10.09.2005

One more before it snows...

Well we managed to sneak in one more perfect fall day, but the next few days have other things in store for us. My friend Ben and I decided to take advantage of Saturday and get in another climb before the snows make the more technical routes no longer feasible. We headed to Dyer Mountain, the 81st highest peak in the state, located outside of Leadville just north of the fourteener Mt Sherman. Both peaks are located in the Mosquito Range, which is primarily just a long gentle ridge. In fact, many of the peaks in the range are not even ranked summits because the north-south ridge crest itself is relatively flat. Many of the summits are indistinguishable from a distance. There are very few technical routes hidden on these peaks, but the west ridge of Dyer is one of them. After a short hike from the car to the saddle, we stopped for a quick snack and then headed on to the ridge. The lower section is just class 2, and is a good warm up for the challenges ahead. Quickly we were presented with the first technical pitch, which included a couple of easy class 4 moves. The ridge then eases up before the base of a larger headwall. Though the view is imposing from its base, there is a nice class 3 crack that is tucked away and it is easier to climb than it looks. Above this section the ridge flattens a bit, but several short gendarmes (rock towers) stick up from the ridge to block easy passage. The guide book mentions going around these difficulties to the right to keep the route at class 3, but we thought we would stay on the ridge crest. We figured that there are peaks out there where this would be considered the “easy” way, and before tackling one of those routes we should know that we can handle it. We knew that on Dyer at least, if it was too much for us we could just back track and traverse below the towers. The ridge crest turned out to be just fine, although it did increase the difficulty to class 4. The most difficult part was an 8 foot drop on the back side of the one gendarme to a notch at the top of a steep gully. In order to reach the top of this gully, we had to turn and face into the rock and lower ourselves onto a couple of small indents, and a good ledge near the base of the rock. It was sort of like reverse rock climbing, and all of our after-work bouldering came in handy. It is one thing to do a move like this when it is only a few feet off the ground, and quite another when it is more like a thousand feet up. After that, there were a couple of easier notches before the final 200 feet to the summit on class 2 terrain. On the descent we opted for the east ridge, which is only class 2. This made for a nice circle tour, and we also got to check out the mining ruins to the east of this peak. Some of the buildings were in pretty good shape, one had newspapers on the walls that were dated May of 1979, I guess as little as about 25 years ago this was still an active mine. We didn’t go into any of the buildings though, just peeked in the windows. There was even some rusty old equipment lying around, including what looked like was once a tractor of some sort.

At least we got one good day in, Sunday the weather rolled in, and while it has been all rain so far due to our “warm” temperatures (about 40 degrees), after the sun sets it is supposed to change over to snow and stay that way most of the day tomorrow. We could get upwards of 6 inches in town, and on the ski areas it has been snowing all day. They even have the chain restrictions out for the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is at about 11,500 feet above sea level. This snow figures to stick around for a while as our temperatures are not expected to get out of the 40’s until at least the end of the week. They already are making snow at some resorts, and opening days are scheduled at some of the major resorts by the second week of November. Another month and I will be on skis, hard to believe!