| Not a 14er or a 13er, but still cool
After a total of 50 minutes of sleep, I woke Sunday morning at 12:00 a.m. to meet my climbing partner at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder at 1:30 a.m. so that we could climb the South Face of the Petit Grepon, one of the all-time classic alpine rock routes of North America, located in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I met Patrick at 1:30 a.m. as planned, and we drove to the Glacier Gorge trailhead, arriving about 2:45. We quickly packed our gear, turned on our headlamps and left to hike the nearly 5 miles up past The Loch (a really cool alpine lake) up to Sky Pond and the base of the Petit. Between the Loch and Sky Pond, we had to rock hop up through a raging waterfall trying to step up on rocks that were jutting out of the water. I got soaked, but my pants and approach shoes dried pretty quickly.
We made it quietly past other climbers who were bivvied and still sleeping at the base of the talus leading from Sky Pond to the base of the Petit. We arrived at the base of the climb and were roped up, ready to step on the rock at 5:05 a.m. I climbed the first pitch with my headlamp still on.
At the base following the climb (it was too dark to show a picture before the climb).
I didn't take any pictures during the climb because my camera was too bulky to fit in my smaller pack that I carried during the climb (although Patrick took one of me on the summit with his camera – which I will add to this report when he sends it to me). I took some pictures from the base, and have supplemented it with a few pictures from the internet that show the spire and route.
Here is a picture of the route. The turquoise shows the route we took, and the white are the rappels down. We only had to make 5 raps because we climbed with two 70 meter ropes.
The first few pitches were relatively low grade as it was slab climbing until it started getting a little steeper. On about the 3rd pitch it started getting steeper, and we started crack and face climbing from there. Patrick made quick time of each pitch, easily working the moves and setting gear as necessary. The weather was cool, but not cold – perfect for climbing until we got to the very-exposed 6th belay stance. We both froze on that belay because the wind was so strong. Climbing near the top was mind-blowing because of the huge exposure on the face. Topping out with the 360 degree view straight down on all sides was so cool. We arrived at the summit about 11:00 a.m.
Picture of the summit (not my picture) -- but the Petit is the spire on the right. The route climbs the other side of the face and the rappels are also on the other side. Nonetheless, I stook on this summit, walked around on the top, and enjoyed the 360 degree drop offs.
We only stayed on the summit a couple of minutes – needing to get down off the route before the storms came in, so we dropped our ropes and enjoyed 5 very long fun raps down the side of the rock.
I took another couple of pictures as we left the spire and suffered downclimbing the hugely loose talus back down to Sky Pond.
Image #5 (not yet uploaded)
At one point between Sky Pond and The Loch, we passed two elk. I walked right up to one, close enough to put my hand out and touch it, and snapped a shot. She just stood there looking at me. I didn't attempt to touch her though and walked on.
Our trip down was uneventful.
Patrick looking back at Taylor Glacier.
I took a few other shots, particularly of The Loch which is just a gorgeous alpine lake.
We took the climber's short cut down to avoid some of the Sunday tourists.
Patrick on an open rock ledge on the climber's short cut.
We arrived back at the car about 2:50 p.m. just as the sky opened up and it started pouring rain.
What a truly amazing trip and experience. As always, Patrick is an animal, and was definitely in his element climbing alpine rock. He smoked the crux pitch and was so solid on everything all day.
We stopped in Estes for some lunch and beers and I got back home about 5:30 p.m., with sore quads, sore feet, a sore lower back, but having a huge smile on my face as I immediately fell into an exhausted sleep.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):