Our 4:00 A.M. alarm was no match for our delayed departure from Los Alamos and corresponding midnight arrival at the trailhead. Luckily, the urge to pee awoke us by 5:45 A.M., and we were on the trail by 6:15 A.M. After waiting several weeks for the right weather forecast to attempt Dallas Peak, we almost blew it before the day had even begun. Whew!
The wet grasses and unwillingness for bushwhacking made us opt out of Stan's Shortcut. Instead, we took the Sneffels Highline trail all the way, and we had no regrets. Right at sunrise, the trail poked up over a ridge and revealed this amazing view of the Wilson group, almost as if someone had drawn back the stage curtain in front of us. It was quite spectacular.
The initial view of Dallas was daunting, to say the least. It was immediately apparent that negotiating all those cliff bands was going to be a tall order.
taking in the lush valley below Dallas Peak
We really pushed our pace along the trail in order to make up for oversleeping. Just 90-min from the trailhead, our legs were already feeling weary. From this point, we had to leave the comfort of the trail and start climbing the steep, loose slopes below Dallas' south face.
Sarah pausing for a break on the relentless scree
This large boulder (foreground) marks the end of the introduction and the beginning of the difficult route finding. From here, we ascended the 50-ft cliffs just left of the very center of the photo. We then did a long ascending traverse to the right above the short cliff band with the south face looming steeply above.
Sarah making her way up the first cliff band with the large boulder (previous photo) in the center of the photo
impressive size of the south face
ascending traverse that followed
After negotiating numerous small cliff bands and steep gullies, the summit formation (left skyline) and the infamous car-sized chock stone (dark shadow half way down the summit block) came into view. Some difficult scrambling was required to get above the chock stone. I chose a fun route through a tight squeeze underneath the chock stone (Roach's Chock It Up route), and Sarah chose a steep chimney to the right of the chock stone (standard route).
Once above the chock stone, we traversed out onto Dallas' steep north face. From the base of the summit pitch, we had difficulty determining where the standard route ascends. After wasting nearly an hour looking for the correct line, I had become very frustrated and decided to just go for it. Well, I ended up missing the standard route (5.3) and doing the Ledge Lover's Lament (5.6) instead, just as the very intelligent Roach predicts in his route description. Aside from a few ledges littered with loose, fist sized rocks, the route was very enjoyable with a very airy mantle out of a dihedral onto the summit ridge. The whole thing protected easily, and I was glad that I had lugged a few extra pieces with me "just in case." In all, I think I placed six pieces: #2 tri-cam (cammed) for the belay, #1.5 tri-cam (placed as a nut), medium stopper, #1 BD C4 to protect a mantle 2/3's the way up, #2 Link Cam to protect the final move, and a #0.75 Link Cam as a backup to a bomber seat belay on the summit ridge.
From the spot on the summit ridge at the top of the pitch, I belayed Sarah to the summit just in case it was technical, which it wasn't. Sarah untied, and I then coiled the rope and joined her on the summit. It was 11:00 A.M. and the clouds were just beginning to form.
Sarah sorting our gear on the summit
Even though we had overslept and wasted a bunch of time with finding the (wrong) route for the summit block, the perfect weather enabled us to spend nearly an hour on the summit. The adrenaline rush from the technical climbing really made this summit feel special. And then there were the incredible views...
Telluride Mountain Village, the airport, and the Wilson group
The mighty Wilson group: Lizard Head, Mount Wilson, Gladstone (in front of Mt. Wilson below the skyline), El Diente, and Wilson Peak (L to R)
Mt. Sneffels and the appropriately named Blue Lakes
Mt. Sneffels, Uncompahgre (in the distance), Teakettle (we could actually see the handle formation!), Coffeepot, and Potosi (L to R)
The San Juans serve as the perfect backdrop to Telluride Mountain. Ski season is just around the corner!
The Grenadiers, including Wham Ridge on Vestal, and the Needle Mountains: Trinity, Vestal, Arrow, Jagged (center), Pigeon (barely visible), and Eolus (L to R)
striking a pose in front of the Wilson group
After completing half of the rappel off the summit, I realized that one end of the rope was lodged on a ledge far above me. Rookie mistake! Luckily, I was able to escape the rappel onto the ledge above the chock stone. Sarah then rappelled down the entirety of the summit formation, extracting the stuck rope along the way. Boy, we did an awesome job at wasting time on this particular day. Luckily the weather was on our side.
crazy rock texture below the summit formation
Though we were fed up with the loose scree by the end, the descent back to the trail went smoothly. We even took some time to add a few new cairns to the existing ones along the way. We managed to descend the numerous cliff bands with much less technical difficulty than we had on the ascent.
We really enjoyed the Sneffels Highline trail. It was impressive the way the route traversed on a long, grassy slope with towering cliffs above it and bottomless cliffs below it. It was as if the trail was threading the eye of a needle. Far below in the bottom right of the photo, the ridge with our early morning vantage of the Wilson group is visible.
cool formations along the trail below treeline
The lower portions of the trail passed quickly, and we found ourselves back at the car just over an hour after rejoining the trail on the slopes of Dallas' south face. We were back at the car by 3:30 P.M. After a 9.5-hour day on just a few hours of sleep, naps were foremost on our minds.
On the way out later that evening, we were treated to this airy view of Telluride from the road to the trailhead. Yeah, I think I could handle living there.