With a superb weather forecast for the entire weekend, Sarah and I decided to make an attempt at climbing Jagged Mountain over Labor Day weekend. On Friday morning, we took the D&SNGR from Durango to the Needleton stop. Here, Andy shoulders his heavy pack as the train departs for Silverton.
Of the sixty people to get off the train at Needleton, only six of us were not heading toward Chicago Basin. A couple from Denver were heading to Ruby Basin to attempt Pigeon and Turret. A very young 69-year-old Bob and his hired guide, Mike, were also planning to attempt Jagged Mountain.
looking down on the Needleton Water Tank, just before descending the infamous Watertank Hill
Actually, we didn't think this section of trail was really as bad as Roach makes it sound. On our way back to the train, however, we somehow bypassed Watertank Hill altogether. We ended up on the wrong trail, and it took us close to 1000-ft above the Animas River. Our tired legs were not amused by the unnecessary elevation gain.
Not long after descending Watertank Hill, we lost the trail. Endless bushwhacking ensued until we finally made our way to No Name Creek. Mike (Bob's guide) had climbed Jagged Mountain three times in the previous couple months, so the two of them managed to pass us by while we were doing circles in the wilderness. We later caught them along the trail beside No Name Creek.
Much farther up the No Name Creek trail, we emerged into a large meadow and were greeted with this amazing view of the surrounding peaks: Jagged Mountain (far left), Knife Point (center), and the 14er Sunlight Peak (2nd from right).
Our 9-mile approach passed through numerous meadows, each of which was separated by a "brutally steep" climb, as described by Roach. I would say his description is pretty accurate. From this particular meadow, the trail ascended the steep slope to the left. For some reason, there are no such things as switchbacks in this particular area. Luckily, the incredible views distracted us from our screaming legs.
Knife Point (left) and Sunlight (right) as seen from the top of the aforementioned steep climb
Sarah finishing our final steep ascent of the approach just as the sun begins to set
Over 7-hours and nearly 9-miles after getting off the train, we finally dropped our packs next to a lake just below Jagged Pass (center skyline).
sunset from our tent
The following morning, the alarms went off at 5:00 A.M., and we hit the trail about 30-min later. After taking nearly an hour to make the climb up to Jagged Pass, we were rewarded with this view of early morning alpenglow on Jagged's gnarly north face. Starting at the large v-shaped notch just left of center, Jagged's summit is the second pinnacle to the right.
Andy getting ready to start up the first of the three crux sections
Andy trying to find the path of least resistance
Andy posing in front of Arrow and Vestal
Andy making his way across some grassy ledges before the climbing resumes
After struggling to find the route through the third crux section, Mike and Bob caught up to us at the rappel anchor. They had started about 30-minutes after us, but Mike's superb route finding and guiding abilities and Bob's bottomless gumption made it easy for them to catch up to us. Here, Mike digs into the first aid kit to mend a nasty gash Bob sustained to his right hand from the sharp granite. Bob was tough as nails, and the injury didn't seem to phase him.
After swinging onto Jagged's cold southwest face for the final two hundred feet of climbing, we finally gained the summit. I had celebrated my 30th birthday the previous day, and this was most certainly the icing on the cake. Here, Sarah and I pose for a hasty self portrait with Windom and Sunlight in the background.
Bob, at the ripe age of 69-years, makes the last couple of moves onto Jagged's summit block. After his first attempt in the early 1970's, this was Bob's fifth attempt at climbing Jagged. This was also Bob's final summit of the Colorado Centennial Peaks (100 tallest peaks in Colorado). Sarah and I felt very special to share the summit with such an incredible person for such a remarkable accomplishment.
a mountain goat posing near Jagged's summit
the 14ers of Chicago Basin: Windom, Sunlight, Eolus, and North Eolus (L to R)
Knife Point is the spire below the horizon underneath Eolus
Turret and Pigeon (L to R)
Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window in the distance
Arrow and Vestal (L to R)
The perfect weather allowed us to stay for nearly an hour on Jagged's summit while listening to Bob's stories of previous attempts on this peak. On the way down, we made use of three rappel anchors. Here, Andy rappels down the uppermost crux section on the north face.
Sarah poses in front of Jagged along the trail back to Jagged Pass
We dropped our climbing gear at the top of Jagged Pass and made a quick trip up Leviathon Peak, which granted us some amazing views of Jagged's north face.
Leviathan (center) and Vallecito (right) as seen from the top of Jagged Pass
neck-breaking view of Jagged
Sarah scrambling up the ridge to Leviathan's summit
the surrounding peaks dwarfing Sarah on Leviathan's summit ridge
posing on Leviathan's summit with Jagged behind us
Windom, Sunlight, Jagged, and Turret (L to R)
Arrow, Vestal, and the Trinities (L to R)
back at the top of Jagged Pass, looking down on our tent (orange speck just right of the lake)
our tent and its incredible view
That evening, we moved our camp to a meadow 1000-ft down the valley to a spot offering commanding views of Knife Point.
Sarah whipping up some mean lasagna on the Whisperlite
sunset view of Knife Point
We planned to climb Knife Point the following morning, but we awoke to completely overcast skies. We decided to retreat to the train early in an effort to get to the train stop before the rain arrived. Luckily, the weather held, and we never got wet. Of course, we couldn't get back to the train without another healthy dose of bushwhacking along the Animas River. I guess that was the price due to the mountain gods for a safe summit of Jagged.