With the early season snow coming to Colorado, some of my bikepacking plans have had to be delayed for a few weeks. Even though I’m ready and my bike’s ready, I’ll have to wait for the weather and roads to clear up.
I HAD SO MUCH FUN on my “failed” Nolans run. “Failed” in quotes, as I believe I set my intention on trying to do the best I could do to get through summiting 14 14ers in a row in less than 60 hours. But I came up short – only summiting 7. Cutting it short felt the best thing to do at the time.
Here’s how my 33 hours on the Nolans Line went down:
It’s becoming, “put up or shut up” time my attempt at a Nolans run: Fall will soon becoming a reality as the days are getting shorter and the temperature is surely to drop. I also have a guiding gig in September that will take priority soon. One more lightning fast trip out for a dress rehearsal for my gear selections.
To not bury the lede and to respect the intelligence of my readers, here are the take home points:
If you decide to climb Little Bear via the West Ridge and Southwest Face route (aka The Standard Route), you’ll encounter the Hourglass Couloir. There are a lot of objective hazards not found on most other 14er routes, including plenty of rockfall and wet/icy conditions (even in summer).
Rockfall, particularly coming from those above you that are inadvertently kicking projectiles down may very well be your main objective danger.
There are often times fixed ropes on the route, put there anonymously. The ropes are utilized sometimes by people to ascend and descend the route.
The ropes may not be safe to use. They could be damaged from rockfall and general exposure to the elements, UV damage, and damage from animals gnawing on the rope.
It’s questionable if one can assess the health of the rope/anchor for use to aid ascending, no matter how well experienced a climber is, since the anchor in the system cannot be easily seen from the bottom of the route. Sometimes, it’s hard enough to see the ropes themselves, due to atmospheric conditions (fog).
The route can be done without these fixed ropes.
Damaged ropes – even a very damaged rope with the sheath completely cut away and only a few strands still held together, may be able hold enough weight to support a climber. There is no way to calculate how much weight can be supported.
It’s much easier for a skilled mountaineer to assess the quality and condition of the fixed gear (rope + anchor) from the top anchor when wanting to use the ropes to descend and make a judgement of their safety and utility – far more than assessing it from below for utilizing the rope for ascending.
If you do decide to do this route, realize the objective dangers, as well as the questionable conditions of these fixed ropes. Big takeaway: the ropes may not be in a condition to safely use. It will be up to you to decide if they are safe enough for you.