On a lot of the "minor" Organ mountain summits, I cannot find an old summit register. I was pleasantly surprised when I found this old film cannister on the top of 3rd Peak back in May. The 3 tiny sheets of paper in it date back to the 50s. Nothing more recent than 1972, wow!
Thursday, June 30, 2011
I retrieved the summit register from Little Squaretop back on May 13th 2011. There was an old metal kodak film cannister tucked inside a newer plastic container. The old container had a sheet which had been recopied from a previous register, but it had information dating back to the first ascent parties in the 50s. always cool to read that old stuff.
I retrieved the old summit register from Middle Rabbit Ear May 21st, 2011. It consisted of a PVC tube. The contents were not in good shape, and haven't been since 2007 when i first found it. I left some fresh paper (our route description) in order to sign, because the only other stuff in the tube was a moldy, wadded up piece of "paper" crammed in the bottom. I wasn't able to decipher much from this old sheet of paper, but what I could decipher is transcribed below. I plan on placing a copy of this transcription back up on the summit this weekend.
Friday, June 24, 2011
I've been going strong the last 5 week-ends, piecing together portions of the Organ-peaks-linkup, and this weekend was to be a break from that. Jon and I are going to try our big day next weekend. So instead of climbing or scrambling along the Organ Needles, we struck out for Sugarloaf today. We went to have fun and practice using my brand-new set of half-ropes, which we'll be taking with us for our big day. After some previous weekend trips, we decided two ropes were necessary and I was leaning towards getting a new rope anyways, so I bit the bullet and ordered a set of 8.1mm half ropes. Sugarloaf was our proving ground.
A few other OMTRS climbers, Bob Cort, Marta Reece, Matt Wotford and Cat Wu, were also wanting to climb Sugarloaf so we decided to head out as a big group. Once again, Eddie South agreed to let us in the BLM gate early, and we met him promptly at 5am to be let in. It was forecast to be a hot day, and it felt hot even at 5am. We spent a little while gearing up but were soon on the trailhead and flying up the trail. It took us 1h20m to reach the base of North Face route. Jon and I stopped here, planning to simul-climb this route first and then try another route later in the day. The other two parties had their sights on the Left Eyebrow and continued up a little bit further to the base of their route.
Instead of the light alpine rack Jon was used to seeing me bring, I had a full compliment of cams and nuts, and loads of runners. We discussed simul climbing details before starting up, such items as good communication, keeping solid pieces between climbers, and clipping both ropes through each piece (using them as twins). this last item is important because while simul climbing you cannot feed the ropes at different speeds, so they both need to move together. I racked up first and started up the immense and beautiful slabs, still in the morning shade.
|Jon cruising up the North face|
We made a steady and good pace up the route. I paused a bit at a slabby run-out variation on the "3rd" pitch, clipping both 1/4" bolts along this section. For the most part, simul climbing is about being comfortable and confident on the rock, climbing fluidly together. After a little while, my world narrowed to a focus of climbing movements. Eyes darting to each good hand and foothold, stepping up and feeling for slack or tension in the rope, and always moving upward. I ran out of gear a little over half way up the route, on the huge grassy ledge. I set an anchor, but Jon on belay and brought him up quickly. He already had most of the gear with him, but I gave him the remainder and tried my best to point out the route for him to lead us to the top. "It goes right to that block," I pointed. He nodded and agreed, and then proceeded to climb straight up well left of the normal route. I reminded him a few times that he was off route left, but he was already on his way. That's one of the beautiful things about leading, is you can pick your own way, travel up whatever looks best to you. In this case, it meant a little dirtier climbing, more lichen covered sections, and some loose rocks, but overall decent climbing. Jon eventually met up with the normal route near the upper pitches, and when i reached him at the top he was all smiles.
|Jon tossing the rope for the east side rappel|
Our ascent had taken 2 hours, it was about 9:30. We rested a bit on the top and then talked about the descent. I have always rappelled down the south side, but we had noticed a newish looking suing on the East side and decided to give this descent a try. We were able to scramble lower than this first sling to another rappel station, and set up the ropes for a double-roped descent. I went first, sliding quickly down the two brand-new half ropes. 60m put us on a large ledge where there was a single 1/4" bolt rappel point. It looked to be in decent shape and we were sure to be able to reach the ground from there, so we pulled the ropes, only to get one of them stuck. The orange rope had caught on a flake and was not budging. We tried all manner of flipping the ropes and gently tugging, but I was worried about damaging my brand-new ropes, so I had Jon put me on belay on the purple rope, and I climbed up to free the stuck loop. Turns out it had wedged into a small flake and came out easily by hand. No harm done to the rope, I down-climbed back to jon and we set the 2nd rappel. This time Jon went first and immediately tacked right when he spotted a nest of climbers booty. He is still building his rack, and any gets super excited about finding climbing gear. Since he wanted to work on cleaning the two wires and tricam (plus 5 carabiners), I went ahead and rappelled down. Attached to the booty-anchor was a ratty old rope, sheath completely missing and totally coming apart. I tugged it down while rappelling so that we could trash it.
|Bottom of 2nd rappel on East side|
Jon was successful in cleaning one nut and the tricam, but couldn't get the last nut. Still a nice find, he was over the moon about it. We packed up the ropes and scrambled down the east side gully of Sugarloaf. This area was pretty heavily burned out by the recent Abrams Fire, and there were some large felled trees as well. some sections require a bit of down-climbing finness but overall it was a decent route. Still, after getting a stuck rope, my preference lies with the cleaner South side rappel route.
Our decent had taken nearly two hours, almost the same amount of time as climbing the route. Still, there was plenty of time to get on another climb, and the other two parties could still be seen high up on the mountain. We rested a bit, and refilled our water from the generous water cache the Bob and Jon had hiked up last Wednesday. I can't stress how utterly awesome it was to have 4 gallons of water here at the base of the cliff for us. I'm sure we all could have done with just our own water, but we were in oh so much better shape with it. Despite the heat, I was feeling good, not fatigued at all.
For our next route we were both interested in the hard slab route, Science Friction. We made our way up to the base of it, and stared up at the intimidating blankness. Unlike the North Face route, this one is steep slab, thin 5.10 moves between widely spaced bolts.It didn't take me long to balk at leading it. I told Jon I'd belay him, but didn't think I was up for leading. He was seriously tempted still, but ultimately decided that he wouldn't want to fall on the initial pitons. Our eyes then turned to the large right facing corner just to the left. My topo called this 5.8 corner Banana Peel, it didn't look easy.
|Attractive right-facing corner of Banana Peel|
The right leaning corner looked like a powerful layback climb, with almost no feet or rest stances. Jon though was game for it, and racked up. This time we decided not to simul climb, letting Jon place as much gear as needed, and use the half-ropes as they are intended, clipping either rope as needed to reduce rope drag. This worked beautifully, as seen in the picture below.
|Half-rope technique displayed, on Banana Peel|
Jon muscled up the layback, and looked to me to be confidently sailing the route. Right above a small rest-stance, he dropped the set of nuts while trying to place them, and by some lucky break they stopped short in a flake just below him. He was able to retrieve them and continue up. He did appear a bit nervous in one section and took a rest at a stance above to recover. I discovered why on seconding, the layback was committing and draining. There were some good stances though that couldn't be seen from the ground, the key is all in the footwork. But even with good footwork, placing gear from the layback position is strenuous and I can see how he could get a pump trying to work in a piece. At the crux section, a fixed cam was overcammed way back int the crack. Jon had clipped it, but it was difficult to even clip because the wire-;loop was deep in the crack. This is where Jon had exerted the most effort, and I could certainly understand what was going through his head on lead. Above the crux section the climbing got a bit easier, but it also worked over this hollow huge hollow sounding flake. Easily a couple body-widths across, it resonated with each step I took on it. It didn't appear to be in danger of falling, but that ringing boom is enough to make anyone nervous.
At the top, Jon had set his belay right at the corner of the ;edge, but there was a bolted belay 20 ft back and at a better stance so I went straight for that, and then pulled the rope over to me. Since the rope was then stack for Jon to climb again he took the next lead. We decided to get back to simul climbing, the corner above us looked very easy, and then it joined right up with the Left Eyebrow. Matt and Cat were still high up on the route, and we exchanged a few hollers before heading up.
|Easy middle pitches of Left Eyebrow Route|
Jon made it all the way up to the large dead tree beneath the crux pitch, but a poorly planned gear placement had left him with terrible rope drag and he decided to set up his belay there. I racked up at the tree and got to lead the high quality upper pitches. The only other time I had climbed this route was with John Hymer years ago, and again we had simul-climbed it. I didn't really remember the route, but had a good enough idea. plus a fresh trail of chalked holds had been left by the party above, so i could always just follow their lead.
The exposed crux pitch was awesome, and as good as it gets for a 5.7 multi-pitch route. Probably 1000' above the floor, you swing out to a committing move around a roof/prow, not being able to see what's on the other side. You can swing your feet and out, and yelp away, then pull over and find bomber jugs to haul up on. really a stellar feeling, maybe even the best move on all of Sugarloaf. Above this move the climbing stays interesting, with run-out slabs, gneiss intrusions dotting the rock and providng holds, and the opccasional old 1/4" bolt. I took my time threading through the terrain, searching out the best rock and most protectable features. I also made sure to holler back down to Jon to make sure he let me know when he reached the crux moves. I knew he wouldn't have a problem with them, but I also wanted to make sure I had a decent stance when he got to this section. With simul-limbing, communication is key to avoiding sticky and uncomfortable climbing.
I reached the summit just a minute behind Cat. 10 minutes later bob Cort came into view atop the north face route. He and Marta had heard Matt complaining about a loose pitch on the Left Eyebrow, and decided to switch over to the North Face route at the large ledge. The timing was perfect, with all six of us on top together. It was around 3:00pm, it had taken us a little over 2 hours to climb another route on Sugarloaf. Once agian I forgot to birng up a proper summit register, but thanks to a geocache on the summit, I left a make-shift tiny register in the summit cairn. It should last 6-12 months, by which time maybe I will be back to put a proper log-book up here.
|Myself and Jon, with the ridge-line we hope to conquer in the background|
After the requisite summit tom-foolery, we set-up a fixed line down to the South rappel. With 6 people and 4 ropes, we made good time setting rappels and getting down. Once again we all refilled our water and drank the last of the 4 gallons of water. We took a leisurely pace on the hike out, making it back to the cars by 7:30pm. Bob had a cooler of ice cold water and beer waiting for us, now that's what I call prepared!
|Left to right, Top: Jon, Cat, Marta, Matt. Bottom Aaron, Bob|
Saturday, June 18, 2011
|The North rabbit Ear looms behind a yucca from the summit of Last Peak|
My hike today started before the sun came up. I bade my sleeping family a quiet "goodbye-morning" and jumped in the car around 5am. I parked at my usual spot a mile or so up the Topp Hut road, and started hiking up. I decided not to bring any climbing gear with me, but my pack was still heavy because I was carrying an extra 4 liters of water to cache. I was also solo today, Marta and Jon had decided to team up and hike up the Organ Needle and familiarize themselves with the northward route from their (they made it all the way to Lost Peak). Being solo is nice sometimes, and I took a several extra geocaching diversions on my way up.
The hike in was nice and cool, and stayed cool all the way through Rabbit Ears Canyon. There was an unfound geocache on top of the Citadel which I decided to go for. I dropped my heavy pack in the canyon and took a 30 minute detour to grab it; Normally, the Citadel can only be topped out by 5th class routes, but I was pretty sure I could find a scramble up it. I remembered a hidden gully to the west of the route Wish You were Here, which was an easy scramble. It topped out on a large shoulder a few pitches up on the West Ridge. This left me with a little bit of exposed climbing, but after looking at it carefully, I was confident I could get up it. I did have a few second thoughts about coming back down. After all, I had no rope or gear to rappel with. Pushing those thoughts aside I summited anyways, thinking there was probably another descent/scramble on the south side. I did find nice rappel chains on the SE side side of the summit, but no easy scramble down. However, down-climbing wasn't as bad as I had feared and I was soon back down to my pack, and on my way up to Last Peak.
My approach was up the main gully on coming down from the north end of North Rabbit Ear. About half way up a rocky ridge divides the gully. I had been up the right-hand side before, on a previous trip up to the CWM, so I decided to try the left-hand side this time. It had a few sections of tough bushwhacking, but was pretty easy and direct. I was soon up to the saddle between the CWM and Last Peak. I stashed 2 liters of water and scoped out the potential routes up Last Peak. There was a promising route right up the south face that I was interested in. I could see a way to scramble up some ramp systems to a shoulder mid-way up the face. from here I could only see a 5th class corner to the top, but the rock around the corner was hidden from view and I was thinking that it might have a scrambleable gully. I decided to have a look. The initial "scramble" section involved a 5th class move, and once again I worried about reversing it. Still, I went up hopeful for the nice gully around the corner. I got up to the shoulder and looked around the corner, and was dismayed. Not only was there not an easy corner, but it was actually steeper over there. right above me though, was a very attractive route up a narrow rib. It looked in the 5.6-5.8 range, but there was no way I was going to solo it. Lucky for me, I did not have to reverse the hard move I had done to get up here, instead finding a secure (but 5th class) down climb in a crack system with good holds. Safely back at the saddle I made my way west around the base of the wall to look for the regular route up.
|South Face of Last Peak, and my aborted route attempt|
|4th class route up Last Peak|
|Dry feet are happy feet|
|Agave blossom/fruit on summit of Last Peak|
|Looking down the North Ridge of Last Peak|
|Summit shot on Nordspitz|
|North Side of Nordspitz|
|All smiles before I left Baylor Pass trail|
|Unnamed Cliffs North of Lambda Wall|
|Hot and hazy looking South-East from the Nordspitz|
Sunday, June 12, 2011
This week-end's Organ Mountain challenge was to complete what we had set out to do last week-end, namely traverse the low horns from #6 through #1. This time it was just Jon and me. We got an early start thanks to meeting th BLM host Eddie South, who met us at the Aguirre Springs gate a little after 6am, and let us through. Starting up the Pine tree Trail early makes a huge difference. Most of our elevation gain is getting up the ridge-top, and the cooler monring temps definitely helped us not sweat our brains out. We reached the saddle between Horn #6 and The Spire a little after 8am. We left another water stash to lighten our load.
|Jon at the high-point of our aborted route on the S face of #6|
|Jon on the sketchy slab traverse|
The South flank of #5 did not appear to have a 4th class route up it. There was a short 5th class section to reach a shoulder, then a final headwall broken by what appeared to be a chimney. I was referring to the Ingraham description and was convinced an easier route must be around the corner. We scouted to the east side, but nothing looked easier there. To get around to the west, we would need to drop down in elevation again, and take a ledge north to unseen terrain. We put our packs back on and headed that way. Once we turned the corner, we were confronted with steep, blocky and dirty terrain leading up to the mini-saddle on the south side of #5. It looked scramble-able, and indeed it was, but it had a few scary moments for me. It was the kind of terrain that ends up being steeper than you expect, with less positive holds, and more exposure than you bargained for. Also, there was a lot of lichen, dirt and vegetation in the cracks. The only positive was that we were still in the shade, and it was nice and cool. We eventually made it up this section, but I don't think we'll go this way again.
|Low Horn #6 as viewed from the NW along our route around #5|
We roped up for the final chimney, and I took the lead. I was a little worried at first, as it was hard to tell if the chimney was wide enough to squeeze into, but it turned out to be perfect. I had to dangle my pack beneath me, but could comfortably put my back to one wall and climb up features on the other. A small crack on the left wall provided ample protection and I was soon at the top. I think this is probably Ingraham's Chimney Route, but I wouldn't call it 4th class, more like 5.6. Jon quickly joined me on the top and we spent a while relaxing and enjoying the summit. It was about 11:30am, and we still had a ways to go, but I was hoping the hardest climbing would be behind us.
|Myself on the Summit of #5|
After our nice rest, we loaded up the packs again and started scrambling north. We had been warned about several false summits, and indeed there seemed to be a few of these along the way, but we were able to scrable along the top of the ridge without much problem. We passed a new-looking rappel station closer to the northern flank, but didn't use it, down-climbing all the way down to the #4/#5 saddle.
|Jon on the beautiful ridge-line north of #5|
|Jon does the "grunt" move up the S Face of #4|
|Jon leading the S. Face of #3|
|Jon scrambling past the crux boulder problem of the S. Face of #2|
|Me showing off a cool geocache container on the top of the Horns|
From Gertch we made the brushy descent down to Big Windy Saddle. Marta had added to our water cache here, and I quickly found the bottles she had left, but it took a good search to find the original 2 quarts we had left. I had tucked it way under a rock so that it couldn't be seen from any angle. We decided to put it next to the other water bottles to make it easier to find. the time was now 4:00 and we were down to less than 1 liter of water between us. Still Jon wanted to press on and tag Rabbit Ears Massif, and maybe even the SRE. I knew this would cause us to run out of water. It was hot, and that is a long detour. There also wasn't much of a point in bagging those peaks either, we know the way up them already, and Jon had already tagged the SRE. Still, there is a certain appeal to being "hardcore" and pushing ourselves. Against my better judgement, we started off towards the Rabbit Ears.
|View South from Big Windy (#1 flank in back-ground)|
The rest of the descent down the east side of the SRE gully we were dehydrated. our water was gone, and we were tired. At least it was shady though. The gully is mostly bare rock until it reaches the bottom of the SRE cliffs. I seemed to recall that it exited the gully down here, adn followed a ridge-line. I struck out on the wrong ridge-line for a short ways, but then we doubled back and found the correct ridge-line and a faint trail marked with cairns. We followed this trail all the way down, losing it only a few times near the bottom, where it meets up with the Baylor pass trail.
|Happy to be back on Baylor trail, and almost to the car.|
Saturday, June 4, 2011
After linking up the Rabbit Ears, the next big question mark for me on Organ Ridge through-climb is between Wildcat and the Low Horns. We this in mind, Marta, Jon and I struck out to find a route through these peaks.
|View from Pine tree Trail showing the "green ramp" between Dingleberry and Wildcat dead-center|
|jon digging the nice slabs on the approach|
|Marta underneath Dingleberry|
|Jon and Marta nearing the top of our approach gully|
Fortunately, the gully became steeper and more passable the further up we got. Near the base of Dingleberry's cliffs, we bore right up a beautiful slab, to get to a right leaning tree-filled ramp which leads up to the Wildcat-Dingleberry Saddle. The tree-filled ramp was pretty descent traveling, but near the top the brush got pretty thick again so we opted to scramble on rock to climbers right, and quickly gained the summit ridge of Wildcat.
|Jon on the summit ridge of Wildcat|
We did not stay on Wildcat for long, stopping only for some food and water. I left a ~2l water cache near the summit for future use. It was hard to tell what the best way up Razorback would be from our viewpoint on Wildcat, but there was an easy scramble to reach the saddle, so we decided to go check it out. The scramble down is on slightly to the NW, and while descending we found the easy SE Ramp route up to Razorbacks summit.
despite me feeling wimpy, both Jon and Marta were very gracious about calling it a day, and we headed down the rock-slide/gully back to Pine tree Trail. Of course, they did try to kill me once on the way down, by trundling enormous boulders at me, but that's another deal. By the time we got back to the car, i was feeling better, but glad we were down and headed home. despite not stringing together all the Low Horns, we still had a great day, discovering a new route up the South face of The Spire, and connecting over from Wildcat.