| Jagged and Company: Deep in the Heart of the Weminuche
Jagged and Company: Deep in the Heart of the Weminuche
Participants: Keegan Murphy, Matt Lemke, & Kevin Baker
Aug 15-19, 2012
Facebook slideshow for Jagged group
I pretty much had put off pursuing my remaining centennials since it’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to “cherry pick” the highest 13ers when you’re doing them all! I finally committed to trying to knock out the rest of the list late this summer and booked a train for a shot at Jagged. I was having a hard time finding partners to commit though, and thought I might have to go for it solo. A solo backpack didn’t sound like a lot of fun, plus I would have piece of mind having at least another set of eyes to help with the routefinding on mighty Jagged. Keegan Murphy and Matt Lemke signed up a few days prior, and a team was set. I think I am least 15 years older than both of them, so Mr. Bluebird would need to turn it up a notch to at least keep them in site!
No Name Approach to Jagged Cabin (Wed, Aug 15)
6 miles, 3000’ gain
We met in Durango to board the 9:15 train for Needleton. We got a train shot of the motley crew and it looks like we’re not real excited about packing in!
Never fear though, because No Name Basin is not near as rugged as its neighbor Ruby Basin. The luxuries of Chicago Basin doesn't hold a candle to the ruggedness of No Name though. We set off from the Needleton bridge around 11:45 and set a slow pace as we’re loaded with pretty heavy packs. Mike Rodenak informed me that the first crux on Jagged on the northeast face was wet and spooky, so we pack in two short ropes, extra webbing, slings, runners, cordelette, and a light rack just so we don’t run into any show stoppers. We lose the faint trail a couple times on the traverse above the Animas to No Name. We end up a bit high of the crossing of No Name and have to bushwack for a bit to find the decent No Name trail. The trail is very steep, but efficient. We setup camp at Jagged Cabin at 10940’ after a slow 6 mile approach as Keegan was having some stomach issues. It felt a lot longer than 6 miles, but we were rewarded with some staggering views from camp!
Jagged, Leviathan, Vallecito, & Unnamed 12890 (Thurs, Aug 16)
10 miles RT, 5500’ gain
The initial plan was to go for Jagged on Fri after doing some other 13ers and moving camp on Thurs. That felt like too much effort, so we decided to push for Jagged and the peaks in the drainage beyond Jagged Pass all in one push as long as it didn’t rain overnight. That way we would never have to move camp. Probably the most ideal spot to camp for multi peak assaults in the basin is just below the 2nd trail split at the headwall at 11K. It didn’t rain overnight, so it was time for the main event! We set out at around 4:15am, hoping the trail would be easy to follow through the willows. We didn’t have much trouble with routefinding other than missing a trail split briefly and made good time up to Jagged Pass, staying on the left side of the drainage until we were at the base of the final scree grunt to the pass.
The north face of Jagged overhead
The route is decently cairned. We arrived at the pass just as the sun was rising over Leviathan, and it lit up Jagged beautifully! Jagged is pretty intimidating from a distance, but like many mountains, the terrain lays back a bit and things look a bit more feasible when you get closer!
Staggering view of the ne face of Jagged
Sunrise over Leviathan and Vallecito
From Jagged Pass, we traversed over to the slabs below the first crux and worked our way across ledges.
Traversing to the base of the ne face
We were able to find the first crux using a pic fairly easily and initially it looked pretty stiff. We got my rope out and I tied in, but I decided not to protect it as it was only a couple moves of low 5th on grassy ledges. I felt secure and soon I found the rap anchor for this crux. Matt and Keegan were fine without a belay and that’s the only time we would get the rope out on the ascent. This crux avoided the infamous downsloping kitty litter ledge, although we butt scooted this on the way down.
Keegan climbing the first crux
The routefinding is fairly intricate on Jagged as there are not many cairns, but it is fairly intuitive. Just find the path of least resistance. We traversed left over to the obvious, deeply inset couloir and zigged our way up to near the top of it. We then traversed right when the cliffs prevented any further upward progress and made our way over to the 2nd crux, a couple cracks on a stained slab. We found an easier but more exposed 4th class route to the right that avoided this crux.
A maze of ledges to navigate
We were now getting close to the notch that provides access to the south face, but we weren’t sure if we were approaching the right one. A rogue cairn led us too far right, and we quickly discovered that we were indeed heading for the correct notch!
Nearing the notch
The final crux on the northeast face is just below the notch. Matt climbed it directly using his long frame to mantel up, while Keegan and I took a slightly easier line to the right.
We were stoked to be so close and all that was left now was some 3rd class traversing on the north face wrapping around to the final chimney. The south face is by far the most exposed part of the climb, but it’s nothing harder than 3rd class if you stay on route. The exposure certainly grabs your attention and you must be cautious with your footing.
The four areas of concern are an exposed step around move, a short downclimb of a slot over big air, the solid 3rd class chimney, and a somewhat awkward step across on a bulging slab.
Little mini slot downclimb onto a ledge with some big air.
The chimney was a ton of fun with solid holds. There is a very wide ramp below this chimney, so a fall here would probably not be fatal.
Matt in the chimney
The summit finally came after an exhilarating climb as we topped out a bit before 9am. It looked like the weather was going to hold to get our other peaks! It is such a spectacular perch deep in the heart of the Weminuche with the Storm King Peak quad having 35 ranked summits at 12700’ or higher. I think this is the highest concentration of high peaks in the state.
Looking towards Chicago Basin and beyond
After a lengthy stay on the summit, we carefully retraced our steps back to the notch.
Another climber summited as we were about to leave and a guided group was just getting done simulclimbing as a group of 5 over the 3rd crux. We waited for them to get past and set up the short rap over this crux. My 35M rope was plenty long enough for this rappel.
Matt raps over the crux below the notch.
There are varying opinions on Jagged, but I think a lot of it has to do with how wet the rock/grass is and how used to exposure you are. I could tell a few in the guided group were not used to traversing across kitty litter over big drops! Strong climbers who are used to exposure would be comfortable downclimbing the whole thing, but it would be a scary proposition to downclimb it during a sudden storm or when wet. I think a 30M rope and a pull cord so that you could rap single strand would be plenty for a strong group. We were able to follow our line down, although I think we downclimbed one of the double cracks on the 2nd crux.
The infamous kitty litter ledge. The crab walk worked well.
We took a nice break at Jagged Pass and were rewarded with some staggering views of Jagged the rest of the day. Leviathan is a very worthy summit as well and makes for some sweet eye candy with its impressive south face.
We found a decent trail that countered over to the southwest ridge, staying at or near the ridge crest. We passed a tower at a notch on the left side and scrambled up some nifty slabs to the summit. Matt called it a day, while Keegan and I plodded on to Vallecito. We returned to the notch and cut across the south face on a wide ledge with some exposure that got us on the southeast ridge of Leviathan. We still had some pretty sustained 3rd and 4th class downclimbing to get to the saddle, although the rock was pretty solid. Vallecito is no more than a talus slog and we were starting to feel a bit wiped out from the long day.
Leviathan and its namesake lake from Vallecito
We bombed down a scree chute to an unnamed lake at 12400’. Unnamed 12980 was too close to pass up, so we slogged up a cooler splitting its twin summits and were rewarded with a unique view of Jagged.
Jagged from UN 12890
The return up and over Jagged Pass was brutal and we got back to the tents at around 5pm.
Peak 6 and Peak 5
Fri, Aug 17
8 miles RT, 3500’ gain
Peak 6 was a dud, although it affords great views. This day felt a lot longer than the stats suggest because we were beat from the day before. We had to move to get Peak 5 after seeing what the clouds would do for a bit, but the weather held until we were well in the trees! We had dark clouds due south of us, but there was a halo of blue sky overhead as we descended steep grass and slabs back to the trail. Peak 5 has a nice little scramble to the summit, although we didn’t have time to enjoy it!
Peak 6 from an unnamed but huge lake.
The Heisspitz and Peak 4
Sat, Aug 18
4 miles RT, 3500’ gain
The Heisspitz is one of the hidden 13er gems in Colorado, probably in my top 5 if it was not for the steep approach. The standard route is the narrow gully from Jagged Cabin, which comes at a price of 2K vertical in about 8/10ths of a mile!
Monitor, Peak 13, and Animas from the Heisspitz
The gully narrows with a bunch of chockstones, so we exited right and bushwacked up the very steep forest.
Big time quad burner to the Heisspitz/4 saddle
The southeast ridge of the Heisspitz is a classic with surprisingly decent rock. There are gullies on the left to pass the steepest parts of the ridge, but there is unavoidable 4th class. We felt like the farthest n.w. summit was the highpoint even though the register is not there. Go to it just to be sure!
Keegan high on the Heisspitz
The traverse to Peak 4 is not a whole lot of fun once you get to the saddle. Lots of sidehilling on loose talus, all on the south side. The views from the summit of Peak 4 are top notch though and we took a long break admiring this special place!
The pack out Sunday was uneventful other than we decided to cross the Animas to save some time! The Animas is so low this year that it was a feasible alternative, although the water did get crotch deep in the middle! It sure refreshed the leg muscles. We caught the tracks and waved at all the maintenance cars going by. Apparently hiking the tracks is OK if you’re on them at the right time, although the Animas is rarely running low enough to cross safely with a heavy pack. Twas a sweet adventure in the Weminuche!
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