Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mount Lincoln Ridge Traverse - Wichita Mountains

I spent 3-4 hours during the late morning/early afternoon of February 8th traversing the long ridge that makes up the Mount Lincoln massif.  The initial approach to the summit of Mount Lincoln was an easy hike with occasional scrambling.  Then a cliff band was encountered, but a weakness in the cliff exists immediately west of the summit, which I took advantage of.  After a short break, I headed south along the ridge toward a sub-summit.  This summit was again surrounded by cliffs, but I found a narrow slot canyon that led to the top.  There was a chock stone half way up the slot canyon, which inspired thoughts of an Aron Ralston type experience.  I squeezed through an opening beneath the chock stone with arm still attached...drama avoided.  I then continued my trek south along the ridge, with lots of fun scrambling and boulder hopping encountered.

A little while later, I reached the end of the ridge, then descended into a broad gulley that led west toward the Charons Garden parking lot.  However, I came upon another small, 200 foot tall bouldery peak.  So, I decided to climb to the top.  Halfway up, I reached a 10 foot cliff.  After a couple of easy class 5 moves, I traversed around ledges and found a class 3 approach to the summit.  All in all it was an easy peak to climb.  However, the class 5 down climb of the cliff was lingering in the back of my mind.  I really hate down climbing cliffs!  I didn't mention that the ledge leading back to the cliff is downsloping, which caused tremendous surges of adrenaline to flow through my body.  I carefully made my way down to the edge of the cliff, and noticed a small pocket hold.  I cleaned out the dirt from this hold, grasped it tightly with my right hand, and went for it, slowly lowering my body out past the cliff and then down.  My legs were dangling about 4 feet above the ground, over a couple of small rocks.  Without giving it a second thought, I jumped, and luckily didn't twist/break a leg.  Unfortunately, I slashed open a gash in the palm of my right hand...luckily I got a tetanus booster shot a couple of years ago.

This experience was definitely an adventure in my opinion.  I climbed the cliff, despite knowing that it would probably have to be down climbed later.  But that is what adventure is all about...embracing uncertainty and fear, and going forward despite it all.

Elk Mountain South Face - Wichita Mountains

I explored the south facing wall of Elk Mountain a few weeks ago.  At first, I attempted to ascend one of the many gullies that leads to the summit plateau, but got cliffed out half way up.  However, I had a good view of the Elk Slabs, which is a climbing wall I hope to attempt someday.  After going back down to the base of the mountain, I hiked east to the col connecting Elk Mountain with Mount Lincoln.  I then hiked up to the top of Elk Mountain, descended down the east-northeast side to the Sunset Picnic area, then hiked south on the Charon's Garden Wilderness Trail back to the parking lot.