This route is the obvious, big, left-facing dihedral on the East face of the Ship's Prow. The dihedral starts 10-20' up, rising out of a left-leaning ramp system for 190' to a brief chimney then finishing in another 80' of left-facing dihedral. The climb is rated as 5.9 and as 5 pitches, traditionally, but it can easily be done in 3. Each pitch is 5.9.
The route is short for a true alpine route (450 feet?) and is fairly well protected. As well, there is an easy retreat from the top (see descent notes). The second pitch as I describe it is an awesome 5.9 and one of the best pitches in the park at its grade.
Approach Ship's Prow from Chasm Lake and come to the obvious, left-leaning chimney/ramp. This is P1 of Portal. The first pitch is wet, mungy, and nasty. The stench of rotting vegetation pours from it and loose rock abounds there. Aside of the nastiness of wet and stink, there are other reasons not to climb this pitch, such as the destruction of the vegetation in it. If you insist though, slog up that past dirt, water, and loose blocks from quarter to oven size to the top. Otherwise... This nasty journey of destruction can be avoided with a nice variation for the first pitch, climbing "Step One (5.9)" or "Man Overboard (5.10d)" instead -- which is how it will be described here. Done this way, the climb could be 3-star.
P1: (5.9, 130') Go 30 feet left of the route to a shallow, right-facing dihedral and climb up the thin crack for 30' to a little flake/roof. Under the roof, traverse right (crux, protection available as needed) underclinging out to a easy face, which you will climb to intercept the chimney. Cross the chimney at some massive chockstones (up to car sized) and to its right side, then go up to a loose ledge, continuing up futher to a good 2-pin belay in the dihedral up and right. This can be backed up with a good cam or nut, or both.... Belay here. This will have a little drag, but seems to put what would [otherwise] be the two pitches with a bad belay between into 1 pitch.
P2: (5.9, 190') Climb up the dihedral above. This is 2 pitches in the books, but can be done as a single stellar pitch with a 60M or 70M rope! This starts so-so and gets better and better the whole way. It eats stoppers and takes a few good cams as well. The clean dihedral occasionally sews shut, but a crack to one side or the other always appears for gear and good holds. Belay off of placements up in a notch with a small but good ledge with a 60m rope, with minimal line left.
P3: (5.9, 120') Climb up through the chimney to the back of it, reaching a wide dihedral. Stem out to other walls and blocks for a while (5.6, S?) and continue on, setting small gear in cracks when you can. Reach a crux at a wide crack and lever up with a few funky, tricky stoppers at your waist (or a 5-7" piece wherever you like, if you hauled one up there) to an easier section to top out. Top out and rig a belay somewhere up on the slab above.
Descent: The walk off described in the books is long, loose, and dangerous. We put in a good station up top to complete the wall on my second trip up there.
To descend, stay on belay and work to the north along the edge of the top of a smaller right facing dihedral/crack, the top of Ship Of Fools. This is 30-40' away. Look down into it to find the raps...
Rap #1: A super-good fixed chockstone slung (I could not beat it out) and 2 fixed hexes with Kevlar cord (I beat them in well). They are equalized on green and black webbing to a welded steel ring and rapid link. This is BOMBER! Climb down to this (5.7) and belay down your partner, then rap 65' to another fixed station. The rope will pull easily.
Rap #2: The next station is cable swaged onto a 2 fixed pins and a good fixed stopper (I just replaced the stopper and and some of the webbing, but the second [piece] should be replaced (redundant to the cable). Rap from the two fixed biners here (1 is a locker) down maybe 70' to a pair of bolts/lap-links on the left side of the huge arete.
Rap #3: Rap 115' (you need a 70m rope or 2 ropes to avoid 'adventure') to a big ledge with a fixed rap on a huge flake.
Rap #4: Rap 115' to the ground off of a fixed cable and sling with [rings]. The sling is trash and needs to be replaced, but I was out of replacement webbing. Sorry.
Lots of runners and a good selection of stoppers with *at least* doubles from BD#8-12, plus a set of cams to 2.5". This way the top "OW crux is off of funky small stoppers in a horizontal. Unless you want to haul up a 5-6" piece the whole way up there for the top pitch, this is what I [recommend]...If you want to sew up the whole thing, you'll need several wide pieces for the top (mostly easy) and a #4.5 Camalot for the crux, at which point the route is no longer S. Competent 5.10 leaders will not probably want to bother with wide pro at all and will elect for a light rack.
The Ship's Prow. Portal takes the prominent, left-...
|By Greg Sievers|
From: Estes Park, CO
Aug 31, 2005
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
This really is a fine route, after you goat hump your way up and around the chockstones of the first pitch. I agree that the dihedral pitch is outstanding! It's a real kick to look down a 5.9 and see you rope dangling away from the wall, thru your draws. The last pitch of OW can be avoided by jaming up into it then traversing out right on a small edge/ledge. This will also facilitate you finding the 1st rappel station. Be careful, it's slippery out there. I thought I remembered 3 fairly direct, plumb, raps to the ground, on good anchors. Yes, avoid the walk off, by all means.