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Peak(s):  Dallas Peak  -  13,812 feet
Date Posted:  03/14/2020
Date Climbed:   03/06/2020
Author:  Dad Mike
 Steve's Project Completed   

Dallas Peak

Day 1...Mill Creek TH to Camp and Break Trail to 12,000'

Time...12:30pm - 4:30pm

Distance...4.43 miles

Elevation Gain...2672 feet


Day 2...Camp to South Ridge to West Face to West Ridge...Back to Camp and Back to Car

Time...3:30am - 12:30pm

Distance...6.05 miles

Elevation Gain...3205 feet


Total for all 7 Attempts

Miles Driven...3870

Miles Hiked...70.12

Feet Climbed...33,808

Dallas Peak's West Ridge

History with Dallas

This mountain has haunted my dreams for 3 years. Now I can finally put those nightmares to rest. It wasn’t my plan to leave the 100th highest and hardest of the Frozen Centennial list for last, but it seems fitting that my journey would end alone on this peak.

I never would have considered attempting this project if it weren’t for Steve Gladbach. Steve inspired me early on with his amazing trip reports about his winter adventures. I was lucky enough to climb with Steve on a few occasions and often turned to him for advice. If he hadn’t died, the honor of being the first to complete this list would be his, not mine. Darin Baker had the idea for a group of us to finish Steve’s unfinished winter centennial peaks after he died. I had my own idea…I wanted to finish all of them myself.

Here is a recap of my 6 previous attempts to climb Dallas in winter…

Attempt #1...March 12, 2017...single day attempt of the West Ridge...messed up the shortcut pretty bad...made it to tower #2, 15 vertical from the summit…turned around because the climbing was too difficult and I didn’t bring any gear...6.6 miles, 4455 feet

Attempt #2...March 9, 2018...single day attempt of the standard route...went up the deep creek trail to the Sneffels highline trail...broke crampon and had to turn around on the south face near 12,300'...then broke a snowshoe on the way out...had to rappel the Mill Creek waterfall because I didn't know where the shortcut was...8.3 miles, 2954 feet

Attempt #3...March 14, 2018...single day attempt of the standard route...got cliffed out trying to find the shortcut in the dark, was on the wrong side of the creek, ended up dry-tooling loose, terrible rock, scared the shit out of myself, and lost a mitten in the process...got up to the summit tower on the east side and couldn't find a safe way up it, turned around about 75' below the summit...9 miles, 4700 feet

Attempt #4...March 18 - 20, 2019...2 day attempt of the standard route...went up in September and left a rope from the summit down the east face of the summit block so I could belay myself up that route...broke trail to the shortcut on 3/18...came back the next morning and realized I left my snowshoes at the TH the day before and someone stole them...had to go back to Ouray to rent a pair for the next day...this was the year we had all the snow in March and the avy conditions were still an issue...made it to around 13,000' on the SE ridge before getting spooked by waist deep snow on a long ascending traverse...14.42 miles (4.5 + 9.92), 5640 feet (1253 + 4387)

Attempts #5 & #6...January 31 - February 2...broke trail on Friday over the shortcut and up the south face to around 11,000...came back on Saturday with Kiefer to attempt the west ridge...we made it up to around 13,100' before turning around due to exhausting effort and slow pace...left my gear near our high point and came back solo the next day to take advantage of our trench...cruised up to our high point and then battled up deep snow across the traverse and up the west face to be stopped on tower #2 for a second time...I wasn't able to find an anchor point on top of that tower and was getting blasted by the wind...turned around 15 vertical feet from the summit again...21.32 miles (5.5 + 7.29 + 8.53) and 10,182 feet (1875 + 3711 + 4596)

If you are interested in why I chose this route and more detailed descriptions of my failed attempts, here are the 2 previous trip reports I wrote…

March 12th, 2017…https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=17687&cpgm=tripmine

March 20th, 2019…https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=19318&cpgm=tripmine

About Time!...that was Amy’s response when I told her I finally climbed Dallas. And it was perfect. In hindsight, it never should have taken me 7 attempts. But one of my favorite things about climbing these peaks in winter is that there is very little information about the best routes and I love making it up as I go. I learned a little bit about the challenges of climbing this peak on every attempt…the different approaches, how to find the shortcut, avy paths, the snow conditions on the different aspects, timing, cruxes, gear needs, etc… The one thing I went back and forth on was whether I needed a partner or not. I knew an experienced partner would greatly increase my chance of success. But I never ruled out going solo because I knew a partner would be hard to get for this peak on short notice. When I saw the weather window last week, I reached out to a handful of people that I thought might be interested. They all had prior commitments or couldn’t take the time off of work. I considered postponing a week, but didn’t want to miss the perfect forecast. If the weather turned bad the next week, I would have to put this off another year. No thanks.

The Approach

I drove to Telluride on Thursday morning, geared up and headed out on the familiar Mill Creek Trail. Surprisingly, this trail does not get much use in winter. There are 2 meadows you cross after the switchbacks that have awesome views of Dallas Peak and the Mill Creek Valley. It’s so close to Telluride that you would think this would be a popular snowshoe hike. Well it’s definitely not. I was able to find remnants of the trench from February and could tell it didn’t have much traffic since then. It wasn’t much help as far as trail-breaking goes, but it was nice to be able to put my head down and follow the faint track.

View of Dallas from the 2nd Meadow

Stan’s Shorcut cuts across the cliffs to the right of the Mill Creek Waterfall. This can be a crux of the route if the snow conditions are no good, but this day it was mostly dry and I didn’t even need my spikes or axe.

Stan's Shortcut in March
Kiefer coming across Stan's in February

Once above the shortcut, it’s a short walk up the creek before the trees open up to a perfect campsite location. I stomped my platform, set up my tent and filled up on water. After a little rest, I started up the SE Ridge and broke trail to 12,000’.

Breaking trail up the SE Ridge
Heading back to camp

It was going to be warm on Friday and you don’t want to be high on this peak when the snow warms up. I wanted to be on the W Ridge around 7am so that I would have sun on the rock and plenty of time to get out & back on the ridge and down to camp before noon. So I went to bed at 7pm and set the alarm for 2:45am.

The Route

I like to break my climbs into sections…call it the Longs Peak approach. On this climb, there are 7 sections…

#1…SE Ridge…this is the treed section of the ridge that I broke trail up…it’s steep in spots, but I’ve never had an issue with finding safe passage up it

Lower route
Entire route

#2…Traverse from SE to S Ridge…this section is spooky and conditions need to be right…you have to cut across an exposed slope to the next ridge and that ridge is usually corniced

Kiefer starting across the first traverse in Feb
Looking back at the first traverse in Feb

#3…S Ridge…this is the steepest part of the climb and can be brutal if the snow is not set up…just head straight up and pick the best line through the mini-cliff bands…go until you hit the biggest cliff on the ridge…this is where Kiefer and I turned around in February

Looking up the S Ridge and the Big Cliff
Me on the S Ridge in Feb
Kiefer battling deep snow on the S Ridge in Feb

#4…Traverse from S Ridge to W Face…once you hit the big cliff on the S Ridge, you cut straight to the left…the traverse is about 250' long...this is a good place to dig a pit and test the slope before proceeding...a fall here would not end well

Looking back after coming back across the 2nd Traverse in Feb...shortcut noted as "Down"

#5…W Face…there is a shortcut from the traverse to the W Face that worked for me the last 2 times…this will save you a little distance on the traverse and take you past the steepest section of the face…the W Face is surprisingly mellow, but holds the deepest snow of the route…head straight for the saddle or right to hit the rocks earlier if the snow isn’t cooperating

Looking down the West Face
Steps in the West Face

#6…Start of the W Ridge…this is the easiest part of the route…you may think you are on a Sawatch peak

West Ridge...the boring part

#7…End of the W Ridge…once you crest the W Ridge, you will quickly be reminded that you are not on Mt. Yale and that the fun is not over yet…the summit is only 15 vertical feet and about 150 horizontal feet away, but it is a mix of 3rd, 4th and 5th class and some of the most exposed climbing I’ve ever done…and the rock is terrible which you are reminded of when every other piece of rock you grab is a souvenir…twice I got to this point and couldn’t convince myself to continue

West Ridge...the interesting part

The Ridge

The first obstacle on the ridge is to climb around the first blocky tower and into a notch. This is best done via a class 3 downclimb on the north side. It took me a little while to figure this out back in Feb.

Figuring it out in Feb
Another look in March

Then comes the first of 4 cruxes…climbing out of the notch and onto the second blocky tower. This took me 30 minutes to figure out in Feb. There aren’t many good holds in this section and the ones I thought were good, ended up being loose.

The notch in Feb

In February, I realized there are no good anchor options on top of the second tower. It was because of that and a stiff wind that I turned around on that attempt. This time my plan was to set up an anchor in the notch and run two 30 meter ropes from there to the summit. I hammered in a piton and backed that up with a stuffed rope knot in a crack. Is that a thing? It is now. : ) I tried to climb the route that I climbed in Feb, but the loose block was even looser this time and would definitely have come out as soon as I weighted it. I ended up awkwardly climbing a sloppy line left of that.

The notch in March...orange line Feb, red line March

I was now on top of the second tower for the 3rd time and determined to make it work. Unfortunately, I underestimated the distance from my anchor to the edge of the tower. My first 30m rope ran out just before the rappel. My only option was to tie my second rope to the first. I knew it was more than 30 meters to the summit and that my second rope would run out before I got there. I just hoped it would take me past the most difficult climbing.

Running out the rope on Tower 2

The second crux is an awkward down climb off of the second tower. I put my rappel device on the rope and worked my way around and down.

Down climb off of Tower 2

The 3rd crux is a tough little chimney between 2 big blocks. I would guess it is about 10’ high. I was hoping I would be able to knock the snow off the blocks on the left to give me some better holds, but they were glued on there and not budging. I left my axe and my mittens here to free up my hands.

Crux 2 - 4

After climbing the chimney, I was on the crest of the ridge for a while. The climbing was not difficult, but the exposure, snow covering and lack of confidence in the stability of the rock had me on my hands and knees or straddling for most of this section. There is one large block that needs to be skirted on the north side.

Looking back after skirting the big block

Right after this my rope ran out. I tied a knot and held it down with a big rock. Then contemplated the rest of the route. It was pretty obvious there was just one more difficulty. At first glance I was worried I wouldn’t be able to climb it. I worked my way over to it and realized I was just tall enough to reach the top edge. I grabbed it with one hand and found edges for the front points of my crampons on the left side of it. Once I straightened my legs I was able to get a good hold with both hands and scratch my way up.

Crux #4

Now I was back on the ridge and I could see the path to the summit. I expected feelings of relief, accomplishment, elation, joy…but I didn’t feel any of that. I was happy, but I knew I still had to get back off the ridge and down to camp before I could really enjoy it. I took a few pictures and got the hell out of there. I didn’t even call Dani. I wanted to wait until I was somewhat safe. I know it’s stupid, but I thought what if I call her all happy and then I die getting back across the ridge. Somehow that would be worse than if I didn’t call her at all??? The things that go through my head when I’m climbing alone are rarely logically and often dark.

Looking back at the ridge
View to the east

Descent & Celebration

The biggest reason for my unease was downclimbing crux #4. I grabbed the top of the rock and slowly worked my way down the left side. I wasn’t able to get my feet all the way back to solid ground so I had to let go and drop a few inches. This wasn’t awesome, but it worked. A short distance on the ridge and I was back to my rope!! I attached my Ushba ascender and quickly made it back to the base of tower 2. The climb back up is a little uncomfortable because you have to squeeze in a crack that wraps around to the right. At one point I realized my crampon had fallen off. Luckily it had caught on the edge of a rock and didn’t fall 2000 feet down the north side of the mountain.

Heading back across

I climbed down from the top of tower until I was a safe distance to jump down into the notch…and finally felt a little relief. I de-geared, packed all my stuff and called the family to let them know I summited and was safely off the ridge. I think Dani was more excited than I was. It was 8:45am, so I was a little ahead of schedule. I hiked back to the West Dallas saddle, glissaded down the West Face, and climbed back down to the traverse. I retraced my steps in the traverse and all the way back down the S Ridge. I felt good about the snow stability, but didn’t want to take any chances. Down climbing the ridge facing inwards was annoying but necessary.

Coming down the West Face
Coming down the South Ridge

I got back to camp around 10:30am. In an effort to lighten my load for the hike out, I ate and drank everything I had. If it’s in your stomach, does it still count as “weight”? The hike out from camp is only 2.5 miles and I was back to the car around 12:30pm. This meant I would be able to get home in time to eat dinner and celebrate with the family. I sent some texts and headed out on the happiest and easiest 5 ½ hour drive of my life. I came home to hugs, kisses, pizza and the coolest birthday cake EVER.

Do I like Peeps? Yes, I do.

I always struggle with how to end these trip reports. I guess I’ll just say thank you for reading this and for all the support and encouragement throughout this journey. I never would have been inspired to do something like this without the 14er.com community.

Summit Day and Hike Out

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
What a Journey!
3/14/2020 3:02pm
Congratulations on completing this incredible journey for both yourself and to honor Steve.

3/14/2020 3:24pm
great accomplishment!

A Cool 100
3/14/2020 6:26pm
That's really something, man. Congratulations on being the first Frozen 100 finisher. Dallas was a tough puzzle to figure out and I appreciate you sharing the ups and downs of your journey- I've always valued the humanity in your reports and been awed at the epic mileage and original routes you put together in the backcountry in winter. Inspiring stuff.

Awesome Mike!
3/14/2020 6:29pm
Congrats! I donât remember how many of the seven attempts Iâve been watching, but thrilled to see you safely complete this incredible effort.

3/14/2020 10:55pm
There are no words for what a crazy accomplishment this is. Absolutely legendary stuff. All of my peakbagger friends and I have wondered between ourselves when this was going to happen, and here it is. Congratulations what is probably the finest Colorado mountaineering achievement anyone will ever do.

3/14/2020 7:32pm
Thanks for posting your journey, that west ridge of Dallas looks super spicy! Glad that you were able to finish the Winter Centennial list safely. Agreed that this is among the absolute tops of Colorado mountaineering.

Kevin Baker
100 for Mad Mike!
3/14/2020 7:43pm
I saw your pack in post on Strava and I just had a feeling this was the one! I have found that the multiple "failures" on a peak are a learning experience and make success that much more fulfilling. Heck of a Cent journey, Mad Mike!

Dad Mike
Thank You
3/16/2020 8:13am
for the humbling comments. I really appreciate it. Finest Colorado mountaineering achievement sounds like a stretch. 100 is just a fun number. There are people out there that have climbed a lot more of these peaks in winter than I have.

I was hiking with a friend today and he mentioned he was surprised I didn't take the opportunity to thank the people that helped me along the way...specifically my wife, Dani. He is absolutely right. I had planned on doing that in a follow up TR about the entire project, but I'm not sure when I will get to that. Here is a quick list of the people that I will elaborate on later...
My Inspiration...Steve, Sarah and Ken
My Motivation...Ben and Brooke
My Partners...Dani, Abe, Darin, Amy, Kevin & Sarah, Greg, Joe, Ryan, Kiefer...I'm sure I'm forgetting some here
My Biggest Supporter, Spot Watcher, Gear Checker, Post Climb Encourager, Love of my Life...Dani

Bout time
3/16/2020 6:19am
You wrote this TR too. I remember also asking if you'd done this solo b/c IMO this isn't a solo mountain and you said, "Yeah, I don't recommend it"
And now, hear the lone wolf howl...awwww wooooo woooooo!
I asked Abe once when you become a frozen 14er member if we should get you something like the gold medallion 14er finishers get, which is lame but I wanted to celebrate somehow and he said we should get you a fuzzy teddy bear. I got you this instead this time, a mini whacky inflatable tube guy. I think you'll understand

3/16/2020 6:20am
....next winter you're going ice climbing with me since you don't have this list anymore! It might mean driving toward Telluride area again though.... hahhaha

Awesome stuff here Mike, I'm so happy for you and you continue to impress me! Steve would be, or is, smiling down at you and raising a toast, I'm sure.

Congrats !!
3/16/2020 8:41am
I have been following your progress for years and thank you for putting together this report. This is an amazing accomplishment and congrats on being the first to get this done.

3/16/2020 8:45am
The part I admire most is your propensity to try out new and/or challenging winter routes.
You aren't simply blitzing the easiest way up or relying on rope guns. Congrats, Mike!

3/16/2020 9:37am
Such an accomplishment Mike! I've always appreciated your TRs... hopefully these keep coming from whatever adventures come next.

Great job
3/16/2020 10:18am
That's the kind of route I would take one look at and say, "No f***ing way." Congrats on finally getting one beast of a peak.

3/16/2020 12:14pm
I've been waiting for you to post this!

3/16/2020 4:47pm
So freaking happy for you, Mike!!! I can only imagine how happy Dani must have been to see you! You are the epitome of dedication & perseverance. You've had WAY more opportunities to quit this project for valid/legit reasons. But the fact that you didn't let self-doubt or injury stop you, speaks volumes about you. CONGRAULATIONS, Mike!!!!!

Incredible journey!
3/17/2020 2:41pm
Mike- Thanks for taking us along on the journey! Heck of an accomplishment! Congratulations!

3/18/2020 8:03am
What a journey to 100!
Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

3/18/2020 1:56pm
Awesome trip report and a great accomplishment!! Congratulations!!

Congrats, respect, and thanks!
3/19/2020 2:29pm
Congratulations Mike! I hope you are still smiling ear to ear when thinking about this accomplishment, it is huge!

I have a ton of respect for how you did it, your ability to turn around when it didn't feel right, your thoughtful and detailed TRs, and your improvised routes and techniques.

Thank you for sharing your journey along the way, your successes and challenges have been the must reads of every winter season! And thank you for being the first to accomplish this goal, nice that it is someone Steve knew and admired. I tried to "help" him on his journey...but really just cost him one summit and his summit Snickers on another. Thanks for putting a smile on my face in during these crazy times!

Dad Mike
Thank You
3/19/2020 3:17pm
I know we could all use some cheering up right now, and your comments are doing that for me. So thank you for that. It means a lot to me.

Dad Mike
Rope Technique
3/19/2020 3:54pm
I got a few questions about my rope technique on the ridge and wanted to elaborate a little. Of the 100 peaks, I only used a rope on Capitol, the Bells Traverse, Pyramid, Jagged, Teakettle & Dallas and most of those were for short raps. I've done very little trad climbing and almost no self-belaying. My approach on Dallas was to keep it simple. I would set an anchor and run it out as if I were horizontally rappelling the ridge using my BD ATC. I brought some nuts, cams and pitons so I could secure the rope every 20 feet or so...but only ended up using the one piton for the anchor. Any time I had a chance to throw the rope over a rock feature on top of the ridge, I would do that for natural pro. I did this all the way until the rope ran out. I kept the rope tight, so if fell, I would only fall the distance between me and the last rock I looped. On the way back, I used my Ushba self-belay device. This slid up the rope as climbed along the ridge, but would catch in case of a fall and have the same effect as the ATC. I did need to manually feed the rope though the Ushba because the rope was not vertical.

I know this technique was not perfect. There were times where I needed both hands for climbing and couldn't manage the ATC. But this was the best I could come up with and it worked for me.
I would love to know how a trad climber or solo rope climber would have done this. Please feel free to send me your thoughts.

Re. Rope
3/20/2020 9:18am
Mike - your technique is pretty much rope soloing, except swap out the atc with an auto locking progress capture device (grigri common). And/or throw pre-tied slip knots every few feet in the rope which you'd remove while the rope feeds. These would catch in the atc if you fell while going hands free. Basically, you did exactly what someone else would've done, just without certain redundancies.

3/25/2020 6:00am
Dad Mike; Congratulations to pull this off! Whether you know it or not, you inspired plenty of folks on your journey. This one is nothing short of crazy. 7x for Dallas is madness. Mad Mike Madness.

3/27/2020 12:48pm
Absolutely incredible stuff Mike! So glad to see someone I truly respect complete Steve's list first! Awesome job!

So awesome!
6/25/2020 5:18am
I remember seeing your rope off the summit block on a climb in 2018 and thought âœthat dude must be a complete badass.❠Excellent work and fine accomplishment!

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