Bancroft Mt. 13250 ft
Elevation gain: 3000 ft.
Time: well, quite long, read the story.
I decided that it was time to attack the East Ridge of Bancroft. This is a technical route, described in the "Colorado Snow Climbs". Got up at a reasonable 5:00 AM to make it to the trail head before 8:00. So, as I get ready to go, I meet two climbers who are planning the wall direct route. The approach to Loch Lomond, was on the 4WD road and a lot of it is clear. The snow that I encountered, was often solid, I only used the snowshoes for good measure, but I could have left them behind as, the soft sections were short and not deep.
The final approach to Loch Lomond with the ridge in view.
From the end of the road, there are several ways to reach the ridge. In my case, I followed, for a while, the trail, in the snow, of the two climbers ahead, then, made a direct ascent to the base of the ridge.
Following the footsteps of those ahead.
Reaching the base of the ridge, it's difficult to actually see the challenge ahead!
2 pictures to be able to see the whole ridge. The perspective from here fools you into believing that it's flatter than it really is.
Looking down toward the lake.
Climbing up to the notch, was quite pleasant, uneventful and with great views. I followed some recent footsteps, and the scrambles in this section are good and simple.
Looking up and, down.
Looking at one of the narrow snow ridge traverses.
Me: yes, I was here
Reaching the notch, I was surprised by how early, on the ascent, I got there. The foot tracks stopped here. From this point on, I was on my own to find my way up. I peer over the edge and, yes, I was there. Well, this is it, I am committing to the rest of the climb as I decide to continue. Reading in a past report, I found out that a 100 ft rope would be enough to do the rappel, so that's what I brought. IT WAS ENOUGH. There is an easy downclimb to the webbing in place. Once on the small ledge, I was happy to see that someone had left a piece of hardware perfect to pass the rope through. Throwing the rope down, I quickly determined that it would be a very easy and safe descent: there are several pieces of webbing all connected together.
Arriving at the notch: the webbing is set-up around the rock, partially covered in snow, below me.
Looking down toward the traverse to the 5.2 climb.
Arriving at the bottom, I realize that the ridge here is narrow and, the chutes on both sides are quite steep. The one on my left, is my last chance to bail! Well, it's too nice of a day to stop here, so, I decide, for the sake of being true to the ascent, to attack the 5.2 pitch. I examined the rock wall in front of me and, realized that there are alternatives to the left and right.
So, here I go: straight up the wall which, about 25 feet tall, is about a 3 move climb. I don't believe that it's a very difficult climb,but having my ski goggles still on, I realized that I couldn't see my footings very well, so I had to use my upper body strength a bit more for a more secure feeling.
Reaching the top, I took a break for water and to calm down my nerves.
I was happy to know that I had passed the CRUX of the climb and, things would be straight forward from here. Or so I thought! There are many exposed class 3 - 4 portions ahead that are covered in snow, therefore, slippery. I believe that it's important, on this route, to keep your guard up, until the top is reached.
Looking down at the steep snow traverse just passed the notch.
Above the notch, is the most impressive snow ridge traverse, but also one that makes me feel alive!
The snow here is soft enough to sink in and get a good foothold. Very aerial and elegant, if not impressive.
As I finished the traverse, I am presented with an impressive rock wall. As I see no trace of past human presence, I have to decide on the route to follow. I look up and see that it would be a good cheminey climb, but maybe a bit engaging and long, so, I decide to move right and ascend that way. That was a fantastic class 4 "escalade" that, I believe was the most exposed of the whole day.
By now, I was getting a bit tired, but no time to let my guard down as, there are many more steep steps to conquer.
I did realized at this point that my two friends from earlier, had not yet made it this far. I found out later that the approach to their climb was arduous and the 3 pitches took them 3 hours.
Reaching what I believed would be the end of difficulties,at the red rocky, sandy band, I realized that there was one more obstacle to surmount: the last pitch of class 4 on a new kind of rock, that unlike the ones below, doesn't look stable. Well, it actually was OK, but left still a bit suspicious of it.
Looking down at the ridge.
Finally, I am on top of the false summit and can see the actual top, about 300 yards ahead 150 ft higher. Well, even though I feel exhausted, I decide that I have to make it up there.
Once on top, I take a nice break and eat a frozen Snickers bar. Boy, that was the energy I needed earlier! The descent would be fine with this renewed power.
Last stretch to the summit.
As I start to descent from the top, I finally encounter signs of life: a group of 4 California hikers! They had been on the mountain for the past 4 days! 2 of them where a bit exhausted, partially because they were carrying 70 lbs back packs, partially because they had been above tree line all this time.
With little persuasion, they all decided to take a break and accept my offer for a ride back to Denver. They eventually decided, after a good night rest in town, to go back up around bolder and spend their last 2 nights in the wild. This is a fantastic group of friends that I was very happy to meet!
The descent turned out to be slow, mostly due to the extreme fatigue of the members of the group, but kudos for their enterprise, in January.
As we get lower on the south east slopes of Bancroft, I finally have a full view of the whole ridge: WOW!
Well, this was a spectacular day. It came to an end at dark, when I reached the trail head and, was capped by a stop at Tommy Knocker in Idaho Springs, with the great company of my new friends.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this climb for anyone that wants to try a true beginner's mountaineering route. Don't take it lightly and attempt in good weather.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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