Peak(s):  Bancroft, Mt  -  13,250 feet
Date Posted:  05/28/2013
Date Climbed:   05/26/2013
Author:  dmjudo
 Bancroft - East Ridge  

Was originally planning an ascent of Dead Dog couloir but heard too many creepy avalanche stories about the persistent slab conditions this spring. Figured a ridge climb would be safer and decided on Bancroft as it offered both snow and rock challenges.

My companions on this trip were both inexperienced with this type of scrambling although one of them is a much better rock climber than I am. They are also both half my age and through cunning and guile, I convinced them to haul most of the heavy equipment for the approach. Old age and treachery wins again!
Both myself and the better rock climber are from Iowa (elevation 900 feet) and our third has lived in Denver for a year now. I found out the hard way after trying Long's Peak last December that driving the almost 12 hours to the trail head overnight and immediately heading out for the summit is a sure recipe for altitude sickness.

For this trip, we drove out from Iowa, got to Denver at 3am and crashed for 4 hours of sleep. We then drove to the trail head and hiked up above Lake Caroline and established a base camp. Witnessed the most impressive moonrise any of us have ever seen and spent a windy night acclimating some more. I still had a pretty good headache all night.

We rose at 6am, ate breakfast and were on the climb by 7am. We left snowshoes at the tents and just used crampons and axes to gain the ridge. The snow was nice and firm at this time of the morning and we reached the notch after about an hour.

We had met a pair of climbers who were on the way out while we were hiking in and they had said that someone just installed a new sling on the upper rappel anchor but when we inspected the 4 existing runners, they all showed significant fraying around the edges. I installed a new 9/16" runner and used the existing slings as backup. There's a nice quick link already there.

The snow down in the notch was a little softer so I kept myself on rappel until I gained the other side and started building an anchor while my companions rapped down. The 5.2 rock pitch was pretty dry and snow free. I ended up slinging a huge block for my anchor and sewed up the pitch because I had conned my youthful companions into carrying a light alpine rack. I can lead 10a in the gym and found the climbing on this pitch to be accurately rated at 5.2. I wanted to make it more interesting and climb directly up onto the last block but when I thump tested it, it made a hollow sound. I just exited left on easy holds instead.

There's a fixed sling around another large block at the top and I backed it up with a cordelette and brought my 2 companions up. Neither of them had any difficulties and one of them isn't an experienced rock climber. I think this pitch is a bit over rated by some of the reviews but it also wasn't iced over when we were on it.
I would agree with others that the knife edge immediately following the notch is dicier than the notch itself. The snow was firm though and we could just walk right across. The exposure in that section is pretty sweet! The 4th class section right after felt like 4th class as well but our 3rd member elected to go around on the left instead of tackling the rock crux.

I was able to watch him coming up on a steep snow slope and since I had just given him a crash course the night before on axe and crampon technique, I'm not sure who was more nervous him or me! It was definitely a no-fall situation for him. He front pointed up using the axe as a stake with no problems and we were on the way.

From there it's just more and more 3rd and 4th class scrambling which was really fun. The ridge eventually ends and it's just a walkup to the summit from there. The weather was perfect and we summited at about 11:30.

We had planned to glissade down the bowl but the snow was pretty soft by now so we plunge stepped down and managed some snow butt glissading in a few spots. We made it back to the tents in 45 minutes and took our time eating lunch and soaking in the sun.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Nice climb
05/31/2013 15:20
Gives me a whole new perspective to read about climbs like this from people who have to drive a day or more to get to the Rockies. Way to go!

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