Sleeping Sexton - 13,460 feet
|Author:||Cool Hand Luke|
Sleeping Sexton - 13,460 feet
|Author:||Cool Hand Luke|
|Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me|
Let's face it. You, my friend, have a bit of a climbing addiction. Read the writing on the wall. You're sitting here looking at route beta for a crumbling piece of Elk choss, just waiting for the next weekend when you can get out and stand on a summit yourself. You need help.
Maybe this report gives you enough of a red, rotten and rugged fix until your next visit to the Elks.
Fool Me Once...
Sleeping Sexton turned me away once in a horribly-conceived idea that it would be a quick jaunt from Buckskin Pass to tag the summit and then complete the rest of Four Pass Loop. Two hours later, off route, bonking hard and on the loosest Elk ledge shelf I have been on it clicked that Sleeping Sexton had a little more in store for me than I gave the mountain credit for. Then the skies let loose and graupel stung me in the face on some godforsaken ledge in the middle of nowhere with 15 miles and 2 passes still left to go.
Once I got home I looked at a map and realized I wasn't even on the correct side of the ridge and still had a considerable scramble to go. That stung worse than the graupel. I realized it would take a bit more research than skimming a trip report to unlock the secrets of Sleeping Sexton.
Fool Me Twice?
The day started like so many other climbing days: staring at my alarm screen wondering how I overslept 1 1/2 hours. Soon breakfast and coffee were devoured and I was on the bike pedaling out of Aspen a bit before 10 AM.
The ride up to the Bells was relaxing and surprisingly not busy on a lazy Sunday morning. A few of the more disciplined early risers were already flying down the road as I approached the USFS gate. Upon reaching the trailhead I locked up my bike and switched to running shoes and started up towards Minnehaha Gulch.
At treeline I realized I missed the turnoff for Minnehaha Gulch. Unmarked turnoffs are not my strongpoint, so on to Buckskin Pass it was. At the top of the pass I began the all-too-familiar climb up to PT. 13,039 for the 4th time in two years. By this time I knew every handhold on the two class four sections and made it from the pass to the summit in 12 minutes. I signed the summit register with a simple "Again..."
The descent off Pt. 13039 takes a little bit of focus and is class 3 in sections, holds have to be tested, as the rock is fairly crumbly. The way down is pretty self explanatory-just aim for the meadow area below.
After the nice rolling meadow ridge the route goes under a point on the ridge with lots of talus and scree hopping. This area is more tedious than anything else, I just aimed for the saddle on the other side of the rock field. The weather was a bit windy at this point, but over all it was a beautiful fall day.
Next came a point on the ridge that is fairly loose; in my previous attempt I erroneously went to the left Maroon Bells side of this sub-summit and found myself in a world of horrible loose rock and ledges. This time I proceeded to take the climber's right (Snowmass Lake) side. Within 5 minutes I realized how off route I was last time and that the Snowmass Lake side was so much easier. The ledge system is still loose Elk rock, but the scrambling and route finding was actually a lot of fun and like putting a puzzle together.
After wrapping around the corner I found a ledge system that bypasses the sub-summit and leads to the saddle of the "crown" section of the Sexton. The ledge was fun and involved an easy, albeit airy, class 3 move shown in the picture below. After the class 3 move the saddle to the crown is extremely close. From there it is an easy scramble to the ridge of the crown, then a nice grassy stroll to the crown summit.
On the summit of the crown I noticed clouds were starting to move in, but the weather still looked great. I went to the edge and looked down the large cliff that blocks easy passage to the true summit and it is 100-200' deep! I found the gulley to start descending and tried to mentally measure the 200' in elevation loss before the start of the secret ledge. There are enough cairns in this section that the route is easy enough to follow, and the ledge exit is well cairned.
The ledge was actually wider than I expected, but has quite a bit of loose footing on it. After about 30 yards I found an obvious downclimb that looked more intimidating than it actually was. In Furthermore's excellent trip report he shows the class 4 downclimb and a way to go further on the ledge system to keep it at class 3. Once I started the class-4 downclimb of about 20' I realized the chimney offered a lot of options to stem. After the downclimb the route is 50 yards on a loose Elk shelf to the bottom of the 200' cliff notch. From the bottom of the notch it was an enjoyable class 3 scramble up the summit.
The views from the summit were fantastic, North Maroon dominates the skyline while the entire Snowmass/Capitol group can be seen. I almost missed the register, but found it under a cairn rock. It was from 1994 and my friends were the last party to sign it over two years ago (I since found out that Marmot72 (Steve) and Benners were on the summit earlier in the summer, but could not find the register). I wish I had more time to scroll through the register, but clouds were starting to move in.
The traverse back to Buckskin Pass went fairly fast considering how rough the terrain was. It started to sprinkle when I hit the pass and I started to run down. I was running really low on water so I filled my handheld up near the Willow Lake turnoff.
Running back to Maroon Lake it seemed like some of the aspens had changed to soft yellow in just the time I was on the peak. There was a large bull moose in Maroon Lake just chilling and eating algea, with a plethora of people taking pictures a little too close for comfort. Closer to the parking lot the tourists were out in full force, taking pictures in the middle of the trail oblivious to anything else around.
I quickly changed into cycling shoes and gear and started to pedal down the road. It was one of the faster descents on Maroon Creek for me and I made it back to town right around 6:00 PM for a RT time from Aspen right around 8 hours and 5 minutes.
8 hours 5 Minutes RT from Aspen by bike
20 miles cycling
13.5 miles running/scrambling
7,000- 7,500 feet total vertical
2 13ers (Pt. 13039 and Sleeping Sexton)
Futhermore and Benners have great trip reports for climbing Sleeping Sexton. I hope this report adds to theirs and helps people with the Buckskin Pass route. Unfortunately my phone got too cold and shut off on the true summit and I was not able to get pictures of the descent gully to the secret ledge.
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