| The Lizard Head Highspeed
Lizard Head 13,113
~8.1 Miles and ~2,900 Gain
October 27th, 2008.
After my main climbing partner moved to Ohio, I was convinced I wasn't going to climb Lizard Head this year. I found a new rock climbing partner quickly and suggested the possibility of climbing Lizard Head next year. However, after I flew over Lizard Head on the afternoon of the 26th and saw little snow on it, I figured it might be worth giving it a try. When I finished work around 5:30 PM, I talked to my partner and told him there was little snow in the area and to my surprise he suggested we should leave that night to climb it. I was spent from a very long day at work and I didn't really want to make the long drive that evening. I figured I wanted to sleep in a warm bed and leave my house in Lakewood around 3:00 AM and make the drive in the morning and that is exactly what we did.
We left my house at 3:00 AM and started making the long drive towards Telluride. It took us 6 ˝ hours to drive to the Cross Mountain trailhead, where we packed our bags and started hiking down an old dirt road at 9:50 AM. After following the Cross Mountain trail to the saddle at 11,979' we headed up the west ridge to the Lizard Head massive. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. We geared up and started climbing a little before noon.
The first pitch was definitely steeper than the photos I had seen of it. I let my partner lead since he was a solid 5.10 trad leader and could lead much quicker than I could. Since we had a 70 meter rope, we decided to climb the first two pitches in one (you could also do it in one pitch with a 60 meter rope).
Even with the sun shining, the rock was really cold and my hands started feeling numb. My partner didn't like leading on the choss with numb hands either. He complained how he couldn't feel if the hand holds would give out or not. I personally thought the crux of the climb was right below the anchor at the top of the first pitch. It might have been an easier chimney climb if I wasn't wearing a backpack. The climbing on the first pitch felt like 5.6 with a 5.8 chimney finish. Nevertheless, the texture of the rock was very different from anything else I have technically climbed and the rock on the first pitch was indeed chossy.
Once we reached the top of the first pitch, I belayed my partner up a small exposed 5 foot class 4 headwall that leads to the class 3 scrambling pitch. Even though the climbing was easy up this headwall, it was nice to have a belay. The class 3 pitch was loose but somewhat enjoyable for me, but my partner would beg to differ.
At the base of the third and final pitch, we were burning up. It is almost November, and I was sweating. I quickly shed my fleece and my partner started leading the third pitch. Without any trouble, he bypassed the crux overhang. At the top of the crux overhand, there were two options, continue up the chimney or climb left up easier face climbing. My partner started up the face but headed back to into the chimney. Even though the climbing was easier on the face, the chimney was much more solid. Also, the anchors at the top of the third pitch are at the top of the chimney not the face. Shortly after my partner made it to the top, I followed. I thought the climbing on the third pitch was much more solid and easier, 5.7-5.8.
I ditched my pack when I reached the top of the third pitch and made the final scramble to summit around 2:15 PM. The summit of Lizard Head, was without a doubt, one of finest I have climbed. The views were great and the exposure off of the east face were exhilarating. As usual with October weather, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
As for descending, I brought a extra 60 meter rope in my pack for the rappel. The two bolts and the fixed pin at the top looked good. With the double rope rappel, we were hoping to make the belay station at the top of the first pitch. That wasn't the case. After rappelling down the third pitch, we still had to down climb some of the class 3 pitch and the class 4 headwall back down to the first belay station.
The last rappel could be done with one 70 meter rope or safely in two rappels with a 60 meter rope. Halfway down the first rappel, there are two fixed pins for an anchor (top of the "first" pitch). I brought an extra rope for no reason! As my partner rappelled off the last pitch, he dislodged a basketball sized rock which whacked him in the shin. It left a good strawberry, but nothing major.
The hike out was uneventful and we arrived at the car at 4:30 PM. We started driving, where I was going to drop off my partner in Grand Junction, only to be picked up by another partner so he could go climbing for 2 more days in Moab. The crazy thing was we had both the sunrise and sunset driving through Delta. After dropping my partner off, I drove all the way home and arrived at home at 11:00 PM. Only with a few cat naps in the car, I had been up for 20+ hours, and had completed the Lizard Head Highspeed.
Being a pretty solid 5.8 trad leader, I don't think I would have liked leading the first pitch even though it is supposed to be the easier of the two pitches. The rock is solid for peak baggers but not solid for rock climbers. My partner noted it was some of the scariest climbing he has done. I didn't think it was that bad, but then again, I didn't lead it. I would have felt fine leading the last pitch as it is much more solid. I would also recommend continuing up the chimney and not climbing the face on the third pitch. As for pro, we brought cams (didn't have #4 cam which would protect the third pitch crux perfectly) and nuts, and we didn't use any nuts. Nevertheless, I would recommend NOT doing it as a day trip from Denver; it makes the trip much more brutal.
The Lizard Head.
Climbing pitch 1.
Climbing pitch 1.
Looking up pitch 1.
Looking at the top of pitch 3.
Crux on pitch 3.
Climbing the chimney on pitch 3.
Looking down pitch 3.
Summit ridge to summit.
Rappel off of pitch 3.
Looking up rappel off of pitch 3.
Pitch 2 class 3 scramble.
Looking down headwall to pitch one belay station.
Pitch 1 anchor, Yikes.
Rappelling off of pitch 1
Looking down pitch one on rappel.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):