Peak(s):  Teakettle Mtn  -  13,819 feet
Date Posted:  07/18/2020
Date Climbed:   07/03/2020
Author:  HikesInGeologicTime
Additional Members:   TallGrass, climbingcue, dwoodward13
 Teakettle for the Trembling  

My sordid affair with Colorado's high peaks started as someone else's questionable idea.

Worse still, it was someone else's questionable idea forwarded to someone else besides, who then dragged me into it. Less vaguely, it was my dad's...friend*...who wanted to climb Pikes via the Crags TH, and my dad apparently figured that misery loves company, so why not con his only child into coming along?

We did not summit Pikes on our first chosen day in 2004; back in Ye Olden Tymes, there was no sign nor any other marker to distinguish the Pikes Summit Trail from the Crags Themselves Trail, and, like Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we chose poorly. After realizing the error of our ways, we only had enough time to reach Devil's Playground before the very air around our heads started vibrating with ambient electricity.

While we did make up for it with a summit of Bierstadt in 2005 and a revenge summit of Pikes in 2006, a protesting IT band in my right knee made me agree with my dad's assessment on the way home from Colorado Springs that "two fourteeners [were] enough," and other people could have those godforsaken slabs of granite with steroid problems. But then my now-ex-best friend caught Fourteener Fever in 2012 with his own summit of Pikes, wanted to do the rest with someone, knew I had issues with saying no, yada yada yada, I now have an alpine ascent log that I can use to enrich one or multiple therapists' bank accounts for years to come!

And even though I have solid reasons to concentrate my efforts on fourteeners - it has been fifteen years since I set foot atop my first one, after all, so I feel I've dragged this out long enough - I'm getting close enough to finishing those that it's time to start thinking about new forms of overexerting myself. Why not the Centennials?

All of which is to provide some semi-coherent explanation for why, even though I had exactly one experience using climbing gear off a wall in the past decade, I responded in the affirmative when TallGrass texted me around the end of June to ask if I wanted to climb Teakettle. I mean, I did have legitimately sound reasons to go for it: I trust him as a climbing partner, Future-Me would kick Past-Me for passing up an opportunity to go climb one of the hardest Cents with someone I trust, finding a way to screw up all on my own and falling to my death sounded way less stressful than spending the Fourth of July breaking my self-chosen adulthood-long hermitude...uh, I mean, quarantine isolation crowded into my parents' home with a family of exuberant talkers and (shudder) huggers, etc.

20381_01Getting to the summit pitch lent eventual legitimacy to my inner voice's insistence of, "OMG, YER GONNA DIE!!!!!!1!!!1!!!"

I recited all these points to myself as my alarm went off at 4 a.m. after our foursome spent the previous night reveling up Yankee Boy Basin with WildWanderer, who had her sights set on Cirque and Gilpin the next day, then getting some rappelling practice in at TG's insistence, which I think all the rest of us agreed was a Really Good Idea. I then recited those points as a hiss through gritted teeth as we started up the glute-strainingly steep slopes across the road from the outhouse in the predawn non-light as I promptly started choking on climbingcue and dwoodward13's exhaust (I'm mostly able to keep up with TallGrass going uphill, though I'm half-convinced he holds back a little out of politeness). A brief reprieve where the pitch levels out somewhat on grass around 1000 vertical feet from our starting point gave me a false sense of confidence...and then came the scree.

The first 1/4 of the scree slope seems deceptively non-horrid. It's talus, yes, but interlocking enough that there are solid footsteps to be found. Then the solid chunks get smaller and smaller, and then you spend...hours? days? an eternity?...feeling as if you're sliding back three feet for every foot you gain, chuckling bitterly to yourself over how easy Sisyphus had it, for he only had to push one boulder up a hill, not doggy-paddle up a thousand Icelandic waterfalls' worth of its many-times-great-grandchildren!

Around the fourth or fifth time my partners try to dispel the increasing greenness around my gills with murmurs of, "I think it eases up soon," it actually DID ease up, and while I was mildly concerned about the snowstorm that decreased visibility to only a few feet ahead in the Class 3 gully, I wasn't about to let that mountain send me away empty-handed. A break at the notch, where I cheerily reassured my partners that my hands were shaking from residual anxiety rather than hypoglycemia or hypothermia, perked me up some, and the sun's re-emergence as we made decent time up a surprisingly solid (or, at least, solid-er) trail to the final pitch further girded my loins.

20381_02The snow nevertheless had to look like it was going to come back at any minute for appearance's sake.

I attempted to deal with my loins' clamorous threat to un-gird by falling back on my filmmaking skills as I watched first TallGrass, then climbingcue, shimmy up the final pitch like it was NBD. Dwoodward was kind enough to stay down below while I, far away and away the weakest link of the group, gave it a go, just in case I slipped...which was a darn good thing, as some possible combination of an ankle I'd jacked up on an attempt of Snowmass the week before, my vertigo insisting that I was going to fall anyway so why not get it over with, and/or the fact that we were doing this on the 49th anniversary of Jim Morrison's death** meant that my foot slipped as I shifted my weight in the chimney.

I realize that TallGrass garnered a certain...reputation while he was on the forums. As some of my studies dealt with the pitfalls of text-based rapid-to-instantaneous communications, I even have a few theories as to how he got that image. I therefore understand that there might have been some eyebrows raised when I referred to him earlier as a trusted partner, and there might be more raised still when I further state that not only would I trust him with my life, I'd say I already have. He did, after all, not only give me enough time to recover from flailing around in mid-air, trying to shut off the harpies in my head crowing about how HAHA OF COURSE YOU WERE BOUND TO MAKE A STUPID AND AVOIDABLE MISTAKE AND PLUNGE TO YOUR DEATH YOU INCOMPETENT PEABRAIN! but to take a few deep breaths, control the shaking just enough to get my hands and feet together...and summit all the same.

20381_03My attempt to photograph the error of my ways. Fortunately, even if I had been dumb enough to crawl farther out over the edge, the personal anchor kept me from getting too frisky.

My rappel back down was a true team effort, once again with me as the slack, but I hope I made up for it a smidgen with my continued documentarian efforts. It was, I think, to everyone's benefit that I elected to forego the remaining members' side trip up to "Coffeepot" in order to begin scree-skiing, then, after one too many hard landings + remembering that I'd worn the pants with the added rear ventilation shafts for a reason, scree-sledding down the piece of work that had me apologizing to Challenger for all the vitriol I've directed at its infamous gully since I encountered it last year.

Despite my head start, climbingcue caught up to and then passed me above the final downslope to the road, and dwoodward followed - then led - suit as I neared the bottom. I did beat TallGrass back to the parking lot, but with only enough time to open my trunk, not to put anything in it.

Even earlier and nastier storms than are typical for July prevented any of our group from summiting Dallas the next day, paying no mind that I, concerned over the effect my speed and abilities or lack thereof would have on the other three, noped off that mountain not far above its own less-annoying-than-Teakettle's-but-more-annoying-than-the-Sangre-fourteeners' scree wasteland, which is just as well. Clearly I've got some practicing and maybe some anti-anxiety medicine ahead of the next time I get coaxed into confronting my fear of heights...or maybe I should work on the social anxiety and go spend time with Dad and the rest of the fam instead.

*Dad insists she was always just a friend. I am 99.9999999...% certain she was, uh, something else, up through the time he started dating his now-wife. Which, I mean, go Dad, giving me hope that when I hit my fifties, I'll suddenly turn into a hot commodity!

**I hallucinated that I was the reincarnation of Jim Morrison when I was severely dehydrated, hypothermic, hyperglycemic, and rhabdomyolytic after the first time I summited Longs Peak. It might've messed with my head a tad.

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

07/19/2020 09:12
Love your prose! Had a lot of laughs - and some "yeah, me too" moments - reading it.


Thank you!
07/19/2020 11:39
Gotta put that English degree to use somehow, and right now, itâs apparently not going to be on the projects Iâm supposed to be doing!

And Iâm just going to pretend that your âœme too❠moments were more about the epic suckitude of scree than, well, anything else, even though I sadly know better. :|


07/21/2020 09:40
Good, trusted partners make all the difference. Nice work!


Thank you!
07/22/2020 21:15
True story on the partners, and suffice to say I'm excited that I can think about other Cents now!


07/24/2020 21:26
Is kinda like Cool Hand Luke and Iâve had Newmanâs dressings, theyâre pretty good but tell him they could work on their popcorn. Mineâs better. Hi TallGrass!

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