Peak Climbed: Jagged Mountain

Peak Height: 13,824'

Route: North Face

Difficulty: 5.2

Location: San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Trailhead: Vallecito Reservoir

Mileage & Gain: 37 mi & 8,100 ft

Date Climbed: December 29 - 31, 2017

Jagged Mountain is one Colorado's toughest centennial thirteeners to climb, both from a technical standpoint and in terms of overall effort required. Jagged lies in the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness, nestled in an interesting subrange of the San Juan's known as the Needle Mountains. All possible approaches are long, and the peak is most often climbed on a multiday trip in summer. The standard route follows the path of least resistance, climbing the north face and then sneaking through a prominent notch in the summit ridge to finish on the south side. Some low fifth class climbing is necessary, but the difficulties don't exceed 5.2 if the easiest line is chosen.

I never had ambitions to try to climb Jagged in calendar winter, but sometimes October happens in December and a bluebird forecast overlaps with a long New Years weekend. With mind-blowingly dry conditions and zero avy danger, anything is possible. We could likely have used this opportunity to climb whatever peak in the San Juans our little hearts desired, and Dom was hot for Jagged.

The 14 mile backpack along beautiful Vallecito Creek was a painful push with overnight winter technical packs topped off with snowshoes but we managed to drag ourselves into camp at the base of Sunlight Creek before dark. Traipsing through several inches of snow, an almost trivial feat at first, became more and more difficult and annoying as fatigue set in. My hips felt like they were about to explode by the end of the 7 and 1/2 hour ordeal.

On summit day, we left camp at 4:25am, started up the north face at 10am, summitted at noon, descended the face in an hour and a half, and made it back to camp shortly ater 5pm. We used snowshoes only for a slow, powdery stretch between 10,000 and 11,000 feet along Sunlight Creek.

The snow at the base of the north face was quite postholey, but proved to be somewhat supportive as we climbed into the couloir to climbers left of the standard summer rock route. Shin to knee deep steps were fairly secure and ice axes useful. One minor and one major rock step complicated the otherwise straightforward ascent of the couloir. The major step was the hardest climbing of the day, and I asked Dom for a belay. After exiting the couloir near its end we traversed right to meet the standard route and followed it short rope style to the notch. Dom was in beast mode, but I whined for a tight rope in a couple of places. The finish on the south side was completely dry, but I'd forgotten how exposed some of the scrambling is here and a couple spots gave me pause in crampons.

We did four 100 foot rappels on the descent, utilizing all of our 60 meter rope for each one. The first two raps were from existing anchors. The third, which we established ourselves, got us back into the couloir. The fourth, which we lazily managed by wrapping the rope around a big boulder in the couloir, got us down the crux rock step. Thank god we didn't only bring a 30m rope! Our thin (one double) 60m rope was perfect.

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