Jagged Mountain, 13er, Colorado
Barry Smith and David Rogers
We went to visit Jagged Mountain (13,824 ft.) in the Needle Mountains over Labor Day, September 4-6, 1999. This was Barrys 99th of Colorados highest 100 peaks. Jagged was certainly exciting. Once we got to the base of the summit edifice (the last 600 ft or so), we didn't think we would make it to the top.
The train dropped us off along the Animas River at 8,200 ft at 11 am on Saturday. About 100 people were going into Chicago Basin, but we saw no one else in Noname, until the last day. We hiked 7 hrs, stopping to camp at about 10,800 ft at 6 PM. I think this is lower than where the guidebooks suggest camping- it's at the end of the very long valley, within sight of Twin Thumbs, and well below Knife Point.
We had trouble following the trail along the Animas (lost it in a clearing just north of Needleton- we should have stayed nearer the river) and up in the Noname basin. The dreaded Water Tank Hill wasnt as hard as wed feared. On the north side of the mouth of Noname Creek we found the next trail by the phone pole, first following the river trail about 100 yd. north of the creek. We got to ford both Ruby Creek (knee deep) and Noname Creek (hip deep). And wade through lots of deep muck. And get willow scratches all over the legs.
Starting before 7 Sunday morning (just after light) we climbed up to the divide between Sunlight and Noname drainages. The trail was faint and overgrown in places, but we followed the guidebooks good advice to stay on the north side of the upper drainage while proceeding east. If one could find the trail in dimmer light, one might leave camp earlier. It took over four hours to reach the ~13,000 ft saddle, from where we could first see Jagged Mountain. We contoured to the base of the peaks upper section (about 13,200 ft), reconnoitered the unappealing options, and started roped climbing at noon. That's where the fun started. Despite the two days of nice weather we had enjoyed, the snow and ice from the previous weeks stormy weather clung to the north face up which we had to climb another 600 ft. It took us four hours to cover this doing belayed climbing part of the way, and brushing the snow off holds. Reaching the summit at 4 PM, we got down in 1 1/2 hours after three rappels, by 5:30. All our rappels were on the snowy north face. There are two bolts at the summit for rappelling off the north side but it looked like a full-length rappel so we didnt do it. We had a 50 m 10.5 mm rope. Something- no one would blame the intensity of the route- caused us to forget to eat lunch. We were very glad the sky was cloudless the entire day.
That's the sanitized version. We started climbing the north face about 10 ft to the right of the base of the 4th class route, which was a frozen verglas waterfall. At the base I (David) did two scary 5.6 or 5.7 leads on rock, snow, and verglas using my ice axe like an ice tool part of the time- to think that I almost didnt bring my ice axe. I was able to get in good protection, just not very often. If I'd had crampons I would have worn them. After two pitches we reached the usual 4th class route which wasn't icy- just covered with about 4-6 inches of new snow. We 4th classed most of the steep upper part, which was occasionally spine tingling due to snow cover. In two places I climbed up a short rock pitch first and belayed Barry.
At the top I (David) did a half rope ~5.7 lead directly to the summit, just on the left edge of the ledge below the summit on the south face. Then we down-climbed the low 5th class chimney at the far (east) end of the summit, back to the terrace on the south side. Between the three leads I used all the protection I had (10 Wild Country nuts, biggest 6 hexes, 4 smallest tricams, 7 slings). If the route was dry, one could 4th class the entire thing if one were comfortable climbing unroped on low 5th class with moderately high exposure. I wouldnt want to get up there without climbing gear in case conditions werent ideal, and rappelling made some of the sections much easier to descend.
We barely made it back to camp by sunset. Monday we left camp about 10 and made an early train at 3:15 PM- it was at the stop when we walked up. Just after we got on, a thunderstorm started, so we did not get rained on at any time. We raced back to the concession car for beer and fritos... And Barry started plotting a way to make it up number 100, Dallas Peak, before next season.