Sunday, November 22, 2009

North Rabbit Ear: Boyer's Chute

I was contacted a few weeks ago through Mountain Project by a climber in Durango Colorado who was looking for partners in the Las Cruces area for bagging some of the peaks in our range. It seemed kind of strange that someone from Colorado would drive all the way down here (probably 10 hrs or more) when there are so many high peaks in his own state. But since I am also interested in climbing as many of the Organ Mtn peaks as I can, I mailed him back.

John Bregar was his name, a retired geologist and president of a local mountain club. He made it clear right off the bat that he was not into highly technical routes, and would not be interested in routes harder than 5.5, but that he enjoyed brush-beating up SW desert peaks and wanted to get up some of the more interesting Organ mtn peaks. Many of these have 3rd or 4rth class routes up them described in Ingraham's guide and I've been wanting to check them out as well. After a few email exchanges we settled on climbing Boyer's Chute on the North Rabbit Ear (NRE).

We left Las Cruces early, around 5:45 in order to start the trail-head before the sun had risen. We took only a single 60m rope and light alpine rack. Neither of us wore a watch, so my timeline isn't much good from here on. but it felt that we made good time hiking up the Rabbit Ear Canyon. We left Sasha at the base of the route. a 3rd class slab leading into a deep cleft on the west side of the NRE. After a few hundred feet of 3rd class scrambling, the chute narowed down to a 4rth class chimney. At the top of this was a ratty poot rappel station. This station happened to be at the top of a narrow fin of rock which separates Boyer's Chute from an adjacent chute to the north which appears more difficult. It also looked fun to scramble out to the edge of the fin, but we didn't have time to explore it properly. Next time.

An easy 100ft further and we encountered the first bit of 5th class, a narrow spot with a large chock stone to get around. Total height of this 5th class section is only about 20ft. The easier way is to the right, and John had previously led this way. However, he described it as mostly un-protectable and we opted to try a crack to the left of the chock. John tried leading it first, but quickly learned that it was harder than 5.5. It involves a bit of clever foot-work and stemming, possibly the use of a hand-jam to surmount. I estimated the move to be about 5.8, but it's been a while since I've done much climbing and I could be off. Immediately above this section is another fixed anchor, wire rope and rap-rings.

150 ft further up is the 5.4 crux of the route, a deep chimney with another large chock stone. The right hand wall had some nice cracks for making the climb feel very secure. The 5th class climbing is about 30-40 ft long and an old and decrepit bolted rappel anchor is at the top of it.

The chute turns into more of a right-facing corner system at this point, and stays between 3rd and 4rth class for a while. There was an awesome live-oak in this corner, twisted and growing out across a slab of rock in a way that bonsai cultivators get wet-dreams about. Photos could do no justice. At the top of the corner is a final 4rth class head-wall and then we were at the summit.

I had the fore-sight to bring a new summit register and pen. The existing summit register is really something, providing history all the way back to the first recorded ascent in 1954. It had been painstakingly re-copied in the late 60s. The newer note-book which we signed dated back to the 80s. Since my last ascent in the spring of 2008, only 5 other people had recorded ascents, all via boyer's Chute (and often solo). I carefully packed the fragile records in a zip=lock bag to take down with me. Over the next few weeks, I plan to transcribe the register into an electronic document and post it on the web. If possible, I'd like to try to archive the originals somewhere locally. I also want to print out the completed register and return a copy of it to the summit, so future ascentionists can enjoy reading the mountains recorded history. Maybe it's an ambitious project for me, but I think it will be rewarding.

We descended the chute using the numerous rappel stations and doing a bit of easy scrambling.down-climbing. I think we made 7 rappels over-all, and for the most part didn't have to leave additional gear/webbing as John had already left new stuff when he was up here a month ago.

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