The Sharkstooth Trip Report

Trail: North East Ridge, 5.7 , ~8 miles, ~3000 ft elevation gain

I'd say the summer of 2006 has been pretty productive for me insofar as my advancement as a mountaineer.  I got through a handful of steep snow and mixed climbs, made it to 18,866 feet in Peru, moved into leading 5.7 trad in the alpine, and climber about five technical alpine routes including the much lauded Petit Grepon.  One thing remained to be done though and that was The Sharkstooth.  I had been shut down on this peak twice before, once due to rain and once due to a nasty bout of AMS.  I had developed a personal vendetta against the peak and wanted to do it before the season ended.  

I started trolling around for partners around the 9th of September and was finally rewarded when Dave Pneuman said he would give it a go.  We decided to play the date by ear and just watch the developing weather patterns.  It ended up looking like September 13th was going to have absolutely no chance of any bad weather so we settled on that as the go date.  

Rather than do the usual two in the morning wake up we decided to just get home late and start out much later.  Dave met me at my home around 6:00 in the morning (my latest start in years) and we headed up to the Glacier Gorge parking lot in RMNP.  We arrived somewhere around 7:30 or so, grabbed our packs, and headed out.  As usual I had brought a ton of gear (a set of nuts, 14 draws, 2 cordelletes, tri-cams, 12 or so camalots, etc.) but I always end up happy that I have it all.  I was pretty excited because Dave didn't want to lead any of the climb so it was to be my first technical route where I lead the entire climb (another milestone for me).  


Starting Out In The Daylight

We headed up the trail and I marveled at how beautiful it was in the daylight.  Usually I am walking through here either in the dark or to tired at the days end to care/notice.  We were in no particular hurry on this trip and went at a leisurely pace.  I'm not sure about any times since neither of us brought phones or watches. After we passed the third bridge we headed up the climber's shortcut and to the intersection where we finally turned towards Loch Vale.  Some time later we came to the turn off for Sharkstooth and headed up toward the gash.  As we headed up I paused to take a picture of two towers known as Zowie (5.8+)  and Wham (5.7).  I plan on climbing both of these next year.


 Zowie & Wham

After passing these interesting rocks we left the main trail and meandered over some streams before entering the rocks preceding The Gash.  The hiking from here gets pretty annoying and follows though a large boulder field.  While a trail exists it can be hard to stay on and the trek involves a lot or rock hoping.  The day was beautiful.


A Stream Near The Entrance To The Gash

We continued on our way and eventually headed up through The Gash on its right side.  There was some snow but we were able to avoid it and climbed up into the talus field below the base of The Sharktooth's west side. We headed on towards the cliffs at the base of The Sharkstooth where we attempted to climb up a gully in the rock band.  This was a bad idea, the rock was VERY loose and the top of the gully would have required a pitch of climbing to get to the base of the climb.  After backtracking down to the bottom we skirted around the cliffs to climbers left then cut back towards the base of the climb.


Sharkstooth

When we arrived at the base of the climb I noticed Kevin Craig and his buddy Mike a couple pitches up.  I had talked to Kevin and known he was going to be up there so I shouted a hello.  I have been getting intermittently ill in the alpine ever since coming back from Peru and was feeling pretty rotten.  I'm pretty sure the time was around 10:00 or 11:00 but there was no way I could start climbing yet.  I wanted to hang out for awhile and see if I felt better so that this trip didn't turn into failure number three for me.  We hung out for maybe an hour during which time I ate, drank water, and took a few Alleve.  After waiting I finally started feeling better and decided to go ahead and give it a shot.  According to Kevin there were good places to sling webbing and escape on the first couple pitches.  Since I had brought 40 feet of webbing, spare carabiners, and we were climbing on doubles I figure it was worth a shot.

Many people climbing the North Ridge start up a dirty, right facing dihedral.  This is not the correct place and the climb actually begins a hundred or so feet to climbers left.  Either way works though but the dihedral start leaves you with a a bit of sketchy traversing a couple pitches up.  I started up a series of right trending flake systems for my first pitch.  The climbing here was mostly 5.5 with a few spots of 5.6 and I went up for a bout 130 or 150 feet before stopping on a huge ledge.  The only hairy part of this pitch was a bit of smearing up a face immediately after climbing through wet dirt.  After reaching the ledge I belayed Dave up and set out for the second pitch.

At this point I was feeling pretty good but not great and was working a bit more than I normally would at this grade.  After moving up 20 or 30 feet I came to a crack system where Kevin's friend had just taken a short fall on a purple BD (that was set by the fall).  I started up the bulging crack and it quickly shut me down so I backed down to a rest position and thought about it.  As I don't really care how I get through cruxes I quickly came up with a plan.  I stemmed/lie backed up to the crux area and, being to short to reach a good hold simply put in a red Alien four feet above me, yarded off it, and headed up.  This section is definetly 5.7 (remember Stettner's Ledges was graded 5.6 originally and now is 5.8+), it is was for only 20 feet but it was certainly tricker than a lot of 5.7s I've been on including things like The Bastille Crack.  Once past the crux section there was a bit of face climbing (5.4-5.6) which lead to another ledge (150 feet).



Dave On The 1st Pitch

After reaching the ledge I belayed Dave up.  Above us was an obvious right facing dihedral, to its left was a more difficult looking chimney system which I opted for.  Once through the chimney I contoured back to the right and rejoined the corner/flake system above the dihedral.  I meandered up for about 170 feet before stopping at a small ledge and belaying Dave up.  This pitch was the mental crux of the climb because it was relatively run out (20-40 foot sections) but the climbing was easy enough  (5.4-5.5) that it was OK.  

From the ledge I headed up about 90 or so feet to a another ledge at the base of an obvious off-width crack.  I wanted Dave under me for this portion so belayed him up to me.  Instead of an active belay I asked Dave for a spot for the first 20 or so feet of the off-width.  The bottom would need a number 5 or 6 BD or a Big Bro to protect so expect to be 20+ feet off the deck before getting a piece in.  The climbing really is pretty straightforward and sticking a knee or stacking fists will get you off the ground after which you can easily grunt up to where it becomes more hand crack/ face climbing.  Once I got a piece of protection in Dave threw me on belay and I wandered up for about 100 feet of 5.5 before stopping and belaying him up.


Climbers On The Petit Grepon


The Offwidth Crack On Pitch 5 (picture courtesy of Fabio)


A picture Of Us On Pitch 4, Taken by Ken Grobaski From The Petit (Can You Find Us?)


A Close Up Of Us On Pitch 4 (Can You Find Us Now?)


Dave, On The Last Pitch

Right after the off width the final pitch appears.  This pitch is 5.2-5.4 and pretty easy but very exposed.  I headed to the left of the ridge initially then climbed directly up on to it.  I wandered up it with really great exposure on either side before coming to a super easy but very narrow knife edge.  Once past this spot we developed a bit of a rope jam and I had to stop just 20 feet short of the unroping point and belay Dave up on just one rope until he could clear the stuck one.  Once he had cleared the stuck rope Dave came up, continued to the unroping point and hip belayed me to him.  At this point it was probably near 6:30 or so (we probably started the climb around 12:00 or 1:00) and we wanted to make haste.  


The Summit

Dave coiled up both ropes and we headed right over to the summit where I shot a few photos and had a quick sandwich.  The weather was absolutely perfect but I was not looking forward to trekking out in the dark.  The first set of rappell anchors are in an alcove about 40-50 feet under the summit and consists of three pitons hammered into a rock with a mass of webbing.  We joined the ropes and I headed down this rappell for about 150 feet and stopped on a huge ledge with another rock which had two pitons and more webbing through the pitons and webbing slung over the block.  Dave came down and we carefully pulled the ropes to avoid the mess I got into with them tangling on The Petit a couple weeks ago.  I found the anchors to be pretty decent, sure, they aren't bolted super anchors but they are better than a lot of things I've seen/used in the alpine.
 

Longs Peak

The next rappell went a full two hundred feet ( I love climbing on doubles) to the top of some class 4 (5.0?) climbing.  Dave  followed down and we pulled the ropes.  There was a moment when I thought one of my ropes was stuck but a hard yank by Dave freed it.  At this point we untied the ropes and coiled up one of them.  We headed up 60 or so feet to climbers right and threaded one last rappel anchor (a nut, a piton, and a cammed rock in a vertical crack) and headed down for about 80 feet to just above the class 3 section.


Rappelling


The Petit, Again

At this point is was getting dark so we quickly changed back into hiking shoes, stored the ropes and gear, put on headlamps, and headed down.  By the time we returned to where we started and Dave retrieved his hiking poles it was clear we were going to be coming out in the dark.  I hate hiking over talus and boulders in the dark but ti was to late.  We plodded back through the scree and boulders, down around the cliffs, down the side of the snowfield, and through the boulders at the base of The Gash before finally coming to the regular trail.  Once on the trail we headed down for a spell before  bumping into three guys who had just climbed The Petit.  They seemed to be having the same epic day I had two weeks ago so I offered to show them the climbers shortcut.  They jumped at this idea and we all headed down. One of the guys, Ken Grobaski, was nice enough to send me pictures he had taken of us while he was on The Petit. The final half hour or so went by in that all to familiar daze which accompanies any climber at the end of a long day and after a mercifully short time we were all back at the cars.

The time was 10:30, another 10:30 finish.  There was a note on Dave's car but this one was just asking us to put a cone in the spot when we pulled out.  The ride home was pretty uneventful except for almost running into a big old elk that was buggling his head off in the middle of the road.  now it is really time to go back to the 14ers.  Hopefully the winter holds off long enough for me to hike three or four of them. Sharstooth was a fun climb with a really awful approach and great exposure.  I'd say it is a bout a three star climb since none of the pitches are really aesthetic enough to warrant four stars.


A Big, Buggling, Bold, Bull Elk we almost Barralled Into 

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