Dallas Peak 13,809'

December 15, 2002

Dave Svilar

 

High point at the end of red route line.  Taken from Telluride ski area.

My alarm sounded at 6:00 am, but I was in no shape to rise, so I reset the alarm for 7:00 am.  The previous night was my first in Telluride, and my new friend Eric had been a little too generous with his Crown Royal.  I groggily dug through boxes which were still unpacked and scattered throughout my room.  Just when I thought I was ready to go I realized something was missing from my pack - no food.  I was about to call for my mom when I realized that I didn't live in my parent's basement anymore.  I sat dumbfounded until I realized that I might have to prepare my lunch myself.  I found this to be a complicated task, but still managed to get out the door before 8:00 am.

I had just arrived the evening before, so didn't have a clue about any of the surrounding peaks.  As I drove from my low income housing project past the multi-million dollar houses that were my neighbors I spotted a peak that looked promising.  I deduced from my cartoon sketched map of Telluride that there may be a road that would take me up a ways.  Sure enough the first road I pulled into went up and to my pure delight ended at a trailhead (~9,200 ft.).  Telluride is literally surrounded by peaks, so the drive was short and I was hiking by 8:20 am.   

The snow made the trail hard to follow and before long it was completely lost in knee deep powder.  No matter I thought, it must follow this drainage.  Unfortunately the drainage held an ugly surprise - it was blocked by a line of cliffs.  In each direction I looked there were cliffs.  Disappointed, but not ready to quit (I had plenty of daylight and nothing to do that day) I worked my way left trying to find a suitable weakness in the cliff-band.  On my third attempt I found a steep gully that would go. 

The impenetrable cliff band taken near the entrance of the gully.

 

Looking back down after exiting the gully.  Telluride ski area visible in distance.

 

View towards Mt. Emma where I intended to go before the cliff bands re-directed me.

After exiting the gully I was much farther to the left than I intended to be, but figured I would cut back towards my intended target.  However at this point I found myself wading through hip deep powder which made progress excruciatingly slow.  Another mountain was right in front of me, but it didn't seem that I was getting any nearer.  After passing the final strand of trees I expected the wind swept snow to be firmer.  The snow was no longer hip deep, but the snow still proved frustrating.  While ascending a long, steep snow slope conditions varied from soft knee deep snow to rock hard crust.

My ice axe poses for a picture as we near the mixed rock and snow.

Looking at the rock of these peaks from a distance it looked as though they would be crumbly.  My watch read 12:30 and the south facing slope I was on was taking a direct hit from the sun's rays.  A constant stream of tiny rocks were harmlessly bouncing past me from  the cliffs above.  During my groggy and disoriented packing during the morning I had forgotten three key items: 1) a helmet for protection from the rock bombardment 2) my shell gloves - all I had were fleece gloves that were soaked from the wet rock 3) gaiters which I usually wear to cover my scrawny legs - no one was around to see me, but I could have used them as the abrasive snow had caused my calves and shins to start bleeding.  The terrain became steeper and the nature of the climb turned from snow to mixed snow and rock.  Transitions from the rock to snow were becoming sketchy and along with my freezing finger tips I began to consider foregoing a summit bid.  The summit seemed so near, but as I reached a cliff band I decided to call it quits.  A fall at this point would either cause injury or even death, and I hadn't told anyone where I was going (I didn't know where I was anyway).

Me at my high point up against the chossy cliff band.

Satisfied that I had enough reasons to turn around I happily and very carefully retraced my steps back down to a place to grab lunch and take some pictures.  I found a rock to sit on, took some pictures, and then opened my lunch to a gruesome site.  My peanut butter and honey sandwich didn't even resemble the sandwiches my mom used to make for me.  It looked more like someone had emptied their bowels in my sandwich container.

This is what happens when I try to make my own lunch.

 

View from my lunch spot.

 

View towards the Mt. Wilson (14,000+ ft.) group.  These peaks appear quite close when viewed from the Telluride ski area, and I find myself staring at them for long stretches while working in the lift shacks.

The descent was also slow as I had to re-wade through the powder back to the gully.  Descending the steep gully wasn't pleasant so I was relieved when I finally hit the flats.  Animal tracks led in every direction through the snow, so I followed my own instincts and was back at the Toyota before dark.  I felt I was adjusting adequately to my new surroundings, but the Toyota wasn't handling the freezing, thin air as well.  After four tries the Toyota started and I headed back to my room to unpack boxes. 

Now that I have to stare at the mountain everyday I'm disappointed that I didn't summit, but I am glad I made the effort to get as high as I did.  Avalanche conditions are quite often unstable in this region, so I feel fortunate to have been able to get out in a time when it was safe to travel alone.  A couple of days after the climb I still wasn't sure what the name of the mountain was I had tried to climb, but after a little research I discovered it is called Dallas Peak.  Several trip reports on the internet claimed it was Colorado's toughest high peak requiring technical climbing skills.  I'm here to tell you that even with my pathetic skills I had a line to the top that would not have required no more than an ice axe.   Barring too many more concussions on my snowboard I'll be back this spring to prove it.

-written December 2002

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