Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trip Report: Triple Crown

Trip Report: Triple Crown
McHenrys Peak, 13,327 ft
Chiefs Head Peak, 13,579 ft
Mt Alice, 13,310 ft
~18 miles
~7,000 vert
14 hours, 15 minutes
Jilly Salva - solo

This summer one of my major goals was to complete the Triple Crown up in Rocky Mountain National Park. On Saturday, August 11th everything fell into place. I was super psyched to aggressively attack this objective. The weather forecast predicted a hot clear day. Starting at the Glacier Gorge trailhead at 4:00 am, I wasted no time huffing it up to Black Lake in 1.5 hours. Along the way I passed two separate hikers. Feeling focused, confident and very strong it felt like I was floating up the granite slabs reaching Stone Man Pass at 7:15 am.

By now the sun had come up and it was already heating up. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, I said to myself. Up, and up I climbed continuing to float upward, reaching McHenry’s summit at 7:45 am. After a quick break, I quickly descended working my way over to Chiefs Head. For some reason a steep gully looked sweet so I scrambled up it. After scrambling under a gigantic, multi-toned chock stone doing class 4+ moves, I reached the ridge. Cruising the talus I reached the summit at 10:15 am.

By now I was sweating balls. Huge droplets of water soaked my back and rolled down my face, forcing me to re-applied sun block. The weather was going to hold, blue skies prevailed. During my 10-minute break, I got myself fired up to fully commit to the third 13er. This is the same feeling I expect to have as I walk down the aisle on my wedding day. An unparalleled degree of certainty filled my core; brought me joy, and I knew it was going to be “just right.”

The great rolling divide lay before me and I quickly made my way over to Mt Alice. This last climb (or so I thought) required concentration. The terrain is class two, but when you’ve just pushed yourself hard and are still going big you’ve got to keep moving and stay focused. Wow, suddenly I topped out at 12:08 pm. Yippee…that’s three-13ers.

Well, I was only halfway done. It’s never over until I am home in the shower. Down, down, down I went…back over the undulating divide. Mmmm…. but how to get back over to the Stone Man without losing a bunch of elevation? I could not easily see which gully was the best. Making a decision, I descended a fair bit down toward Lake Powell, only to be cliffed out. Oh rats! My only choice was to ascend and choose an alternative route. The heat was relentless and suddenly my Platypus reservoir was empty. Mmm…. my back had been very wet since Chiefs Head – could it have been a leak.? My mind didn’t want to go there and nothing could be done about it at the moment.

Choosing gulley #2 I descended way down toward Lake Powell and then skirted a few mini-snowfields. It was at this point, I started to feel the bigness of the day. Stopping to catch my breath, I sized up my Stone Man (I love him) and then put my head down and climbed fast, like a horse trotting back to the barn. At the top of the pass my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth.

Water, water, give me water. Remembering there was an apple in my pack, I sat down and devoured it. Yum, ah, juicy….enough to pep me up and get me down to Spearhead. The huff out was uneventful – though it seemed epically long. My roundtrip time was 14 hours, 15 minutes.

My first preference would have been to complete this huge cirque of McHenrys Peak, Chiefs Head Peak, and Mt Alice with a good friend. Note: When I unpacked my backpack, it was evident that my Platypus reservoir leaked. The entire contents of my backpack were soaked, including my first aid kit. When I refilled the reservoir it gushed water out the bottom through a crack in the plastic. Whew! Another walk in my park.

Click here for photos.