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This trip did happen in 2021, but was cut short.
See postscript at bottom of page.

I plan on going again in 2022 or some time after that, depending on whether or not I decide to have Lucky and Bucky stay in a kennel while I'm off adventuring without them.

San Juans climbing trip, August 2021

North face of Long's Peak, Sept 2021


San Juans (Grenadiers):

This year, I'm leaving Bart at the dog boarder not far from the trail-head. (Lucky will be there too.) Not having Bart with will allow me to climb Peak Six and Storm King Peak. I climbed them both once, in 1975 and 1977 respectively.

Here's the story in thirteen pictures:

Overview. Will hike two days to reach camp 2, 21 miles distant at 11,200 feet elevation. On day 3, hike over the 12,800 foot saddle to Balsam Lake (11,400'). On day 4, climb Peak Six (13,700'). On day 5, climb Storm King Peak (13,800') enroute to previous camp. Take two days to hike back to trail-head.

In 2019 I hiked the 21 miles from camp 2 back to the trail-head with the forty pound pack in one day, and my legs were feeling it for a few days afterwards. It was downhill pounding all the way and I hiked it way too fast. I was 65.

link: 2019 trip

Here's the new approach to the climbing area for 2022 or beyond.
The route starts at Mary Lakes Highland trail head:

Here is the route up to the 12,800' saddle from camp 2.
(Not nearly as innocent as it looks.)
Storm King Peak, one of the two mountains to climb, is on the right:

Here is Balsam Lake on the far side of the
12,800' pass. From camp 3, will climb Peak Six:

Me on Peak Six in 1975. Photo by Jim McInnis:

Me on Peak Six in 1975. Photo by Jim McInnis:

Jim on Peak Six in 1975.
Jim climbed circles around me, and he was totally nonchalant about it:

Peak 6 from camp 3:

Jim approaching the 12,800' saddle
on the way out in 1975:

At the 12,800' saddle in 1975:

Photo of Lake Silex taken through the chasm
of Storm King Peak while climbing it in 1977
with Miller and Balthazor:

The route up Storm King Peak from the 12,800' saddle:

Then the pups and I will circle around to the north end of the San Juans for a hiking expedition that includes Bart and Lucky -- along the continental divide (elev 12,700') for a few days.

After that, all three of us will do day hikes over the course of a few days as we work our way towards Long's Peak in the front range. (Or we'll join the Talbotts for an expedition, range to be determined.)

Long's Peak, north face:

I hope to find a climbing partner for the north face of Long's Peak over Labor Day weekend, as it is a technical climb going up the north face. I've free soloed that route before, but I probably should not try to solo it again. A fall sends one plummeting 1200 feet through mid air.

(My most recent climb up Long's was in 2016 via the west route.)

Here is the route up the north face of Long's. (More description beneath the photo):

I've climbed this north face route four times:

The first time was in 1971 (with Jim McInnis and the rest of our cross country team) when there were permanent steel cables attached to the route, just as there are on the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The cables had been there since the 1920s.

In 1973, after the steel cables had been removed, I free soloed the route. After climbing through all but the final manuever of the technical portion, I encountered a mass of ice blocking me from performing that manuever - a mantle - from the correct position.

It's an awkward and scary left-tilting mantle even when attempting it from the correct position. Since the ice mass had forced me far to the right, I had to thrust myself far to the left as I attempted to mantle up onto the ledge, which itself tilts leftwards towards the adjacent vertical drop-off of the east face.

It looked absolutely impossible. I was certain that by attempting it, I would be hurling myself right off the mountain, over the adjacent east face for a 1200 foot vertical plunge. (Postings at the ranger station warn climbers that any fall on the north face will send the climber plunging over the east face. And when you're up there, you can plainly see that.)

But down-climbing was not possible either. I was stuck, and shaking, from both fear and cold. The longer I clung there, the greater my shaking. After several minutes, the shaking was about to make me lose my grip on the rock face, which would also result in a 1200 foot vertical plunge. When I knew that I couldn't cling to the rock face for another five seconds, I went ahead and attempted the mantle, which I assumed was my death plunge. To my great surprise, I succeeded with the mantle, as you can tell.

In 1974, I joined up with a roped team and received a belay from the lead climber who had mantled. (No ice on route.)

In 1977, I (nervously) lead the way with Miller and Balthazor following. (No ice on route.)

Two of the climbers I joined up with in 1974, arriving at the summit:

2021 Postscript

I developed sudden tendonitis in one knee 20 minutes into the climb of the first mountain (Storm King Peak -- I reversed the order). I was glad just to make it back the 22 miles to the trail head. I already have plans for what to do differently next time to avoid the tendonitis.

Two days later Bart showed symptoms of fungal lung infection. He died a week later in intensive care at the U of M.

He was only five. I had big plans for him and me to explore the mountain ranges together for many years to come.

Other than a few major summits on my list, I have no plans for exploring mountain ranges without Bart. I can't see me doing it without him.

Postscript 2: It took six months, but now that I have Bucky as a hiking partner, the mountain expeditions are back.

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