Mt. Toll Trip Report

Trail: North Ridge, 5.7 (5.8?), ~7 miles, ~2800 ft elevation gain

The North Ridge on Mt. Toll is described as a classic route in Jerry Roach's Indian Peaks guide and has been on my laundry list for a year or so now.  I had originally planned to try this climb with Dave Pneuman a month or so ago but reports of icy conditions made it to soon .  I then meant to try it again a couple days ago but one of my ribs was still bothering me from a mishap I had in Peru so I had to cancel.  Oddly enough I woke up Friday morning, July 28th, 2006 and felt pretty good.  I had already had a partner lined up for the weekend (met on Summipost) and decided to give the North Ridge a shot.  I was pretty honest that my rib might make the whole thing a pointless endeavor but wanted to get out and see how I felt anyways.  Fortunately the guy I was talking to, Chris, was OK with the plan.

We spoke on the phone briefly about what gear to bring and then I had a quick dinner and turned in.  I woke up and headed over to Chris's house at 5:00- AM Saturday, July 29th, 2006.  We introduced ourselves and it turns out that Chris is also from the east coast.  HE was a Philly native who lived in New Jersey for most of his life and came to Colorado to attend the School of Mines.  His fiance will be joining him shortly and they ultimately plan on moving to South America.  Chris had been climbing in Peru several times and had been rock climbing for ~10 years so I didn't see any real problem in trying an alpine route with him for the first time.  

After we double checked our rack (cams from a blue Alien to a number 9 metolius, set of nuts, a few tri-cams, 60 meter rope, 6 24 inch slings, 4 48 inch slings, 6 12 inch draws) we got in the truck and headed off.  When we arrived at Brainard lake the gate house was closed and I didn't have change to pay the fee so I headed in. What happens in this case is they leave you a ticket saying pay the entrance fee before the house closes (6 PM) and you won't get a ticket.  

We parked at the Mitchell Lake trailhead and headed towards Mt. Toll around 6:30.  I'd been up Toll before so was familiar with the route.  On the way we stopped and chatted with a couple guys in their 40s (?) who were aiming for the same route.  I've found that if a guy is over 40 and aiming for a technical route and from the Boulder area, it is generally OK to let them have the first shot at the wall so we ultimately slowed down and let them pass us.

Mt. Toll

North Ridge

The trail to Toll is very easy and consists of following a dirt path 90 percent of the way.  After you pass three lakes you finally have to get off the trail and scramble up some talus. I had been told that there was a clear path of the boulders with no snow so we hiked up in approach shoes.  I was still feeling kind of sick from Peru so was moving slowly but the weather was cooperative and there was no rush.  After a bit of scrambling we finally made our way up to the ridge and the base of the climb.  The North Ridge is the obvious feature in the picture above which ends in a huge ledge.  At the base of the climb we found the two guys had decided to start on a line far to the right of ours which allowed us to both start at the same time.  

Started To Climb Here

Climbing the North Ridge is not an exact science and many lines are possible.  With careful route finding you can keep the climbing to mostly 5.4 with a move or two of 5.6.  If you start right on the ridge itself as opposed to about 20 or 30 feet to the right you can find a good bit of 5.9 and harder climbing.  If you move far to the right the climb can get even easier.  I had been planning on following the line a few guys I knew had taken a week ago but wasn't trying to hard to be precise about it.  

We started out on a left leaning corner/crack that was pretty easy and well protected. I lead the first pitch and started up the corner.  After awhile I came to a big old ledge but there was a lot of rope left so kept going.  I angled right and climbed a slab of rock to the right of a brighter section of rock with a thin streak in it.  At this point things steepened and I found myself on a more vertical face and had to make a couple committing 5.7 moves.  If you want to stay at 5.6 or below make sure you go to the left at the first ledge and pick an easier way.  

Just past the 5.7 moves I found myself on a huge ledge with a boulder which was perfect for setting an anchor on.  I threw a couple nuts and a tri-cam in and clipped a cam that someone had left stuck and belayed Chris up.  I'd say this pitch was ~150 feet and started at 5.4 but had a good bit of 5.6 and 5.7.

Starting Pitch Two

As Chris was climbing I noticed a party of three at the base who I later found out was Kevin Craig and his Wife Diana along with their friend Meredith.  Kevin had climbed the route the prior week and given me Beta but was returning to climb it with his wife.  Chris reached my position in good time and we swapped gear.  I looked up and noticed the other guys on the wall had contoured way to the left of their original line and were directly above us so we hung out and chatted while they climbed.  After they were up and away Chris took off on a crack to the left of the corner pictured above.  He climbed up through some ledges and cracks until; coming to a big corner with a roof.  After setting some pro he moved easily through the roof and called for me to come up.  

The climbing in this stretch was pretty straightforward and probably 5.4-5.5 with a 5.6 move here and there up until the corner with the roof.  When I gained the corner I realized the whole area was totally covered in lichen and many of the holds were loose and dirt filled.  Now I am an OK climber, not great and not terrible.  My general affinity is for faces and cracks and my weaknesses are slabs.  My absolute greatest weakness however is roofs, I can't pull them, I hate them, an Toll taught me that I need to get out and top rope a lot of them because I could not make the move.  I tried about three times and it just wasn't happening so I pulled out a set of tieblocks and climbed the rope.  I know 'pure' rock climbers would count the trip as a failed ascent but my goal is to summit and I was happy with getting out of that nasty, dirty corner.

More climbing For The Adventurous

Since I ended up having to physically haul myself up over the edge without the use of ascenders I was pretty tired and needed a gu shot and a breather before continuing on.  Chris was kind enough to provide me with the gu.  Having been told that we could scramble along the ledge to the right and find a purely 4th class system we coiled the rope and headed on.


After a bit of walking we saw what was an obvious gully and started up it.  After a little bit it became pretty obvious that it wasn't 4th class (the pin in the 5th class chimney gave it away).  As the fall potential where we were was death we opted to re-rope.  I threw in a couple cams to set up an anchor and then belyed Chris up.  When it was my turn I just kept going on rope until we were past any more climbing.  My last mini-pitch was mostly 4th class but the line I took had some 5.easy thrown in so I tossed a piece or two in for safety.  At the top of my pitch I brought Chris up and we packed up and scrambled 100 feet to the summit.  

Navajo and Dickers Peck

We hung out for a bit and enjoyed the views before heading down.  The climb down Toll starts out on talus which eventually leads to a snowfield.  We crossed over the snow and then climbed, scrambled, and bushwhacked back to the left side of the lake.  

Obligatory Marmot Shot

Blue Lake

The hike out was pleasant and uneventful until I twisted my ankle five minutes from the parking lot.  Hopefully it will heal enough that I can climb longs Peak this week.  Chris turned out to be a great and safe partner.  Hopefully we'll get out on rock, ice, and snow quite a bit before he is finished with graduate school.

Mt. Toll, North Ridge on right, descent on left

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