August 30, 1998 in Central
Approach from Booth Lake Trailhead
Never judge a peak by its elevation. “The Spider” was one of the toughest – and most fun – climbs of the summer and it’s not even a thirteener! I’d been wanting to climb Spider for a long time ever since se
eing it from Piney Valley. “I took this picture one year ago when I attempted Peak “C”. “The Spider” totally dominates the head of the Upper Piney valley and entices climbers and hikers. Yet, it’s a seldom visited peak. When I arrived at the top, I noticed that the register had been placed in 1988 and wasn’t even close to being halfway full. In fact, only 25 people at most have signed it. Most were instructors at the COBS, or Colorado Outward Bound School.
I approached Spider from the Booth Lake trailhead, which is the opposite side from where this picture was taken. A slightly easier route is to hike up the long Upper Piney Valley. Anyway, from Booth Trailhead, after two miles of hiking up the trail, I arrived at Booth Falls which features two large drops – one about 30 feet and the other around 60 feet. Most hikers stop here. However, another two and a half miles of hiking will bring you to picturesque Booth Lake. I set up camp above the lake and had the entire place to myself.
The weather this weekend was absolutely fantastic. The sky was perfectly clear, the temperature was warm, and there was no wind. There was a rather large population of mountain goats living up around the lake who were very interested in me. They frequently approached the tent to investigate. At night, after eating a fantastic hot meal, I turned in. I was so tired from hauling my backpack all the way up to the lake that I fell asleep within minutes.
However, about two hours later, a curious sound caused me to stir. It sounded like something was grabbing the grass outside the tend and pulling it up. I realized right away what it was: the goats! They had returned to feast on the grass and flowers around the tent. Well, after about 10 minutes, I both shouted and clapped my hands and the goats ran off frightened. But they soon regained their confidence and returned. Thus began about a two hour ordeal where the goats continually returned to the tent to eat. Eventually, I put on my boots, grabbed my flashlight, and left the tent. Instead of scaring them where they’d simply run for cover behind a nearby boulder, I turned on my flashlight and chased them to the opposite side of the lake! After that, I was able to get back to sleep and they didn’t bother me for the rest of the night.
The next morning, I woke up late – 8 o’clock! I started hiking up the steep slopes towards the Spider. One of the reasons that this route is more difficult is that you have to climb “The Fly” first. The entire route is 3rd class scrambling. In fact, from the lake, the entire route is practically 3rd class scrambling that will test your routefinding skills. The measly one mile climb to the peak takes quite a bit of time. At the top of the Fly, I had quite an in-your-face view of the remaining route.
From the top of Fly, I descended down the east side of the north ridge and began climbing up the Spider. The Spider was different than most difficult peaks I’ve done. On those others, there was typically always a well-defined route to the top – even on tough mountains. On this peak, I had to frequently leave the ridge for easier terrain. At one point, I was faced with a vertical 100 foot wall on the ridge. Certainly I wasn’t going to scramble up that, so I had to drop down to the west face and traverse under the cliffs then climb back up to the ridge.
Finally, I made it. I rested on the summit for quite a while and enjoyed the perfect weather and all the mini dissertations that were written in the register.
(above) “The Spider” rises to the northwest of Booth Lake
I decided to bypass Fly on the way back and scrambled down the west face and then back up a couloir to a saddle on the west side of the Fly. I think this took just as much time to do and it was a lot more difficult because the narrow, sinuous route kept traversing above steep cliffs. Either way, it was pretty exhausting. After about three hours I arrived back at camp. There was still no one at the lake (it was pretty late anyway – nearly 4 pm) so I decided to go swimming! It was awesome – very cold, but not as bad as you’d expect. I swam around for about 15 minutes then basked in the sun. Relaxed, I then began packing up and started a non-stop march back to the car at the trailhead five miles away. I was really tired from this trip but thought that this was perhaps the best trip of the summer.