The first time I traveled to Elko Nevada with Izzy, my then super-wife-to-be, I noticed these unknown tall jagged peaks in the distance. The Ruby Mountains and Lamoille Canyon have since been a destination I eagerly look forward to. They have been aptly dubbed the Jewell in the Desert. Over Independence Day week-end I ran up to the summit of the highest peak, the Ruby Dome, and thoroughly enjoyed the rocky terrain. I decided then, I for sure wanted to run the whole Ruby Crest trail in a day. Fast Forward to the week-end before last and I was getting dropped off by my awesome brother in law on the south-end, at Harrison Pass, and started North towards Lamoille Canyon where my Elantra awaited. I decided on the S to N direction to get a little more climbing and to knock out the dusty hot road section in the morning. My pace was slow going from the start, due to new and lingering injuries. (see last post) The dirt road morphs to 4x4 road after 3 miles. A ragged looking fellow with a beer in his hand asked if I could help him get his Tacoma Truck unstuck. He really jacked it off the side of the trail into some trees and I could not get service on my phone so I pointed the direction of the highway and said I had good bye as I have 33+ miles to go. At mile 6 the wilderness trail begins and dives up and down some sweet shady canyons. Up-down-up-down-up from valley to canyon. South Smith Fork-Middle Smith Fork- North Smith Fork, and McClutcheon followed by another long climb up to the pass above Overland Lake @ Mile 14. For some reason I had no pep in my step and the ups got slower and slower. O well. Ate lunch, then bombed down the switchbacks, said howdy to some bow hunters, all of which said there was "something wrong with me" upon hearing what I was doing. I chugged as much water as I could and began the next big climb to the Ridge. I knew there was no water from mile 16-30 so after chugging I topped off my bottles and slogged on. I cruised the Ridge crest and took in the amazing views of farmland and desert to the East and the back-side of the Ruby Dome to the West. The ridge continued one peak after another. After 4 big climbs and descents on the ridge, to Wines Peak, I saw another huge peak (Lake Peak) and started to despair. Luckily the trail swung left and over a pass then a long decent into a beautiful alpine meadow with a stream below Farve Lake. The last 7 miles felt cruiser, lots of lakes and a long never ending over switched-back trail to the top of Lamoille. 37 miles and 9,881 feet of vertical climbing in 10:23 minutes. Pretty slow, but had a blast.
|Looking back towards Harrison Pass|
|The start of the single track at mile 6|
|Super pretty super deep lake, Liberty|
|The full 37 miles on Google Earth|
Cirque of the Towers Traverse
Nothing makes your gut sink more than to watch your belay/rappel device go hurtling off a cliff to the valley floor over a 1000 feet below. Especially, if you are 3 summits into a 11 summit ridge traverse, with 14 rappels and at least 5 pitches of roped-up climbing to go. Court cursed and I beat my helmet against the cliff. It was still mid-morning and we had a long, long way to go. The Cirque of the Towers is one of, if not the prettiest alpine vistas in the country. The pristine granite climbing is coveted by hoards of climbers and the full "Cirque Traverse" is an extremely challenging Holy Grail of alpinism. So of course, Court and I had decided to make it even harder by starting from the car and adding the 16 miles of running to and from the cirque to the day, (instead of backpacking in and making it a slightly tamer 2-3 day venture.) I have quite the list of runs and climb I want to do in life and the Cirque of the Towers has been at the top of the list for years. I was super stoked that Court agreed to come along make it happen. He had backpacked in the summer before and solo climbed the whole traverse, so he was the partner to have. We slept next to the Elantra at the Big Sandy trail head and got moving at 5:30 am. By 8 we were surrounded by massive granite peaks and stunning alpine lakes. Then we dropped into the Cirque. Wow. Court got way ahead because I could not stop taking pictures. First up: Pingora, we scrambled past another party from New Zealand and then roped up for two long pitches with great crack in great rock. I remember yelling down below. "This climb is marvelous." Court followed quick and cleaned the gear. We had a super light rack; 5 nuts and 5 cams. I was glad to have Court's experience on the tricky rappels off the summit. I could not flippin believe he solo climbed this whole thing (with a rope for the rappels of course.) After 4 rappels we cruised up and over the Tiger Tower then started up the narrow sidewalk ramp of Wolfs Head. Nothing like fast scrambling up a 45 degree ramp that is the width of your shoulders with 1000 foot drops on both sides. The ramp opened up wider into sweet 5.5 crack that we quickly soloed as we passed more parties. We continued fast past a narrow shimmy with your hands jammed in the crack above. Then the ledge goes up into a tight chimney. I exited the chimney huffing and puffing and started to prep my gear for leading the next pitch on rope. As I unclipped the locking biner from my harness, the ATC on it slipped off and hurtled into space. Dope.
We gathered our calm… sort of, and reviewed options. We both felt fairly confident with our münter hitch skills and decided to press on. I continued leading all the pitches and belayed Court up on the Münter. We made it off the Wolfs Head, then ticked off Overhanging Tower, Sharks Nose, Block Tower, the Watch Towers, Warrior, Pylon , and Warbonnet. The lack of water and the extremely technical rappels on minimal all-natural-placement-anchors presented the most difficult challenges of the day. The Sharks Nose summit is guarded by a one move wonder that goes at 5.8 on the YDS, but pulling an overhang at high altitude on thin crimps sort of makes ratings meaningless. That was not the only section I told Court he was an idiot for soloing it the summer before. Some of the rappels required lowering over an edge to weight the rope which is always scary, for these raps we passed the remaining ATC back up the rope. At 7 pm we drug ourselves up on top of Warbonnet very dehydrated, tired, and razzled. I sounded forth the mandatory yeehaww and quickly began the descent before dark overtook us. By 8:20 we made it back to the trail by Big Sandy Lake and made it out to the cars 90 minutes later. Court jogged much more of the trail than I could and had the car warmed up for me. Fritos-Ginger Ale-Dr. Pepper-Energy Drinks- Hot Dogs- 5.5 hours of driving and we made it home by 3:20 am. What a day. STATS: 20 miles, 11,000 feet of climbing/running 16.5 hrs. I think next time I am in the Cirque I will do 1 or 2 routes, not 11.
|The Approach Trail|
|Looking back the way we ran up in the dark|
|Pingora and Wolfs Head in all ther' Glory. We went up Pingora right where the shadow and sun meet|
|Hanging Tower, Sharks Head, and Block Tower and Watch Towers|
|The money Pitch on Pingora South Buttress|
|top of Tiger Tower|
|The sidewalk ramp up Wolfs Head|
|Passing one of the many other parties going slow|
|scary overhanging rappels|
|Looking back over the entire ridge, what a day!|
|The Top of the last Summit, Warbonnet|