Lone Eagle Trip Report

Trail: North Face, Class 5.7 , ~22 miles, ~6500 ft elevation gain

I have had my eye on Lone Eagle Peak since first viewing the cover off Gerry Roach's Indian Peaks Guide and luckily, so has my friend Brian Hynek.  Brian and I had climbed the Cables Route on Long's Peak and knew we worked well together so decided to try for Lone Eagle on July 13th, 2005.  We met on Tuesday the 12th and started hiking from the Long Lake trailhead in the early afternoon.  The hike in from this side is a bit of a pain and is about 9.5 miles long.  Basically we followed the Long Lake Trail up to Lake Isabelle turned off at the Pawnee Pass trail, climbed to the pass, descended the continental divide to Lake Pawnee, and followed the trail until the turn off to Crater Lake.  It would turn out that 50 lb packs made for a very, very long summit day. 

We arrived at Mirror Lake after about 5 hours of hiking and set up camp.  After setting up we headed over to Crater Lake where Brian met a couple from Kansas who had returned to the area after 12 years.  This couple told Brian that the last time they had come a soloist had fallen on the climb.  After hearing his screams, the couple's son climbed up to the man and gave him a sleeping bag while one of the couple hiked out to Monarch Lake for a rescue team.  It turned out that this very lucky man had broken both legs and arms and managed to survive, I hope he gave these people one heck of a thank you. 

One huge perk of the trip was that Brian's dog, Marley came along.  Marley was big, friendly, chased any Marmots away before they could have their way with our gear, and in his Outward Hound pack, carried all of our quickdraws.

The view of Lone Eagle was quite astonishing from camp.  Lone Eagle is actually the low point at the end of a spectacular ridge but from our vantage it appeared to be an unconquerable massif waiting for foolish climbers to attempt it. 

Here is a side shot showing Lone Eagle from a different vantage point.

Our campground ranks as one of, if not the most beautiful places I have been in Colorado. The west side of the divide exhibits a remarkable dichotomy from the east and is heavily vegetated with numerous lakes and streams.  Our campsite was breathtaking.  We were surrounded by giant and rugged mountains with a stream flowing out from the lake next to us.  I spent an hour or so filtering water marveling at how beautiful the area was.  I'll definetly go back with Jen to climb some of the peaks there (Hopi & Achonee).

Brian and I cooked up our Mountain House dinners and stared at Lone Eagle.  Brian spent allot of time laughing, I spent allot of time wondering what sort of fool I was to have this lifestyle.  In any event we both respected the peak we had our sites on.  I find it hard to describe just how intimidating Lone Eagle was from our vantage point.  Lone Eagle appeared to be a huge unclimbable mountain.  Its summit was a narrow point surrounded by shear face and I wondered what they would be like to stand next to.  By 9:00 or so we drifted off to a restless nights sleep.

At 4:00 we awoke, made breakfast, and packed up our approach bags.  We started off at 5:15 only to turn around and notice Marley right behind us.  It turned out Marley had chewed right through his leash.  We turned back to camp and retied Marley with a 25 foot section of webbing and set back off.

The beginning of the climb consisted of following a 200 yard talus field up to a water streaked section of rock terminating in two large pine trees.

Since the rock was so wet we proceeded to rope up for it and scramble up (~class 5.4) .  We made good time and found ourselves on upward angling ramps covered by pine trees.  Since descriptions rated this section as 3 pitches of class 3,4 and some 5.0 we decided to forgone the rope and free climb.  As I recall there was only one sketchy section. Soon enough we found the gully which splits the east face of the peak and angles to climbers right.  We scampered up some lower 5th class rock to the 5.5 chimney.  The pictures below are of me relaxing below the chimney and then the chimney itself.

The chimney was very narrow in its upper part and since I had hauled my Canon EOS20D and my boots with me I was forced to climb the outside of it which made it somewhat tougher.  We did rope for this part as the fall potential was there.

After Brian had led the chimney we found ourselves on a grassy ledge. All during the climb we followed the advice from climbingboulder.com which was 100 percent right.  One post said 'DO NOT GO LEFT HERE'  . We didn't and headed straight up the rock below which lead to moderate climbing (class 5.4).  I went right and Brian went left on the rock below.

After the moderate section shown above we came to another stretch of rcok which was much longer and more vertical.  At first we didn't rope and headed up freehanded.  Somewhere near the top I came to a portion that was a bit past my comfort level for unroped climbing.  It's funny but I feel that most of the pitches we roped were tougher than the rating suggested, that is except for the crux pitch which felt like dead on 5.7.  After getting a bit nervous I descended to the grassy area in the picture below and set up an anchor.  Brian and I tied in and he quickly lead a friction slab section to the top.  On rope I was quite happy and followed.  The crux of this pitch seemed more like 5.5.  It's funny to pick at the difference between 5.4 and 5.5 but in the alpine with a pack it sure makes a difference.

Once past this section we found ourselves on grassy 3rd and 4th class slopes leading to the crux pitch.  The crux is quite easily identifiable as a pair of cracks leading straight up.  Below the cracks is a small ledge over top of a huge grassy ledge (huge, like a football field).  At the top of the crack is a diamond shaped rock.

Brian set up an anchor and started up.  He made good time and once at the top communicated it was my time using the walkie talkies I had brought.  As a segue I recommend bringing walkie talkies as the wind can make communication difficult. 

I followed the pitch which was quite pleasant 5.7 crack climbing.  The only creepy part was an angled slab traverse near the end.  I would not recommend looking down from here.   The picture below is a shot of me at the top of the traverse.  The crux was fun, easy, and thrilling  and at close to 12000 feet, it certainly will remain in my memory as quite different from 5.7s down in the crags.


Once we had arrived at the ledge I contoured around a narrow 15 foot section and placed a precautionary cam.  Brian came up and we headed about 75 feet to the south where we found the obvious 5.4 chimney.  For reference do not do the overhung chimney above the crux pitch, it is not the 5.4 chimney.

Brian took off up the chimney and radioed down for me to follow (We roped this and the part above it as well).  He also told me I was in for a bit of fun.  I made my way up the chimney only to find a finger crack above it leading to the summit.  I'm not sure if we went the wrong way but it felt like 5.6 to me. 

We summited around noon for a total of 6.5 hours.  The route was solid, fun, and really easy to follow using the beta from climbingboulder.com. We worked well together and easily stayed on route, up to the summit felt like the safest, best coordinated climbs I have ever done.   The picture below is of Brian on the tiny little one person summit.

I guess the old saying pride goeth before a fall is true.  We were both so happy that we summited in good time and without ever getting off route that we ignored the downclimb route.  Instead of paying close attention to the description, we down climbed the ridge and followed obvious trails down a steep gully.  At the bottom we found a rappel sling.  Brian backed it up and rapped down.  He came up shortly later and said no way was that the route.  At this point we read Dave Cooper's book closely and realized our mistake.  The actual trail for Solo Flight (class 4 route) is much higher and stays near the ridge.  We upclimbed a bit of tricky class 5.0-5.2 stuff and soon found ourselves on the cairned trail. 

It was on the descent that the scariest part of the climb occurred.  I was climbing up what may have been the 4th class gully described in Cooper's book when I kicked a rock free.  I saw Brian right below and panic hit me.  I started yelling 'ROCK,ROCK,ROCK' and Brian, who later told me the tone of my voice made it clear how bad the situation was, grabbed on to holds hard and ducked his head.  Thank god for helmets because the rock hit him square on it.  The rock bounced off and he was fine but if he hadn't had a helmet on he would have been done.  He came up and we decided to go single file through all future sections. 

 For reference, the picture below shows the ridge.  The final point on the ridge (note how low) is Lone Eagle's summit

We made our way down the lake and enjoyed the views of Triangle Lake below. We quickly descended to the 2nd class gully where I filled my water up using a trickle of snow melt running over rocks.  After descending the gully we walked back to camp through a beautiful valley.

Back at camp we found two Canadian girls had stopped to take care of Marley.  We thanked them  packed up and started the long march out.  We should have spent the night as it was nearly 5:00 when we left but I knew Jen would be in a panic if I showed up allot later than I had told her to expect me.  I generally give a time for her to be worried about me but I'll have to add a bivy day to it from now on.

The hike out was miserable and we plodded out way through the 9.5 miles up and over the divide to the Long Lake trailhead.  We finally arrived back at the car at 12:15 A.M. making it a 19 hour day and my personal longest. 

Lone Eagle was spectacular and one of,if not the best thing I have climbed.  I would recommend just going to Mirror Lake to see that area.  While we may have come out dead tired we did summit and Marley got to enjoy the flowers below Pawnee Pass.

PS The mosquitoes were horrendous, bring bug spray and put it everywhere, they even bit me through my shirt.

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