Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tuckaway Mountain”...again (10,850 ft. (?))

20 November, 2010: Just when you think like can't get any weirder, it does! I recorded having climbed this mountain back in the spring of 2007. However, a few days ago, I got an email from John Kirk, the gonzo climber and number crunching wizard who runs, with “Tuckaway Mtn.” in the subject line. What could this be?

What it was was a report that he had poked around on Tuckaway's long summit ridge, and determined definitively that there was a higher point out at the west end of the ridge. (The existing literature shows the summit near the eastern end of the summit ridge.) Apparently, due to all the trees, no one had previously noticed this higher point! (Both are within the closed contour line at 10,800 ft. on the topo map.)

Worse still, the high point appeared to be a large boulder whose difficulty John pegged at Class 5.3—quite a change from the Class 2 walkup this peak had been regarded as before. And, for me, even worse than that was the fact that this threatened my completion of all the ranked peaks in El Paso County, which I thought I had accomplished on the 22nd of December last year, with my climb of UN 6510 on Ft. Carson.

So I had to go back. This, after all the 3rd highest ranked peak in El Paso County! So I went back.

As before, I took the Seven Bridges Trail west, and turned northwest into Jones Park at the trail junction. Once over the two gentle saddles, I followed trail 667 northwest past the western slopes of Mt. Garfield. On this leg, I discovered that not one, but four, wooden bridges had been constructed over the various stream crossings along the way. I was amazed, as I didn't think this trail got enough traffic to warrant such attention.

After the trail turns west, under the south slopes of Tuckaway, I followed it until it starts to descend gently, then headed up and north through the trees, hoping to hit the west ridge of the mountain. Going basically blind in the timber, I actually topped out in between the “old” summit and the new one. I therefore headed east first, to sign the register which Mike Garratt had placed there just after the turn of the century (and which I had missed on my first ascent...). It now contains the cautionary note from Mr. Kirk that “this point is lower than the one to the west...” So it was off to the west.

A few minutes of poking around in the trees and navigating rock outcroppings did indeed bring a higher knoll into view, if only briefly. It actually can't be seen at all from the register location, which does explain how it went unrecognized for so long!

As I finally approached the true high point, I saw the two boulders recorded in Kevin Baker's photographs from just a couple of days before: the actual high point, and a leaning “approach” rock to the north, with a serious gap in between them. I made one good faith attempt to friction up the southeast side of the summit boulder, but eventually went back to the north side.

Once on top of the “approach” rock, which wasn't hard to climb, I saw that the jump over to the summit wasn't really going to be as bad as it had looked from below. In fact, it wasn't a jump at all, just a long step which required committing to crossing the gap, but not actually flying. I was going to make it! I waited for a lull in the persistent wind that was blowing, and launched myself.

Once over and on top, with my county completion saved, I found that getting back down was actually going to be more of a problem. I didn't want to reverse my steps, because, from this direction, my target was considerably smaller, and the wind was still there. Finally, I wedged myself in between the two rocks, using such small protuberances as I could find for both hands and feet, until I was suspended just a few feet above the level ground below, and simply dropped down.

My GPS showed an elevation of about 10,850 ft. for the relocated summit. If this is accepted, it would raise Tuckaway quite a few notches in the altitude rankings of Colorado peaks! I guess Tuckaway has also instantly been elevated to being the most difficult ranked peak in El Paso County. But, I've still done them all!

RT: 11 miles, 5 hrs., 25 min.

Vert.: 3,430 ft.

Long life and many peaks!


Post a Comment

<< Home