Peak(s):  Lizard Head  -  13,113 feet
Date Posted:  03/08/2017
Modified:  03/10/2017
Date Climbed:   03/04/2017
Author:  Monster5
Additional Members:   Dominic-2, Boggy B
 Winter Lizard Land   

Living in a Winter Lizard-Land

Lizard Head from Wilson earlier this year

In severe need of mixed practice, Dominic Meiser and I thought we'd wander on down towards Ouray and Telluride and pick a reclusive bearded Boggyb up along the way. In truth, the recluse's wife paid us to watch him for the weekend. Payment via food - the best currency around. Done deal.

Lizard Head is a fun peak. A great peak. The World's Greatest Peak of 2017, politicos call it. Really, the thing is relatively dry with avy hazard near nil, so that's kind of yummy I guess.

We leave Casa de Boggy y Kylie in Montrose around 4:30 and start hiking by 6:45. It's already light and getting bright. "Any of you have any sunscreen?" Dull stares in reply. I guess we're used to the significant others carrying that sort of thing. Boggy did remember 4 pairs of boots and shoes though. A couple twin ropes and a set of cams from 0.3-4 with doubles in smalls and minus a 3 because really who needs a 3? Crampons and tools; don't bother with the file as we plan on hooking rock.

A couple miles of packed Cross Mountain trail and an abrupt stop - switch on over to trenching. A couple more miles and only one and a half trench rotations between the three of us to the west ridge. Minor, straight-forward variations away from suspect slopes. Tension-cracked and creeping concave south slopes are avoided, if frozen in the morning.

Lizard Head's west ridge is wind-swept clean. Which means it's windy. We ditch our snowshoes and discuss the ailing predicament of reliable mountaineering snowshoes, one of the 21st century's greatest challenges to overcome. A couple icy spots break the scree trail and we actually have to throw on crampons for class 2. Boggy changes into his second pair of boots just to get to the base of the climb.

Taken on Descent

The base is pleasantly sheltered from wind and mostly sheltered from rock and ice fall. And exposed to sun, so Boggy is able to change into his flippy floppies. Unfortunately, my puffy zipper is broken so I'm flapping around like Batman in a cape.

Dom racks up and opts for the direct SW chimney instead of that loose face microwave jug haul. Tools are handy but never used. Stem on up. He knows a 4 is to be used at the crux, but also handy down low. Easy enough to place and back clean. A slow scrape and delightful smell of metal on rock and he's up without any trouble, about 110 ft to the belay notch. We can barely tell when he hits the crux. Nearly every piece of gear placed too with his only lament a lack of hexes and nuts. Fortunately, I was in charge of the rack and I'm a modern man.

My turn next. We combine warm gear into a single pack and it's my pig to coddle. The holds are not great for crampons. A bit sloped. Surprisingly, the 5.6 lower half seems harder than the 5.8 crux, which has some positive holds amidst the awkward stemming. I feel like hacking mid route and curse the pack caught up in the chimney, wondering just how dead we'd die if I chucked it off the side. Boggy switches to mountaineering boots and follows up last, practicing with a tool. The pitch is fairly sustained and strenuous; we appreciate Dom's lead.

This shot is actually from Camp Bird the next day, but I guess it gives an idea of how it felt.

Dom on belay. Note fist-sized cobble on the snow below at bottom right

The ropes are backpacked and we traverse scree and good snow to the base of the final pitch. In summer, the scree is a tedious affair above a funnel drop. Boggy opines that if we take the funnel descent now, a convenient little snow drift will stop us from falling all the way off Lizard Head and perhaps only just the vertical part.

The Ellingwood variation is sunny, dry and tempting, but the bottom looks run out. Crampon climbing isn't my game, and especially not run-out crampon scrabbling. On over to the standard W-facing 5.8+ route. A left facing chimney with a fist and wide fists crack, punctuated by a small bulge with tricky feet to enter said crack. Above is an awkward run-out angled chimney of sorts. This pitch generally gives me a bit of hesitation when dry, so I kind of want to don my pansy pants, rehydrate from my sippy cup and throw on Boggy's extra rock shoes to lead it. I'm pretty sure I caught a peek at rock shoes amidst Boggy's seven pairs of shoes anyways. But a bit of jibing and the need for practice trump. A tool and pons are sufficient. The first step is easy enough with a solid hook. The bulge is the crux. I wedge my way up a little chimney and look above. Clip a fixed piece and reach high to place the 4. Hmm. The next part looks awkward and I figure I'll have to violate the crack in an unprofessional manner.

I try to hook some chockstones in the fist crack and they promptly blow. I try to hook some dirt above a big chock in the crack and get a mouthful of dirt. Yummy. Work the pons up higher and wedge on in, right crampon on a small ledge and left kneebarred between the bulge and wall. Fist jam and bump the protection a little higher. I need to get my feet up too. My usual left crimp is improbable with gloves. I scrape around for a hook and settle on a weird wedge thingy with a single crystal hook and the tool torqued sideways against the wall. Kind of a tool stem thing. Do mixed climbers have terminology for this stuff? I don't know. Climbing terminology seems like a seat of your pants affair.

I don't have any pictures of the crux so here's a picture of Old Lady Gladys

The Wilson massif is an impressive solitary landmark, but it is difficult to take a respectable picture of the entire group. As with most things, I guess we've got to back up a mile or so and try from that perspective.

I get high enough to continue my knee bar stem and throw a crampon in the crack, torqued sideways. Cams bumped again and tool scraping away like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubeman. It works I guess and my slow struggle puts me above the crux. I place a less-than-inspiring green and continue up the awkward but easier inclined chimney. This involves a series of Beached Whales mixed with arm bars. And one glorious, beautiful BEAUTIFUL ice stick up high. I proceed to beat the ice to death so Boggy and Dom can't use it, elevating it to a distant fond memory for myself and myself only.

Clip the rap station chains and Boggy and Dom follow. Boggy is able to hook a few more chocks, do some weird convoluted move he calls a stein-pull and deal with the pack to get through. Dom flies up it without so much as a pause. I feel like a rock gym autobelay bringing in rope.

We set the ropes and tiptoe along the gaping tension crack splitting the brief summit ridge. The views are nice and the wind bites. Boggy shares his sour gummies and switches to his rappelling shoes. Oh what a day, what a wonderful day. But we aren't here for that, so down we go.

Back to the rap station. We chuck the ropes and the wind promptly whips them around to another aspect. Dom saddles them and continues down. While, on a less windy day, one can rap all the way to the notch belay above the first pitch with double ropes, the wind says "no" and no means no, so we cut the rappel short at the base of the final pitch. Backpack ropes and descend the snow, traversing above the funnel and delicately down climbing the several feet of 4th class to the notch rap station. We string a single 70 m for rappel and cruise on down, yanking the rope off wind-snags.

Pack up and just over four miles of trench out. The wind has drifted in a short stretch, but the cruise is easy enough.

"Wait, so none of us really have sun screen?"
"It's just past 3PM and the sun is at a low angle" says physicist Dom.
"I have a huge ironic beard and my 9th pair of shoes have anti snow reflection guards," says bearded Boggy.
I'm no risk taker, so I find some mud and give myself a good old fashioned Geologist rub down.

~9 miles/3K gain/10.5 hrs
Snowshoes, double ropes, single rack, crampons and tools

Comments or Questions
03/08/2017 22:45
incredible report. sweet photos!

Quite yummy
03/09/2017 07:15
With your indelible additions to the pop-culture pantheon of American urban literature, this outing is as funny as Seinfeld's dad Morty and his desire for that ugly recliner among a sea of snooty furniture and almost as good as chocolate ganache stuffed swans.

03/09/2017 09:12
Absolutely Epic - Lizard Head in Winter!!!

The man loves his footwear
03/09/2017 12:13
You should see what he brings on an overnight! The picture of skylight is hilarious. Nice work guys! AMAZING PICTURES! Love love love

I dunno
03/09/2017 14:39
I just wish there could've been more running involved.

how dead we'd die
03/09/2017 18:16
that's some fancy climb'n and write'n son.

I would gone rock shoes, buddy...
03/09/2017 16:30
...with liners and ski socks on. But, you guys have to go show everyone up in mountaineering boots. Nice winter climb, guys!

Old Lady Gladys
03/09/2017 17:17
is a keeper of a photo.
Nice report Monster, and congrats to the three of you!

03/13/2017 03:30
Pure quality. Your route selection so far this winter is off the charts. Congratulations.

Good stuff!!!
03/10/2017 04:58
Thanks for the report Ryan. Photos are amazing.
Micheal and Dominic Congratulations!!! Badass

03/09/2017 20:37
i wish I knew what the heck you are talking about... otherwise thanks for sharing I think

03/10/2017 06:30
Incredible photos!
This is the best report I've read in a long time. Great job.

That unobstructed shot of the entire Wilson Group is fantastic. I found myself spying ski lines. ;)

03/10/2017 10:57
Can't speak to the climbing, which is beyond me, but the writing here is exceeded only by your photographs. I tip my helmet to you.

03/10/2017 13:50
that's all i gotta say

03/10/2017 15:47
After reading this, I'm not sure I can ever work up the courage to write another TR. You set the bar EXTREMELY high.... DYRM!

03/10/2017 19:45
Yummy yummy reptile noggin in the tummy

03/11/2017 08:08
Cool peak that sounds less chossy in winter? "I'm a modern man" is the line that made me want to read more. Didn't notice the "fist-sized cobble" as I was distracted counting the colors of webbing at the belay. Haven't seen that much mank in a while! Congrats again on a great tick and a nicely written TR.

03/13/2017 10:33
For the comments.

Amy - lost me at chocolate ganache stuffed swans. Mmm. Made some avocado truffles the other day. I think you're on to something.
Danny - turns out, the running comment was a musical allusion. I'm surprised you didn't pick up on it.
Dwight - thanks, pa. Been workin on my writin
TGBC - thanks, good seeing you last week.
Justin - your routes have been pretty impressive too.
Climbnow - yeah, that rap station needs cleaned up. Perhaps on a warmer day. I'd say the middle scramble pitch was less chossy but the other pitches are fairly well cleaned up.
Bill - looking down Coors Face this year, man, what a line. Looks like a good one.

when I grow up...
03/15/2017 09:18
...I want a camera like yours. Marsters, 2017 is the year we do something. Way to be crew!

03/15/2017 13:13
This is some serious badassery. I aspire to do routes like this some day!! Good work guys.

Nice pictures!!
03/20/2017 08:17
And well done on the climb! Woohoo!

How did I miss this TR?
03/12/2019 20:00
Holy moly! Fantastic write up and stunning photos, not to mention one seriously bad ass climb! Congrats!!!

08/21/2020 14:04
What happened to the photos on this trip report??

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