American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Colorado, Colorado Climbing Notes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1937

Colorado Climbing Notes, 1936

To supplement the record of previous climbing seasons before reporting new ones, note that in September 3rd, 1935, a first ascent of Spearhead (12,500 ft.), in Rocky Mountain National Park, was made by Charles Buckingham and Stan Midgeley, of the Colorado Mountain Club. The past year in Colorado was singularly devoid of new climbs, compared with the years 1932-35, inclusive. This is partly accounted for by the fact that the Colorado Mountain Club held their annual outing in Grand Teton National Park, outside the boundaries of the State.

A solo ascent of Longs Peak (14,255 ft.) by Ernest Field was an auspicious beginning, however, and this was followed by a series of ski ascents lasting well into late spring. Of the latter, the most remarkable was that of A. W. Kidder, who handicapped in the possession of only one leg, on April 12th scaled James Peak (13,260 ft.) completely on ski. Also in April, Messrs. Cobb, Dodge, McKenney and Whittemore, of Fountain Valley School, made a ski ascent of Mt. Lincoln (14,284 ft.).

The outstanding achievement of the 1936 climbing season was a walk along the Continental Divide from the Wyoming line, on the N., to the New Mexico line, on the S. This two-months’ trek, often planned, but never hitherto accommplished, was performed safely and efficiently by Carl Melzer, an eight-year-old son, and a university student named Johnson. Because of climbing difficulties the walkers were unable to follow the absolute crest all the way—particularly between Chiefs Head and Arapaho Pass, where they had to descend on the W. slope to Monarch Lake, but they did not often deviate on either slope to accomplish a required portion of their traverse. All details were mapped out weeks in advance, and the itinerary was timed so carefully between July 6th and September 7th that Mr. Melzer’s wife was to be found at the correct hour on each automobile pass along the Divide, with food supplies. A color-movie record of the 500-mile jaunt was shown at the annual meeting of the Colorado Mountain Club in November.

During August the celebrated Longs Peak E. face received more than usual attention from mountaineers, working on rarely used routes. On the 2nd the severely difficult N. chimney on the E. face yielded to a party of five, one member of which was stopped short in a vertical fall by the securely belayed leader. On the 9th the scarcely less difficult Alexander’s chimney succumbed to direct attack, and on the 23rd a small party succeeded in climbing the face via Stettner’s Ledges. According to Charles B. Hardin, who made all of these ascents, Stettner’s Ledges provide the best climb on Longs Peak. They were established as a route in 1927 by the brothers Stettner, of Chicago, and had not been successfully assailed since.

In the Loch Vale region near Estes Park two first ascents— the only ones of the year in Colorado, to the knowledge of the writer—were performed. The most important of these, the scaling of Sharks Tooth (12,700 ft.) was done quite easily by Warren Gorrell and Paul Hauk, on August 16th. The approach was made from Andrews Gorge and the col on the E. side of the Tooth. A neighboring gendarme, one of the so-called “Cathedral Spires,” was premiered by Carl Erickson, Robert C. Lewis and the writer, on July 26th. A complete E.-W. traverse, in wretched weather, was made of this moderately easy spire (12,400 ft.).

Out of the little-known canyon country of Lodore-Yampa, in the N. W. corner of the state, a small party who visited the region in September brings descriptions of a sheer, 2600-ft. cliff and the unclimbed Steamboat Rock. These descriptions bring to the attention of all climbers who are familiar with Colorado’s W. slope topography the countless possibilities for new rock climbs on the canyon walls of the Colorado River and its tributaries. When our rapidly diminishing list of unclimbed peaks and aiguilles dwindles to nothing we will still have our canyons. When the latter have been as thoroughly scratched with routes and variations of routes as have the N. face of Longs Peak and the Flatirons, near Boulder, there will be nothing for the twenty-fifth century mountaineer to do but repeat climbs.

The remainder of available mountaineering data for the past year deals entirely with repeat climbs, of which the following are of some importance: June 28th—Maroon Peak (14,126 ft.) from the E., via the ice couloir between the N. and S. peaks, by Elwyn Arps and O. P. Settles. July 4th—Ice Mountain (13,939 ft.), probable fourth ascent, by twenty-two members of a Colorado Mountain Club party led by Elwyn Arps. July 19th—Devils Thumb (12,200 ft.), fourth ascent, by Robert C. Lewis and the writer.

It cannot be denied that virgin crests in the Colorado Rockies have been reduced to an exceedingly small number. Of major untrodden summits there probably remain a few in the Needle Mountains (including the Grenadier Range) and in the Gore Range S. of the site of the 1935 annual outing of the Colorado Mountain Club. Elsewhere in the state the first ascent possibilities, other than canyon climbs, include: (1) Gendarmes and aiguilles (no major peaks) so far unclimbed by any route. The Loch Vale region is still a fertile field for these. (2) New routes to the summits of peaks which have previously been climbed by other routes. The W. face of Capitol Peak, unsuccessfully attempted by a strong party in August, is an example. (3) Ski ascents. Of the fifty peaks in Colorado of elevations above 14,000 ft. only three or four have been completely ascended on ski.

Kenneth Segerstrom.

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