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Summer 2008 Tour

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The 2008 tour included Foo’ball’s solo climbs in Colorado and a return to Darwin Canyon in California’s Sierras.

Colorado (2008-06-19 through 2008-07-17, with a return in mid-September)

I Jeeped down to the San Juans to start the climbing with a trip into scenic Yankee Boy Basin for climbs of 13,694' Gilpin Peak and 13,686' Cirque Mtn. both by moderately easy routes - still plenty of snow on the ground but generally decent weather.

Next, I returned to the Denver area, and met up with Chaz Antonelli in camp. With only a few 13,580'+ peaks left on my 200 Highest list and most of those pretty involved, I started on the next tier of 13,500-foot peaks with 13,530' Epaulet Mtn. and 13,575' Rosalie Peak. These were easily accessible from the Mt. Evans auto road, but fog moved in and made finding my parked Jeep extraordinarily difficult. I bagged 13,572' Weston Peak as a dayhike, but was thoroughly rained out of a backpack into Willis Lake for UN13531.

Monsoon weather moved in as I switched back to the Jeep and headed down to the Sangre de Cristo Range for climbs of 13,522' Milwaukee Peak and 13,517' Trinchera Peak. Here is where I found out that my application to climb privately-owned 13,723' Vermejo Peak and 13,676' Purgatoire Peak (both needed for my Colorado 200 Highest list) was approved for this year. But unfortunately I could climb them only on the weekend that I had planned to head out to California. So I never made it to that big party in California this year, but I did at least bag Vermejo and Purgatoire in mediocre weather (certainly not much of a bargain for the $150 admission fee). I did see some bighorn sheep along the otherwise rather dull route.

With those two peaks out of the way and seven peaks remaining on my 200 Highest list, four of them in Ruby Basin, I headed down to Durango for the now-familiar narrow-gauge train ride to Needleton and backpack into Ruby Basin. I found the “trail” to Ruby Basin in awful shape, overgrown and easily lost in many places, and the light rain didn’t help. So I spent the first night by Ruby Lake instead of pushing further. On the second day, heavier rain started earlier; my plan had been to move camp around to the base of the climb to 13,700’ Peak Fifteen, but I only got as far as the Pigeon-Turret saddle. With water nearby and an excellent view, this exposed spot appeared to be a fine campsite.

Next day, I hiked down and around to the base of the Peak Fifteen climb and started ascending the couloir. But the rains started even earlier, and soon turned to heavy hail as I reached the ridge. The “low-fifth-class” climbing route to the summit was now wet and impassable, and I had to endure the steady rain and hail as I turned tail and descended the slippery couloir. It seemed like streams of dirty hailstones were pouring out of every crack in the rock. The hail, rain, and thunder continued unabated as I circled around back up to my tent and hunkered down, with the storm battering my tent. (Not such an idyllic campsite after all!)

Luckily, the weather improved as I Jeeped (in the Sawach) to Winfield (in the Sawatch). I climbed UN13531 by its south ridge, the same peak I had failed to reach from Willis Lake. I then Jeeped into Halfmoon Road near Leadville for a direct climb of UN13535A. The climb wasn’t too tough; the memorable part of this trip was the two long, deep, lengthwise Jeep stream crossings (in each direction). In the middle of each stream crossing, I felt like I was losing traction and starting to be washed downstream! But I did make it across and back safely. Jeeps really are designed to do this. Keep telling yourself this.

That was the end of the climbing. I left Colorado with seven peaks still missing on the list, but after going to Gathering of the Vibes and doing the lighting for “Into the Woods” at MIT, I found myself with two completely unscheduled weeks at the end of September. Hoping to miss the monsoon season and get another chance at the Ruby Lake peaks, I drove out west in the Priapus in mid-September and Jeeped down to Durango for another narrow-gauge railroad ride.

I spent a night at Ruby Lake, moved camp up to the high meadow at the base of Animas, Thirteen, and Monitor Peaks, and attacked 13,695' Monitor Peak. But I soon discovered that, even though the route is nominally south-facing, there was plenty of thin glazed ice on the “easiest” part of the route, turning an already-difficult route into a low-fifth-class climb. I fought my way up to the summit of Monitor Peak, lost the route on the way down so it was just as hard descending as climbing, and had no time to try for the other two peaks that day.

The ice on the route had spooked me, since I knew that Peak Fifteen would be harder than Monitor and just at likely to have ice troubles. Although the weather was fine the next day, it wasn’t long before I punted the rest of the climbs and headed out two days early. That turned out to be a great decision, as I reached Denver barely in time to save the Prius from being towed.

- Mike Bromberg (Foo’ball)

Darwin Canyon Trip (2008-08-04 through 2008-08-08)

Laurel Phillips, Kirsten Uttam, Dan Blodgett and I hiked up to Lamarck Lakes on Monday afternoon, after having lunch with Doug Virtue and Kathy Day (who had to punt the trip at the last minute after their home was ripped off). The next day we continued up and over Lamarck Col, and then down to a campsite in the Darwin Canyon not far from where we camped back in 2002. It’s not very green, but it has its own charm.

On Wednesday, Dan and I climbed 13,710' Mt. Mendel via the NE Ridge. Although Secor rates this as Class 3, it was clearly Class 4+ regardless of routefinding skill. I was ecstatic to hear that Kathy had checked SummitPost.org and recommended that we take a rope and some gear with us, as we would have been turned back very early otherwise. Although the climbing wasn’t particularly difficult or loose, the sustained ropework over the majority of the long route made it seem like Grade IV+, and it took us 13.5 hours to complete. We were quite lucky with the weather and arrived in camp after consuming (in true Vulgarian fashion) every last bit of available daylight, and then some.

On Thursday, Kirsten and I got an early start and headed down the canyon to the Darwin Bench, then back up into the basin below Mt. Goethe. We then slogged up 13,404' UTM510186 (sometimes called the “Keyhole Plateau”). After skiing back down the scree gulley we saw Dan hiking up to meet us. We hung out a while near a stream and soon saw Dave White coming over Alpine Col to meet us, followed eventually by Ken Krugler and Grant Glouser. We all dropped back down to the area between Lakes 11540 and 11546 to meet Laurel, and we all had lunch together there. After lunch, Ken, Kirsten and I climbed 13,263' Mt. Goethe, had a quick swim back down at the lakes, then returned to our Darwin Canyon camp, where we all shared a celebratory bottle of wine. On Friday, we all hiked back out over Lamarck Col and said our goodbyes.

Click here to view Ken’s blog about his part of the adventure.

- Chris Schneider