Desert Vibes

Desert Vibes
Photo: Ben Clark

Monday, January 9, 2017

Longs Peak Project (September) -- Mary's Ledges


September 4th—Mary’s Ledges (Bailout) with Peter Bakwin

Car-to-car time: 5 hours 34 minutes

The forecast was good: sunny, clear skies, no precipitation, and low winds. That's not what happened. We started from the TH with a light drizzle, which eventually faded to blue skies. Once at the boulderfield we were greeted with snow, rain, cold, and wind. We took shelter under a big overhanging boulder for a little over an hour before deciding to bail and come back tomorrow.

Things change quickly in the alpine

September 5th—Up Mary’s Ledges, down North Facewith Peter Bakwin. Also, descended to the top of the Trough and re-summitted via SW Ridge to scout for October.

Car-to-car time: 9 hours 39 minutes

After yesterday, Peter and I returned determined to reach the summit. So, we brought almost full-on winter clothing to ensure that shit weather wouldn't stop us again. The hike up to the boulderfield went a little quicker than yesterday. We started making our way towards the buttress between the Cables and the Keyhole. This buttress is right along the Left Dovetail, I believe. There are two ways to start Mary's Ledges: from the right (which requires crossing a significant stretch of the Dovetail snow field) or to the left (which requires some easy scrambling). We went to the left and found ourselves on a nice ledge on top of the buttress.

We busted out the rope and gear here. A frigid wind was hammering us from the east. So, we decided to put on all of our clothes for the climb. Neither of us knew the route and I couldn't feel my hands, which could make for slow going on the climb.

So, I began up the first pitch (really the only pitch of actual climbing) and eventually reached a step that I had trouble committing to. Then I realized I was off route and moved into this nice little dihedral with a fixed pin. From here the climbing was easy (5.6-7?) and well-protected (not sure why this route has an R rating). Since I couldn't feel my hands the entire pitch I just stitched it up and hoped that at least a few of the pieces would be OK.

I reached a small ledge and belayed Peter up. I still had about 15 feet of rope left, but didn't know what was above me. When I took off on the second pitch I realized that I should have just kept going and had Peter start simul-climbing. The second pitch just ended up being easy 4th class scrambling where I didn't place any pro.
Once we stowed the gear it was an easy walk to the summit through the upper North Face talus. At the summit we decided to head down the Keyhole route to the top of the Trough to scout out our planned route for October--SW Ridge--and see if we'd be comfortable soloing it.

We ended up scrambling up a bunch of 5.easy terrain until we got to a ledge with a hand-to-wide-hand crack that went for about 10-12 feet. Here, we decided to rope up and I led again. We really only needed the rope for 1-2 moves in that crack (5.6-7) before the terrain relented back to 4th Class/5.easy scrambling.

After topping out on the summit again we began our customary descent of the North Face. We rapped the Cables because we had a rope with us, but it wouldn't have been horrible to downclimb. I've downclimbed it with way more ice before.

The hike out has become one of the most tedious parts of the project. I don't think Peter and I will be "enjoying" another North Face descent for a while after December...

All smiles after climbing the first pitch

View from the top

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