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- I Man
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I am of the opinion that any Class 3 route that has a Class 2 descent (which both of these do) - is a good first Class 3. I have not done Kelso Ridge, but I find Sawtooth to be very easy for Class 3.
"I fly a starship across the universe divide....and when I reach the other side...I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can. Perhaps I may become a Mountain Man again.
- Brian C
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- Location: SoSlo (South of Sloans Lake)
Kelso is really fun, the exposure isn't too dramatic, but once you get past the saddle and start the ridge proper, you don't really have many options to pick better, safer, less sketchy (for your tastes) lines... the ridge is the path, and that fact also spooks some people - fewer areas to bail off in case you can't handle it. Kelso is more sustained at a light- to typical Class 3 route from the saddle up to the summit.
Sawtooth is less technical in my opinion.
Yes, I have my Scotch.
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1. Kelso is sustained class 3 with a short approach and an easy stroll on the way back to the TH from the Grays/Torreys saddle.
2. The Sawtooth is a short section of class 3 followed by mainly class 2 surrounded by somewhat dramatic exposure, sandwiched between a long, high approach and a slog on the way back to the TH (assuming you're coming from Guanella).
It's interesting to see that some find Kelso to be harder/scarier - it just depends on whom you ask, I suppose.
The Sawtooth's class 3 sections aren't that technical or difficult, and really not that sustained. The scariest part for me was the seemingly loose rock just before exiting the Sawtooth, at the section circled in the pic below (forgive the poor quality). The rock is much more solid than it looks up close, but until I actually got on it I was afraid I was going to slide right off that cliff.
Kelso, on the other hand, never had me feeling like I was going to fall off. But the class 3 is pretty sustained the whole way along that ridge.
These were my first two class 3 routes, done about a month apart with the Sawtooth first. Perhaps I'd have been more scared of Kelso had I done it first, but if I had to pick only one of these routes to do for the rest of my life, it'd be Kelso in a heartbeat.
- Sawtooth.jpg (84.08 KiB) Viewed 437 times
- Steve Climber
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Kelso is a bit more taxing as it is pretty well sustained Class 3 and if you get slightly off route (like we did) it can get quite spicy.
There are only a few small spots (exit ramp of Sawtooth and Knife edge on Kelso) that you really need to take care on. Both are fantastic routes though. Be warned when you walk up to the top of Evans and someone in a mini-van asks you where you came from...when you point at Bierstadt, they will think you are super human. I'm in somebody's vacation photos as "that crazy mountain man" LOL
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I first did the Sawtooth as part of Roaches' Tour de Abyss and really only remember there being one spot with any real exposure - the exit ramp. It really isn't bad and doesn't make you feel too uncomfortable, however I do remember it being a little loose. There was less Class III on the Sawtooth compared to Kelso so you might consider doing this route first.
Kelso Ridge was a lot more fun/enjoyable to me (hence why I have done it 4 times and the Sawtooth only once). It is Class II hiking with a few Class III spots to keep you interested. The exposure on Kelso was less from my recollection than the Sawtooth but I thought it was more technical.
I know a lot of people would think I am reckless for having done this, but I have taken several people for their first 14ers on these routes with one of them being my 55yo father. They were in shape and I judged them to be competent at the time. I share that only to suggest that they aren't as bad as some may say, but you'll have to judge your own comfort level. Be safe and have fun!
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As far as the exit ramp goes, there's a ledge up to climber's right that makes it a lot easier. After you cross over, at the bottom, when you're looking up at the exit ramp thinking "holy cow", turn right to face uphill. Scramble up to the ledge, and follow that all the way along. You skip past most (if not all) of the scree, with a good wall to hang on to, on a solid trail.
Personally, as far as 'fun' goes, I actually like the Sawtooth, by way of Roach's Tour d'Abyss. You can take the class 2 sections before you cross over and turn them into Class 3 or 4. Kelso, as far as I've been able to tell, doesn't give you many options.
been scared and battered. My hopes the wind done scattered. Snow has friz me, Sun has baked me,
Looks like between 'em they done Tried to make me
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Kelso Ridge is a flat-out classic. Sustained Class 3 with a few Class 2 areas for mental breaks. The Knife Edge is short and not as exposed as its name would suggest. Once on the summit, college girls in running shorts will fawn over you.
Kelso Ridge wins.
EDIT: to answer the OP's question more directly, Kelso Ridge was my first Class 3 and somewhere around my fifth 14er. I had no issue, even though it was my first taste of exposure. At the time I was still afraid of single-pitch sport routes, so it's not like I had balls of steel. It was a blast. I did the Sawtooth much later in my 14er journey, but if I'd done it earlier I think the scree ledges would have given me pause. Kelso Ridge, in my opinion, is more fun and less scary.
“There are two kinds of climbers: those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest.” - Alex Lowe
"There have been joys too great to describe in words, and there have been griefs upon which I cannot dare to dwell; and with those in mind I say, 'Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.'" - Edward Whymper
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SurfNTurf wrote:Once on the summit, college girls in running shorts will fawn over you.
Kelso Ridge wins.
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