Friday, January 21, 2011

Lesser Spire and attempt on ORP, a quick afternoon scramble

Due to my wife's teaching schedule at NMSU, we are putting our son into daycare on Fridays now. every other Friday I'm usually off from work, and I can either stay home with Levin for some quality father-son time, or spend some time to myself for some quality "me" time. Today I opted for the latter, although only half-heartedly. With Levin in daycare, I am the one who usually picks him up, so I have not been doing any over-time at work. This hasn't yet been much of a problem, but I've started to fall behind, or rather bite off more than I can chew, so my new found "free Friday" is a perfect time to go into the office. I got to work at 7 this morning and worked on reports in the peaceful quiet of an empty office building. But by 11 am I had enough, and headed out to Rabbit Ears Canyon for some hiking/scrambling.

I brought a rope and harness with me and set my sights on Lesser Spire's Normal Route, which some OMTRS guys had climbe dlast week-end. They mentioned the peak was lacking a Summit Log, so I thought I'd see if I could scramble up it and place one. I also had to keep close track of the time, because I needed to pick up Levin by 4:30. Hiking by myself, in the cool winter sun, I made really good time:

  • 11:30 Left car at  low on Topp Hut road.
  • 11:50 At the mine
  • 12:05 At the base of Southern Comfort Wall
  • 12:40 At the north saddle next to Lesser Spire
  • 13:10 Summit of Lesser Spire
The Normal Route was a good scramble, plenty steep and some pretty good exposure. I didn't quite remember the description the Bob Cort had posted, and I ended up going to the right side of the roof on the first pitch.
Bob's picture from last weekend, showing the lichen roof
There was one cruxy section to this pitch, an 8ft head-wall above a small ledge with an old rusty piton.
Rusty piton on 1st pitch variation
There were excellent holds to pull over the steep wall, but I could see how some people wouldn't want to tackle it without a rope, the exposure and consequence of a slip was serious. Above this section was a large brushy ledge where I cleaned up a bunhc of old tattered webbing. Most of it had already been cut, and I'm guessing that last week's party had cut this off, but not taken it down with them. I stuffed it in my pack, and also cleaned off some of the nicer looking slings and bail-biners from their rappel point. Maybe this is a bad habit of mine, but usually when I'm doing routes in the Organs, I never miss an opportunity to take bail gear with me. Most of the time I end up having to leave it somewhere else, or even back in it's original spot, but I do end up gaining a few extra slings and biners. I guess it all evens out, because I've had to leave gobs of webbing and rings/biners on many of the routes out here, but I still feel a twinge of guilt for cleaning off someone's rappel anchor. 

From the brushy ledge I was confronted with the final headwall. Bob's team had tackled this head on, but I didn't like the looks of this for a solo scramble. I checked around the corner to the right and there wasn't an easier path that way. But off to the left was promising. The brushy ledge continued over to an exposed perch and met up with grassy ramp. A single 4th class move was all it took to get up onto the ramp, and while the exposure here was greater than anything previously climbed, it was pretty straight-forward to dispatch. Once on the ramp, scrambling to the summit was easy.

I relaxed on the summit only for a short while. I was actually a little cold, the wind was blowing pretty steadily and the climb had been entirely in the shade. I took out my jar/summit register to leave up there and then realized that I had forgotten to bring a writing utensil. Pretty dumb, I thought about leaving the register anyways, but decided not too, what's the point in leaving a register without a pen/pencil? What are the chances that someone else coming up here would have those with them? And I still had some time left, maybe, just maybe, I could scramble myself up to the summit of ORP and if there is already a register there (I seemed to think there was) I could replace that one. Maybe not my brightest idea, but I decided to go for it. I down-climbed Lesser' Spires east side to the rappel slings that I remembered from when Charlie Cundiff and I had climbed this tower a few years back. The rappel consisted of webbing lopped over a flake, and one piece had blown completely off the flake and was just lying on the ledge. I kept this piece, and backed-up the other one with one of my other booty slings, and made the 100ft rappel off of the Lesser Spire. I down climbed to the saddle between ORP and Lesser spire than set off down the brushy slope towards Rabbit Ears Canyon. The brush on this slope is pretty thick, but not thorny. I wouldn't have enhoyed whacking up it, but I was down in no time, and looking up at my chosen scramble on ORP. The time was 13:45.

ORP has a beautiful eastern buttress which is bounded on the left side by a deep gully. I had this vague recollection of John Bregar saying that either this gully or one a bit further up Rabbit Ears Canyon, was a fun scramble. I started up this gully and was quickly faced with a large overhanging chock boulder. I surmounted this by climbing out onto the buttress, probably on the starting section of a 5.6 route called "Orgy". I stayed on the buttress up to the level of a second large overhanging boulder in the gully. This required some fifth class scrambling on perfect granite with some nice cracks, but I was starting to feel the exposure, so I got myself into the gully and underneath the boulder to see if there was a less exposed way to scramble up. Alas, there didn't seem to be an easy way.
The Chock which turned me back
My summit bid thwarted and time running out, I down-climbed back down the gully/buttress. I took alittle extra time looking up at the east buttress of ORP.
Looking up at the 2nd pitch of "Orgy"

The time was 14:20, ample time for me tog et back to the car by 16:00. In fact, I was down much faster even, reaching the car by 15:10, and picking up Levin early. In less than 4 hours I had summited Lesser Spire and made it 1/4-1/3 of the way up ORP. None too shabby.

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