|It looks like both Homie and the Petit are about to fall over!|
Homie suggested this route as a training climb for our Europe trip and I jumped at the chance for another lap on the classic South Face (5.8) route. It would be probably my fifth time up it. The last time I did it was with Stefan and we climbed it before work! We hoped to tack on another climb, like Sharkstooth or Spearhead afterwards, if the weather and our energy allowed.
Homie picked me up at 4 a.m. and we were hiking by 5:30. We passed a couple headed for the Sharkstooth on the climber's shortcut and shortly after that, a bull moose trotted by us! Unfortunately, he did not stop for pictures. I have rarely seen a moose in Colorado but when I got home later this day, there was an article on the front page of our local paper saying that moose sightings are becoming almost commonplace.
We got to the base of the route in about 90 minutes and geared up while watching a party two pitches above us. I do all the leading for now. It's the way Homie wants it, as he hasn't been technical climbing much the past few years and I'm a bit faster placing the gear. I led up 200+ feet to a big ledge and belayed off the side of our new friend from Fort Collins. His partner, above, was leading the third pitch. This guy was from New Hampshire and all excited to be climbing in RMNP. He was so jazzed that he took his buddy on the Petit for his very first multi-pitch climb. That guy was severely gripped, but he soldiered on nicely.
Homie arrived and I had to head over to where the FCG (Fort Collions guy) was belaying. As I cleaned the belay I could hear one side of Homie's conversation with the party above. He listened and then responded, "He is." And then, "Okay." I asked what that was about and he said that they were offering to let us pass. I knew from my earlier discussion with FCG that they had left the trailhead at 3:30 a.m.
I led quickly to to their belay and they offered me passage. I thanked them, continued on, and then told them to feel free to start leading the same pitch below me, as we didn't want to hold them up. I ran out another 200 feet of rope, experiencing some serious rope drag. I think this drag was partly due to NHG's rope and following Homie would have to unclip some of NHG's gear in order to climb by (he re-clipped it immediately, of course). I was on another big ledge, so there was room for everyone. First NHG arrived and then Homie. I took off on the fifth pitch (our third) and led up to the base of the crux pitch and clipped into a couple of old pins.
Homie followed easily and I led up the crux pitch. The last time I did the dicey direct start to this pitch. This time I went right, up, and then back left. This worked well and I was in the steep crack section. This pitch is stellar. There are three slightly tricky moves on the pitch and the rest is either bomber handjams, fingerlocks or jugs. It's super fun to climb.
At the top of the crux pitch is a humungous ledge. When Homie joined me, we took a few minutes to eat and drink something. The last three pitches are incredibly steep, super fun, 5.7 climbing. I led up to the "Pizza Box" belay and stopped. This belay would underwhelm Homie. It wasn't nearly as tiny or exposed as he had expected. It was plenty tiny and exposed enough for me, however. Following this pitch, Homie was exploring what he thought was an easier alternative when the holds ran out and he came off. The only notable aspect of this fall was that he never said, "Watch me" or "Falling" or anything. He just came off like he was climbing in the gym. Homie is not intimidated in the least when it comes to climbing. He knows them well and he knows how to get up them. And, apparently, he trusted me to have him on a tight belay.
When he arrived at the Pizza Box, the skies were seriously threatening. Earlier the clouds were dark to the south, but now dark clouds moved in from the north - our blind side - and they carried some moisture. I ran out all the rope, hoping to make the summit, but couldn't reach it. This pitch was surprisingly run-out. I think I went thirty feet between placements a couple of times. It was only 5.7, but so steep that it had me craving a little more gear.
Belaying Homie, it started to spit rain. Homie climbed solidly and quickly and soon I was scampering up the last steep, easy climbing to the summit. I immediately traversed the top to the rappel anchors on the far side and called back "Off belay." I threaded the rappel line while I belayed Homie up, cognizant that we were on top of a giant lightning rod and hearing rolling thunder. The party below us and a third party were in the act of bailing from atop the crux pitch.
Homie crested the spire and moments after he clipped into the anchor, I was rappelling down. Our doubled 60-meter rope didn't quite reach the next rappel anchor, but it was close. Some careful downclimbing got me there. The next rappel had us in the gully and I tied in to lead the climb up to the notch. I've soloed this before, but there is about five feet of climbing that is probably 5.7 with a 30-40-foot fall potential. Given that it was soaking wet and still drizzling a belay seemed like a good idea. I placed two cams at the tricky section and after trying to find an alternative, cranked the move to easy ground.
By the time Homie joined me, the weather had improved at bit. It wasn't raining any longer, but the skis still looked a bit threatening. We decided that the Petit was enough for today. We backed our gear and carefully made our way down the steep talus into the Gash. Further down some tricky, slick ledge downclimbing led to some easy snow and eventually a trail.
Just after we joined the main trail, chatting a way, a guy with a camera motioned us to be quiet. He then pointed up the slope to our left. I anxiously scanned the thicket, hoping it was our moose friend. Or maybe it was a bear. Or an elk. I spotted the creature of interest: a furry marmot, just like the one that almost attacked Homie at the base of the Petit. I turned back to the photographer and smiled widely and said, "Beaver!"
We were pack at the car after 8.5 hours on the move. It had been a very successful day out. Heck, we made the summit and we climbed safe. That was enough for us. As a bonus we saw a moose and a "beaver."