Rich and I had plans to do the Casual Route on the diamond of Longs peak this weekend. Rich called the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park who told him that after the snow, the route would be out of condition. We decided to do Petit Grepon, a 50 classic climbs of North America climb on Saturday. We would then bivy up there and do Age Axe on Spearhead the next day.
Rich had already done the standard route on the Petit, and wanted to try a different and harder route. We decided on the southwest corner.
We met at Larry's house at 6:30 am and were at the ranger station about 7:45. We sorted gear while we waited for the ranger station to open at 8. We got our bivy permit for sky pond and drove to the trailhead. Parking lot was full, so Rich dropped off the packs and me and drove the half-mile to the next parking lot. I decided to get warmed up by running up the road until I met Rich and then coming back. I got to the other parking lot without seeing him. I figured he must've taken some trail. I got on a trail and ran back. I found him waiting by the packs.
We started the hike up making good time. The views were beautiful, but it started getting windy the higher up we went. We passed by a cool waterfall and it was getting really windy. I had to stop at this point to put some more clothes on. Sky pond had large white caps on it.
We made it up to the bivy shelter Rich had stayed in before, to drop off the stuff we didn't need for the climb. We discussed whether we wanted to bring one down jacket or two. We eventually decided on two.
We could see two other groups on the Petit, one was going up, the other coming down.
We arrived at the base of the rock and began our class 4 ascent up the first two hundred feet. I was so hot by the time we got up there that I was wishing I hadn't brought my down jacket. I was considering stashing it and coming back for it later.
The other group rapped down about 50 or 60 feet to our right. They said it was too cold and they had to bail off. I figured they were on the rappel route, so I tossed my approach shoes over to them and asked them to stash them under a rock.
Rich lead up first. I was glad I had my down jacket after all. When he ran out of rope, I tried to get him as much as I could. I climbed up a little bit and then stopped. He didn't take any more rope so I guessed he was setting up an anchor. I felt two tugs on the rope and started climbing again. I made it up to the belay, which seemed to be just below a large ledge. I took off and set another belay on the ledge. Rich came up, we walked to the corner on the left and started up again.
I lead the next pitch and made it to an excellent belay ledge. I had given Rich my down jacket to wear while he belayed. I was glad to get it back when he arrived. The wind was terrible and the sun was covered with clouds all day. I saw an orographic cloud up high and knew the wind wasn't going to get better anytime soon.
Rich lead the next pitch and I followed arriving at a small belay ledge. The next pitch would be the crux, and it was my turn to lead. At this point I was climbing and belaying in my down.
I started up the pitch arriving at a hard section after about 30 feet. I placed a nut and went to move up. I didn't feel very secure and moved down to my nut again. I felt like I could fall on this section and suddenly my nut wasn't inspiring confidence. My arms were starting to get pumped and I had to hang. I slowly weighted the nut and it made a sliding noise and stopped. I quickly put in two more pieces with gravity and the thoughts of a factor two fall conspiring to pull me off the rock. I had forgotten about the other piece I put in lower which would have helped my peace of mind. After getting the other pieces in, I felt secure and was able to do the moves, although awkwardly. The rest of the pitch was much easier. I crossed a ledge to the other side of the petit and belayed on an excellent ledge.
The sun came out shortly after I got to the ledge, but now I was on the shady side of the rock. Guess I don't get to see the sun today or be warmed by its rays.
Rich came up and was also wearing his down now. He was unable to get the nut that I didn't trust out of the rock. I guess it was better than I thought. He started up the final pitch and was there in no time. I followed the final pitch arriving at the top in the low sun. The views were awesome. The summit was airy, dropping straight down for several hundred feet on all sides. The wind was howling. Rich spit off of the summit and his spit went down for about 50 feet before going horizontal away from us and finally the wind lifted it straight up and out of view.
We started rappelling down after some summit photos. After 3 or 4 full length raps, we followed a ledge back to the front of the Petit. Apparently I had left my shoes in the wrong spot and now we had to alter the descent to retrieve them. 2 more raps and I got my shoes. These raps were almost all difficult though. Whenever we threw the ropes down, the wind would either blow them straight back up again or tangle the ropes into a rats nest. One more rap and we were on the ground again. Somewhere on the raps, I lost the rubber ring that goes around my headlamp. Oh well, it still works.
We made it back to the bivy cave just before dark. I believe it took us 6 and a half hours from the bivy cave, round trip.
Rich went to get water as I set up to prepare dinner. He got back and we had some instant soup, and possibly the nastiest freeze dried dinner in existence. It was Beef Stroganoff by Natural High. I highly recommend staying away from this meal. I hope all their meals don't taste like that one.
After dinner and some delicious Jelly Bellys, It was time to go to sleep. This cave was a pretty tight squeeze for two of us, but we did it.
Rich slept in the deep part of the cave. It had piles of rocks to block the wind, but some wind would still seep through and he had to close his bivy sack most of the way to keep the wind from blowing into his bag.
I was sleeping at the other end and my feet were partially hanging out of the cave. Throughout the night, blasts of wind would lift my legs up and then drop them again. I was afraid to pull my legs in because they were resting on my pack and I didn't want it to blow away. I awoke in the morning after the sun had already come up. With the bivy sack covering my eyes, I didn't notice the light of sunrise. It was still windy.
Sometime during the night, a mouse chewed through Rich's food bag and helped himself to a granola bar and some Gatorade powder. Not only did the mouse steal Rich's food, but he had a bowel movement inside his bowl as if to say, "This is what I think of you."
We had breakfast and decided that one day climbing in the wind and cold was enough for us. After packing up, we saw two climbers heading up to the Petit, a male and a female. The male was waving for a bit, and I turned around to see if he was waving at another member of his party. After seeing no one else I figured he must have been waving at me. I waved back. They continued on and I silently wished them good luck.
On the hike down, the wind was still terrible. It was blowing me all over the place, and almost blew me down a couple of times. We made it back to the trailhead no problem. The weather was much nicer down here. On the way out the clouds spelled out high winds aloft.
Great trip, great views, great climbing, sucky winds. Would I do it again? Yes.