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This was something we had planned on for some time!
After a memorable Colorado 14er Finale and a day of rest, we were anxious to get after Sunlight Spire! We were enjoying the effects of a regimented (well, fairly) training program and a great climb on Maroon Peak and Devil's Tower...we felt confident!
Hmm...that other objective...
On the third class approach, The Spire came ever closer and more imposing. We taped our
The weather was good, maybe just a bit chilly in the shade for the belayer...
We did not reach the summit, this one'll require another go.
For details, see the "Beta" section below. The short version is that I could not reach the crack well enough to get two solid hand jams and thus in effect, could not work
my feet into the hand crack
that is the key to the summit. It was a bittersweet day. While we did not make the top, I felt very privileged to get that close and stand (or hang) less than 50 feet from what I believe to be one of the most illusive summits in Colorado. The Spire has been the subject of many conversations amongst climbers in this region, and Debby and I both agree that there is no shame in making an attempt and getting “oh so close”.
This section will most likely appeal only to those with technical climbing
I’d like to start by saying that although short, this is not a climb to be taken lightly. The approach, the altitude and the typical weather/conditions make this a climb that will see very few attempts.
I am comfortable leading traditionally protected 5.10 routes and have followed/top-roped routes up to 5.11c. I had trained specifically for crack climbing prior to attempting The Spire. The crack routes on which I had climbed however, were routes in which one could get solid jams with all four limbs commencing with the very first move. This is not the case with Sunlight Spire. The crux crack is on a very clean face that overhangs slightly (approximately 3 to 4 degrees past vertical) and angles up and to the left. I am 5’9” tall with a pretty high ape factor (long arms) and I found it to be extremely awkward to even get into the crack. With that said, the crack was perfect for jamming.
I’m certain that
and overhanging nature, once a climber with crack experience has
A 5.10 gym/sport climber will, in all probability, fail on this climb. A 5.10 trad climber with little or no jamming experience will struggle and also most likely fail. This climb requires a solid
From a couple hundred feet below the saddle between Sunlight Peak and Sunlight Spire, look for and follow a class 3 ledge system angling up and to the right (east) toward The Spire.
In the photo below, B1 and B2 mark our belays, R1, R2 and R3 mark fixed rappel anchors and F1 and F2 mark additional fixed protection...
F1 is a wired stopper that is stuck. F2 is an old rusty piton or bong (trust it?...hmm). I did climb up into the notch between R2 and F2 but at that point you are even farther away from the crack. George Bell asked me to keep an eye out for an old bolt that he believes was placed by and/or used by his father. I can only assume that is was F2, but it is completely beyond me as to how they would have placed it or even reached it. The resourcefulness of the climbers of that era never ceases
The rack I took was a bit of a mixed bag. It consisted of…
(1) #9 Metolius Curve Nut
This rack was/would have been more than adequate. I believe it could be pared down further by leaving the largest and smallest cams behind. In essence, take a couple of large stoppers and 8 or 9 cams in the 1” to 3” range and you should be able to protect a free ascent quite well. If you have them, triple up on cams in the 1” to 2” range, as this is a perfect hand sized crack. One 60 meter light alpine single (9.0mm – 9.4mm) rope will work very well. Don’t forget some webbing and a couple of rap rings. If you plan on aiding the climb, you’ll need much more. On the other hand, Jeff Achey told me that when he climbed it in 1988, he had an “Outward Bound - issue” rack of stoppers and hexes and that he probably only placed 2 or 3 pieces. I would not be comfortable running it out like that on an overhanging crack, but then…I’m not Jeff Achey.
This is an open (unfinished) report.
Sunlight Spire is one seriously cool rock!!
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