Warbonnet Peak, The Neu Low. Climbing in the Alps is Alpinism; climbing in the Andes is Andinism, climbing in the Rockies is, therefore, Rockonism. Roconismo (the Spanish version is catchier, sexier, and more memorable) is an emerging movement by a small group of climbers from the Rocky Mountain region dedicated to the pursuit of climbing, the environmental and cultural impacts of climbing, and to always having a darn good time in the backcountry.
Last summer the first Roconismo expedition went to the Cirque of the Towers. Along with several ascents of the Cirque s standard classics, Andy Neuman and I climbed a new line on the southeast face of Warbonnet Peak in early July. Climbed ground-up, in a day, and team- free (minus one pendulum by the second to avoid a difficult and dangerous down-climbing crux), The Neu Low (IV 5.11- R) begins on the classic Black Elk but breaks left below the crux fist crack of that route, continuing up and left for five new pitches.
Our day began with a not-so-alpine start and quickly became a morning run over Jackass Pass to escape the swarming mosquitoes. We started by climbing the first two pitches of Black Elk. Upon arriving at the belay below the fist crack, we decided that the clean, splitter, well protected, and utterly classic crack didn’t look all that good (silly first-ascent hungry climbers) and went left along a ledge system to another right-facing dihedral.
The next pitch had us following a clean, moderate dihedral, crossing a thin, poorly protected slab, and underclinging down along a steep dihedral (the route’s crux) to a small stance. The next pitch went left around a corner, up through a somewhat loose roof, and ended with a long stretch of thin cracks and face climbing to a perch on top of a large flake, with uninspiring thin gear as an anchor. From the flake we climbed straight up a wide corner (5.10 X) to easier ground, then stepped left into a prominent crack/chimney system that reaches the upper left edge of the wall, where we were once again joined by mosquitoes. I believe Dante forgot, in his description of Hell, the circle in which one belays anchored on a granite ridge in a fog of blood-sucking insects. One more 4th-to-easy-5th-class pitch up a gully brought us to the South Ridge and the descent, which we slipped, slid, and swatted our way down.
As much as one would love to sing the glories of his creation, I can’t say that The Neu Low will be the modern Cirque classic. While comparable in overall difficulty to its neighbor Black Elk, it is more sustained and serious, though not of as high a quality. The Neu Low nevertheless does serve as a reminder that there are still numerous new lines in the Cirque of the Towers awaiting future Roconistas.
Chris Barlow, AAC