We just wrapped up our 5-day Alpine Climbing Skills Clinic with Dean Kurth & Patrick Torosian, with two spectacular, big mountain days. Wednesday we tackled some technical snow climbs on Ruby Mountain (12,644′) & Mt. Owen (13,058′) and then yesterday had a capstone experience on the super aesthetic and technical “S Couloir” on Purple Peak (12,810′), to send them on their way feeling strong and more confident in their skills set and ability to tackle some more challenging and technical terrain on their own.
Wednesday, Dean & Patrick got their first taste of being ‘on their own’ by taking turns leading a steep snow climb up the South Face of Ruby Mountain. Here they put their new skills to use for the first time by taking turns on the sharp-end of the rope, placing snow protection, building snow anchors, and linking together multiple pitches of snow climbing. Then it was up the fairly mellow mixed rock and snow ridge to the 12,644′ summit of Ruby Mtn.
From there we descended of the North side and on up the slightly more challenging mixed snow and rock ridge to 13,058′ Mount Owen. An easier climb then the mornings’ route up Ruby, Patrick led us most of the way up the ridge route, across the steep and exposed snow fields at the false summit, and on the summit of a 13er ! On the way down in the heat of the afternoon sun we enjoyed some nice long (but wet) glissades down the bowl between the 2 peaks and the a short walk back to the car.
After a intense pace of 4-days of alpine climbing we decided to call a rest day before embarking on Purple Peak (12,810′) and a climb of it’s hidden and technical “S” Couloir Route as a capstone experience for these guys.
So….Friday morning we met at 6am and left early again for the fairly quick and direct walk on the morning’s frozen snow above treeline to the Scarp’s Ridge saddle over 12,000′ where we then descended down and around the North Face of Purple Peak to the bottom of the “S”. This route is one of the best snow climbs and steep spring ski descents in the entire Elk Mountain Range outside of Crested Butte, and us guides jump at the chance to get on it with anyone looking for a great mountaineering experience. This trip, however, was extra special, as Dean & Patrick were their primarily to put their skills together and do it mostly on their own, with me ‘ghost guiding’ just to prevent any catastrophic mistakes.
With that being said, they showed great progress in their skills from the previous climbs on Ruby & Owen, and swapped leads of steep snow climbing up the ever steepening and twisting route of the “S” Couloir. After 3 long pitches in which they demonstrated running belays, simul-climbing tactics, and belaying off snow anchors we reached the ridge fairly quickly just a few hundred feet shy of the summit, where I took over the lead on the trickier and incredibly exposed mixed, snow, ice and rock ridge that leads to the summit.
The summit of Purple Peak (12,810′) our 5th of the trip, was no doubt the most rewarding of the week, as not only was it the hardest technically to climb, but it involved all 3 of us working together as a team more then just a standard guided ascent and thus it felt more rewarding for all of us….I know it certainly did for me watching these guys put to use all I they had learned over the course of the week.
Overall, it was a great week of alpine climbing skills, and Dean & Patrick walked away with a great improvement and development on their skill set, and are ready to tackle more challenging terrain on their own……keep practicing those knots boys…..
Thanks for a great week and looking forward to more climbing with you both in the future…
Your Guide — Jayson Simons-Jones
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