Peak(s):  Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Date Posted:  10/02/2019
Date Climbed:   09/25/2019
Author:  PeakSixTD
 The final boss  

On 9/24/19, Ian Wright and myself set off in hopes of summiting Jagged Mountain via Sunlight Creek. Just getting this summit is a worth endeavor in itself, however this trip would hopefully signify an even larger accomplishment for me. If successful, this would be the final of the four 5th class centennial routes that I had hoped to send ropeless. Vestal, Teakettle, and Dallas had all been freesoloed by yours truly leading up to this. Ian and myself had been very busy this summer. Scheduling conflicts arose on consecutive attempts to get out together. We were climbing trad and freesoloing rock climbing routes nearly every weekend from March through June, but we hadn't shared a summit since that cold harsh day on Antero last January. Needless to say, we were overdue to get on a peak together.

I had started to doubt whether or not I would get Jagged this year. I'm always hesitant when it comes to the spicy stuff this late in the season. I've had a few run ins with verglass over the years that have left me with a healthy fear of it. The last thing you would want would be to have a foothold slip when your deep into one of Jagged's cruxes... Especially without ropes. Ian had contacted me wanting to hit something big. Naturally, we settled on my "Freesolo finish" peak. This journey started out with him on Teakettle after all, its only fitting that he is there for the finale! With half a days notice, I threw together my gear and we were off. The Vallecito/Sunlight approach kept jumping off the guidebook at me. Hmm. Less mileage and gain plus a voyage through Colorado's most remote valley? Now that sounds enticing. I had also seen pictures of Jagged that a friend of mine took via that route. Ian was on board and my choice was solidified. Vallecito Creek here we come!

We had gotten started at the not so early bird time of 4PM. Not exactly ideal, but we both prefer big summit days to strenuous pack in days. We had planned to get just far enough to make for a reasonable summit push.


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Getting started down the trail


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Hiking adjacent to this river for 12 miles was a treat!


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We crossed a few of these. I was impressed that they could haul all of the materials this far.

I'm highly skeptical of the numbers listed in the guidebook on this one. The consensus suggests that the mileage exceeds the 31 mentioned in the book. My GPS would concur, although it was dead for part of the approach so I cant give an accurate estimate. I would say you should prepare for 32-35 miles on this route. Don't underestimate this one ladies and gentleman. This approach is beefy. That being said, what a spectacular setting! This forest speaks to me in a special way. This ecosystem is absolutely flourishing. The further you venture into the Weminuche, the more wild it gets. These woods pulsate with life. Energy radiates from this region. You can feel it in your veins...Profound. I encourage everyone to venture into this wilderness for a day or two, even if its just for an overnight backpacking trip.

I had read so many different mileage listings for the prominent landmarks on the way that we got a little confused about our progress. It is of utmost importance that you make a note of the bridge being out around mile 7. This is your first real creek crossing. After this one, you only have about 475 more... Give or take. The best crossing is about 1/4 mile before you see the bridge remnants. They would be easy to miss if your not paying attention. There is a level site where people obviously camp right off of the trail. This is your best area to navigate the creek. After a few rock hops, you will see a three log bridge tied together with twine. This should be fairly easy even with a heavy pack. We settled in this vicinity for the night. I was doing math in my head while we were in the tent. Summit day was looking even more daunting than I initially expected. I decided to bring nearly everything short of the tent with me incase we ran into trouble somewhere. My day pack was over 20 pounds.


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Beautiful golden plants dotted the surrounding landscape. Pristine. Any idea what they are?

We set off and quickly reached the Johnson Creek turn off. This is the first obvious separation in the peaks that you will have seen on your journey. It even has its own bridge. Don't go that way! Keep cruising until you reach Vallecito Creek. The turn off is marked with a cairn and there is a faint use trail down to the best crossing. I read several reports where people chose to ford the creek. If you wish to keep your feet dry, go a little to the left (south) and do some rock hopping. In the daylight this was easy. I did it several times for fun while Ian stopped to pump water. Now, the trip really begins. The bushwhacking that ensued is absolutely horrendous. People mention a faint trail much of the way. This is the case, but don't be fooled. The overgrowth that occurs here is so extreme that following the trail becomes almost impossible in several sections. I was worried about following this back down at night if we had to. I double checked to make sure the GPS was leaving a track. We did not use GPX files. I recommend you do. At one point we saw a few game/social trails veering off after the second sunlight crossing at 10,800 feet. We followed the wrong one. Ian noticed large bear tracks in an area of soft soil. Yikes. We thought we were enroute to Jagged Mountain's summit, but instead we were charging full steam ahead towards a bear den. Two very opposite places. We climbed some cliffs for a vantage and realized we were over 500 feet above the route. The down climb was terrible. Take the time to find the most trafficked line any time you have doubts!

After this hiccup, we were presented with a substantially more problematic issue. Ian had a very nice high tech water filter that we had used on several outings. It worked great... Until the time we needed it most. All of the sudden, it wouldn't pump. We quickly turned from mountaineers to water filter scientists in hopes of correcting the problem. Turns out, we don't make very good scientists. This ate up an hour of our time easily. We were worried that this meant we had to turn back and do the whole hike out with a very finite water supply. Ian was weighing the prospects of crafting a bush filter when I made an enlightening realization. Eureka!! I forgot that I always carry back up iodine tablets in the backcountry. A quick flip of a secret pouch In my backpack and boom! There lied the solution to our dire problem. We chugged what we had and filled up our bottles again. Crisis averted. Time to let the iodine do its thing. Unfortunately, things not going accordingly to plan would be a recurring theme this day.


19896_01
This is why we chose Sunlight Creek.

It was decision time. Given all of the difficulties we had just surmounted, we were both in agreement to go for it in spite of the fact that we would be hiking out of the Sunlight drainage at night. Not the type of woods you want to be wandering around in after dark. At this point we were all in. Jagged here we come. The conversations tapered off and the views took center stage. What a fitting setting for the pursuit of my goal.


19896_12
The spire that dominated our line of sight. What is this thing?! We would like to come back with trad gear...

It is also important to note that the north face route doesn't look anything like the pictures until your nose to nose with it from this approach. Stay high and traverse around. Your line will not be visible until it is obvious. Remember my earlier hesitation regarding verglass? Well, the crags on the north face had gotten a recent coat of snow. Most of it was gone but there was enough that forced us to alter the standard lines. Our variations were more difficult, but the climbing wasn't too bad. There was still times where we had to step on snowy holds, which isn't ideal in early season unconsolidated mushy snow. It didn't end up being much of an issue though. I will note that the rock wasn't nearly as grippy as I figured it would be. Footholds could definitely blow out in places. Not a huge deal, just be mindful of it. The climbing went much quicker that either of us had anticipated. We broke through the notch before we knew it. Hang a left here. The terrain starts out confusing, but starts to make sense after a short traverse. The summit pitch can be reached after a coupe of minutes from the notch.


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Snow on the North Face. There were a few ice chutes as well.


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This was taken very close to the summit pitch.

Now this is where things get weird. Right below...literally RIGHT below.. the summit pitch, we observed a small patch of snow with a fresh mountain lion track. Very clearly from a LARGE mountain lion. I didn't think to take a picture, as it was 5PM and we had to haul as fast as we could to ensure that we reach the trail by dark. All of my photos of the climb were taken on the descent, and we did not take the same line down.

It took us a fair amount of wandering to find the supposed class 3 chimney. Now I will issue a warning. If you plan on freesoloing this peak as we did, there is a very important point to note. The old summit chimney has been altered forever. A large boulder fell into it, causing drastic variances in the required moves. It is now 5th class without a doubt. Climbing up it is pretty straightforward, but down is committing. This was more difficult than downclimbing the cruxes on either Teakettle or Dallas in my opinion. Understand what your getting into before you try this now. Must have happened in the last year. It wasn't problematic for us, but it is certainly something to be aware of.


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Somewhere on the route. Ian in his happy place.


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After the new crux, the going was straightforward. A few more steps, and bam. Mission complete. I'm now poised to finish the centennials without ever using a rope. I have 20+ peaks left, but none are 5th class. The fearsome four, Vestal, Teakettle, Dallas, and now Jagged have all been climbed ropeless by this dude. Yes I count Vestal. Yes I'm aware there is a 2+ route on the back side. Sue me.

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The feeling of victory was short lived. Places to go, no people to see. That sort of deal. We now began the mad dash down Jagged Mountain. I say mad dash... Were pretty methodical when it comes to our execution of these sorts of things. The down for the most part felt just as smooth as the up. There were a few times that required us to downclimb a block onto some of that mushy snow. Not fun, but with a little focus we were able to navigate these areas unscathed.

The real fun begins. Mother nature had been good to us, but father time was fixing to bring the pain. We got down the north face at 6PM. Yeah, you read that right. One hour to reach the "trail". This didn't bode well with us. We flew to the best of our abilities. With a couple minutes to spare, we reached the trail! Or... wait. Is this the trail? -_- nope. Just a social trail that quickly disappeared. Night falls. Were confused. I consult my GPS... Were not far off our initial track. We spent what felt like an eternity trying to find the overgrown path. We probably walked over it 7 times. If my GPS had a voice function, it probably would have said "It's right there, idiots!" Finally we find it. We make horrible time going down due to questioning if we were on the main path every 37 seconds. A few significant falls also impeded progress. Now we pretty much expected this... with doing as big of a push as we decided to do in a single day, we knew the potential risks and consequences of night hiking through this terrain. This was not uncalculated. However what we did not count on, was a new moon the night before. The wilderness was pitch black. Stratified clouds masked what little starlight we had. We lose track of time. No less than 5 times did we plow through thick vegetation in hopes of relocating the faint trail. Even with the GPS, we struggled to find our way. Didn't help that we kept walking over it due to thick brush and lack of light. We reach Vallecito creek and check the time. I wont bothering mentioning it. Let's just say it was less than encouraging. We had also been chugging iodine water for much of this voyage. Have you ever chugged iodine water? I would equate it to drinking Germ-X. Not that I have... but you get the idea. It really doesn't even refresh you when your dehydrated. We got our summit because of it, so ill try not to knock it too much.

I started to think my GPS was lying to us, seeing how slow our progress was. We camped at mile 7, and it told us we still had 5.5 miles to go once across the creek. Seeing as how the creek crossing is listed at mile 11, you can start to understand our skepticism of the numbers I had read. Maybe I just suck at math and everything checks out. Not a big concern of mine either way, just some food for thought for anyone planning this route. When we finally reached the tent it seemed like someone was playing a cruel joke on us. With so many things going wrong on this trip, it seemed a little too good to be true that we were back to camp. I didn't question it too much, we dived into the tent for some well deserved rest. I made a few jokes in poor taste... something along the lines of "What if this is a dream man? Were gonna wake up in some willows here in a few hours!" I was only half kidding. Off to sleep we went.

In the morning we wasted little time. Screw cooking up some backpacking meal, lets go get some real food! Camp was unaffectionately tore down and thrown on the packs with haste. We sailed out and had a great time laughing and discussing the trials and tribulations from the day prior. A few more swigs of Germ-X (iodine water) and we were back to the Jeep where we had real water. Its important that I add that this was not an emergency situation. It could have been, were we not so used to these sorts of ordeals. A few bad decisions and we would have been in peril. The reason we went for it was because we felt that we were well equipped enough to handle whatever challenges that may have presented themselves. To a lot of people, that could have been pretty spooky. However Ian and myself do this stuff pretty often. Part of mountaineering is having unforeseen problems appear out of nowhere. It is up to us to handle them accordingly. After all... its only fitting that the final boss throws some extra challenges our way. Level up =]




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