Peak(s):  Dallas Peak  -  13,809 feet
Date Posted:  05/02/2019
Modified:  05/03/2019
Date Climbed:   03/20/2019
Author:  Dad Mike
 Dallas 4...Me 0   

Dallas Peak
Time...3am - 12:15pm
Distance...9.9 miles
Elevation Gain...4387 feet
Trailhead...Mill Creek
Route...Mill Creek to Stan's Shortcut to South Face

South Side of Dallas from the turnoff of the Deep Creek Trail towards Stan's Shortcut

This would be my fourth attempt at climbing Dallas in winter and as you can probably tell from the title, it was not successful. My first attempt was on March 12th, 2017...turned around about 15 feet vertical and 100 horizontal feet from the summit on the west ridge. My second attempt was on March 9th, 2018...turned around at 12,500' because of a broken crampon. My third attempt was on March 14th, 2018...turned 100 feet from the summit on the east side because I wasn't comfortable soloing the summit tower. This time I was determined to learn from my failures. I climbed the peak in September, near the end of the climbing season. I fixed a rope from the summit, down the east side of the summit tower. My thought was that the west ridge and the north side of the summit tower were both not solo-able for me. My only chance of success would be to have a rope in place so I could belay myself up the dry, harder route up the east side of the tower. I looked at the forecast and avy conditions every day this winter, waiting for a window. I needed perfect conditions and it wasn't close to that all year. The last week it finally stopped snowing and got warm. It was just enough to tempt me to drive out to Telluride and at least give it a look.

Yellow line is the way I down-climbed in September and the way I planned to climb up...the hard part is the near vertical section out of sight to the left

The other thing I planned to do was to break trail to Stan's Shortcut the day before. It's not the easiest thing to find in the dark and I have gotten in trouble with this part of the route in the past. I started out at 7:30am on Monday and found the snow conditions to be better than I expected. There was a LOT of it, but it was nice and firm and I had no trouble finding the shortcut.

Mill Creek
Breaking trail up the right side of Mill Creek
Looking back at the crux of the shortcut...climbing up and across this cliff band

The cliff traverse wasn't doable without an axe and crampons so that's where I turned around. It felt like a successful outing...trail breaking wasn't too bad, I liked what I saw from the snow, getting up to the south face in the dark was going to be easy and the forecast was ideal. I celebrated at Gnar Taco in Ridgway that afternoon.

Gnar...even the refried beans are good

I went to bed early that night, set the alarm for 1:15am and was back at the Mill Creek Trailhead for a 3am start. I didn't sleep much, but I felt good and got geared up at the car. Just as I was about to head out, I went to put on my showshoes. It took me a few minutes to realize I must have left them outside of my jeep the day before and drove away without them. I looked all over, including peering in the windows of the water treatment facility...gone. Shit! I spent that day beating myself up and figuring out if I should buy snowshoes, rent snowshoes or just go home. I was determined not to waste this opportunity and ended up renting some from a local gear shop in Ouray. That night I slept in the back of the jeep at the trailhead under a full moon on the last night of winter. I was up at 2am and back on the trail at 3am. The moonlight was amazing and I didn't even need my headlamp. I made great time up the shortcut and found myself looking up the south face of Dallas at 4:30am. The snow was perfect and the higher I got, the more I thought this might happen. The whole south face had avy'd or sloughed off during recent storms and the carnage made for great climbing conditions. I used snowshoes till it got too steep, around 12,300', then stashed them and switched to crampons and 2 tools. I took a more direct route up the right side of the face to avoid an annoying left to right traverse. There was a short mixed ice and rock section in the lowest cliff band that was a little tricky. At 7:30am, I got to the first prominent ridge of 2 that separates the south and east face. As soon as I turned the corner, my heart sank. The snow was a totally different consistency and it hadn't slid. I had a bad feeling immediately. As I started to cross it, I sank to my hip and knew it was over. There was no way I was going to cut a line that deep across that slope.

Looking back at the final steps across the south face
For some reason, it's comforting to look down and see a ski resort across the valley
Turnaround spot at 13,300
Waiting for the snow to warm up a little on the way down

Looking back at my route up (red) and down (yellow)

The last time I was in this spot in winter, I was pretty emotional. I called Dani to tell her I didn't summit and then dropped my phone in the snow. I didn't realize for another hour that it was gone. It wasn't a good day. This time, I wasn't that upset. Given the snow conditions and the avy danger this year, I really didn't think I would even get this close. The only thing that bothered me was that my rope was still hanging from the summit. It's not that I care that much about getting the rope back. I just hate leaving stuff behind. I practice and preach LNT principals to my kids all the time. Ben and Brooke love picking up garbage on our hikes and get very angry when they see graffiti. I feel like I've let them down. I'm going to try to get back out there to retrieve it, but I don't know how soon that will be. I'm sorry to anyone that gets up there and sees it. If you do, please remove it for me. If you want to send it back to me, I will gladly pay for the inconvenience. Otherwise, consider it a gift.

Once I got off the steep stuff, I was able to shed all the anxiety of the climb and appreciate the perfect weather and incredible scenery. I wasn't looking forward to the drive home, so I decided to keep hiking. (nothing wrong with a lake hike Abe) I decided to check out the valley between Gilpin and Emma and I'm glad I did. That is an awesome place. I broke out of the trees and found a huge flat clearing. It looked like a canvas so I decided to write a message to my kids. This was by far the most fun I had all day.

Hiking up Mill Creek
View of the east side of Dallas...does anyone know about connecting blue lakes pass to Dallas via this east ridge

My biggest success of the day
Strava map

After completing my masterpiece, I slowly made my way back to the car. I didn't summit...AGAIN...but that's ok. It was a great day out in the mountains. I'll learn from this. Next time I will fix a rope from the summit to the trailhead. Who's with me?

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Solid attempt
05/02/2019 23:40
It's never a failure when you come back out alive. The mountain will be there for another attempt. Thanks for the report.

Next time
05/03/2019 07:52
This is my favorite Colorado peak so far. I would gladly go back with you again.

05/03/2019 08:08
Hey Mike,
Sorry it didn't work out for you. I've had a few peaks like that, Ahab's White Whale, no? Hey, curious and counter-intuitive, but is the standard north face an option? I know, I know, snow and slides, but with heavy consolidated snow it might be an option. There is the cave exit on Dallas that will let you bypass that offwidthy scramble at the summit saddle. I think there's also a funky option described in a post on mountainproject, I suspect it was close to an option Gladbach described to me in a PM. I never tried it but glanced at it last time I was there (admittedly, summer), wraps around the S face on a ledge. Just brainstorming with you.


Nice Work!
05/07/2019 09:43
I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach all to well. Its never a bad decision to turn around and fight another day when you feel that way. Would love to go get this peak someday. Keep at it!

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