Dallas Peak

24-25 Jul 1999 - by Chris Long

In 1999 I took a Basic Mountaineering course through the Colorado Mountain Club. Our final field trip was a climb of Dallas peak in the San Juans.

Dallas peak is the 100th highest mountain in Colorado, and the hardest of the high peaks to climb. We drove down to the trailhead, which is near Telluride, on the 17th and began our hike to camp. It was very humid, the ground was wet from recent rains, and all the vegetation was in high bloom. It is absolutely beautiful.

On the way in we couldn't decide if we were going to get rained on or not. The clouds were out with an occasional sprinkle. When it started to rain, I put on my jacket only to have it stop for the rest of the hike in. The scenery and topography were amazing. There was a cool looking rock formation on the way in that I wanted to climb, but unfortunately the rock was somewhat loose and unprotectable.

We finally strolled into camp and set up. I took out my sleeping bag and put it inside my bivy sack. I had a bagel and some other snacks, then watched everyone else set up their tents and fire up their stoves.

I came on this trip straight from work (I work nights), so I was pretty tired. Everyone else was socializing and admiring the views, and I went to sleep. I woke up about an hour later and they were still talking. I stayed up a little and talked, then back to bed for the night.

I slept great. Probably the best night I've ever had outside. I didn't even wake up once until it was time to go.

I think we all got up at about 4:30am. I had another bagel and some other snacks, and watched everyone with their stoves again. We finally got under way in the dark, guided by Gary and our head lamps. This was Gary's 3rd attempt at this mountain, with no success so far. After awhile on the trail, we jumped off trail and started working our way up a talus field. The sun rose, and we put our headlamps away. We came to a gully full of loose rocks, and started making our way up this being careful not to launch any rocks at the people below. This is probably the loosest mountain I've ever been on.

Once we got above 12,000 feet, we were in the clouds, and had almost no views at all. It pretty much stayed that way the whole time.

At the top of the gully we headed right to some 45 degree rock outcroppings, and stopped for a snack. We began to climb the rocks one at a time. Normally, I would not even think twice about climbing rock like this, but with all the clouds around us, the rock was all wet. Plus we were all climbing in boots and packs. Never the less we all made it up without incident.

Our next obstacle was a short 70 degree snow slope that lead up to a small tunnel that goes around to the bottom of the technical climbing section of the climb.

We had some problems keeping assistant instructors in our group, and I was the one with the most rock climbing and anchor setting experience, so Gary asked me if I would help out on the technical sections. I was more than happy to help out.

We took out our ice axes which had gone unused to this point, then Gary and I climbed up this and set up a fixed line for the others to use. We then walked along a narrow ledge to the base of the climb and set another fixed line to protect the ledge.

At this point Gary was preparing to lead the pitch that goes to the summit. This pitch is probably a 5.5 or so, but with the wet rock and climbing in boots, it would be much more difficult.

The others began to climb to the beginning of the ledge. I put Gary on belay and he started up. He initially had some difficulties about 6 feet up, but persevered and made it past this section. The rest of the climb seemed to go smoothly, and he made it to the top! I guess the third time is a charm for him.

He quickly set up an anchor, and it was my turn to climb up and clean the pitch. I climbed up to where Gary was having problems, and found out why! I was in my boots standing on little, wet nubbins, hoping I didn't slide off. I'm glad I was on top rope! Gary is the man! I got past this section and the rest wasn't too bad. I made it to the top!

I spent a couple of minutes up there and Gary lowered me down to the bottom of the climb again. The rest of the group climbed up one at a time belayed by Gary as I offered encouragement from the bottom and checked everyone's harness/knots, etc. Several times rocks came flying down from above and I had to duck into the cliff to avoid being hit. Still got hit by a small one in the leg though.

After everyone was on top, I broke down the fixed lines and climbed up to the top again. I guess I can say I climbed this mountain twice! I got to the top and set up the rappel to the base of the snow climb. Went down without incident and held the ropes for a firemans belay. I got hit once by a rock on the top of the head. Glad I had my helmet on!

Everyone made it down, and we were pulling the ropes down, when a large rock came flying down. It was headed right for Gary. We all yelled our warnings, and he ducked a little. The rock glanced off of his left shoulder blade knocking him to the ground. I went to make sure he was ok. Luckily he ducked the right way and the rock barely hit him. If he didn't duck, he would surely have been injured.

We headed back to camp, and my right knee started to bother me. If I kept it straight, then it didn't hurt so much. We got to camp and I stuffed my sleeping bag and bivy sack into my backpack, and was ready to go.

I decided with my knee hurting it would probably take me longer to get back to the trailhead than the others, so I started off right away with one of Arts' cool walkie talkies. The views on the way back were absolutely beautiful. You would think that after awhile you would begin to take it for granted, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Gary caught up with me on the way down. It began to rain, but I was too tired and hot to put on my jacked. The bushes hanging in the trail were all wet too. Pretty soon I was soaking wet, but I didn't care. We finally made it back to the cars, and started our long journey home. I think if I were to do this trip again, I would stay another day down there so I didn't have to drive back being so tired. This was an excellent trip with excellent friends and beautiful views.

To see the pictures for this trip, go to: www.mtngoat14k.com/mountaineering/dallas.htm

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