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North America, United States, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Peak 13,134', Ski Line

Peak 13,134', Ski Line. In late October I recruited Dave Ahrens to help me finish a project I started years ago, the north face of Peak 13,134' in the northern San Juans. The face can be clearly seen from Dallas Divide, and I had made several attempts with different partners over the past few years. The most serious attempt was with the late Johnny Soderstrom in October 2004. The route more or less follows a left-angling ramp directly through the center of the rocky north face.

After a fairly short approach, the route starts with a couple of hundred feet of 50° snow. As you near what seems to be a dead end in the couloir, a beautiful cascade of water ice comes into view to the left and is the entrance to the face. We soloed the first 100' pitch of WI3 and kicked steps up more 50° snow. After a few more steps of low-angle ice, we reached the high point of the 2004 attempt. Johnny and I had tried to follow the obvious weakness by continuing left on snow but were turned around by deep snow on slab rock. This time Dave and I left the snow and took the direct route up mixed terrain. The climbing was typical San Juan mixed climbing, solid in places, incredibly loose in others, and almost always run out. After three long pitches of good climbing, including an exciting, airy 5.8 traverse, we reached the final rock headwall. We ascended a chimney, which provided a good finish to the route, with good dry-tooling and stemming. This pitch resembled the last pitch of Birdbrain Boulevard, but at 13,000', and Dave especially enjoyed following it in the dark without a headlamp. After another 100' of snow we reached the summit in the dark, with whiteout conditions and a few lightning bolts.

While we took a break on the summit, the weather cleared enough that we could see our planned descent route. We traversed just below the south ridge and descended a bowl between Peak 13,134' and Peak 13,252'. After wandering in the forest, we found our way back to the car at Dallas Creek, labeled “Box Factory” on a map. There was no sign of previous ascent on the face and none of the locals have heard of prior climbs. The route is worthy of more ascents if conditions are right, with firm snow. The route would be hard to retreat from, though, with a lack of features for rap/belay anchors. Most of our anchors consisted of ice tools in moss and snow-seat belays. With the conditions we had, the difficulty of the 1,600' route was WI3 M5 5.8R.

Jared Vilhauer, AAC