For anyone wondering why I would post this article, a tale or two...
In 1987, I worked a season for Colorado Outward Bound. After two standard mountain courses out of the Crestone base, I headed north for some climbing. At the time, Larry Coats was living in Boulder and working for Neptune Mountaineering. When I called to touch base about objectives, he already had something in mind, Spearhead. After doing the approach we arrived at the base and I couldn't believe how friendly the two prospective new routes seemed.
A rope length up, the northeast face has a ledge system across its right side and the crack systems above angle towards the Barb. We started just right of the original Barb route and followed moderate arches and ledges up beautiful granite. As the rock becomes steeper, the wandering gets a bit harder until we arrived at the belay for the Barb Direct Finish. Delicate and slightly awkward climbing at the bottom end of 5.11 made for an excellent finish to a fun and generally moderate alpine rock climb. From the summit ridge we could see the slabs of Chiefshead. We talked about the wild and slightly longer Seven Arrows route that had been done there and tried to piece it together. We discussed a name that somehow involved the word “barb” and that tiny voice from the sexual sixties coaxed awake Barbarella!
The next day Larry and I took a more direct line through a series of overhangs that turned out to be much easier that expected and gained the center of the big ledge. Easy slab climbing with sparse protection brought us to another ledge. A few moves above the ledge is a tricky boulder problem that I climbed into to explore and ended up pulling past at 5.10-. It leads to a good crack and the rounded ridgeline. We named this more direct route Burning Spear, playing off of Barb Gnarly (and the Flailers) which Larry’s brother Timmy and Bret Ruckman had just put up.
I drove back to Leadville for my last course of the summer and first as a full instructor. When I finished, I found out from Larry that Ed Webster and Craig Fry had repeated part of Burning Spear and established a 5.10 variation that climbed a crack system left of our easy second pitch and required several fixed pitons.
Ed and I had a small rivalry going ever since he and Bryan Becker became the first Coloradans to visit Tucson and nab some routes. Ed came in to Gary’s shop to report the “new” route while Larry was working and I will leave it to him to describe his surprise. Neither Larry nor I used chalk and I used to harass Ed about it while he was on our turf in Arizona. It wasn’t exactly the Northeast Face of Pingora, but we had a good laugh at beating him to the prize and the punch by not leaving any chalkmarks behind.
I wonder if these routes have ever seen any repeat ascents?
Although I remember having a great time on that couple of days in August, one main recollection is our run-in with the rangers at the bivy. Having arrived in the dark, we set up where we thought we were on bare ground, and in the morning just as I was noting that a few sprigs of vegetation were nearby and pondering moving- the ranger's head popped over the ledge. When Steve gave his home address as Tucson, the ranger mellowed, and was ready to let us off with a warning. But my address in Boulder did the trick- "we really want to get the word back to Boulder" was his reply as he handed us the $50 ticket (and that seemed like a lot of money then!).
The magnificent granite of Spearhead.
Steve Grossman on the lower slabs of Burning Spear.
Steve drilling on the lower slabs of Burning Spear. (Note: this 3/8"X3.5" bolt went in with approximately 4 blows!)
Steve on the above-mentioned 5.10- boulder problem high on Burning Spear.
Steve somewhere in the middle of Burning Spear.
LC leading on the lower dihedral pitch of Barbarella.
I remember that you kept your sunglasses on and were acting a little off when the ranger showed up so as to decoy him away from recognizing you as a Neptune's employee! Gary would probably just have laughed it off but it sure took away your plausible deniability.