American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

United States, Chicago Mountaineering Club, 1947

  • Notes
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  • Publication Year: 1948

Chicago Mountaineering Club, 1947. The Needle Mountains of the San Juan Range, in southwestern Colorado, was the location for the 2nd Annual Outing of the Chicago Mountaineering Club, 5-16 August 1947. Thirty-eight members and guests met in Durango, Colorado, on August 4th, and on the following day were transported by the narrow-gauge Denver and Rio Grande train about 37 miles up the Animas Canyon to Noname Creek (8400 ft.). The crossing was effected by means of a small tram car running Tyrolean-traverse fashion on a permanently installed steel cable. Two pack strings carried gear and food supplies up the Noname Creek trail to base camp, six miles distant. This trail, which rises 1500 ft. in the first mile and a half, is in fair condition; but it is very difficult for heavily loaded horses in wet weather.

The campsite (10,750 ft.) in Noname Basin was the same one used by the Colorado Mountain Club, which had conducted its own outing during the previous two weeks. The Coloradans generously left their kitchen and mess tents and general camp and cooking equipment for our use. The location proved ideal for climbing. Four 14,000-ft. summits and more than 15 peaks in the 13,000- to 14,000-ft. range were within a few miles of camp.

Peaks ascended were Heisspitz (13,251 ft.), Heisspitz Ridge (13,400 ft.), Jagged Mountain (13,829 ft.), Peak 10 (13,400 ft.), Knifepoint (13,200 ft.), Sunlight (14,053 ft.), Windom (14,084 ft.), Needle Ridge (13,400 ft.), Peak 11, Glacier Point, Eolus (14,079 ft.), N. Eolus (14,030 ft.), Turret (13,819 ft.), Peak 12 (13,100 ft.), Monitor (13,703 ft.), Peak 13 (Scepter: 13,800 ft.), Animas (13,850 ft.), and the Twin Thumbs (13,500 ft.). So far as is known, new routes were established on two ascents: the 1200-ft. E. face of Monitor, by Joe Stettner (leader in this ascent and also in the Outing), Jack Fralick and John Speck; and the Needle Ridge, which has been traversed several times in the past from E. to W. but never before from W. to E. Climbers were Joe Stettner, Margurette Sharp, Donald Gruber and Edmund Lowe. An ascent of the N. Thumb of the Twin Thumb group via the N. face of the E. ridge was thought at first to be a new route, but notes in Trail and Timberline for November 1933 indicate that this line probably was followed on August 4th of that year. An initial attempt to gain the summit was made up a couloir just to the E. of the Thumb’s N. ridge, but was abandoned on account of excessive loose rock. A short descent and an eastward traverse out of the couloir, of about 150 ft., placed the party at the base of the E. ridge, which is, in effect, the Peak 11- Twin Thumb col. A short but steep rock scramble to the ridge summit was followed by a 40-ft. rappel on the S. face. A short traverse westward brought the climbers to the S.E. base of the last simple summit rocks. The ascent was made by Joe Stettner, Edith Stettner, Alma Eberli, Max Eberli and Arthur Tielsch.

There is little doubt that all the major peaks in this area have been ascended, but numerous gendarmes and pinnacles have yet to be climbed. Also, there is an almost unlimited field for new routes. The Needles are quite steep, being considered by the U.S. Geological Survey “the most vertical topography in the United States.” The rock is of a disintegrated character and constitutes some hazard. Considerable rainfall and the profuse growth of moss and mushrooms may indicate that much precipitation is a regular feature.

Harry Lumby

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