Tijeras Peak - 13,604 feet
Music Mountain - 13,380 feet
Tijeras Peak - 13,604 feet
Music Mountain - 13,380 feet
|Climbing our way to where the Music plays loudest|
Tijeras & Music
Bethany and I had been talking about scrambling Pico and neighbors for quite a few years now. But with her moving to New Mexico, and conflicting schedules, it wasn't until last week that everything fell into place. The late season snow would complicate things, but we'd make do and find ways around when possible. Carrying the extra gear for some rock climbing and snow climbing would make the packs heavier, but thankfully the pack in would be short and sweet.
We got our schedules in sync such that we would meet at the same time at the lower 2WD trailhead. Me in a lifted Taco and them in a Subi would mean that I could take 1 passenger and all the gear up to the 4WD trailhead about 2.7 miles up. Though we did get the Subi up a little over 1 mile on the road to a very prominent parking area. Beyond that, it's not Subaruable unless you #1 are an amazing driver, #2 don't like your vehicle or #3 an idiot.
Bethany and I weren't at the upper trailhead for too long before Ben and Erin showed up. The skies sounded angry, so we put on pack covers for the light rain that was falling at the start. Not ideal, but thankfully the rain and storms never really materialized, even though the skies remained grey for the pack up and over Music Pass.
On the other side, the flowers and mosquitoes were in full force. Even ran into a guy who had lost his 2 horses from camp, and they had gone all the way to the cattle guard on the road below the lower trailhead. Thankfully I recognized them and was able to point him where to retrieve them.
We got up to the lake and were able to eat and set up camp before it got dark. Though the bugs were so annoying, I had to break out the brand new mosquito head net I bought for the trip. 6 summers in Alaska, and I never have had to take this level of bug precautions before!
We got up the next morning so that we could leave around sunrise. We didn't know what kind of conditions we would find, and we didn't want to route find in the dark. Plus we figured that it would be a short day. Hahahaha. Famous last words.
We also decided to bring "all our gear" since we didn't know what to expect on the route. Snow = crampons and ice ax. Bad snow => rock climb up the cliffs. Too bad one in our party didn't quite hear this, and forgot the longer rope.
We had a great sunrise at the lake as our group got ready to go in the morning
We meandered up along the lake and into the basin below the cliffs, spotting possible routes. A particular dihedral caught our attention, but we'd have to multi pitch that (with the longer rope) and Ben didn't bring a full rack, just what he thought would be needed. We spied the lower ramp, and it was snowy, so we kept our eyes looking around for other options in case that didn't work. The upper ramp was out of our view, but is also covered in more snow.
We made our way to the lower snow ramp and Bethany started to kick some steps with her micro spikes. I had brought my most hated pair of strap on crampons, since all my others work with only with ski boots, double plastics or my LaSportiva Glaciers (heavy AF). Not ideal to strap crampons onto light hiking boots, but as a snow climbing fool, I figured they were better than yak tracks that are too big for my feet.
After Ben gave Erin some instruction in snow travel, since she had never done that before, I was off and kicking steps and scouting the route up the snow.
As I got closer to the more vertical snow, it struck me that I could climb it, but my partners couldn't. I could lead with the rope, but it would not be easy for my partners to follow me. So after snapping a route pic, I turned around to discuss with the group.
Back on the other side of the snow, Ben and Erin had scouted higher for a trad route up the cliffs. Ben was confident it would be the best bet for the groups safety.
At the base of the climb, we found out that Erin had left the long rope in the tent, and that we only had a 30m rope. Not ideal, but we made it work.
I donned my own harness and scrambled up to the base of the pitch that Ben would lead and I'd belay.
After Ben lead, I switched over to climb the route. As the weakest climber of the group (on this day), I wanted the best protection, since I'd be climbing in old light hiking boots, and not rock shoes. I'm rusty and not ashamed to take any advantage I can get. Ankle injuries => no climbing.
Not sure what to rate the climb at. 5.2? 5.4? Bethany being such a badass would have "scrambled it" and called it a 4. As for me, no way in frozen hell would I have soloed that! I know my limitations!
I bought a breath at the anchor, and then started to scout the upper scramble to the flower meadow above. There also wasn't a lot of room at the anchor for the entire group.
The rest of the route was easy class 3 and quite fun!
Once we were all above the cliffs, it was a very pleasant flower romp over to the talus north ridge.
Since Bethany has some lung and breathing issues, I started up with her, so she wouldn't slow down the group. While Ben and Erin took a snack break.
There was a small gendarme along the way. It's better to drop to the right/west to avoid it. Otherwise the ridge was class 2 blocky talus and most of us made great time up it.
After a brief summit stay, since there was a small chance of storms, and we wanted to at minimum go over Music's east ridge to go down, since rapping the cliffs would mean leaving gear behind.
The closer we got to Music's south ridge, the more excited Bethany got. She likes exposure. I have a fear of heights. I manage it by finding the easiest route, and taking things step by step.
The first bit scrambled quite nicely. Ben took the ridge, I took a less exposed route to lookers right.
Eventually we got to a spot that looked super airy, exposed, and steep. So I look to Bethany (and Ben) to say "Mom and Dad!!! We need the rope" (cue massive eye roll).
Cooper's scramble book points out that some parties may want a rope for a couple sections on the ridge. With a novice scrambler in the group, we also decided that the rope would be used whenever she felt it necessary.
Once again, after taking a breather from the super fun climbing pitch, I scouted up the ridge to see if we needed the rope again. After a couple easy class 3 sections, I found another exposed ridge with big moves over big air. MOM and DAD we need the rope again!
I belayed the 2nd pitch and climbed 2nd again. Scouting afterwards as Erin and Bethany up climbed.
After that 2nd pitch, I was getting nervous about the storm brewing over the Crestones. It didn't look nasty, but I wasn't going to hang around to wait for it to go sky high either! So I did what I do well, scout the fastest most efficient route to the summit. In this case, I decided to drop a small rib and get off ridge proper, since the notch in the ridge was upcoming. I spied a grassy route right on up to the summit ridge beyond. Just a couple class 3/4 down climb spots to cross.
As I scouted the easiest and fastest route ahead, I noted that Erin was slowing down and reaching her limit for scrambling for the day. With the rain clouds building, I sprinted for the summit, which was more of the same scrambling, but a bit more intense, in about 7 minutes. I spun in a circle on the summit with my camera, and then sprinted back to my friends where were on the descent of the east ridge.
Did I want to "solo" my 400th 13er? NO. I would much rather have celebrated it with my friends. But they had to take care of their friend, who was admittedly in over her head on this route. Plus the weather was threatening enough that to continue would have taken another hour of time. I may solo a lot of peaks (grand majority of them), but it's not always as glamorous or desirable as some may make it out to be. I solo because it works with my schedule. It's tough to find partners with the flexibility, desire or ability to do some of the routes I do. It's not because I prefer to solo all the time!
The east ridge descent was mostly class 3 with maybe a move or two of class 4. At this point, we all just wanted to get down. The day had become much longer than originally anticipated! Fun, challenging and exhilarating, but looooong!
As we descended back to our route up, we got a nice view of the upper ramp to Tijeras
All in all, a great day out. We all learned valuable lessons, and we certainly earned our dinner back in camp!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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