| Scaling the Sharkstooth
This is taken from the full report on my site. All the photos can be found HERE at Brian in the Wild.
July 19, 2012
"This magnificent peak is well named. After climbing in Colorado for over 30 years I am still startled every time I spot Sharkstooth, as it often blends in with the east face of Taylor Peak. There are times when the clouds obscure Taylor and Sharkstooth is seen acutely. I always think to myself, Wow! Look at THAT!"
- Gerry Roach from his RMNP Guide
Our line with our off-route venture marked.
After last weeks ascent of Notchtop, I was more than ready to get back into the alpine world. Thankfully James was wanting to do something and also happened to have Thursday off so we decided to go for the classic northeast ridge on Rocky Mountain's Sharkstooth. The Sharskstooth is said to be the hardest named summit to reach in the park, and the NE ridge is considered to be one of the best moderate alpine routes on the Front Range. We met in Loveland at 3am and were heading out onto the Glacier Gorge trail at 4:20am. The air was crisp and warm and the sound of Alberta Falls broke the calm as we passed by. As we reached the Loch the sun was beginning to enlighten our view and I couldn't help stopping to photograph the pre-dawn lake. Skirting the Loch on the right we moved steadily uphill through the trees. The sign marking the junction toward Andrew's Glacier was missing and we almost missed our turn. The sun finally greeted us just past treeline and the alpenglow on Zowie was remarkable. I kept peering upward with hopes of catching an early glimpse of Sharkstooth and was rewarded with nothing but suspense. Finally, just as I was starting to worry that we had somehow missed a turn, Sharkstooth loomed into view. Same as Roach, I thought "WOW! Look at that!"
The NE ridge rises steeply in the morning sunlight.
As I marveled at the scenery, I quickly found my gaze shifting down to the ominous boulder-filled gully that approaches the tooth. The well-named "gash" seemed to pose a formidable obstacle standing between us and our goal. Thankfully we were both nimble on our feet and moved smoothly from the trail onto the boulders. Weaving through the maze proved a bit time consuming but we made steady uphill progress. The sometimes problematic snow fields were simply dodged to the west and we only set foot on them once. Finally the loose rubble relented and we un-shouldered our packs at the base of the rock. Seconds after our arrival, a sharp whistle caught my ear. A movement from the rocks materialized a large marmot that lumbered swiftly uphill. Hungry for climber's goodies, this was no ordinary alpine rodent. Mr. Marmot sauntered to within several feet of us and only retreated after being chased off. It was immediatley clear that some ingenuity was required, and I found a perfect #2 nut placement in a large, overhanging boulder. A simple clip off my pack left it hanging several feet out of Mr. Marmot's reach. A simple sorting of gear had us roped up ready to climb within a few moments and we laughed as Mr. Marmot tried in vain to reach my pack.
James negotiating the gash.
Try, try Mr. Marmot.
Moving up the rock was a treat and although I tip-toed through a short 5.7 bulge, easier terrain floated nearby. James embarked on the second pitch and made his way up through a grassy dihedral and moved right up into easier, broken ground. Halfway up the third pitch, I wondered if we were on route. A steep dihedral loomed above and was capped by a short overhang. This was clearly not 5.6 and some inspection revealed no easier alternatives. Not to be deterred, I led up into the dihedral. Steep climbing and dubious protection was made possible by small ledges and I soon found myself under the roof. I placed a small TCU and fished above the overhang for a hold. Finding nothing, I contemplated the move, called down for James to be ready to catch a fall, and lunged upward grasping for the unseen. Thankfully, a good hold materialized and I managed to appear on easier terrain that led to a small ledge. James joined me, agreed that it was not 5.6, and we continued up the next pitch to a large ledge. The famous Petit Grepon appeared below us and the weather appeared relatively stable. The next 3 pitches were steep but easy and had an enjoyable variety of climbing moves. As James climbed the last moves on the final pitch, I eyed the large clouds that had begun to build over Longs and McHenry's to the south. Glad to have the climbing done, we untied and scrambled the easy terrain to the dramatic summit. Sharkstooth is surprisingly roomy up top and we peered over the immense cliffs on all sides. Longs had some head lice and we watched the insects mill about on its summit. Incoming weather prompted a hasty retreat and we made down easy ledges to the first rappel station. As we slid down the three long double-rope rappels, the weather loomed above. Finally we reached terra-firma and sauntered over to my still-intact pack. Mr. Marmot had clearly been unsuccessful and we laughed at his efforts as we put our shoes back on. Rain sputtered down intermittently and we made quickly down the gash. Fortunately, nothing ever came more than a few drops and the thunder waited until we had reached the trees. The final few miles drug out and reaching the car was a blessing. The Sharkstooth had proven to be everything I had hoped for. Steep climbing, exposure and a fantastic summit. All in all another glorious day in the park.
Running it out on P4.
Many more photos here.