| Very airy weekend in the Sangres
Crestone Pk - via NW Buttress
East Crestone - via West Ridge
Crestone Needle - via Traverse
Tijeras Pk - via unknown Northern Couloir
Music Mtn - via East Ridge
It had been a relatively uneventful summer for climbing peaks so far. Juggling a job search, slowly dwindling bank account, a relationship, being an unofficial "guide" (more like babysitter) for my summer friends up Longs Peak and a newly found fascination with my recently acquired Concept 2 rowing machine, my priorities had turned from climbing. Come last thursday, I check my bank account and a pleasant surprise from the government had me planning a long awaited trip to the Sangres. I figured I wouldn't be able to find a partner with such short notice, but being out of the loop for a while quickly had me forgetting the fact that there are some people out there with a much bigger sense of adventure than myself. I called and left messages with a number of friends and my buddy John, who I had the pleasure of climbing the entire ridge of Capitol with, answered the call. He had been planning a trip for a Crestone Traverse later in the summer, but I guess his urges overcame him that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were on the road Friday afternoon and sipping some old Miller Lite's at the end of the South Colony TH in anticipation of a very full weekend.
Having done Capitol with John a month before, I knew his play it by ear climbing mentality and comfort with exposure would be a perfect fit for the peaks lying ahead, so just as we konked out for the night, we went over some routes and decided to give the Northwest Buttress on the Peak a try. We didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into, but that was kind of the idea.
Anyways, saturday began with one of the most scenic, inspiring approaches to a mountain I've ever experienced.
Needle/Broken Hand/Milwaukee in alpenglow
I had been anticipating this view of the Crestones for some time and I still was completely floored. One of these pictures will most definately be hanging on my wall in the near future.
We had gotten up a little too early, mainly because I thought I was going to nab Humboldt. When we reached the saddle between Humboldt and the Peak, my motivation to climb another 1000 feet just to tick a peak off a list I never intend on finishing anyway diminished and we opted to just sit there in the cold and wait for sunlight to show us our way to the Bears Playground. Thats what I would rather have done than climb Humboldt.
Our first view of Bears Playground was a grand one, with Columbia Pt showing its true colors around 6am.
And soon after we were presented with the beginning of our days work, the NW Buttress.
NW Buttress of Crestone Pk
And a closer up view, around 13,400ft (the junction where we either continue uo the Buttress or break right to the NW Couloir)
This is where, as Roach puts it, the delightful class 3 knob scrambling begins. We all seem to have a way with words, old Gerr Bear's sense of humor is just a tad twisted to say the least. Exposure aside, we agreed, this was delightful (and eventually terrifying).
John with the Pillar route and a huge drop to his right
The scrambling before we reached the "tricky class 4 downclimb" and the "complex class 4 exposed traverse" was a nice introduction to the infamous Crestone conglomerate. I've climbed these peaks a couple times before, but not in this classic fashion. Its probably the most fun one can have without pulling out the pro and ropes, but in the Crestones, I've learned there is a very thin red line between fun and insanity (or just a complete lack of fear of heights and a deep trust in those knobs staying put).
John enjoying the beginning of a day of constant scrambling
Now the fun begins. We topped out on this supposed "tower" around 14,240 ft, just to the NW of the East summit and looked for the notch entrance to the "tricky class 4 downclimb".
John scaling the top of the buttress.
Scaling the ridge
We found the notch and John began the 15-20 foot descent towards the exposed ledges below. We actually made quick work of this section, took a deep breath and then inhaled once again when we saw what lay ahead. Some reports in the past have done a good job of showing the exposure of this next section, but you still feel your balls in your throat when you see it in person.
John traversing with a lot of air below
lots of exposure on the backside of the buttress
The handholds and footholds were there when you absolutely needed them, but you still needed to look long and hard for them. We made sure to take pics of one another only after reaching some sort of safe haven and never, not for one mili-second, lost concentration. At one point, I was having trouble finding the next foothold below and thought for a second that I shit myself. Once I finally reached safe ground, I actually checked my pants to be sure it was all good. Luckily, it was, so John and I continued the scramble fest.
We reached the surprsingly crowded summit (and even more crowded red gully) and look upon with great pride, our route we somehow survived unscathed.
A tentative look at our route from the West summit
our route up the buttress from summit
We met a guy named Gabe on the summit who elected to join us on the East summit as well as the traverse and we were off soon after.
A look at the West summit from East summit
W.Crestone from E.Crestone
Having done little research on the traverse, we had almost no trouble finding not only the entrance to it, but cairns throughout, mainly due to having 3 solid eyes at all times.
Making decent progress along the class 2 ledges, far below on thesouthern side of the ridge.
Somewhere along the way, we got a tad off route. I'm no expert rocl climber, but I am familiar with the level of difficulties of a class 5 pitch. The 30-40 foot wall we encountered was nearly 80 degrees with small, knob handholds throughout. I'm fairly certain, after completing it in one piece, it was easily a 5.4/5.5. I remember hanging there with all 4 limbs, thinking I really wish I was roped up right now. After locating the best handholds I could find, as well as my testicles, I met up with Gabr and John, who had been patiently waiting for me.
Gabe along the near vertical wall
off-route, lots of exposure
Soon enough, we were at the base of the final 150 feet of classic Crestone knob climbing under the Needle's summit. After our escapades with the previous wall, this seemed like a walk up Bross (it was still very airy, don't get me wrong).
Some shots of the final push and the steepness....
really steep, but good holds
I didn't really pay attention to the time or how long it took, given it was a blue sky and no threat of anything anywhere. We rested, reflected on what we just experienced and then began the West to East gully downclimb towards Broken Hand Pass.
Final parting shot from summit of Needle, our next day's objectives.
Music Pass 13ers
We made it back to the pass soon enough, Gabe and John heading back to the parking lot to cool the beers, myself for Broken Hand Pk. Once back at the car, we quickly packed our stuff, made our way to Westcliffe for some last minute rations for sunday (gatorade, power bars and bud light) and headed for Music Pass, due just south of the Crestones.
Our last view of our day's work
road to Music Pass
The Music Pass Group has been on my mind for a little under a year now. I made an attempt at the Milwaukee-Pico Asilado Traverse last October, but was nearly blown off the Milwaukee-Marble Pass in the early morning. I vowed to return another day and that day had most certainly come, now with a very capable companion. John's main objective were the Crestones. After that, he said it didn't matter so I made sure I'd pick some obscure, secluded 13ers that would more than spark his interest, maybe even get him hooked.
Our view of Tijeras as the day was coming to a close.
We downed some cold Bud Light's next to Lower Sand Creek Lake, set up camp, shared some wheat thins and konked out for the night.
Alarm went off around 5am, but there was no way we were listening to it. Around 6:15, we finally found some motivation and were on the trail about a half hour later with a nice view of our day's objectives.
We split off from the trail around the northern tip of the lake and began the bushwack to the upper basin. I knew John was probably lethargic, cause I was, but I also knew once we topped out on one of those peaks, everything would work itself out.
The other appeal to Tijeras, other than its inviting shape and look, is its complexity. Its almost like a puzzle. The basin below Tijeras and Music is lined by a sheer cliff wall, spanning 180 degrees around the basin. There are 2 weaknesses in this wall, one supposedly tougher than the other. Here is what we were looking at once we reached the basin...
The gully we took was the one to the left of this view, the obvious jagged line in the shade. I believe this is the line Cooper recomends in his book, but the Summitpost page recomends the line on the right. It just so happened we found the left route better, but that just couldbe our personal preference.
Here is a closer look with John in the foreground.
The scrambling in this section was enjoyable and nowhere near as exposed as the day before. It definately got airy though on the upper sections, as shown here....
We topped out with no trouble and got a good view of our route ahead...
and the lake below
The route we ended up taking was the obvious couloir, a direct line up the middle of the North Face. This was a much more interesting line than the standard ridge connected to the saddle with Music. An hour and a half after leaving camp, we topped out on Tijeras.
Not a bad view at all
summit of Tijeras
After a quick break, we made our way down the ridge towards the saddle with Music to scope out Music's South Ridge, which was highly NOT recomended on any descriptions of the mountain. We got a front row seat of the route and studied it for what seemed like a hour, but decided we had had enough excitement for one weekend and upon our downclimb of the gully, agreed, at the very least, an attempt at the East Ridge, which was listed as a complex, class 4 scramble. Why not.
Music Mtn's southern ridge and face
traverse over to Music from Tijeras
We lazily trugged over to the beginning of the East ridge. This took a lot of willpower for both of us, we were closing in on fatigue finally, but knew that if we left this last peak for another day, we'd probably regret it, atleast on the ride home. The scrambling on the East Ridge ended up being a blast. Good rock, decent exposure, fun overall route and a classic ridge run to the summit. Some shots of the climb....
The beginning of the ridge from a notch along the saddle
scrambling up Music's east ridge
View of the ridge run
By 3:30pm, we were finally in the car en route to the infamous Westcliffe Subway for some 5$ footlongs, a nice jug of Mountain Dew and a bag of sweet chili Doritos. It did not disapoint.
Solid weekend with a solid group of peaks and even more solid weather. Couldn't think of any better way to spend a weekend in the Sangres. Thanks for reading, this was a little long, but worth it.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):