Peak(s):  Teakettle Mtn  -  13,819 feet
Date Posted:  09/04/2007
Date Climbed:   09/01/2007
Author:  shanahan96

 San Juan Fifth Class Fun  

Labor Day weekend. Awhile back, when Jamie and I were making plans for the summer, we decided now would be the perfect time to climb our first fifth-class, alpine style mountain together. We were quite familiar with the centennials and thought Teakettle would make an excellent outing.

We weren't the only ones who liked our idea as Kiefer and Mike decided that our San Juan adventure would be the perfect way to spend their holiday. Jamie's friend David was in Ouray also, so our team was set at five.

Teakettle in the early morning

As we pulled off on the side of the road in Yankee Boy Basin, our gaze was drawn to the heights, specifically Coffeepot, in order to figure out our route around the cliff bands. Lowering our sights, we discovered that last night's rain left us with an unwelcomed gift; wet, tall plants to bushwhack through! After finding a semi-weakness in the jungle, we decided to suck it up and plow through the overgrown greenery. 100' vertical later, we had escaped the carwash and began to crank up the steep, grassy slopes.

Up and further up we went. Oh, it was steep but we were pleased with our efficiency in gaining altitude. Halfway up the 2100' vertical slope, we glanced at our watches to discover that we'd only been on the trail for 34 minutes! Everyone was pleased to hear that.

Heading up the steep, grassy slopes towards Coffeepot

Unfortunately, we still had half the slope to climb and the horrid scree slog loomed as we left the lovely grass slopes behind. The going slowed in an unpleasant gully. Here the rockfall danger increased and everybody made special care not to dislodge any death rockets on the climbers lower down the slope. As we made our way up the gully, Mike and Kiefer disappeared from our sight.

The horrid scree gully

At the top of the gully, David began to climb over large rocks covered with loose scree. Jamie and I reluctantly followed since we didn't see the faint climber's trail off to the right. When Kiefer and Mike appeared 100' above us, we realized our mistake. After plowing our way through this misery, we reassembled our group at the Coffeepot, relieved to be through that nightmare. Finally, we were able to turn our attention to Teakettle!

Teakettle from the bench below Coffeepot

From our vantage point, we were easily able to locate the Black Gully across another scree field. After arriving at the second gully from our break plateau, we began the descent through more loose trash towards Teakettle. The rock in this gully was even worse than earlier! Carefully we made our way down one at a time. At the bottom of the slope, we picked up a climber's trail and quickly made our way to the base of the Black Gully.

Nearing the Black Gully

The Black Gully was as unpleasant as it looked from afar.

Entering the Black Gully

Mike had begun his ascent and yelled down that everything was loose and wet. After he went around the bend at the top, we began more one-at-a-time climbing giving the other party members plenty of space. At the top, I began moving towards the right fork of the gully. Mike was standing at the apex of this chimney waiting for me and pointed out a little crack which made this exit "a little less difficult". After struggling up it, Mike revealed that he struggled also and really didn't see a good way out. Kiefer and David agreed as they pulled their way through this misery. Jamie must float or something because she just walked out of the gully and gave us all a weird look.

From here, we spotted a party of two descending the next section of the route. Being only a minute or two away, we elected to wait for them to pass before continuing onwards. As they drew closer, we discovered it was Sarah Thompson and Dominic on their way to Coffeepot and Potosi! The seven of us chatted for a few moments before taking off for our respective summits.

Even though we had two cliff bands left to pass, the going was straight forward on a climber's trail. Next thing you know, Mike and Kiefer are setting their packs on the ground in front of the infamous summit block as the rest of us round the corner.

The infamous Teakettle summit block

After everyone puts their harnesses on, we have a last minute refresher course on any questions anyone is unsure of. Then we turn to the Teakettle…..

I, for one, was extremely excited about Teakettle seeing that it would be my first alpine lead(5.3). When Jamie and Mike were ready on belay, I started up the 40' pitch. After setting a #1 cam lower down, two ledges allowed easier access to the area where the chimney began. After putting in the #0.5 cam at the chimney's base, I began the final section. Hand and footholds were abundant on the left side, but were lacking on the right. Luckily, the chimney was a perfect width for smearing which made for enjoyable climbing until two small rocks presented themselves a couple of feet before the summit. Here I placed the #3 cam and climbed onto the summit! Wow, it's really a small one(7-8 people max). After setting up four anchors, I prepared to belay the others up.

Nearing the top of the summit pitch

On top. My 100th unique, ranked Colorado summit!

Kiefer, with his new PF Flyers, made specifically for rock climbing flew up the pitch. He was extremely excited to be up there, maybe even more than on Dallas! David came up next; he was very nervous with his lack of experience but we kept reassuring him and he did just fine with a little positive encouragement. Great job David! Jamie came next and cleaned the pro en route looking like she'd been doing this for years. Mike was last, and he has been doing this years. 5.3 is so easy for him that his biggest challenge was not climbing too fast to avoid getting caught in the rope's slack!

Jamie Nellis climbing the summit block

Once he got up, the five of us packed the summit quite well!

The team on the summit
#1: Kiefer and Mike, with Potosi behind
#2: Relieved and Nervous David
#3: Happy Jamies

With everyone safely up, it was time to get moving if we wanted to nab Coffeepot before Kiefer had to head for work. After setting everything up, we all returned to the base of the pitch,

Jamie Nellis rappeling Teakettle

removed our harnesses and took pictures in Teakettle's handle. By now, time was ticking for Kiefer so we started for Coffeepot.

After descending the Black Gully, Mike and I began to haul up the slope for Coffeepot in order to get the rope and pro setup before Kiefer arrived. It was good timing too as he arrived just as Mike started me on-belay.

Coffeepot was more difficult than Teakettle for me(5.5). The holds were much scarcer yet the chimney was a great width for counter pressure.

Me figuring out the challenge of Coffeepot

Halfway up, a crack presented itself for a place to put the #1 cam, but that was the only spot which offered a spot for protection. After that, it was a challenge climbing the final dozen feet or so. Upon arriving at the apex of the climb, it was quite the relief to find two solid holds to pull myself over the top. I was very happy to be done with that pitch. While setting up the anchor, a guy appeared from over the slope towards Potosi. He was wearing jeans and sweatshirt with a hood…..weird! Meanwhile, Kiefer was climbing the pitch, he didn't have any of the issues of my lead. Once he topped out, we set up the day's second rappel. He jetted down and began the slog down the slope towards the trailhead.

After re-anchoring myself, Jamie and Mike took their turns climbing the pitch. They didn't agree with my assessment of the crack(5.3/5.4), maybe it was being on lead? While we were setting up the rappel, the sweatshirt guy appeared on the summit. Mike was halfway through his rappel when I noticed the guy starting to downclimb the smooth west face. No, no, no; that's certain death! After informing him of where to downclimb, he went down the crack, grabbed his stick and took off for Yankee Boy. WTF?

The shock of that guy was quickly erased during my rappel. My foot slipped out from under me while entering the overhang and my body was thrown against the rocks cutting my right hand and leg in multiple places. So much for a clean body after just getting rid of those last cuts! Jamie did a miraculous job bandaging me up before we headed back down the horrid scree slope.

Luckily, we were able to do a fair bit of scree surfing back to the grassy slopes. From there, it was a plod back to the vehicles where we gladly changed into sandals while having a beer before heading to Telluride.



 Comments or Questions

11/30/2010 17:28
the lead was awesome! don't know how to describe it, but it awakens your body completely as i was feeling everything from freedom to a bit of fear.

the 100th is ranked colorado peaks(14ers, 13ers, 12ers, etc) in general. somehow is took me ~160 summits statewide to obtain 100 unique ones. my number of repeats is mindboggling for such a small number of summits.

centennial wise, i'm at 50/100 with a successful climb of mount wilson the following day. my notable ones left are gladstone, jagged and pigeon. the one thing i did finish this weekend is the four great fouteener traverses.

as for yankee boy, everywhere we turned there was sick lines. steep snow couloirs on gilpin and potosi along with technical routes on saint sophia and teakettle. it even holds a fine 12er in stony. it's a gem of an area, especially for its size!



Way to go!
08/28/2008 00:37
Very nice Jamie! Good job on your first lead. I can imagine how adrenalized you must have been! Great report


Capital letters?
11/30/2010 17:28
As usual, you've posted a great trip report with excellent pictures, but I'm most impressed by your repeated use of the "shift" key. Is this a first?


11/30/2010 17:28
come with trip reports. don't expect to see them anywhere else!



01/19/2011 03:38
...commentary and photos. You guys do some inspiring stuff.
Sorry we couldn't hook up in T-Ride post-Wilsons. Work came damn early Monday morning...


11/30/2010 17:28
thanks man! if we'd only 15-20 minutes faster exiting the wilsons we could have caught you before leaving smuggler's. hopefully you had a great weekend too!

we're all pretty fortunate to have a great core team to work with. teamwork, that's the real reason we get to do awesome climbs.



Congrats guys!
09/04/2007 19:43
And especially to you Jamie on your first lead. We saw two of you guys on CoffeePot as we were coming back from Potosi. I have a pic if you want it. We hung out by my car at the bathroom for quite a while afterwards having some beer. I was getting a little worried about you guys up there when the skies got dark. Then they magically cleared! From the road we some one guy running down the mountain and were worried something had happened to you guys. Then we lost site of him. We waited until we saw you guys coming down before we took off. We figured maybe one of you was just in dire need of some tree cover and went on ahead . I guess maybe that was Kiefer.


11/30/2010 17:28
thanks, it was a great lead.

congrats on potosi, we got conflicting messages from different members of the group who thought they saw you and dominic going up/down the mountain at different times. did you descend the same route as we did? how about coxcomb; did you end up including that in your weekend?

the rain wasn't bad; it sprinkled for 30 seconds or so before disappearing. we were a little worried about slick talus, but that lasted about as long as the rain. thanks for waiting on us; it's good to know someone cares.



no problem Jamie
11/30/2010 17:28
We didn't descend the same route as you guys - that would have meant pretty much climbing back up to Coffeepot or doing a lot of side hilling. Roach (in the 13er book) recommends a direct descent from the Potosi - Teakettle saddle that worked very well for us. It navigated carefully through the cliffs near the bottom and dumped us about a tenth of a mile down the road from my car.

We didn't end up doing Coxcomb. Maybe you want to join us for that in the future . I felt OK on Saturday but was sick as heck on Sunday with a fever. We climbed San Miguel but I barely made it. Needless to say we scratched our plans for additional summits that day. I don't even know why I climbed the first one. I was absolutely miserable. On Monday I felt much better and we traversed from ”V9” to Vermilion.


11/30/2010 17:28
yes, just let me know! thanks

sorry you didn't feel so great this weekend.



09/04/2007 20:47
Jamie, congrats on all your milestones & 1st lead this weekend. I look forward to many more exciting climbs! Thanks Sarah for waiting on us & congrats on Potosi.
Thanks everyone for the nice comments.

Steve Knapp

Nice report!
09/04/2007 22:11

This was a great trip report. I knew you guys would enjoy the Teakettle, it remains one of my favorites of the 100 highest. The final pitch and the tiny summit is awesome! Pretty cool to add Coffeepot too, we skipped that.

Nice to finally meet you guys in person over the weekend.

san juaneer

right on guys!!!
11/30/2010 17:28
we were pleased with our efficiency in gaining altitude.” Wow! how'd you pull that off, I can never seem to get more than a foot or so off of the ground.

Congrats on the 1st lead jamie... you make me proud!
I've never even heard of anyone climbing the boulders from below... I think most people just cross them from the right on their tops. That makes for some great pics, and toughens the look of the summit pitch. Good goin' tough guy!


Right on!
10/22/2008 10:35
Dude, you rocked the casbah on Teakettle and ”Coffeepot”. Thanks for the leading both summits!
Remember the ”J” word for next year....

Thanks for raping me down immediately too. I REALLY appreciate that. It was cool running into you, Sarah and Dominic. Nice Camera by the way!


Well done guys!
11/30/2010 17:28
Sounds like you had alot of fun. You don't mention your lead on Coffeepot, but the others mentioned you did it. I found it very similar, but the fact that you left it out implies that you foun it easier. What did you think?


11/30/2010 17:28
thanks for the props folks! i'm really touched by all your comments.

baby- i love you! (don't blush, prakash already put it out there) you did great; i'm so proud of you! you make everyone of my climbs so much better just by being along.

steve k- it was great to meet you this weekend. drop us a line sometime after your break and we'll plan something this fall.

kiefer- who said jagged? it's always a pleasure having you along, especially when positive, giddy kiefer jumps out and bubbles all over the place. never lose that attitude, you can make a climb so much better by being that person!

steve g- the lead on coffeepot was a little tricky for me. i thought it was tougher than teakettle(5.5), but the others found it easier by climbing deeper in the chimney(5.3). the last photo in the report is my lead.

aaron- thanks brother, that means the world coming from you! i owe you so much for making this possible. everything you did, from taking the week off work to show me the ropes on fifth-class mountains to the numerous phone class filled questions about knots, ropes and didn't have to do any of it, yet you decided to do it all. it means the world to me, hopefully i'll find a way to pay you back someday. thank you, seriously thank you.


Chicago Transplant

Thanks and Congrats!
09/05/2007 18:31
Thanks to Jamie and the rest of our team for a great day on Teakettle and Coffeepot! The summit pitch makes the loose approach worth it, definitely one I will come back to again. Congrats as well on your first lead and 100th summit. Remember, I get to lead Dallas next year

I thought the climbing on Teakettle vs Coffeepot was about the same difficulty but the technique was different. That may be why you thought Coffeepot was harder. The off-width chimney technique is not as graceful as the face climbing and stemming of Teakettle. I personally face climbed the inside wall of Coffeepot (Jamie is facing it in his photo). This was a little tougher than Teakettle due to smaller holds, but they were bomber and plentiful... trust the rubber

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