Today we set out for “McGee Pass Peak.” A name that Bob invented as far as I can tell, and although it isn’t directly adjacent to McGee Pass, it does appear to be the nearest unnamed major summit. In all likelihood this peak has never been climbed before, and if it has there’s almost certainly been very few people to ever stand atop it!
As always we started out from the trailhead at 6am. After a day’s rest I was feeling much better about the 6am start. I was a little bit lax getting ready, and had to run over to the trailhead to avoid missing the group photo.
As sure as a starting gun, Bob’s camera set us off.
Now I had my goals for the challenge firmly set:
- Have fun,
- Summit the Challenge Peak, and
- Take some great photos.
So I decided I might as well push the pace and see how well I might be able to stick with Zach who was currently running away with the maillot jaune. After getting my pack together following the group photo, I pushed my way past most of the group and found Zach who was once again at the front of the day’s hike. Eric caught up with us and we pushed ahead at an aggressive pace.
Eventually the trail started to get steeper and I was left behind, with the trail to myself. Clement passed me shortly and soon Bob and Rob caught me too and passed ahead after chatting for a bit, although not gaining much distance. Mason was next to find me and I caught his pace and we stuck together for the rest of the climb.
Bob took a direct route up the south face of McGee Pass Peak while I briefly entertained the idea of going directly up the loose talus on the west face of the peak. Instead Mason and I headed up McGee Pass and broke off the trail near the summit, contouring along the cirque and up towards the ridge.
Along the route up the pass I had some great views of those ahead of us traversing the ridge. I got a bit behind Mason thanks to the photos I was taking and decided to take a lower route, following a bench of loose talus which seemed to lead to the southern high point on the ridge. It wasn’t obvious whether this was higher than the point further north, but judging by the fact that most of those who had gained the north summit were traversing further to the south summit I decided that the south must be higher and headed for that.
However, once I was directly below the northern summit the folks up there called for me to join them, so I found a route straight up. This was some annoying class four climbing, with holds constantly breaking loose. If the rock were a little more solid this would have made for some fun climbing! Instead it was a bit too stressful to be pure fun.
Eventually I gained the north summit along with several others who had come south up the ridge and Bob snapped a photo of the group before announcing that the southern summit was in fact the higher. At this point I realized I was bleeding quite badly from my pinky and decided I didn’t really care to do any more climbing on this sketchy rock. I had some lunch and bandaged my finger, and when I realized Eric and Mason were going to head over to the true summit I decided I might as well join them.
Mason and I opted to downclimb back into the area which I had just come up and found an annoying class 3+ route back to the ridge between the two summits and then traversed the arete.
We met Kimberly, Tom, and Robert at this summit and took in the view for a few minutes. Finally there was nothing left but to go down. Unfortunately this was a bit tedious as some others were just gaining the north side of the ridge and while they traversed we risked being hit by rockfall as we crossed below them. Eventually I found myself out ahead alone again and plunge stepped down the baseball sized rocks which littered the bowl.
Once back on the trail, I stashed my camera in my bag as I was planning to run the rest of the way back to the trailhead, but I quickly found that nearly every minute I was stopping to pull out my camera. I decided I might as well just run with my camera in my hand, and I’m glad that I did!
Once back below treeline with the more stunning vistas behind me, I put my camera back into my pack and made my way down the canyon to the parking lot — a very pleasant run. The weather was beautiful all day with clear skies and temperatures between 50F and 75F and the trail was easy to manage.
I figured with my running that I must be close behind Zach and Rob whom I had seen exit the bowl before me, but when I arrived I found out that they’d beaten me down by more than an hour! At least now, I don’t have to contemplate whether to compete for the yellow jersey anymore — I’ll have plenty of time to stop for photos!
Tomorrow the plan is to climb Knapsack Pass Peak. Much like today’s peak it doesn’t seem like many (if any) people have climbed this peak before, and we don’t really know what to expect. Per Bob’s suggestion I’ll be bringing my ice axe and crampons in case there is any steep snow on the route! Again, much like today, I have never been to this area before so I am excited to see what there is to see — there should be fairly spectacular views of the palisades!
Estimated Elevation Gain: 5,600 ft