Dallas Peak 1982

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sanjuanmtneer
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Dallas Peak 1982

Post by sanjuanmtneer »

“An Easier Approach to Dallas Peak”

This trip report was published in the October 1984 edition of Trail and Timberline, then a monthly magazine of the Colorado Mountain Club. The magazine editors changed the name to “It Ain’t Texas” which neither my Dad nor I cared for.

This trip report is from 39 years ago and is not intended to be used as a guide for climbing Dallas Peak. There are many recent trip reports on climbing Dallas and those should be used instead for both the approach to, and the climb of, the peak. I am submitting it with the hope that some of you will be interested in reading an old report with some history about a difficult mountain. I have added a few words in brackets to make it easier to understand.

Dallas Peak, 13,809 feet, four miles north of Telluride on the spectacular Gilpin-Dallas Divide, is one of the more elusive and rewarding summits in the San Juans. Finding a good approach to Dallas, is the primary purpose of this article. We believe we have found the “easy way” to the peak.

Spencer Swanger, in his article, “Fascination and a Near Escape,” Trail and Timberline, September 1976, describes a spectacular climb of Dallas from Blue Lakes Basin to the north of the peak. “For every peak and nubbin in Colorado, there are several sources of material from which climbers can learn which face or ridge will yield to what climbing skill,” writes Swanger. “But on Dallas there is no written advice, either from Robert Ormes or from those intrepid climbers of more than 50 years ago, The San Juan Mountaineers.”

Swanger recognized the difficulty of the North Face, but found a route “up a snowfield, which runs just east of the high unnamed peak east of Dallas.” He dropped off the south slope of the ridge, “jagged with fantastic spires and turrets,” until he reached the final 500-foot summit tower. After exploring the south face and nearly aborting the climb, he found an “obscure route to the spine of the ridge.” The final 200 feet was a series of exposed cliffs, bands and chimneys. “Those last two hundred feet to the top took one and a half hours of intense concentration.”

The lack of a cairn or any sign of man led Swanger to speculate he may have made a first ascent. The date was July 3, 1976.

However, letters to the editor in the December 1976 issue of the Trail and Timberline by Everett C. Long and Spencer Swanger, who received letters regarding early ascents, credit Everett Long and Donald McBride with the first ascent of Dallas while on a 1934 CMC outing at Blue Lakes via a col east of Dallas, the east ridge of Dallas, and then the summit pyramid via several vertical cracks on the south side of the peak. The date was August 1, 1934. The October 1934 issue of Trail and Timberline describes the climb in more detail.

Swanger made it back to Blue Lakes after a difficult descent during which a falling rock “bounced once and skimmed overhead, kissing me ever so slightly as it went by.” He rated his climb of Dallas as perhaps the toughest of nearly 300 [at that time] of his climbs.

The next reference to an approach and a climbing route on Dallas was in the July/August 1980 issue of Trail and Timberline with the account of Art Porter entitled “Dallas Peak the Sane Way.” Porter, who had been eyeballing Dallas for 15 years during his climbs in the San Juans, approached the peak from Telluride via the Liberty Bell Mine, traversing around the south side of Greenback Mountain, over its west ridge at 12,100 feet, across Pack Basin, over a 12,500 foot saddle on the west ridge of Mount Emma, across Mill Creek Basin, and then angling across cliffs to the col where the east ridge abuts the main massif.

Quoting Porter on the final part of the ascent, “Upon reaching the upper pyramidal portion of the mountain above the previously mentioned high col, if there is snow, keep well out on the face to the left of the east ridge until reaching the base of the summit pinnacle. If there is no snow, the east ridge crest might be better. At the summit pinnacle, cross over the ridge and follow a ledge around the north side of the summit pinnacle, to an obvious gully which leads straight to the cairn. The final pitch on the gully is not technically difficult, but it’s advisable to belay due to the unreliable nature of the rock, the great exposure, and the inordinate difficulty of removing the ‘remains’.”

Art Porter and R.J. Campbell made the arduous climb on July 1 (year not mentioned). Their statistics of the climb are: Distance: approximately 13 miles round trip, Elevation gain: 5.890 feet going, 950 returning, Time: allow 17 hours. Porter’s article is complete with a photograph of the route and a detailed map. Porter suggested an approach to Dallas up Mill Creek, but thought one would have to cross private land.

On July 10, 1982, with my dad, Bob Beverly (who founded the Western Slope Chapter of the CMC in 1951), scouted out Porter’s suggested approach up Mill Creek and I climbed Dallas Peak, while my Dad waited in the basin.

I won’t repeat the details from our article of the approach we found as it is now well known that Mill Creek is the best way to get to the flanks of Dallas Peak, but what follows is my description of the climb (from the Oct. 1984 T&T article). For beta, I had the two T&T articles mentioned above by Swanger & Porter.

After leaving the Mill Creek Basin access trail I angled up towards the west end of the lowest cliff bands on the south side of Dallas. It appeared that above these cliff bands it would be possible to traverse across [wide] ledges to the main rock gullies that run down the southeast face of the peak. Traversing above the cliff bands was relatively easy. There are a series of gullies running through the cliff bands. It was circling above the tops of these gullies that was somewhat difficult. The ledges were sloping and glassy with some scree and loose dirt around the grass. On top of each set of cliffs was a grassy knoll, I built a cairn on top of the largest of these to facilitate my return.

Once I reached the bottom of the large rock-filled gullies [on the southeast side of the mountain], I picked what appeared to be the best route up them and started climbing, usually staying to the sides of them assuming the rocks there would be least likely to slide. I would only pick out a route for about 50 feet ahead to leave my options open. In a few places the gullies have some scree, but, as a whole are filled with rocks varying in size from softballs to Volkswagons, all of them being somewhat unstable. Swanger said these gullies were a mess compared with even to the Maroons. The Maroons are sedimentary layers with the rocks stacked on top of each other. The rock gullies east of the north ridge route of El Diente are more like the gullies on Dallas, except with less scree and many more large, unstable rocks. Picture an alley in downtown Denver with a 20-foot depth of a thousand different sized bowling balls and [at a steep] slant. (In 1984 I wrote that it was a 60 degree slant, but now I doubt it is that steep).

Nearing the top of the gullies I headed for the low spot on the east ridge. Here I looked down the north face and was glad I wasn’t having to deal with that much snow and ice. I started traversing and climbing to my left going west toward the summit [on the south side of the east ridge]. Here the rock was gravely, crumbly and wet with melting snow. Soon I reached the bottom of the highest snowfield on the southeast side of the peak. It was wide at the bottom but narrowed as it climbed up through a short chimney at its top. At first I attempted this without crampons, but soon realized it was too icy and steep. With crampons on I climbed easily to the area where it became vertical between two very tall, large rocks that formed the top of the chimney. The snow and ice was very hard here and was corniced and overhanging at the very top. It was my first experience climbing vertical ice, but I took a deep breath and climbed up, punching through the cornice on top.

Here i gained [the crest of] the east ridge and got a view of the final 100 feet of the north face, a series of snow-covered ledges and chimneys which bottom at Blue Lakes basin. Swinging around the corner of a large block I stepped onto the face. Here, in shadow, the snow was hard and most of the rocks appeared to be precariously balanced and ready to come off at the slightest nudge. This was by far the most difficult part of the climb. Without protection and with the Blue Lakes waiting 2,000 feet below, it took all my courage to continue. [This is the “obvious”gully on the north side of the summit pinnacle mentioned by Porter in his article.] I was using my ice ax to provide me holds in the steep snow but reached a point where I had to leave it behind because to retrieve it would have forced me so far off balance I would have fallen. I only hoped that when I rappelled down I would be in a line that passed by where my ax stood waiting.

At last I was up the steep chimney and on the top. I let out a whistle that my oftentimes climbing companion, German Shepherd, Bruiser, who was with my Dad, heard 2,000 feet below (he jumped up and started running towards me, then was stopped by my Dad). There was hardly a cloud in the sky on a beautiful July day. The only place to be was in the San Juans on top of a difficult mountain.

The first name of the register was Swanger’s, left in 1976. Only about 20 others followed. It was time for a snack and some relaxation before the descent, which I wasn’t looking forward to.

I found some old webbing slung around some rather insecure looking rocks, an obvious former rappel anchor. I added some new webbing I had brought and tried to make everything as safe as possible. Down went [the ends of] my rope and I soon after it. Accidentally, I knocked down some rocks that narrowly missed my ax. I was in luck and passed near enough to retrieve it. I knew I would need it to descend the steep snow chimney I had encountered on the southeast face.

Once off the rappel, I coiled my rope and front-pointed down the rest of the steep snow. From here I knew it would be easier. Back in the southeast gullies of the mountain, I even found a few places I could slide down through small rocks and scree. At the bottom of the gully I had ascended, I turned right and followed my cairns back across the ledges above the cliff bands and then descended back to the trail where I met up with my Dad. We were back to our car at about 5:00 pm.
Attachments
Dallas Peak from Mount Emma with my route shown
Dallas Peak from Mount Emma with my route shown
Dallas.jpeg (129.92 KiB) Viewed 938 times
And my mind is made up,
To climb all the mountains,
Before my body's laid up,
And the night advances.
And the time is here.
(With deference to John Dillon)
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Mtnman200
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Re: Dallas Peak 1982

Post by Mtnman200 »

From the original Dallas Peak summit register placed by Spencer Swanger:
03 - Dallas Peak Summit Register.jpg
03 - Dallas Peak Summit Register.jpg (166.11 KiB) Viewed 900 times
Attachments
04 - Dallas Peak Summit Register.jpg
04 - Dallas Peak Summit Register.jpg (164.35 KiB) Viewed 894 times
"Adventure without risk is not possible." - Reinhold Messner
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Wish I lived in CO
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Re: Dallas Peak 1982

Post by Wish I lived in CO »

Mtnman200 wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 3:01 pm From the original Dallas Peak summit register placed by Spencer Swanger:
03 - Dallas Peak Summit Register.jpg
Not many people summit Dallas peak in a given year!
I look up to the mountains - does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2
docjohn
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Re: Dallas Peak 1982

Post by docjohn »

Very interesting account! My name resides on the first page of the summit register. When in lived in Telluride the three of us climbed Dallas in June of '80. I found a nice backpack route into the upper south basin, using FS trails and elk paths, and we climbed the peak the next day. It was enjoyable for the most part as crampons were used almost the entire climb, making the southeast, east slopes and north ledge routes easy. We kept the crampons on for the mid fifth class crack to the summit, the front points helpful on small edges. The rap down used the piton Spence had placed. The snow down was a romp.
A year later I gave the access directions to Bob Martin, which he used in his thirteener book. Art Tauchen accompanied him, a previous climbing partner with the CMC, known for his ability to come straight from Nebraska and outclimb everyone.
The register reflects a microcosm of 70's and 80's climbers, the names entered reflect a lost history, including Jane Koerner (Parnell), the first woman to ascend the top 100, Bob Martin of the full twelve thousands, and many, many other excellent climbers.
...let me remind you of the pilgrim who asked for an audience with the Dalai Lama.
He was told he must first spend five years in contemplation. After the five years, he was ushered into the Dalai Lama's presence, who said, 'Well, my son, what do you wish to know?' So the pilgrim said, 'I wish to know the meaning of life, father.'
And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, 'Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?'

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Kiefer
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Re: Dallas Peak 1982

Post by Kiefer »

docjohn wrote: Sat Jun 19, 2021 8:53 am Very interesting account! My name resides on the first page of the summit register. When in lived in Telluride the three of us climbed Dallas in June of '80. I found a nice backpack route into the upper south basin, using FS trails and elk paths, and we climbed the peak the next day. It was enjoyable for the most part as crampons were used almost the entire climb, making the southeast, east slopes and north ledge routes easy. We kept the crampons on for the mid fifth class crack to the summit, the front points helpful on small edges. The rap down used the piton Spence had placed. The snow down was a romp.
A year later I gave the access directions to Bob Martin, which he used in his thirteener book. Art Tauchen accompanied him, a previous climbing partner with the CMC, known for his ability to come straight from Nebraska and outclimb everyone.
The register reflects a microcosm of 70's and 80's climbers, the names entered reflect a lost history, including Jane Koerner (Parnell), the first woman to ascend the top 100, Bob Martin of the full twelve thousands, and many, many other excellent climbers.
This is so awesome!!! I look at Dallas everyday from work. You were lucky to live here back then. Thanks for posting this. And that register pic! WOW! I wonder if that piton is still there?
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