| “T0“ and an attempt on Dallas
July 24-26, 2009
Dallas Peak (13,809') Attempt
San Juan Range
Climbers: Carson Black & Darin Baker
Trailhead: Mill Creek
Approach Trail: Deep Creek Trail to Sneffels Highline Trail
"T0": S (south) ridge then connected with the E (east) ridge
From High Camp
"T0": ~4mi RT (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: ~2400'
Time to Complete: ~5.5hrs
Gear: Essentials, backpack equipment (e.g., tent, sleeping systems, jetboil, 3 days food), helmet, two 35m 9.1mm ropes, harness, belay/rappel device, prusiks, 4 alpine draws, two cams (#1 and #3), two hex's (#12 and #13), 1 locking leave'er 'biner, & 20' webbing
After climbing San Miguel Peak on Friday, Carson and I made a couple of stops in Telluride before heading to the Mill Creek TH (trailhead) to pack into our high camp.
This was going to be a big day with 6+ miles and 3300' elevation gain already, and now with heavy packs, we were going to add another 2.5+ miles with 2150' of elevation gain!
All of this on maybe 5 hours of sleep Thursday night!
Using Mike Garratt and Bob Martins' guidebook ("Colorado's High Thirteeners") as a reference, we were looking for a campsite near 11,400' for our high camp.
This location would put us in position to climb "T0" (i.e., T Zero) on Saturday, and then climb Dallas Peak on Sunday.
With the big day on Friday, climbing "T0" on Saturday made the most sense to us because it would be a short day, therefore giving us plenty of time to rest Saturday afternoon.
After Dallas, we would stay one more night and on Monday we would pack out for the drive back to the Springs.
Lastly, this part of our San Juan trip would check off another bicentennial peak on Carson's list, and I would check a centennial off of mine. So long as the weather would hold for a couple of more days…
The hike into camp was a pleasant hike through aspen groves and meadows. Along the way, I could only imagine what this would be like in the fall!
One of the meadows along the way, with Dallas in the background.
Views south from the Sneffels Highline Trail
We got into our camp around 8pm, and in time to set up the tent before dark!
We found a spot on the north side of the trail, just east of a stream crossing and in the same drainage we would use for the approach to "T0" the next day.
The Approach for "T0"
Carson and I were up by 5am and on the "trail" at 5:55.
From camp, we headed NW (northwest) up a steep grassy slope. The elk activity in this area was quickly appreciated, because they have "built" a nice trail up this slope that was quite efficient for us!
Above the grassy slope, we came upon a rock glacier that we weaved our way through until we reached the headwall (of talus) that's below the access point of the south ridge.
Looking at the headwall of talus.
The best route up it is on the left side, staying climber's left near a dirt/scree section for the most efficient uphill progress.
Once above the headwall, we contoured to the south-north running ridge as described in Garratt and Martins' book.
The slope leading to the ridge is full of loose shale.
Damn! I was hoping Garratt and Martin were joking.
The gullies that are east of the south ridge, which are used to get higher on the mountain to gain the east-west running ridge were no joke either.
More shale on steep terrain. In places, there's ledges that are short and shallow, littered with small broken pieces of shale. We would take a few steps, clean off ledges for more secure foot placements, take a few steps, and repeat.
In other places, we would have a couple of decent class 3 moves, only to top out on down-sloping, loose, and yup, you guessed it, more shale!
I think there were a few times Carson would hear me say, "this frikkin' sucks!"
At the same time, I was thinking this is going to really suck coming down!
A look at the options to ascend: pick your poison.
(Picture was taken on our descent.)
The south-north running ridge is on the left, but below the orange looking rock that can be seen. Our poison was about 2-3 gullies in from the ridge crest line, where we weaved in between a couple of the towers and then worked our way up to the east-west running ridge.
Carson working his way up the slope.
We hit the east-west running ridge at 8:30am, and it was a relief to be on better terrain! Before heading west to the summit, we scouted a possible descent route to the east of where we topped out. What we found looked more viable for a descent than what we came up.
Looking east along the ridge, Dallas Peak is just right of center at the end of the ridge.
Carson reaching the summit at 9am
Welcome to the San Juans…..
The ramping north faces of the Trinities & Vestal
We hung out on the summit until 9:45 and then started our way back east down the ridge.
We took a different gully down, which was similar to plunge stepping soft snow, yet at the same time like skiing it too!
It was probably the steepest, deepest, & loosest scree ski I have had in a long time!
Near the bottom, we had to be careful because of down-sloping ledges that were covered with scree, but it was only for a short section.
It took us probably 20 minutes at the most to descend into the bowl below.
The drainage leads to the Sneffels Highline trail, and to where our camp is located.
Some weeds by our camp. They were everywhere!
Carson and I got back to camp at 11:25, and we didn't waste any time getting set for a long afternoon nap!
Attempt on Dallas
During the night, it rained three different times. When Carson got out of the tent Sunday morning at 4am, the first thing he said was, "it's awful wet out here!"
Sounds about right.
I asked him how the skies looked, and at that time there were some stars out.
When we left camp at 5am, there was a small patch of clear skies over Mt. Emma to our east, but elsewhere it was cloudy.
The trouble was that we couldn't tell what kind of clouds they were because it was still dark. Time will tell.
I was skeptical from the start, with all the rain we had overnight and the clouds I could see already, it didn't seem too promising. But we needed to at least put ourselves in position for an attempt if it should clear up and dry out.
As we started to round the south ridge I heard a low and long rumble of sorts.
I stopped and asked, "was that thunder?" We both listened intently, but decided it must be the stream that is around the bend.
We continued on for another 10 yards or so, when we heard the distinct sound of thunder again, the thunder of hundreds of hooves hitting the ground! We spooked a herd of elk!
It was an amazing sound to hear, I only wish we could see them!
We stood there for what seemed like a few minutes until they were well out of earshot. (Later we would see the evidence of their passing, with the grass torn up from them running.)
We came to the turn off for Dallas and headed up. It was still a little dark, so we stopped for a short break mid-way up the grassy slope to wait for better light to see which direction to head in.
Once it became lighter, it was obvious which way to go (Up!) so away we went.
We came upon the "hardpan" area, but on this morning, it wasn't hardpan at all due to the moisture from the rain.
I continued to watch the skies, and I looked to the SW (southwest) and I could see that the Wilson's and Dolores Peak were socked in and getting rain.
Then I felt my first rain drop. And then another.
We stopped and put on our rain jackets, as the rain became steadier. It wasn't a heavy rain, but a strong drizzle. It went on for 5 minutes or so, and then let up.
My skepticism didn't let up though.
With the weather being unsettled, the terrain already wet, and it's only 6:30am, the outlook did not look promising for a climb of Dallas.
Carson offered his thought of sitting it out to see if it would blow over, and maybe the sun would come out. I was doubtful, but I was ok with continuing on a little higher until we got to terrain that would be too dangerous to continue if it were wet.
We started to get into the class 3 ramp section that cuts through the 30' cliff band when I called it.
Muddy boots on wet rock isn't a good time. At least for me!
I thought it wasn't worth the risk to continue on, and I didn't want to wait for possible sunshine to dry out the route.
Carson was ok with this decision and we turned around and headed back to camp.
Looking towards Mt Emma coming off of the south slopes of Dallas
Back at camp, I looked up at Dallas and wanted to see lightning and hear the real crack of thunder! But what I saw was this….
With that sight, I told Carson "I'm disappointed (in not getting to climb Dallas), but I don't regret it (for turning back)."
I would rather start a climb (like Dallas) with promising conditions and risk the possibility of rain on our return, than to start a climb with it already raining.
We packed up camp and headed out.
When we reached the meadows below on the Sneffels Highline Trail, Dallas was socked in again.
Back at the car, I heard my first real crack of thunder. Followed by more, and then rain.
I think we made the right decision.
Thanks for reading,
Approximate route for "T0" and of our campsite. (I don't use a GPS)
San Miguel TR: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=6703&start=25&cpgm=tripmain