Scrambling Up The Gulley
Given that I was unable
to find a marmot for my obligatory photo I will be using a Pika as a
stand in for this report.
The Approach Ledges
Casey and Hallie ditched some of their gear at the bottom
of the ledges and roped up as one team. The route looked like
we could climb it as two teams and sort of parallel up it.
Brian was kind enough to take the front end the whole way for
Jen and myself. We decided this was the best way to climb it
as we were on double ropes and it would let me stay within 10 feet of
Jen for the entire roped section. I wanted to make sure that
I could coach her through any tricky parts and figured being near her
would make the whole thing easier. Brian was also nice enough
to run out all of his pitches (2-4 pieces per rope stretch) which let
me find easier ways up for Jen. After we roped up we all set
off. The first two pitches went by pretty quickly and each
ended with large ledges. I'd have to say the climbing on the
line we took was 5.5 and not 5.4, I even managed to get out on some
slabby foot traverse that was a good 15 feet of 5.7 on the second
pitch. Due to anchor options the line ran pretty much over
this section so I told Jen to hold on and walked her end of the rope
over to Hallie who was nice enough to give her a redirect belay up the
last 30 feet to the huge 3rd class ledge. Jen did
very well on this whole section and, despite her initial trepidation
upon seeing the peak, made it through the climbing
with relative ease. I'm guessing the 5.4 only line was
farther to the left than the one we took. Casey and Hallie
reported taking a 5.5-5.6 line but both being better climbers
than myself were making no attempt to keep it too easy.
Jen On Pitch 1
Looking At Pitch 2
After the second jen and I walked the ropes up to the base
of the Meadows and Brian Quickly followed. There
was some snow to contend with but nothing overly
serious. At the base of the Meadows Casey ad Hallie took a
harder line on the right which ascended a direct rock route while Brian
led up through the easier entrance. This part of the climbing
required a total of 2 pitches which were broken into three for belay
convenience. I thought this portion sucked. It was
wet, muddy, and mossy and it seemed like placing pro would be difficult
in many places. If I go back I'll take the harder but dryer
route Casey and Hallie took.
At this point it was becoming clear that we might have some weatehr to
contend with. The clouds were really thickening up and Jen
was geting unhappy about it. I talked herthrough one section
where the climbing and weather were clearly eating at her nerves and
she calmed down and kept going.
Near The Meadows
Looking Down From The Meadows
Once we all gained the notch we unanimously decided to bail on
finishing to the summit. I'm not even sure if the supposed
summit is the high point as I think the right peak is higher but we all
climbed the tough stuff so I'm counting it. The descent of
Notchtop definetly stunk. The weather was deteriorating and
it was pretty exposed up there. To keep things moving we
simulclimbed in two parties. The way off the summit consisted
of passing to THE RIGHT of a large gendarme, traversing across some
ledges (including a hand traverse or some good air), passing one steep,
narrow gully, then traversing more ledges until we hit a steep
downclimb on a narrow snow line until finally coming to the obvious
saddle with the huge gully we climbed the base of in the morning.
I'd say the traverse out was the crux, it had wet and snowy
spots and the consequences of a fall remained huge. The
downclimb pictured below was particularly annoying as the snow ate our
legs up the waist in places.
Brian placed more gear on the simulclimb traverse than he did on all of
the roped pitches up the peak combined (thanks again). For a
period it began flurrying and we were hearing thunder close by but,
luckily for us, the weather started to pass. We dodged one
hell of a bullet with weather on this trip, it would have been awful
doing the traverse and hike out in pouring rain.
The Annoying Part Of The Traverse Back To The Gulley
The snow in the upper
part of the gully was very steep and very soft and I was not to keen on
downclimbing it. We talked it over and decided to throw
some webbing over a huge block to which Hallie added a bail
carabiner. All five of us then used my double ropes to
rappell down 200 feet to a shallower, firmer portion of the gully.
When all the snow up there melts out someone is going to be
very confused that anyone rapped from there. If the snow had
been firm we would have down climbed it but I didn't fancy one of us
getting a ride down a slushalanche at 60-70 degrees.
Steep Snow We Avoided
The remainder of the
downclimb was in good step kicking snow until we hit one 4th class
section then returned to good step kicking snow. Brian of
course glissaded the whole thing and I took his lead on the bottom half
when I got fed up with walking down. At one point I broke
through to a stream below. The glissade coupled with the
stream left me soaking wet.
The Gully At The Top
At the base we took a break and enjoyed the scenery and ate a bit of
food. We then headed back to our snowshoes and threw them on
for the hike out. The way out was pretty slushy and would
have sucked without snowshoes. On the other hand the snow
trail was much nicer than the summer route above the lakes.
The hike out went quickly enough and soon we were back at the
car. Brian assaulted us with Starbursts for a little bit
before heading back to home. Jen, Casey, Hallie, and myself
headed back to Boulder. I thought it was a pretty cool climb.
Maybe two stars, one for location and one for the climbing.
It was definetly a great first technical alpine route for Jen and she
handled herself very well, I am very proud of her for getting up the
peak with us. This of course means she's screwed because I'll
be dragging her up a lot more of them from now on.