Coxcomb Peak 13 656
(Now, This is Climbing!)

5-8 Aug 2004 - by T Colorado

We headed off from Denver to try to climb Coxcomb Peak located near Owl Creek Pass. This was going to be our 4th attempt on this peak. Two years ago, Michael and I had tried on three separate occasions to climb this mountain and were turned back by weather each time (only getting as far as the pass one time). In order to ensure our success (hehe), we brought along our friend, Don, as a "good luck charm". After a stop in Gunnison at Mario's for yummy stromboli, we drove the gravel/dirt road to a parking spot just before the creek crossing. It was raining?!?!? so we decided to camp at the parking area and start the backpack in on Friday morning. Friday morning brought mostly sunny skies (hey, wait a minute ... what is that bright shiny object in the sky?). The wildflowers were soooo beautiful and rivaled Yankee Boy Basin in color and volume. The cows (which had always been there before) were thankfully absent. We crossed the pass, descended several hundred feet and found a perfect campsite directly below our route on Coxcomb (the summit was about 1,500 feet above us). It took us 5 hours (with breaks) to get to the campsite. The views of Wetterhorn were incredible at sunset and we had a great campfire that night with a stand of trees blocking the continual breeze that came in from the west. With a few rain showers during the night, we were hopeful that the rock would be dry enough to climb the next day. Saturday brought cloudy skies that turned to sunny, clear skies (you've got to love this weather pattern).

We left camp at a startling 8:45 a.m. (come on now ... it's right there) and ascended talus slopes to the entry into the couloir/chimney portion of the climb. The first pitch is on a slanted step that Michael led ... he belayed Don and I up into the beginning of the steep, short couloir. You could do a chimney move in the beginning (approx. 12 feet in height), but it is unnecessary. We ascended the couloir and quickly came to the "two chimneys". The one on the right is a dark, slanted slot that would provide no purchase on an ascent (though it could be used as a tight rappel). The chimney on the left was inviting and Michael, again, led wonderfully including the awkward and exposed move to the right to exit the top of the chimney. He belayed Don and I up. (We took two ropes with us ... one 80' and one full rope. We used the 80' for belaying up the first pitch, up the chimney and down and up the cleft. We left the full rope at the top of the chimney and used it to rappel down from the top of the chimney to the base of the summit block.) We walked on talus along the top of the summit and very soon came to the cleft. This is a large cut that separates the summit block ... there are huge dropoffs on either side and, at the base of the cleft, there is a small rocky saddle. We each did a double rope rappel, climbed a short pitch and walked to the summit. The register had been there since 2002 (and there was also a jar with paper entries). The weather was fantastic and the views even better ... Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, Uncompaghre, Potosi, Teakettle, Sneffels, and some of the Grenadiers. Redcliff looked like a walk-up (which it is) and we will nail that some other time. We returned to the saddle at the cleft and belayed each other back up. That was the most difficult part of the climb as you felt as if your body was being pulled out and down away from the rock. We walked back over to the top of the chimney and rappelled to the base of the summit block. There we sat ... basking in the sun ... what joy there is in success after you have failed.

We looked down on our camp (you could see it the entire climb) and headed back down with a bit of variation. We descended to grassy slopes below Coxcomb Pass to a trail that we followed and in a roundabout way, ended up back at our camp (and congratulatory snorts of tequila ... hehe). Sunday morning brought clear, blue skies and we packed up and hiked out arriving back at the truck in under three hours. Please note that we took NO hardware on this climb ... the conditions of the rock were dry and clean. As stated by others, you do not want to be on this peak in adverse weather. Small groups are the way to go also. Happy trails!

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