Peak(s):  Jagged Mountain  -  13,824 feet
Date Posted:  03/14/2016
Modified:  03/16/2016
Date Climbed:   03/12/2016
Author:  Monster5
Additional Members:   dannyg23
 Jagged Mountain   

Jagged Mountain

Since we're not completely insane, we decided to do this as an overnighter.

March 11-12, 2016
Partner: Danny Gilbert
Route: North Face (5.easy) via Vallecito. ~38 mi/8300 ft vert
TH: Vallecito Creek (CR 500 north from Bayfield to CR 501, 2WD)
Gear: Snowshoes, Ax, crampons, 30 m, webbing, single rack (unused)

Once upon a time, a mad dad decided to attempt a winter daytrip of Jagged via Vallecito and Sunlight Creek. While unsuccessful, it inspired a number of winter climbers and Danny among them. Acting upon this inspiration, Danny and Nate (TheGreatCamillo) attempted a daytrip of Jagged in October 2014 carrying winter weight "just to see what it would be like." They made it to the face before turning back and returning to the trailhead utterly weary and a tad burned out on climbing altogether. Their conclusion: Mad Mike is ****ing insane.

Our agenda goes a tad different:

Day 0: We hop on snowmobiles and ride 35ish miles RT up to Sunlight Lake to drop off all of our gear. Or at least, I wish we did anyways.

Day 1: TH (7900ft) to camp at the start of Sunlight Creek basin (9800ft), ~13 mi/2.5K'/7 hrs

A midnight trailhead arrival, brief questioning by a cop, and a solid sleep on Danny's crash pads laid out in a Volvo. Up around 6:30 and moving by 7:15. We suspect a hot day and want to move before we toast and the snow slushes.

Mileage in the front, vert in the back. This approach likes to party. The first three miles takes us up and then back down to the first bridge crossing. Thus far, the trail is typical of the southern San Juan - edging along the sides of narrow confined canyons well situated for a future ice park.

My jeans are absolutely soaked by this point.

Another couple miles and the bootpack ends, though a faint ski track continues. On go the snowshoes. Around mile 6, we hit the second bridge. The minor ups and downs are tedious, but we don't realize it yet. Around mile 7.5, we hit the avalanche-struck third crossing and utilize a snow bridge on logs. Over half way there and now the sun's out in force.

The faint ski track soon ends but the trail is easy enough to follow. The snow is pleasantly consolidated and the breaking is fairly easy. Mostly 1-2 IN with a bit more in shadier spots. We soon reach the Hazel/Bullwinkle junction and do what we can to avoid stepping on the mounds of moose nuggets lining the trail.

The Pride Lands come next and we follow kitty tracks all the way to the Sunlight Creek Junction. Minor havoc ensues jumping Vallecito and we're nearly to camp: a nice open meadow on the outskirts of an avy field. We consider going higher, but it doesn't seem worth it and my snowshoe isn't working anyways. The bar connecting to the pivot snapped. A broken snowshoe 13 miles from the car in winter is generally less than ideal, but webbing suffices to bind the foot binding and the frame.

While I repair shoes and act the camp maid, Danny has the fun job of breaking a trench. He drops his pack and goes for an hour and gains around 1500 ft. Unfortunately, 2/3rds of the gain is up the wrong creek, but nothing's wrong with a little working out on the side. He needs it.

Since we hate each other, we each brought our own tent and promptly crash.

Day 2: Camp (3:15AM) to summit (11:00) to camp (2:15PM) to TH (11:40PM). ~25 mi/5.8K+/21 hrs

An early wake up to frozen boots and we're off. On up the tracks, check GPS, ditch the tracks, and meander up Sunlight Creek. This is generally best on the right/northern side as the snow's a bit more consolidated, but the trenching is more difficult in this drainage, from a couple inches to a foot or so.

Traveling above the creek reminds me of glacier travel - meandering along the thicker coverage and crossing various bridges, wondering if a hole will open up. Kind of fun, but time consuming with minor back and forth. In the few spots we ditched the creek for the trees, things got tedious.

Taken on return:

A steeper headwall around 11400ish:

A couple of the headwalls are steep with shoes, but not too terrible. We veer right around 11500 and follow a side creek north on the east side of Jagged as magic hour hits. It's a lot of gain to here and we take advantage of some food.


Danny on the slopes:

From our snack spot around 12,800 ft, it takes 4 hrs to climb the remaining thousand feet and an hr to return. We do an ascending traverse across the base of the north face, crossing a few avalanche slopes. The snow is deep and sugary, but mostly stable. The snow isn't terribly supportive though, making for difficult travel by both leader and follower.

The climbing above doesn't look all that hard, but snowy slabs can be deceiving.

Curl around right:


Around 13200 above the first initial rockbands, I've had enough and switch to 'pons while Danny climbs the first slab crux in snowshoes up to the rap station. Impressive. I'm not overly keen on the move and figure I'll work my way up 5 ft and then cut back left to the rap station. After a few tenuous moves up, I find left isn't all that great - crummy ice on slab. Not a problem. I'll keep heading up and then head left. Meanwhile, Danny follows the standard route left of me and right of the narrow couloir, zigzagging up the face and then cutting right on easier terrain. Smart man.

My position is less than ideal, but I know Mike went up this narrow gully and it must combine. The gully I'm in has three weaknesses in the rock band above - straight up, slightly up and right, and a cleft farther right. I try straight up and find a decent hand jam, which gets me just high enough to see that above is bleak. I back off and try the right weakness; this requires an awkward high step onto slab while using a finger crack behind a Lucy boulder. I don't trust it enough to yard, so down a bit and over to the far right cleft. This one goes with a few delicate stemming moves. I work my way left, figuring to combine back with Danny now that I've wasted a solid 20 minutes to gain 30 ft. Unfortunately, left doesn't go yet again. Well, ok, I can see there's one more rock band above before a snow slope and the route. I work up the steep snow and minor scrambling until reaching a low angle dihedral, where progress is stopped by a distinct lack of holds.

Usually, when "mixed scrambling," when one runs out of holds, move the feet as high as possible and start excavating. I do just that, scraping away at the dihedral and uncovering tundra. Nothing. A bit more scraping and some more chopping. Ah! A placement I can't even see - I embed the pick into a crevice behind tundra and find it solid. Life is better now, but I'm still two holds shy of comfortably making the move. I'm tempted to pull the move anyways but it sure is a long fall if the unknown pick hold blows.

A few droppings of snow tell me Danny has worked his way right and is now above me. Relief. I yell the wise man's name and communicate a rope would be appreciated. Danny obliges and begins to descend steep snow down to me. A bit more snow trickles down so I throw up my hood. And a bit more snow. And then a lot of snow. Suddenly, I cannot breathe. My mouth is packed with snow as is my jacket. The weight of snow piling above me increases and I cling to my ax. The thought flashes my mind that perhaps Danny triggered an avalanche and I'm on the wrong end of the barrel. I manage to turn my head, spit out the snow and yell "STOP."

The stream of snow relents and a few awkward arm flails relieve the snow weight above. A few more flails unbury the arm clinging to the ax and clear room around my chest. I'm gasping for breath but can at least see the situation. Several feet of snow had piled on top of me and built up in the dihedral. Stunning how much that weighs.

While I excavate, Danny sets up an ax belay and lowers a rope. With the adrenaline flowing and a loop of rope as backup, the move is easy enough and I'm on the snow. This is what partners are for. Somebody capable of helping out when the other screws up. I hate when reports are over-dramatized, but this particularly incident got me thinking.

We continue up the snow and traverse right. The slogging intensifies as our snow ramp consists of three feet of sugar and an avy scarp above. It takes us a good half hour to ascend the 50 ft or so, excavating snow, letting it pile up below, and standing on that extra few inches just to repeat the process. Danny works a few feet right tunneling his way along rocks and we meet back up just before the third crux.

A quick exposed traverse followed by a couple granite steps. The first consists of a side pull and high step. The second is a juggy haul up and a trust-your-crampons slabby flop right. Interesting moves and it probably would've been smart to pull out the rope; however, we figured the moves weren't overly difficult. Mindless in summer. 20 more feet of slogging and we're at the notch, just in time for the snow to pick up.

Follow snow around right on an exposed traverse

We're ecstatic to make it this far, but we weren't really sure from the reports whether the peak was on right or on left. Luckily, a quick glance tells us the peak is on left and the south-side traverse is dry, as expected, minus the couple inches of fresh falling. The traverse goes smoothly with an airy move or two until reaching the final 4th class gully. The moves are a bit tiring here, but up we go to the summit ridge and summit.

Our celebration is short-lived though, as the snow is falling heavier than expected. We sign in and grab a couple pictures, quite proud of the effort expended on the north face. The common theme in the back of our minds all day: "how the hell did madmike manage that alone?"

Note how far Danny has to duck

Down goes smoothly and easier than the up, given the trench. We set one 50 ft rap that takes us perfectly below the difficulties just before the notch. We follow the trench down, zagging until reaching the first rap station down below. Another short 30 ft rap takes us to the snow. A couple heavy stomps while on rappel to see if we can trigger anything and then off rap. The snow still seems pretty stable. I climb down to my snowshoes and we posthole our way back across the face to our food spot. Down a couple headwalls and the snow finally relents just in time for views.

First rap:

And looking up at the crux just below the notch (Danny's pic)

Lower rap:

Swim, baby, swim.

Where's my sunscreen?

Sunlight and Windom

And goodbye Jagged

Snacks and sunscreen before the long hike down, glissading and snowshoe-skiing consolidated snow on down to treeline. Better daytime micro route-finding gets us back to our tents and we decide to at least move camp a couple hours down. Since we're afraid of things that go bump in the night, we hope to make it past Bullwinkle junction. At the junction, we're surprised to see a pair of climbers who claim to also be going for Jagged. Popular weekend.

After a couple hours out in soft snow, amused by the number of moose tracks across our own, we figure our boots and socks are thoroughly soaked and an evening in a tent wouldn't be all that pleasant. So out we go, stopping for a half hour or so by the third creek crossing to cook our remaining dinner and boil some water. I could get used to having a stove along, though the Mountain House meal has other inefficient consequences.

Surprisingly, the remaining miles and bridges go by quickly enough, despite the ups. Also surprising, warm river water tastes disgusting while hiking. Huh.

Still, there's a distinct beauty involved in hiking along a burbling stream on a starry, windless night, thankful for incredible conditions, rarely-viewed winter scenery, successful climbs, and solid partners. Even if said partner can do fewer pushups than a middle school female soccer player.

Sunlight Creek map

Note on stats: I measured it at 35 mi/6.5K ft beforehand simply following the creek. After noting the discrepancies between trail side jaunts and topo, numerous uphills (including a 500 ft gain/regain re-route at the start that differs from the topo) as well as taking into account minor back and forths, I think madmike's 38 mi/8300' is more realistic for winter. Sorry.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

Comments or Questions
03/14/2016 12:54
Amazing Job! Those last few pictures are incredible! Congratulations to you both for going the distance(literally) to take on that beast!!

And Jagged is OFF the list
03/14/2016 13:14
Congrats on the First Known Winter Ascent. That mountain is amazing.

03/14/2016 14:53
Some of that made me question my manhood in somewhat dry summer conditions. But no, there goes that Monster Kid showing off again...why didn't you go tag Sunlight Spire while you were in the neighborhood? &%^$#!

Well done you two! If I ever run into Danny or #5 at a pub, you've got some free beers coming for this accomplishment!

Dad Mike
Nicely done boys
03/14/2016 14:59
This report brings back a lot of memories...some good, most dark and painful. This is a huge accomplishment and I'm really happy for both of you. To do that trip in 2 days is pretty nuts. At least I didn't have to do that hike back up to the trailhead with all that weight. And yes, I meant to say up. That trail is like an MC Escher goes up no matter what direction you are going.

Thanks for sharing this Ryan. Awesome. F*cking awesome.

Great accomplishment!
03/14/2016 15:21
Really enjoyed this one, Ryan and Danny. Kudos to you for putting in the hard work to knock this one off. Very cool!

03/14/2016 16:48
Gilbert, you and your cousin Caldwell are making quite a name for yourselves. I hope you drank Martser's beer and then 5 more when this one was over. Ryan, that 3rd to last picture is incredible. This is inspiring gentlemen. Way to be!

When I grow up...
03/14/2016 16:03
...I'd like to be like you, Marsters. Congrats, dude.

03/14/2016 16:16
Frickin'. Dope.

Solid work, fellas

03/14/2016 17:40
super sweet job to both of you. The snow falling makes the pics all the more badass looking, not that it needed much help

sounds like some solid teamwork (including your little pickle) was displayed throughout the trip.

Accurate Report
03/14/2016 17:53
Especially the part where we hate each other. Thanks for taking my decoy trench work so well, not easy at 4am with all the hard stuff in front of us. With the Crestone traverse, pyramid, and now this we've teamed up for some good stuff this winter.

Trust and a good sense of humor go a long way with nearly 40 miles on your feet and some hairy terrain in between - thanks for both.

Brian Thomas
not too terrible
03/14/2016 19:09
Reading this TR wasn't. Scary and beyond anything I ever want to try. Congratulations

03/14/2016 19:33
I'll add to the long list of drooling at such a gigantic accomplishment. What you did in winter is something I would not even want to try in summer. Great job with describing what it was like.

I had a hunch
03/14/2016 19:55
Jagged would go down last weekend, it just seemed like the conditions should have been favorable, although that north face is probably never real good as you found out. Excellent work! that was a monster effort!

If you put wet socks over bottles of hot water they dry pretty fast. but then you wouldn't have had that nice long dark walk out to remember.

You may never look at yourselves the same
03/14/2016 19:57

And neither will we! You're superstars now!

Splendid job
03/14/2016 22:41
Ryan and Danny. That climb was awesome in the summer, in winter it looks magical. I've been drooling over Teakettle in snow for some time now, maybe this should go on the *longterm* list as well. Pesky 14ers keep getting in the way...Amuzed you couldn't find any holds in the middle section. In the summer, there were none, except grass. We called them "grassy crimpers" or C4 grass. Sounds like you didn't rehearse the face route when dry? If so, I am even more impressed, as the route finding wasn't at all trivial.

03/15/2016 08:17
You guys are crazy but in a good way.

Nice work
03/15/2016 09:34
Great work! I was one of the guys camping at the junction. We decided to make a go on the rib directly south of the true summit but came up a few hundred feet short. It was fun ~5.7 short stepped pitches but we knew that in order to move fast enough we'd have to solo it. In winter boots and crampons this eventually pushed up against our comfort level, going unroped. It is a pity we did not camp closer to the bottom of the Sunlight drainage, for the extra mileage took a lot out of us before the final summit push and did not leave us enough time in the day to summit and descend within our margin of safety. Our camp site selection was largely dictated by finding a level dry spot not overwhelmed with Mosse/Elk crap. Can't wait to take another stab at Jagged in winter.

03/15/2016 09:29
Fun read, amazing photos and fantastic endurance! Award winner!

STRONG work fellas
03/15/2016 09:44
Great job!

03/15/2016 10:11
You write as well as you climb. Thanks for posting.

03/15/2016 10:22

03/15/2016 10:35
Just wow...

03/15/2016 11:13
Great narrative--thanks for sharing!

Congrats Ryan
03/15/2016 11:17

03/15/2016 13:35
Ho Hum. Just another winter ascent....


Great job. In awe!

Michael J
Great job!!
03/15/2016 13:59
Thanks for the write up of an adventure that none of the rest of us mortals could handle! Someday, I'd like to meet you both.

Jagged first winter ascent?!?!
03/15/2016 14:41
That is Chuck Norris level bad ass right there.

03/15/2016 15:46
Pretty nutzo guys, and also pretty damn sweet. I can't imagine what negotiating a few of those areas in thin snow/ice conditions would be like. I felt relieved to get off this peak in dry summer conditions to be honest. Way to hang it all out there and find success!

P.s. It should be common knowledge that as a general rule, any efficiency gained from Mountain House on the front end winds up getting lost on the back end

03/15/2016 16:14
You know, I have doubts Danny and I have the first winter ascent given it's a Cent, so I didn't claim it. But that would be kind of cool. I'm guessing Boggy has the most winter 13er FKAs.

Sunlight Spire - Yikes. That'd be a cold winter aid climb for me.
Mike - Yeah,that trail really sucks. I considered the AT setup, but that would've been a very bad idea. Perhaps the X-country setup would be better. WRT mileage/vert, it adds up. Thanks for laying out the logistics and writing up what to expect. I'm wondering how long until you finish the winter 100.
Tom - I was a bit worried those ski tracks were yours and we were following on your heels!
Buddy Chalk - when I grow up, I want to climb Ama Dablam with you.
Danny - stfu.
Dwight - that's actually a really good idea, particularly since the water bottles get too hot anyways. Your home made bottle parka deal was awesome.
Holy crap I'm batman.
Nat - well, that explains the hold issue. Despite the blockiness, it seemed oddly slabby. Unless we wanted to yank out the gear and hop on snowy crack.
James - awesome attempt to you and RJ. We wondered if you were going to try a push from there. That's pretty impressive to make it even to the face with climbing weight. Still, I think you planned the better winter route - line of first ascent and all.
Michael J - I've actually met you a couple times at happy hours. Typically, people only remember the females.
Ben - man, that mistake was bad news. I had backpacker's pantry the night before without issue. I might switch to home made stuff, but I unfortunately own a couple cases of MH.
Kush, dance competition dude, Matt, Scott, Jay, Joel, Rick, and all - thanks for the comments!

03/15/2016 18:39
Truly incredible guys! Thanks for sharing your feat!

sorry . . .
03/16/2016 07:12
but this ascent violates the ground hog rule for winter ascents. If you can't see your shadow on the summit, spring has already arrived and you can't claim a winter ascent. Otherwise, that was a top notch effort!

Well Done boys.
03/16/2016 11:27
I just echo what everyone else has said. Awesome work and congratulations. Glad you made it safely.

Any word on the other party going for the top?

03/16/2016 11:58
Remarkable! I did this in July last year by myself and turned around at 13,000' after waiting half the day for the rain to clear out. That was one of the most draining and exhausting things I've ever done - and it was completely dry, with only a 35 pound pack. To do that in snow, breaking trail, with all that extra weight, in the cold... that's superhuman. Congrats.

03/17/2016 13:25
David - See Mtntopper's reply above. They made it to the South Face rock around 13,400 and turned around due to time, weather, and exhaustion.

Eskermo - our overnight packs were probably trimmed down to 35ish, but it sounds like Sunlight Creek is actually easier in summer, trading the bushwack for a bit of trail breaking.

03/18/2016 13:35
Not only do you do the most badass shit round these parts, but you write beautiful trip reports. Really really enjoyed this one Ryan!!!

So Cool
03/18/2016 22:08
Impressive. Congratulations.

03/19/2016 15:08
Ryan when I first saw Jagged in the list of reports I was expecting a report from back in late summer or fall, but I was not surprised your name popped up after hovering over the name with my mouse's pointer, and that you would have been one to make it to the summit in winter

I opened the report and was not disappointed, great report and the pictures were epic, thanks for letting me follow yours and Danny's adventure, it was a thrilling tale for sure

03/19/2016 16:08
Very Nice Trip Report! Great photographs too. Love the shots of the 'upper difficulties' on the mountain. Thanks for putting this together. Fantastic work with getting one of the tougher summits in the state with Jagged. Inspiring and impressive feat. Straight Ballin'. Making an extremely tough route look super easy

Boggy B
Such good
03/22/2016 15:17
photos, writing, & effort. Nicely done!

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