6.14.2006

Halfway There

The snows continue to melt as the first day of summer rapidly approaches. The ski mountains around here are nearly snow free, just a few patches here and there. With the warm dry weather Tracy and I headed up to climb a couple of more fourteeners this weekend. Two more and my total would hit 27, halfway through the 53 ranked fourteeners in Colorado. Sunday was the full moon, so we thought it would be cool if we could summit something easy on Saturday night and then Sunday get in a nice scrambling route. Saturday morning before our drive down to the trailhead we headed out for some rock climbing on Golden. We went to North Table Mountain for some easy to moderate sport climbing routes. Sport is slightly different from the usual top roping I have done, in that the route needs to be led. This basically means that as you go up you clip the rope to anchors on the rock with a piece of equipment called a quick draw. This is basically two carabiners attached with a length of material. The carabiners have a gate so you can put one end of the draw through the anchor and then clip the rope to the other. These help so that if you fall, you only fall as far as the previous anchor point. When you get to the top you set up a top anchor and then you climb similar to a top roped route. At the end of the climb the last person to top out removes the top anchor and rapels down the face. It was the first time I led a climb, and also the first time I rapelled a route. It was fun, but a little scary!

We then drove down towards the Crestone Peaks area for our climb. The road up is a rough one, and I gave up on the road a good mile and a half or so from the trailhead. I just didn't like the looks of the steep, wet rocks in the road ahead. After setting up camp, we headed towards a climb of Humboldt Peak, the 36th tallest in the state at 14,064'. For this area, it is an easy peak, and for a lot of people is sort of "ho hum". Its still a great hike and has very impressive views. Climbing at dusk we got to see the sun set and the moon rise. We then had to climb back down in the dark, but with the nearly full moon we had plenty of light and a good portion of the hike did not even need our headlamps to light the way. The round trip took less than 5 hours and we were back by midnight. The next morning we got up around 7 and started heading up the trail again, this time towards Colorado's 7th highest peak, mighty and rugged Crestone Peak (14,294'). Once claimed "unclimbable" it took this peak and its neighbor Crestone Needle until 1916 to finally succumb to the feet of man. While difficult, and definitely intimidating looking from a distance, it actually was not so bad. The standard route ascends a steep gully full of red rock and is mostly a hiking route with a few intermixed sections of class 3 climbing. We thought that the face to the right looked more interesting with its knobby conglomerate rock and went that way instead. There was much more class 3 and also some class 4 climbing on this route, and it was a lot of fun. We left this face as it started to lead us the wrong way, and headed up the upper part of the red gully. From here a couple hundred more feet of scrambling on knobby rock leads you to the summit. The Peak (as it is known) is the highest summit for miles and has some really long distance views of the surrounding valleys. We decended more in the gully where it was easier and headed back towards camp. As we got closer to camp we came across a mountain goat having a late afternoon snack, he didn't seem to be afraid of us so we took some few pictures and then headed on back to break camp and drive back out the bumpy road. I posted trip reports with photos on one of the climbing forums I belong to, you can see them here:

Humboldt Peak

Crestone Peak