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What you wish you knew for your first class III

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby jeffCC » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:09 pm

I've done a little messing around on class III stuff, but no real climbs yet. One thing I realized that might be helpful.

When you look at a route from some distance away, it always looks harder than it really is. That's b/c visually, a 3-dimensional mountain is being "squashed" down into 2 dimensions. So a climb up a ramp looks like a climb up a wall. Also, for talus, I found it very difficult to judge from a distance how stable/unstable a given slope was; once I was up close, it was much easier to judge where that critical slope was.

So as you are approaching an ominous section, its probably normal (at least for us newbies) to think you're getting in over your head. But its too early to make the call. As long as you have a safe return available, just push forward until you are "right there", and then decide if its something you can comfortably/safely handle.

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby milan » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:22 pm

bpko wrote:Amen to that. When I told my parents I was climbing Longs, I was met with scary voices and words of "long," "fall," "dead," "never find you again." .



Yeah, I know, parents, thats why I practice the "Don't ask - Don't tell" policy with them :)..


jeffCC wrote:I've done a little messing around on class III stuff, but no real climbs yet. One thing I realized that might be helpful.

When you look at a route from some distance away, it always looks harder than it really is. That's b/c visually, a 3-dimensional mountain is being "squashed" down into 2 dimensions. So a climb up a ramp looks like a climb up a wall.


Agree with that, maybe Lindsey was as nasty as she looked and Challenger point as well. Both were actually less steep than they looked but loose rock and awful scree made up for that...

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby Brian C » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:40 pm

I wish I had realized that the hard routes weren't going anywhere. There are many different levels of difficulty on routes that are rated "class 3" and the best way is to start with an easy one (i.e. Wetterhorn) and move into harder ones (i.e. Crestone Needle). My mistake (and I've seen others do this as well) was that I jumped straight to harder routes and all I did was end up scared and not wanting to do other scrambling routes.
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"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." - Wordsworth

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby Hungry Jack » Thu Jun 28, 2012 7:40 pm

I think for the vast majority, the first class III won't be the last. They can be a lot more fun.

My first III was the Sawtooth, and it was exhilarating to traverse that final ledge and emerge onto the tilted ridge that leads to Evans. In retrospect, after Quandary's West Ridge, Longs via the Loft/Keplingers, Kelso Ridge, and some improvised traverses in the Gore Range, the Sawtooth seems like a walk in the park. Now I want to give Carson's north ridge a shot, along with Democrat's north ridge.

But the one thing I have always done is to use this site and others to scout every detail of the route as much as possible.
I need more dehydrogenase.

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby Kent McLemore » Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:13 pm

jeffCC wrote:When you look at a route from some distance away, it always looks harder than it really is. That's b/c visually, a 3-dimensional mountain is being "squashed" down into 2 dimensions.

Can't subscribe to "always." The "squashed" effect you describe can conceal all manner of difficulties.
"Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." - John Muir

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby DeTour » Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:52 pm

As others have said, I don't think class 3 in itself is anything to worry about. If you end up on a class 3 where the route isn't apparent, that can jack the concern up. But routefinding on Kelso Ridge is pretty straightforward, especially if you study TRs and the route description offered on this site.

Being willing to backtrack is important - I think there's something in most of us that really doesn't like to backtrack, but if you get in some dicey stuff on an established class 3 14er, it's probably because you're off route, and backtracking is almost always the safest choice. One reason that's important is because the risk of loose rock grows as you get away from routes that have seen more human traffic - people haven't tested it for unstable rock and "cleaned" the route.

A few things about Kelso Ridge speciifcally:

1. The "white wall" (photos 13-16 in Bill's route description) is the toughest part of the climb, IMO, and it's relatively early. If you handle that okay, there's nothing harder beyond that as long as ...
2. When you see the distinctive blocky tower in photo 31, stay right, as the route description advises! There's a route to the left of that tower, but it gets dicey - a narrow ledge with major exposure and some loose, fractured rock. Not far beyond that tower lies ...
3. The knife edge is what most people consider to be the crux, I suppose, but that depends on the individual. It climbs at a minimal angle, but enough to make an all-fours stance comfortable. (Some folks walk it hands-free; I'm not one of those folks.) One hand and one foot on either side of the "knife" felt natural and safe to me. If it doesn't suit you, there's a trail down to climber's right that's etched into the side of the slope and may be more comfortable - not sure cuz we didn't go that way. But if you're OK with the knife edge, then ...
4. Take the towers of white rock beyond the knife edge right up and over the top, rather than around the side as stated in the route description (photo 36). Scrambling over those towers is relatively easy, no harder than preceding challenges IMO, and the sensation is unbeatable. It's a perfect cap to a great route, with the summit a short walk-up beyond that spot.
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby somethingrandom » Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:31 pm

DeTour wrote:As others have said, I don't think class 3 in itself is anything to worry about. If you end up on a class 3 where the route isn't apparent, that can jack the concern up. But routefinding on Kelso Ridge is pretty straightforward, especially if you study TRs and the route description offered on this site.

Being willing to backtrack is important - I think there's something in most of us that really doesn't like to backtrack, but if you get in some dicey stuff on an established class 3 14er, it's probably because you're off route, and backtracking is almost always the safest choice. One reason that's important is because the risk of loose rock grows as you get away from routes that have seen more human traffic - people haven't tested it for unstable rock and "cleaned" the route.

A few things about Kelso Ridge speciifcally:

1. The "white wall" (photos 13-16 in Bill's route description) is the toughest part of the climb, IMO, and it's relatively early. If you handle that okay, there's nothing harder beyond that as long as ...
2. When you see the distinctive blocky tower in photo 31, stay right, as the route description advises! There's a route to the left of that tower, but it gets dicey - a narrow ledge with major exposure and some loose, fractured rock. Not far beyond that tower lies ...
3. The knife edge is what most people consider to be the crux, I suppose, but that depends on the individual. It climbs at a minimal angle, but enough to make an all-fours stance comfortable. (Some folks walk it hands-free; I'm not one of those folks.) One hand and one foot on either side of the "knife" felt natural and safe to me. If it doesn't suit you, there's a trail down to climber's right that's etched into the side of the slope and may be more comfortable - not sure cuz we didn't go that way. But if you're OK with the knife edge, then ...
4. Take the towers of white rock beyond the knife edge right up and over the top, rather than around the side as stated in the route description (photo 36). Scrambling over those towers is relatively easy, no harder than preceding challenges IMO, and the sensation is unbeatable. It's a perfect cap to a great route, with the summit a short walk-up beyond that spot.


This (as well as much of the above) is GREAT info that everyone looking to progress should go on...

General class 3, the number one thing I wish I knew is that EVERYTHING looks worse in pictures than it really is, and when you are facing it, nothing is as tough as you worried yourself with but it is VERY easy to get off-route and into harder stuff than you were planning.

Regarding Kelso, I didnt think much of the knife edge but I also apparently (didnt know it until recently) have NO issue with exposure. Most people will tell you the rock is 'super solid' on Kelso Ridge and while in most places (especially the important ones) it is, there are also A LOT of really loose spots so in addition to what is noted above, the single greatest thing I have noticed with class 3 is the significantly greater proportion of loose or unstable rock compared to a walkup. I however found the hardest move (other than the ones I took harder routes for fun or other reasons) on Kelso Ridge was the exit from the knife edge. Without snow, you will have to 'stand' on the knife and scramble about 4-6' up a lousy positioned slab of rock.

Anytime you are in a situation where a fall would be significant, CHECK EVERY HOLD (hand and foot) before betting your life on it, and that is especially true on most class 3 routes. Realistically, just enjoy it and you will be hooked!
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby emcee smith » Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:37 am

DeTour wrote:A few things about Kelso Ridge speciifcally:

1. The "white wall" (photos 13-16 in Bill's route description) is the toughest part of the climb, IMO, and it's relatively early. If you handle that okay, there's nothing harder beyond that as long as ...
2. When you see the distinctive blocky tower in photo 31, stay right, as the route description advises! There's a route to the left of that tower, but it gets dicey - a narrow ledge with major exposure and some loose, fractured rock. Not far beyond that tower lies ...
3. The knife edge is what most people consider to be the crux, I suppose, but that depends on the individual. It climbs at a minimal angle, but enough to make an all-fours stance comfortable. (Some folks walk it hands-free; I'm not one of those folks.) One hand and one foot on either side of the "knife" felt natural and safe to me. If it doesn't suit you, there's a trail down to climber's right that's etched into the side of the slope and may be more comfortable - not sure cuz we didn't go that way. But if you're OK with the knife edge, then ...
4. Take the towers of white rock beyond the knife edge right up and over the top, rather than around the side as stated in the route description (photo 36). Scrambling over those towers is relatively easy, no harder than preceding challenges IMO, and the sensation is unbeatable. It's a perfect cap to a great route, with the summit a short walk-up beyond that spot.


Agree on the great stuff here, but a few alternate comments (understand that a successful climb of Kelso means a very easy walk down the standard Grays trail) That in itself is a huge weight off, you don't have to downclimb. That said...

1. Before the white wall, there is a short gully/chimney area to climb up. (photo 10 in Bill's route). Since Kelso was my first class III, I had problems here thinking about the downclimb if I had to turn around. At almost every class 3 section, I remember feeling more and more "committed" to going up and over. If I had immediately turned around and downclimbed the rock in photo 10; I would have felt 100% better mentally about the rest of the way up.

Also on the white wall, and generally most parts of the ridge, there is generally an "easier" (but much looser) way around to the right. I even think there is a bypass around the white wall to the right. That said, try not to bail out, because they are generally not fun and the intent to climbing Kelso is to get comfortable on class III.

2. I have done Kelso 4-5 times, and I have no idea where the distinctive blocky tower in photo 31 is. My point is that the ridge is confusing, and there are generally multiple ways up, over, around, etc. Generally left is harder and right is easier. There are a few false trails to the left (maybe one leads to the blocky tower). I don't recall many areas where up doesn't lead you to easier ground, you just want to be comfortable on the up. Don't panic if you cannot orient yourself to a picture, don't climb anything harder than you are comfortable, there is generally always an easier way on Kelso.

3. If you haven't bailed out "right" vs "left" before the knife edge, the climbing won't be any harder than you have already done. This is certainly the icing on the cake and should be enjoyed.

4. Agree 100% about the white tower. It looks horrible and you can't see what is on the other side, but up and over is much easier than around the side. It will also be the last good scrambling you will get to do on the way up so again, enjoy it.

One of the coolest things on Kelso, IMO, are the "positions" you find yourself in. I didn't understand what is meant by this until that ridge, but there will be parts here and there, where you will be sitting/standing atop a scramble section, looking down at the ridge looking incredibly tough, looking over at the standard trail, and feeling like you are in the best spot in the world.

Enjoy! I think we all will look forward to your report.
"Chug a luggin up one side, glidin down the other, [I'm] a lover of the other side of the hill"

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby Gareth » Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:53 am

Brian C wrote:...My mistake (and I've seen others do this as well) was that I jumped straight to harder routes and all I did was end up scared and not wanting to do other scrambling routes.

I climbed Wetterhorn as my 2nd 14er. The class 3 part wasn't hard, but the exposure rattled me (the frost covering the "steps" didn't help). Later that day I was telling myself that, "If that was a class 3, then I'm not sure that I have any desire to do any more of them again, let alone anything harder! But then I climbed Capitol less than a week later. :wink: (And I reclimbed Wetterhorn the following summer)
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby eagrnnr » Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:13 am

This is an awesome thread. My father and I are doing Longs in about 2 weeks, this'll be our second attempt. First one we got stopped at the Keyhole by high winds. I just want to say thank you to everyone posting on this thread, I've learned a lot of pretty good tips.

This is what 14ers.com is all about. You guys are awesome!

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downclimbing

Postby screeman57 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:24 pm

An experienced climber-friend once suggested that I walk downstairs backwards with my eyes closed to get used to downclimbing class 3. Certainly no substitute for real-world situations, and I can't really attest to it's effectiveness. Has anyone else heard of this or any other "exercises?"
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." -Dag Hammarskjold

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby sivadselim » Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:40 pm

GLOVES

Not the kind for warmth (you'll probably want to carry those, too, though), but gloves for hand protection. I learned that my hands get pretty beat up. So, now, I like to use a thin pair of baseball batting gloves. They work really well for me. You don't want (or need) any padding.

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