Trip Report
The Best Day of Climbing Ever
Monday February 26, 2018 11:25am
For a couple of seasons of ice and rock climbing Mike Carr had been my go-to guy and we had developed a really solid, fast-moving climbing partnership. Our typical winter outing would find us heading out early and stopping for several donuts each and a thermos of coffee. That would be the sum total of our provisions for the day, as once we left the trailhead for whatever goal we had set, we would stop only to tie in and rack up, or to put in pro. These days yielded many pitches climbed and an honestly acquired fatigue at the end of it all. Feeling frisky, we decided in early July to go into Spearhead and give “The Barb” and “Sykes Sickle” a go. These high quality alpine rock routes were pretty popular so we hiked into the valley below the face and set up camp under a large rock. We had made good time going in so decided to reward ourselves with a lap up the 5.8 III “Ten Essentials” route. This route goes up a series of flakes and dihedrals on the right side of the east face of Spearhead, offering six pitches of interesting route-finding with good protection. Overall, the difficulty increases upward, but we thought it was mostly a real hoot. We speculated on what the ten essentials actually are as we climbed, and concluded that on a good day in the high country we probably had about three of the ten essentials between the two of us. We descended by down climbing the north ridge route, which was a good preview for our following day’s efforts. The north ridge is rated as a 5.6 grade III rock climb in the guide books, and there are probably one or two moves that hard, but we found the terrain to be good going and made good time getting down it. As we returned to camp we noticed other climbers had entered our valley and set up camp, no doubt going for one of our desired routes the following morning.

Credit: Nick Danger
Spearhead; the horizontal ledge in the bottom ¼ of the face is the “Middle Earth” ledge. Sykes Sickle goes up through the roof demarked by the inverted “L” shaped shadow.
Credit: Nick Danger
Looking up at “Ten Essentials” on the afternoon of our arrival in upper Glacier Creek. Another part of two is on some route to the left of “Ten Essentials”, which goes up through the series of flakes and dihedrals in the center of the photograph.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike Carr moving into the middle pitches of “Ten Essenntials”.

The next morning Mike and I were up as early as we could see and stole a march on all other parties headed for Spearhead that day. We had soloed the two easy fifth class pitches required to get to the large bench, called “Middle Earth’, that traversed the entire east face. As we were first on the rock we immediately roped up and started simul-climbing the lower pitches of the Barb in order to make good time; this entailed two pitches of 5.7 to 5.8 crack climbing in perfect jam cracks. At the base of the first 5.9 crack we started pitching it out, with Mike graciously giving me the first pitch. Two 5.9 crack pitches led to the crux pitch involving 5.10 face moves on sloping footholds to regain a nice finger crack that continued up at 5.9. After that, a short and easy scramble led to the north ridge route, which we rapidly scampered back down due to the previous day’s scouting.

Credit: Nick Danger
Mike in the lead on our initial pitches of simul-climbing. It is early and we have not yet climbed into the sun.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike climbing into the sun. This might be the second 5.9 pitch on “The Barb”.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike climbing past the crux of this particular pitch.

Once down we regained the “Middle Earth” ledge and traversed across the face to the base of “Sykes Sickle” at the middle of the face while other teams went after “The Barb”. The lower few pitches of “Sykes Sickle” are pretty easy and we once again were simul-climbing them to make good time. Well protected climbing in the 5.7 range led us to the crux moves through the wickedly overhanging roof. The moves through the gap in the back of the roof was actually some of the most amazing climbing of the day, with reasonable pro and solid holds with outrageous exposure (5.9+ to 5.10-, depending on whose saying). Easy crack and face climbing (probably 5.7) led from the ledge above the roof to the ridge, and a quick scramble deposited us on the summit.

Credit: Nick Danger
Mike zipping up one of the middle pitches on “Sykes Sickle”.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike further up “Sykes Sickle”.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike seconding the pitch below the crux roof pitch.
Credit: Nick Danger
Nick climbing into the crux bomb bay chimney of the roof pitch.
Credit: Nick Danger
Nick climbing higher into the bomb bay.
Credit: Nick Danger
Clipping the final piece protecting the crux moves.
Credit: Nick Danger
Nick committing to the final chimney moves.
Credit: Nick Danger
The final move before reaching up through the narrow squeeze slot in the roof; awkward and very stimulating!

By noon we were enjoying snacks and the views from the summit. We had climbed two outstanding class III climbs, and connected them by down climbing a third such route, all in half a day. Mike and I had been climbing as well as we ever had together, moving quickly and efficiently, but never really compromising our safety. At that time as well as years later Mike and I would agree that this had been the best single day of alpine rock climbing either of us had ever experienced. Thanks, Mike, for one of the greatest days ever.

Credit: Nick Danger
Mike Carr on the summit of Spearhead after climbing both “the Barb” and “Sykes Sickle” that morning.
Credit: Nick Danger
Mike at the base of the mountain after a morning of sterling effort.

  Trip Report Views: 2,619
Nick Danger
About the Author
Nick Danger is a ice climber from Arvada, CO.

Comments
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Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Feb 26, 2018 - 11:38am PT
Nice, TFPU! One question, who is Sykes? Is it Jon Sykes, the east coaster and guidebook author?
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Feb 26, 2018 - 11:49am PT
Brandon, That might be the case. My ancient guide book lists Sykes, Rearick, Isles, and Wharton as the first ascentionists, and 1958 as the year of that first ascent.
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Feb 26, 2018 - 11:54am PT
Nah, Sykes is still active, but he went to HS with my pops, born in ‘56.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 26, 2018 - 11:55am PT
Nothing like moving smoothly and efficiently on rock up in the high. TFPU
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Feb 26, 2018 - 12:22pm PT
Nice work gents! Seems like a fine day out and something worth a walk down memory lane! Thanks for sharing.

Scott
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Feb 26, 2018 - 01:41pm PT
Nice....You guys were rockin!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 26, 2018 - 08:01pm PT
Awesome stuff, Nick!
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Feb 26, 2018 - 08:07pm PT
Big fun. Thanks for this. But a question: Where in the Universe is "Spearhead"?
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Feb 26, 2018 - 08:30pm PT
Good stuff Nick.
TFPU
Tad
Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
  Feb 26, 2018 - 09:20pm PT
@Ghost - Glacier Gorge in RMNP below the summits that anchor the cirque, Long's and Chiefshead.

TFPU, Nick. Days like that anchor a career but beyond that mark a state of flow in the alpine and a close connection to a significant partner.

BTW, Broscovak says 'Hey.'
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Feb 27, 2018 - 04:09am PT
Fires! I'm guessing the early eighties? Nice, Mr. Danger.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Feb 27, 2018 - 06:04am PT
Nice, Nick. I've been lucky to have some linkup days but those are for another time. This is your story!

DMT
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Feb 27, 2018 - 06:12am PT
Gilroy,
So right you are. Next time you see Phil say "Hi" for me. I would love to reconnect with Phil, as we had some pretty wonderful times in the high country as well.
Cheers

BTW, this little adventure was late '80's.
Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
  Feb 27, 2018 - 05:27pm PT
Find Phil at McGuckin Hardware in the 'Lectric Dept. We both work there so say hey if you drop by. In the interim, I'll pass on greetings.

Do you really spell your name "Danger"? :)
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Feb 28, 2018 - 06:30am PT
Only on summit registers and the Taco, Gilroy. My wife has many other names, but I'm not going into that.
spectreman

Trad climber
  Feb 28, 2018 - 07:04am PT
awesome! Glacier Gorge is such a fantastic place.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 28, 2018 - 03:09pm PT
Here's to great partners and beautiful days in the mountains!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Feb 28, 2018 - 09:42pm PT
I had some fun on Spearhead myself long ago.
You might find this article written by my partner for those adventure, Larry Coats, interesting if a bit difficult to read.
http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/998185/High-Peaks-Revisited-Larry-Coats-Rock-Ice-1989
Owen

Social climber
New York
  Mar 1, 2018 - 07:01am PT
Great TR... rock climbing in RMNP is pretty special!
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Mar 1, 2018 - 08:04am PT
I really enjoyed reading that. Thanks!
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Mar 1, 2018 - 09:38am PT
Steve,
It is always a pleasure to read your stories and I especially enjoyed your reminiscences of Spearhead. You also dropped several names of folks that I was familiar with but never actually climbed with, such as Larry Coats and Brian Becker.

So Steve, are you the guy that first free climbed the huge crack through the huge roof at Harmels in Taylor Canyon out side of Gunnison? That is a story I heard long ago and have been meaning to ask you about.

cheers
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Mar 3, 2018 - 11:45am PT
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have never climbed in or near the Black so I am not your guy. Chuck Grossman perhaps? He had a thing for big roof cracks.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Mar 1, 2018 - 08:27pm PT
Nick! Thanks for taking the time to share this great story & photos.

Indeed! It looks like the perfect day!
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Mar 5, 2018 - 07:48am PT
Climbing mountains is fun. There is something about an actual summit.
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