Thursday, August 4, 2011

La Sportiva's Trango S Evo boots on Hallet's "Great Dihedral," 5.7

Team assault on Hallet's Great Dihedral
Recently I had the pleasure of working with three guys (Rich, Evan, & Will) from Oklahoma who were looking to climb a rock-alpine route in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We spent a half-day at a local crag in Estes going over multi-pitch systems before setting out early the following day to climb the "Great Dihedral" into the "Standard Route."  Combining these routes on Hallet's N. Face offers roughly 1000' of 5.6-5.7 climbing.
Good times in the sun, partway up Hallet's N. Face
I had a couple of challenges: I'd never been on these routes (or this part of the wall) before and I was onsight-guiding three guests with three ropes (read: clusterville) on terrain where speed means safety.  The ability to move quickly in steep, alpine terrain decreases the odds of getting caught out in a lightning storm high on the peak or in technical terrain.  Fortunately, I knew that climbing these routes in my La Sportiva Trango S Evo boots wouldn't add to the day's challenges.
 Trango Evos crushing!
The Trango Evos are one of the few boots that can do just about everything (with the exception of steep ice climbing).  Being light and nimble, they gave me great dexterity on the approach through soft/rotten snow, slippery logs, muddy trails, talus/boulder hopping, loose gravel and the final 300' of steep snow we needed to climb to access the start of our route.  They aren't as beefy as some of their Trango cousins but, even after 4 years of heavy use, they provided just enough weight for me to kick good steps for my three guests who had little snow-climbing experience.  The beginning of the route was a stream and full of mossy, lichen-covered rock elsewhere.  Even here, the Trango Evos performed well where a standard climbing shoe would have difficulty getting good traction (and the Gore-tex kept my feet dry too).
 Cruising up the final pitches of the "Standard Route"
For the most part, the climbing was fairly sustained 5.7 (and maybe a bit harder in one spot) in a long dihedral...go figure.  Even on small, sloping holds the Trango Evo's chiseled toe gave me the confidence to climb quickly. We climbed four pitches to the top of the "GD" route, gaining a huge terrace around mid-height on the wall.  With the hardest climbing behind us, we relaxed on the large terrace, soaking up the views on the Dragontail spires and the still-melting Emerald and Dream Lakes now far below us.  Cumulus clouds were just appearing but I felt we had the time, so we opted to continue to the top rather than traversing the terrace to begin our descent.
 Will topping out another great climb in the Park
We did another three pitches on the "Standard Route," deviating here and there to avoid wet spots and climbing that looked too easy.  Blockier, easier climbing was still super fun and well worth the effort.  In a corner near the top, a wide crack was actually easier for me to climb because of the Trango Evo's bulkier profile.  By the time we got to the top, the clouds were building and it was time to move on.  A short walk took us to the rappels and soon we were scrambling down the super-loose descent gully.  Once again, the Trango Evos performed well, allowing me to down-climb quickly and with confidence on the sections where I'd belayed my guests, offering the needed ankle support in loose talus.  Soon we were back at the packs but still had another 400' of steep, grass-and-snow-covered terrain to cover before we could put the ropes away.
 Rappelling into our descent gully
With thunder rumbling in the uncomfortably-close distance, we needed to move quickly off the steep snow and into terrain where we could just hike fast.  Rather than dilly-dally with belayed down-climbing and short-roping that might offer a faster descent in other circumstances, I tied two ropes together and lowered Rich, Evan and Will down the snow and onto the talus below.  I threw the ropes, down-climbed and then glissaded, never having to think twice about my footwear in the steep snow.  Just as I reached the group and got my rain jacket on, the clouds opened up and lightning split the sky.  Laughing, we ran into the safety of the woods; we were a little wet but pleased with our timing overall, given the relatively poor forecast of the day.
The rewarding parts of the day were nabbing a quick, efficient ascent of a new (for me) route, keeping it safe and fun, enjoying a beautiful day, getting the "full alpine" experience and sharing it with a few guys who wouldn't have had those experiences otherwise.  A bonus for me was being able to do the entire day from approach, to climb, to descent without having to change footwear even once.  La Sportiva's Trango S Evo boots proved to be the perfect choice that day on Hallet (about a week later, I guided the Ellingwood Arete (5.7) on Crestone Needle into the traverse to Crestone Peak, also in the Trango Evos).   I spend a lot of time in the mountains on my feet in a variety of terrain and the Trango Evos are the boots that just about do it all for me!

Andrew Councell
CMS Guide
 Wet but psyched, three happy climbers stand below the climb

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