking solitude in a way thats tough to describe, get out and do something like this, preferably with a good friend/climbing pal. We had great weather, great routes, great food and no regrets and we all literally couldn't wait to start planning something for next summer, even before the trip was over. Next stop, John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada's with a Whitney finish and then some surgery soon after to sideline me until ski season.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):