Dallas Peak Beta

1 Sep 2004 - by Tom Maxwell

Tom Maxwell asks:

I am planning a climb of Dallas Peak and feel the descriptions given for the climb by Roach (in Colorado's Thirteeners) and Rosebrough (in San Juan Mountains) appear a bit different. I wonder which I should follow. Anyone with experience trying to follow either one??? How reliable are either? And how easy was it to summit using either of these as guides?? Also interested in learning what climbing gear you recommend? Are climbing shoes recommended? How about rack, what sizes of what did you take? I won't be using pitons, just removable pro.

Paul Wilson replies:

I would not use Rosenberg since the book is so old. Many things have changed over the years and routes in later books usually have much different and more reliable route descriptions. I have not used Rosenberg for many years. But, its a good read and belongs in any serious climbers library.

Starting at the camp:

Roach description is right on (exactly). Hard to follow due to all the detail created by the complex route. Take your time and follow closely. At the top of the grass just pick a slab to go up. Its got many good ways up and in my two trips I bet we used 3 or 4 places to go up. Mark you place at the top to find your way down.

When you come to the bowling alley dont go up due to much objective danger, follow Roach. There is a 5.1 or 2? place before the Cl 4 boulder. We found a sling to use for the rap down to save time. It was very easy going up and probably is not be cl 5?.

At the bottom of the headwall to before the ledges you have several choices. Both times I went right of the big boulder and did not go under the big chock stone. A very hard Cl 4 move. This move is the hardest move of the whole climb. One skinny person threw her pack up on top of the rock and stemmed or chimneyed up the left side. Some of the party needed the rope for a hand hold to get up this place (in order to save time). If you persevere it is climbable. 3' fall when you slip but no hand holds. Be careful of the large loose rock (2-3' size) on top of the big one.

For the final climb you will have a short pitch. You will be prudent to have a double bomber anchor at the bottom. I used 2 big stoppers rigged to catch me if I went down the bottomless cliff!. The belayer can use the rope tail from the ledge. A couple of stoppers or SLCD's should do it. Sorry I was not the belayer. I used 3 slcd's on the way up. The lower slcd was a 1-1.5". The crux is the first 10+feet. When I did my lead it was wet and very cold both times, once we had snow. Labor day both times. Lots of air. Have your second bring up the gear. Roach has the correct rating (5.2+ in my memory).

Take a 20-30' sling in case the existing sling for the rap is marginal or missing. Take a 50m rope for the rap which gives the option to rap down the steep slope below in case of wet/mud/snow. For the upper anchor no hardware required.

Both trips I went on nobody used rock shoes as its only low 5th class. Nobody complained because of shoes. WE saw 3 other parties on one trip, 12 people and none had rock shoes.

Stuff not mentioned would be for belay, rap, and a couple of spares.

Kevin Craig replies:

In our experience, it was difficult for us to be sure we were on Roach's route on the bottom section due, as Paul says, to a complex route but multiple routes seem to go. The sling that he describes a ways below the summit block was there when we did it (2 years ago?). Once directly below the summit block, we found it impossible to follow Roach's description anymore due to extensive, detailed description of micro-routefinding with no super-good landmarks mentioned ("take 2 steps north of the big block, turn left, then traverse southwest for 8 feet..." not really that bad but you get the idea). I'm sure I couldn't do any better however. The key thing is you need to get on the other side of the ridge from where you came up and there are again many ways to do this including going up under the big chockstone (was filled in with snow when we were there so we couldn't see the "tunnel." You can also go to the right of this in a couple of places at varying levels of difficulty. Once of the far side of the ridge, things become pretty obvious, follow a ramp across and down a little way to an obvious gully leading to the summit. I echo Paul's comments on the final climb. No rock shoes needed. Have fun & be safe.

Gary Swing replies:

Here's what I wrote about my recent solo climb of Dallas Peak at the beginning of a 12 day peakbagging trip. I didn't take Rosebrough's description, but took copies of the Roaches' and Garratt & Martin's descriptions. There were probably at least eight slings left on the summit of Dallas when I was there on Aug. 8, in varying conditions. The snow was almost gone from the chockstone area. I climbed through the upper hole. No need for rock shoes, I agree. I thought the worst part of the ascent was the rock gully with the ball-bearing scree shortly after leaving the trail. That can be avoided on spartially grassy slopes. My other advice is just don't free solo Dallas like I did.

August 7. Drove from Denver to the Mill Creek Trailhead near Telluride. Backpacked 3.1 miles on the Deep Creek and Sneffels Highline trails to camp at 11,200'.

August 8. Woke up around sunrise. My head was pounding. I felt nauseous and disoriented. Must be altitude sickness. Oh well, I was off to solo climb the most difficult of Colorado's 100 highest peaks. I was confused by the Roaches' detailed description of the route on Dallas, So I mostly used Garratt and Martin's vague route description. I climbed up a nasty rock gully with ball-bearing scree followed by a scary traverse across steep loose scree above cliff bands. The fourth class rock pitch on the east face was fun to climb up, but scary to downclimb. I found the gully with the chockstone in it and climbed over the chockstone through a small hole to the north face. Then I descended down the ramp on the exposed north face. For some reason, I thought I was supposed to traverse further across the north face, which looked extremely dangerous. I figured that one slip there would mean a fall to my death. I decided to give up on soloing Dallas.

But, before I left, I figured that I would at least try to climb up to the ridge top to see if I could get a view of the summit. There was a nice solid rock climbing route above me, so I climbed 90 feet up a rock wall, up cracks, ramps, and an alcove. When I reached the ridgetop, I stumbled a few feet over to the summit cairn to see if I could determine where the summit was. About twenty feet away, there were a lot of 15 foot rappel slings anchored around a large block. Another point just to the west seemed to be at about the same height. Then there was another point much lower, and half a mile west was yet another summit that I thought might be Dallas. (It was West Dallas.)

I got out my topo map and followed the contours back from Mt. Sneffels. Then I re-read both sets of directions. I was really standing on the summit of Dallas and had climbed up the standard summit pitch without realizing that I was going the right way. I took a black rappel sling off the summit as a trophy and climbed back down my 97th of Colorado's 100 highest summits. The lower 5th class downclimb didn't bother me as much as the technically easier parts of the descent with loose rock and exposure. I took two other partially gnawed slings off the top of the chockstone and passed by a third rappel station at the top of the fourth class downclimb.

That afternoon, I backpacked out and drove to the Cross Creek Trailhead south of Lizard Head Pass for my next climb.

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