Trip Report: Pervertical Sanctuary

Longs and MeekerSince the first time I climbed a crack, I have wanted to climb an alpine route. Climbing a steep crack on a blank, monolithic face in the rarified, azure aether of these igneous islands has long appealed to me.

Everything I read and all of the advice I was given suggested that I start with routes well below my climbing abilities so I can ease into long days and high elevation and high exertion. Last July, I was onsighting cracks and trad routes in the low 5.11 range and redpointing mid 5.11. A route between 5.9+ and 5.10- like Syke’s Sickle, The Casual Route, The Flying Buttress, The Southwest Corner, or The Barb seemed ideally suited for my seminal alpine excursion.

Then, a splitter weekend rolled around in mid July with not a rainstorm in sight for Friday. This was our chance. I asked Mike if he wants to climb an alpine route that weekend, to which he enthusiastically agreed. All of the aforementioned routes sounded really cool, but what did we really want to climb? After watching a video of Steph Davis soloing Pervertical Sanctuary, we knew this was the route. The line is vectorial, the splitters are clean, and the exposure…spectacular. At a solid, old-school grade of 5.10c, this may have been a little on the upper end of our onsight abilities, but not entirely out of the question. We knew it would take our best effort.

On Thursday afternoon, we packed our packs, ate some good food, and settled in for some rest around 6 PM. Unfortunately, our bodies were not ready to sleep, and so we lay in a semi-conscious state until about midnight, when we realized it was time to go. Our plan was to start early and be the first climbers up the North Chimney to Broadway Ledge to avoid rockfall danger from other climbers.

Our rack was pretty standard for Pervertical Sanctuary. Here is what we brought:

Full range of nuts (not used much)

Singles of micro cams

Doubles from fingers (.4, yellow metolius) to #4 camalot (2 old #4s)

Ballnuts (optional, useful on the runout first pitch)

2x 60m 9mm Sterling Nano IX ropes (used as double ropes, essential for double rope rappels)

Knife (to cut tat)

We left Boulder at 12:15 AM and arrived at the Long’s Peak trailhead a little after 1 AM. At 1:30 AM, we began the approach from the trailhead.  Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 1.29.55 AMThis approach is fairly mellow at any point, but involves over 3000 feet (over 900 meters) of elevation gain over 4 miles (6.4 km) to Mill’s Glacier. This took us 2 hours 15 minutes at a brisk pace. I began feeling the elevation at 12000 ft around Chasm Lake.

The Diamond Vanya Perevozov

The Diamond Area photo by Vanya Perevozov from Mountain Project.

We arrived at 3:45 AM at Mill’s Glacier and proceeded to acclimatize, boil hot water for tea, eat snacks, and tape up. Around 4:45, we started kicking steps and inching up a very frozen and slippery Mill’s Glacier. I was wearing Merrell Trail Glove 2 minimalist running shoes, which are quite soft and not particularly conducive to kicking steps in the slab of ice that is a frozen Mill’s. Mike had more success wearing Guide Tennies, which actually have a rigid edge for kicking steps. I followed his steps and used my nut tool as an ice tool to balance in between ice smears.

We waited for early light around 5:15 AM to begin scrambling up the North Chimney (500 ft, 5.5). Our strategy was to climb unroped with our gear and ropes on our backs. We deemed this to be much faster than roping up, as well as safer. How can free soloing possibly be safer than roping up? If you have ever scrambled up the North Chimney, you know that there is much loose rock which could easily by dislodged by a rope. For our experience and ability levels, this was the right decision. Between the two of us, we didn’t disturb a single loose rock, and we made it up quickly and safely.Michal North ChimneyA friend of ours previously had a near-fatal accident on the North Chimney which was caused by loose rock dislodged by climbers above. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Mike Minson, David Rodziewicz, Johann Aberger, Tommy Caldwell, and Jonathan Siegrist for postponing their climbing plans to save our friend’s life. If you come across a fallen climber, please scrap your plans and do the right thing. The only reason Mike hadn’t yet climbed a route on The Diamond was because he ditched climbing that day to save a life. Thanks, Mike. You are a real hero.

By going ropeless with no climbers above us, we avoided disturbing loose rock and got to Broadway in 20-30 minutes. Please use your own discretion when deciding whether to rope up for approach pitches.

We arrived on Broadway right at sunrise. It was spectacular!Sunrise from broadwayLooking down the North ChimneyWhile traversing Broadway Ledge, I saw a small blue item come flying out of the summit pack Mike was carrying and go tumbling down 500 feet towards Mill’s Glacier. I quickly realized it was my Patagonia ultralight down hoody, which I had used only once before. I let out a “Nooooooooo!” before realizing it was too late. I thought I had just lost my brand new puffy. Oh well. We have a route to climb.Pervertical BaseWe arrived at the base of Pervertical Sanctuary around 6:00 AM. At 6:30 AM, we began climbing.Racking UpThe first pitch (5.9, >180 ft) was my lead. Beginning with loose, blocky terrain from the left side of The Mitten, I traversed in to the right, into the steep, left-facing corner on the left side of the The Mitten. The start was poorly protected but good protection could be had in the hand and finger crack in the corner above. Double ropes were useful to minimize rope drag.Pervertical RoutePervertical P2Mike led the second pitch (5.9, <200 ft), which climbed steep, discontinuous cracks and face straight up from the Mitten. The top of this pitch had some broken terrain and thought-provoking moves.

At the second belay, we talked to a party who had seen my puffy flying down the cliff towards the glacier. They informed me the puffy missile got stuck in the bergschund below and could help me find it later. I guess even ultralight down hoodies are pretty dense when packed into a stuff sack.

The views from the second pitch were already quite phenomenal. We were really getting out there into space.View from PerverticalI led the third, crux pitch (5.10c, 100ft) and didn’t link into the fourth so Mike could pick that cherry. The pitch started out with thin, steep face climbing on small gear with lots of fixed gear. From a small, sloping ledge, I fired into the rattly fingers/thin hand splitter and stayed pumped from start to finish. This required sustained effort, but was fairly straightforward. The feet were good and the jams were locker. The crux moves involved straight-in, slightly past vertical .5[.75?] camalot jamming up to a savior tight hand jam. After that, it was hand crack to the top of the flake. This pitch was pumpy and sustained, but I would argue that the next pitch was more physical.

Mike led the fourth, offwidth pitch (5.10a, ~100ft) This pitch was almost all fist crack and offwidth, with a few smaller jams found in the bottom section. Small gear protected incipient cracks, while Mike walked 2 old #4 camalots for a very long ways, running it out judiciously. This pitch was physical and insecure, as there were long stretches of old #4 size camalot crack which is just bigger than rattly fists. This was an impressive lead and I was happy to follow.

Please note that we didn’t take any photos on the crux pitches. We were having so much fun we didn’t even think about pulling out the phone, and encourage you to do the same. There is no reason to document every aspect of our trip. Part of every adventure is discovering the unknown.  If you really want to see pictures of the crux pitches, here is the Mountain Project page for Pervertical.

I led the fifth and final pitch (5.9, 150ft). There were a few steep, technical moves with decent gear, and then the difficulty eased off. I don’t remember placing any gear for the second half of this pitch. We arrived at Almost Table Ledge, complete with alpine wildflowers and Marmots and still in the sun. We briefly basked in the glory of amazing views and thin air before beginning to rappel down D7.

According to my memory, there were 4 double-rope rappels down D7 and 3 more down Crack of Delight to reach Mill’s Glacier. It took us around 2 hours to rappel at a casual pace with no stuck ropes. On one of the D7 rappels, we saw two Metolius rap hangers, which have a radiused edge and are suitable for rapping from directly, equalized with 6 mm cordalette and a quick-link. Why someone would turn a 25 kN anchor into a 7.5 kN anchor entirely defies my imagination. We cut the tat and rapped off the bomber, radiused Metolius hangers. We were back at Mill’s Glacier around 2:15 PM, already well into the shade.The DiamondI commenced spelunking in the bergschund looking for my puffy in various ice caves. I found a Trango knife, but no puffy. As I was traversing the glacier, my footing slipped and I proceeded to glissade 300 feet without warning. It was fun and I was able to brake before hitting the house-sized boulders in the boulder field. I continued looking for my puffy. Before the hour was up, the party from earlier rapped down and told me I was looking in the wrong bergschund. I looked where they showed me and there it was… my puffy. The stuff sack had a few tears in it but the puffy lay there unscathed and perfectly dry inches from a stream of glacial runoff. I was ecstatic!

I glissaded down to the boulder field and upon arriving there, noticed that I had lost two of my ballnuts. Mike and I went back up the glacier and found one, but couldn’t find the other. Maybe some lucky individual will find it and use it!

Around this time, a very light rain began, clouds moved in, and thunder split the silence like a thousand cannons firing, reverberating across the gaping chasm and undampened by vegetation. This was one of the most terrifying and awe-inspiring sounds I have ever witnessed. The northeast aspect of Long’s can really be a dark an ominous place after the sun passes.Basking in GloryWe ate some snacks, chilled for a bit, and departed Mill’s glacier at 4:30 PM. The hike back down took 2:30 hours, a little more than the hike up. We arrived at the car at 7:00 PM and drove to a friend’s barbeque in Boulder.

Overall, the trip took 15 hours 30 minutes to car on 0 hours of sleep. Of this, there were 4 hours 45 minutes of approach, 4 hours 45 minutes of climbing, and 6 hours of dilly-dallying. Next time, we will leave the trailhead at 3 AM and try to make it a sub-12 hour day.

This was my first alpine climb and one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I set the bar high for myself, and have pushed it continuously since then. Thanks, Mike, for being a great partner.

Here is an approximate timeline of our adventures:

12:15 AM Left Boulder

1:30 AM Began approach from Long’s Peak Trailhead

3:45 AM Arrived at Mill’s Glacier

5:15 AM Began scramble up North Chimney

6:00 AM Arrived at base of route

6:30 AM Began climbing

11:00 AM Arrived at Almost Table Ledge

11:15 AM Began D7 rappels

2:15 PM Arrived at Mill’s Glacier, commenced search for puffy

3:15 PM Found puffy, began searching for ballnuts

3:30 PM Found ballnuts, proceeded to chill

4:30 PM Commenced chilling, departed Mill’s glacier

7:00 PM Arrived at car

Car-to-car time: 15:30 hours

Time spent climbing Pervertical: 4:30 hours

Time spent dinking around: 6:00 hours

Plenty of room for improvement.

One Reply to “Trip Report: Pervertical Sanctuary”

  1. I don’t typically enjoy trip reports but this was very well written. I like your pieces of advice regarding approach pitches and picture taking, which are great but don’t come across as pushy. Nice job!

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