Blind Luck

Mixed climbing is sort of a complex game that not many do, or even want to do. It’s scary and the protection is usually not a Indian Creek like crack. It’s all small gear usually with knife blades, peckers, ice pitons, and TCU’s. It’s hard to understand why you would do such a thing unless you do it. It’s the combination of mental masturbation, technique, and having the arms to hang on, along with training for the bigger alpine objectives.

First ascent of the season of Total Abandon. Screws were pretty much crap but the one piece suit helped me continue on.

Ice season started over two weeks ago. Along with Erik and Phil, we got the first ascent of the season on Total Abandon on Pikes Peak with early season ice and protection hard to find on the crux. While heading down we looked at some other routes and gave our mixed project a go. A radical two roof pitch with a couple more pitches above. It looks M hard. We got past the first roof and then starts about 30 feet of vertical moss to the next roof. We cleaned it up a little bit and bailed. It’s going to be classic and hard once it get’s cleaned up!

Working the proj

Erik and Phil went two days later to put up a 5 pitch route called “Blind Luck” (M7/8) which sort of shares one belay ledge with the classic Blind Assumption on Pikes Peak. I was familiar with the crux pitch since Phil showed me it on the way down and it looked like classic hardness.

Hero Traverse

Approach gully

Jay following P2

I sent invitations to anyone that would be interested in the second ascent of this line. At this point, finding partners for mixed climbing is not easy, even just to belay. I finally got two others interested, Jay and Jason. We paid the lame $12 to get in on the Pikes Peak road and started the hike across the hero traverse. We broke trail and climbed some AI2 to the base. Jay took the first pitch which was some fun AI2+/3 ice to a tunnel through a chockstone to some M3 moves to the belay. A super fun pitch. I took the first “real” pitch of the route that went at M5/6. Good hooks but steep. It was surely one of the best trad mixed pitches I’ve ever done. With a tiny bulge at the top, you then tunnel behind another chockstone and do one more hardish move to the belay ledge of which two microwave sized rocks start going down after I barely touched them. They stopped right at the edge. That would of been a bad day if that landed on you.

Crux burly overhang

Following P4

Psyched on the second ascent!

Jay and Jason both followed and were soon up to me. The crux is this pretty bouldery overhang. It looked easier then it was but that’s how it always works, right? I placed a couple pieces in the roof in this sort of block that looked rather interesting. Bomber as long as the rock doesn’t move. A foothold cuts loose and core shots the rope I’m leading on without knowing. I continue up and get to the mantel. No feet and no hooks to pull on. I keep searching through the snow to find even the smallest hold. I’m pumped crazy and fall. I get pissed. I was expecting this to be M7ish but it feels harder then M8’s I’ve done in Vail. (It’s known to be slightly soft on some routes) Even though it’s only a few moves, there hard! We’ll just call it M7/8. I finally find a key hook and uncover it from the snow. It’s a small little edge only enough for one tool. It’s surely going to break. After some desperate moves, I finally mantel with a pump. There still crappy hooks covered in snow and the feet are sloping. I place an ice piton/hook on a chockstone and clip it after a couple moves, no other gear. If I fell and this thing blew, I would not be a happy guy. I finally get a blind .5 in a overhanging corner and soon another bomber #2 in a good crack before I finally make some more desperate and somewhat overhanging pulls to a ledge and then finally the belay ledge. I build an anchor and start belaying Jay up after passing the core shot spot right in the middle of the rope. We might be stuck to one rope for the rest of the climb. Jay eventually gets up and so does Jason.

I give Jay the gear for the next pitch which is an awesome vertical M5 corner. I’m happy to follow for a pitch. Mist, snow, and fog comes in while Jay is leading leaving a gloomy alpine feeling. He soon builds a belay and I enjoy a very fun pitch. Good hooks, jams, edges, and just about everything else.

Awesome full moon with the springs in the background

A thunderstorm comes in and were pretty close to 14,000 feet at this point. Jason finally starts climbing up and after some struggle, reaches the belay. By that point the storm was gone and I continued up the last pitch. A slab covered by an inch of snow, my favorite! The gear was pretty much horrible the whole pitch and the moves felt insecure. Though not hard, it’s the easy stuff that can get you. Soon I finally reached the top! With a core shot rope we couldn’t rap the route as we needed two full 60m ropes. We had to continue to the summit and down. While I belayed Jason up, Jay dropped all the gear and left to hike back around to the base of the route to grab our packs. Jason and I tried to take a shortcut that didn’t work out and had to hike around the long way back to the car. It was dark by this point with a bright full moon and lightning in the distance. Jay took my headlamp and Jason left his at the base. The slog was horrible. Talus covered by enough snow that you feel like you’re lucky to survive without a broken ankle. We all made it to the car but there was another problem.

Jay leading P4

The Pikes Peak road opens and closes. It’s completely idiotic. It closed at 7 P.M. and we got back to the car at 9. We drove down and were locked in. Luckily we got a ride back in town and were able to pick up the car the next day. I think it’s pretty insane to lock down a mountain like this.

Climbing is like that. There are a change of plans sometimes. Stuff happens like this rope incident. We had no choice but to make the hike and therefore make the climb longer and over the road closure time.

All in all, two thumbs up for this route! It’s totally classic and would be an instant classic in any other popular mixed area. It was pretty cleaned up for a second ascent which is why it gets its name. It was pure luck finding a line like this. It’s a gift when you get something like this. A sweet modern trad mixed route. Go get it!

About Noah McKelvin

Never skip a day of living life
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