Some Summer Climbs

I’ve spent the summer mostly writing on Medium (see my previous post), working, and climbing around Colorado.

Quite truthfully, I’ve felt a little too spent to write anything “serious.” That’s just how things are, for now. Y’all are used to me coming and going, I’m sure.

Here are some of the places I’ve been seeking my serenity:

Mount Yale

Mount Yale is a Colorado 14er (mountain with a summit above 14,000 feet). It’s an easy hike, with no technical climbing required. Still, with a summit elevation of of 14,196 feet (4,327 meters), Yale demands you be fit and prepared.

It’s a popular peak to hike in summer; we did it in spring while the mountain was still covered in snow. It was pretty, but even still: Yale’s a walk. The biggest difficulty we faced on this peak was post-holing in the soft afternoon snow on the last mile or so of our hike out.

Read more: Snow Climbing a Colorado 14er

Martha’s Couloir

Martha is a mixed ice, rock and snow route in the Long’s Peak/Mount Meeker Cirque. It climbs a narrow constriction at a relatively low angle of 40-50 degrees. There are sections which involve snow climbing (as you see above), steeper steps of rock climbing using your hands and/or ice tools, and small sections of technical ice climbing, involving front-pointing with your crampons and using the business end of your ice-axes.

Scottish-style climbing on Martha

We climbed this in June — way too late in the season to be climbing this route, even with Colorado’s cold, wet spring. Conditions were dangerous, we made some poor decisions, and only through luck did we avoid disaster.

There were some lessons to be learned here, but for now — I’m keeping them to myself.

The Petit Grepon

The Petit is the leftmost tower on the right-side buttress. Identifiable by the shadow cast on it.

The Petit Grepon is an alpine spire in Rocky Mountain National Park, famous for its inclusion in Roper and Steck’s “50 Classic Climbs of North America” (a seminal list).

The climb involves a ~5 mile hike to a high alpine basin, followed by 800 feet (~250 meters) of 5.7-5.8 climbing to a spectacular summit. Four 60-meter rappels take you back to the shores of Sky Pond, itself a wonderful hiking objective.

Descending from the summit of the Petit Grepon

I climbed this with a stranger. It felt nice, in a way. The pretext stripped away. Nothing bringing us together but the rock. We climbed quickly, efficiently, and were back on the ground before noon.

I took few pictures.

Read more: Le Petit Grepon

Capitol Peak

We took a three day weekend for this one, as Capitol’s a four-hour drive from Denver. Our plan was to backpack in and camp on Friday, climb the mountain on Saturday, and pack out back to real life on Sunday.

Capitol Peak is known as Colorado’s “Hardest 14er.” I can’t say if that’s true or not, as I’ve only climbed a small handful, but I can say Capitol is a serious, aesthetic mountain. It rises to 14,130 feet (4306 meters), a touch shorter than Mount Yale but much more committing. From our camping site at Capitol Lake we had a great view of the mountain’s imposing ridge. Our non-standard route took us directly across that two-mile-long ridge you see above.

Capitol’s Ridge Direct Route; July 20 2019

Ths is Class 4 terrain — you are using both your hands and feet to climb, although the holds are huge. Any type of slip or fall would have serious consequences. Ropes, generally, are not used.

Capitol Peak is considered the hardest 14er because even the easiest route up involves a number of sections like this. It is not a mountain for novice hikers or those who are afraid of heights.

Every year in Colorado, people die on this mountain.

We didn’t die, but didn’t bag the summit either. Unusually early weather rolled through, and forced us to retreat to lower ground.

It’s always a bit of a bummer to bail from a climb, especially when you’ve traveled far to get there — but it’s almost always the right decision.

We’ll be back for this one.

What’s Still on the Ticklist?

  • Exum Ridge, the Grand Teton
  • The Diamond, Long’s Peak
  • Yellow Spur, Eldorado Canyon

Want to climb together? Get in touch!

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