Peak(s):  Teakettle Mtn  -  13,819 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2011
Date Climbed:   06/23/2011
Author:  Papillon
 Find Your Way Back  

"By technical climbing, do you mean ropes and anvils and hanging into thin air?"

- email from a friend after I told him how I planned to spend my 38th birthday

On September 5, 2010, I attempted Teakettle Mountain. I made it as far as the base of The Black Gully before calling it off. Maybe it was the weather building up on the horizon. Maybe it was frayed nerves from a previous day's tango with Gladstone Peak. Maybe I wasn't ready for a technical route or maybe I was just plain chickensh**. I guess I'll never really know.

Fast forward ten months...

Date: 2011-06-23
Peak: Teakettle Mountain
Tale of the Tape: 3.3 miles and 2530 vert

The Team:




Everything is nice and quiet in Yankee Boy Basin when we arrive a little before dusk. We kill the engine at 11,300 feet and look around. No cars, no tough guys on quads, no Lavender Cole, no three-ring circus. Nice, dude, nice.

Summit Lounger gets out his binoculars and surveys the upper ridge of Teakettle from our tailgate. In Yankee Boy, there is virtually zero approach and you can see pretty much everything from the deck. We peer through the Zeiss and spy a fair amount of snow up high. It might be problematic or it might not. There is only one way to find out.

Logistics by headlamp...

Our route will take us directly up to the base of The Black Gully. It's a loose and tedious stretch but if the snowline is high, we are golden. Rosebrough says it will go but recommends sticking to the right. Garratt and Martin tell you to avoid it as an ascent option like Bierstadt on the 4th. And the Roach route up to the shoulders of Coffeepot ain't exactly tea with Ms. McGill so you know where this is going...

We decide to leave flotation behind, especially with Potosi on the table. If we make a run at the bicentennial, we won't retrace our ascent route. Besides, fast and light often trumps slow, methodical and well-equipped - something I am still trying to grasp.

At 2130, I crush a can of modus in the dirty soft parking lot. The basin is very still and the temperature so warm that I can't see my breath. Alarms are set for 0500 and we drift off into our own private places.

0530 and the climb is on...

We cross the road and grunt up steep grass. Eventually, we reach snow and begin a languid ascending traverse to our left. Crampons, styrofoam and a good cadence. Sunrise is hitting the top of Gilpin and nothing else, but we don't need our headlamps. A faint grayish light emanates from the snow at our feet. The temperature is perfect.

In the distance, we see the talus spillway. So much for continuous snow up to The Black Gully. We remove crampons and engage the geological scat. Summit Lounger hits the left side and we watch him levitate. I don't know about this guy... the shi**ier the rock, the faster he seems to move. We find a mixture of frozen mud and scree in his wake and it holds us. Amazingly.

Summit Lounger is now waiting for us at the base of The Black Gully. He tells us there is good snow to ascend. I like the sound of that. We put the spikes on again and shimmy up. It is a very mellow climb with the last 10-15 feet steepening a bit. But nothing major.

From the top of The Black Gully we survey the rest of the route. There is still work to be done to get to the summit pitch. What follows is everyone's favorite game - "On Off On Off". I believe I change in and out of crampons three times en route.

Any snow we encounter involves quite a bit of sidehilling which is not one of my strengths. Going straight up and down a snow gully is one thing but traversing requires another skill set. I let loose with the profanities and Summit Lounger just smiles. He tells me snow is my friend. I tell him snow has a way of shaking out weak hands. And with that, we press on.

The terrain soon eases and everything is dark, thick sand. Weird stuff. We leave moonprints behind and approach the summit block. This is a pretty powerful place to be and there is not a cloud in the sky.

The technical pitch has been reduced to 20-25 feet with all of the snow. Lots of air, however. Wooderson opts to use her axe to cross about eight feet of high angle stuff. It may sound trivial but a slip here and you're taking a long ride.

I'm starting to get a little sewing-machine leg action going, like I'm over-caffeinated. But I've waited ten months for this. Greg sets up a top rope with zero effort. I tie in, stem and climb Teakettle. Unreal views.

The summit is tiny and very exposed. I don't move around much. Summit Lounger belays Wooderson and I'm sitting up there with a weird grin on my face. Lots of emotions to say the least.

A few minutes later and The Team is together up top. Photos and voices. Endless horizons. Future plans of future ascents. There is 2500 feet of vert all around me and I'm getting a bit antsy. I can't even fathom what it would be like to get caught in a sh**storm up here.

On the other hand, Summit Lounger is bouncing around like he's volleying at Wimbledon. His hops, skips, and lunges have me concerned. I mean, the summit is the size of a friggin' pool table.

We rap to our gear stash, feast and start heading down. The sidehilling isn't so bad on the return trip (nothing ever is). We descend to the bottom of The Black Gully and hold a brief Council of War. Summit Lounger wants Potosi but the clock is ticking, the temperature rising, the snow weakening. We don't want to slow him down so we cut loose and agree to meet back at the car. We watch him traverse high and begin the ascent to the base of Coffeepot before turning our attention to Scree City.

I go first and drop a few hundred feet before finding shelter behind a large rock. I then wave Wooderson down. The descent is not terrible. We repeat this process once more before reaching snow and sanctuary.

The only question now is will the snow hold us up? It's pretty sweltering and we've got several hundred yards before reaching grassy green pastures. One, two, three steps - everything holds.

Back at the car, we strip, air out our gear and wait for Summit Lounger. It is hot as hell on the Yankee Boy deck but the Modus is cold.

These are great days we're living...

The languid ascending traverse

The gully appears

Sunrise on Gilpin

Scree City

The Black Gully

I'm glad this thing is holding snow...

Looking back

There is still work to be done.


Easy Street

The Crux

Bi action

Another perspective

Look out!

That's my girl

The Team

The Team II (including an appearance by your humble narrator)


when a problem comes along, you must whip it, before the cream sits out too long, you must whip it

Scree City Round II

Almost down

Another fine day in the hills...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

 Comments or Questions

Funny as he!!
06/29/2011 20:48
Thanks for the good read.

Brian C

Nice work!
06/29/2011 21:33
Thanks for the beta. I was wondering if anybody had recent conditions info on up there. Now I'm really looking forward to heading up soon. Nice job!

06/29/2011 21:36
I like that !!!


The Cabelas Kid
06/29/2011 21:44
Modus, scree, manageable rock pitches, airy summits and one of the finest of mother nature's alpine sculptures. A trip to Yankee Boy is never going to suck, you seemed to hit on all the pros this trip. And to think it all started at Cabellas....


06/29/2011 21:52
Like a story board for Quentin Tarantino movie. Great job, fun read.

Chicago Transplant

Good stuff
06/29/2011 22:19
Nice job, glad you guys were able to get back there and get on the summit after the disappointment last year. Its a cool peak, glad you enjoyed it! On to Dallas and Jagged


06/29/2011 22:23
Kimo shoots photos and Papillon writes trip reports.
Rob Lowe likes this as much as I do.
I'm glad you all made it back for this. Congrats.
Summitlounger, I hear you have some photos, ”evidence,” if you will, from a recent climb in the Sawatch. Will the world ever see these pics?


Great report and photos
06/29/2011 22:27
I'm new to this mountaineering thing but really liked your report. Teakettle and Coffeepot just got put on my to do list!


06/29/2011 23:03
Congrats on the summit and great prose! Love the Devo shot!


Nice, Cabela
06/30/2011 00:19
About time there's another TR by you, Cabela Kid or Papillon or whatever your name is. ;)
And a fine TR of a great mountain at that!


It might be problematic or it might not.
06/30/2011 01:48
”There is only one way to find out.” Those are words to live by.

Along with the maxims ”engage the geological scat, logistics by headlamp, on off on off, the modus is cold,” and, of course, and most important, ”these are great days we're living.”

Nice, dude, nice. Matt is too generous with me, but he's right on with you.

And just hold on to that hat, Wundermarmot, because the ride is just beginning.


06/30/2011 01:57
Great narration. And mighty fine summit. I am curious where the third photo is from. Looks almost mitten-ish. Nice job to all three of you.



06/30/2011 02:42
To all the previous. However, now I'm gonna be jammin' to Whip It in my head for the next several days and when I do this climb for myself. I, won't look as good as ”devo” though.


We leave moonprints behind ...
06/30/2011 14:22
Classic, my friend ... truly. 8) I felt like that, too, up there on that bizarre black ”sand”. You guys could not have had better conditions (wish they'd been that good for us ... there's something to be said for good snowcover sometimes ). Big, huge kudos on your success, thanks to Mr. S. Lounger for being there, and a special thumbs up to you, Mr. P, for a delightful trip report ... fantastic photos ... especially that first one of Ms. W. Thanks so much for posting. Happy trails! (oh, and a belated happy birthday to you ... great way to spend it on top of your own ”birthday cake” with you three as the ”candles” )

Jon Frohlich

06/30/2011 14:47
Congrats to all of you! That looks fantastic. I'm hoping to get down there at the end of August. If not this year I'm definitely doing it your way with snow next year.


06/30/2011 17:51
Great pics as well as entertaining narration. May have to add this one to my list as well. Congrats to you, Sarah and ”the volleyball”.


07/01/2011 01:14
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a Papillon trip report.

Whew! Think I need a Modus.

Summit Lounger

To the highest bidder
07/01/2011 02:39
Matt, I do indeed have photographic evidence of some mountaineering skills performed by these two folks. I was told they might be worth something someday.


Thanks all...
07/01/2011 16:19
It was definitely a great day in the San Juans on a great peak. I released the ”Cabelas photo” because a few members of this forum had seen it and threatened to get a hold of it and use it against me (jokingly).

Floyd: I'm betting the house on you at Jack n Grill this fall (sorry lordhelmut)...

Matt: Glad to see somebody caught the Youngblood reference. I think Swayze sums it up best in the first ten seconds of this vid.

Derek: That photo was taken at Rifle River NRA back in the summer of '02. How times have changed. The ”shipment” is slated for an October arrival so I will be in touch.

Presto: Thanks for your support and the photos of all those ”other peaks” around the state. I look forward to the next pint with you and the rest of the Denver Crew.

Greg: Thanks again, my friend. It was another great day out.


”Wrong Bet!”
07/01/2011 20:08
Floyd: I'm betting the house on you at Jack n Grill this fall (sorry lordhelmut)...

Hey Pap, obviously, your not a JCVD fan, you should know better than to bet against the underdog.

(watch from 6:00 on)


07/01/2011 22:14
Thanks for the great photos and entertaining read, Kevin and Sarah! Looking forward to more patio conversation over beers and burgers this summer.



Looking to do this soon...
04/22/2013 15:16
and your TR was awesome. Great look at the route through your photos. Thanks for posting this. I love photo 25! Sarah and her devo hat! I think the lyrics have something about cracking a whip... was that necessary?

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