#AlpinistCommunityProject Flashback: Jackie Niles

Posted on: August 26, 2017

On September 25-31, 2016, Jackie Niles and her friends Adam Reke, Chris Snobeck, Wade Morris and a few others shared stories and photos with the #alpinistcommunityproject about their climbing days in Rocky Mountain National Park.

[Photo] Jackie Niles[Photo] Jackie Niles


To avoid the masses on the extremely famous and classic Petit Grepon (ca. 12,000'), Jared O'Brien and I sacrificed a night of sleep and climbed beneath a sea of stars. We were halfway up the wall before the sun finally greeted us. It flooded the surrounding Sky Pond basin in a warm morning glow as Jared began leading the crux pitch of the South Face (III 5.8).

Spearhead (12,575') is undeniably aesthetic, sitting smack-dab in the middle of the Black Lake cirque. The sharply defined peak sits below the massive granite walls of Chiefs Head (13,579') and Longs Peak (14,255'), surrounded by lush alpine flora, ephemeral streams, and crystal clear lakes. The Barb (III 5.10b) is a rave-worthy route, altering between splitter granite cracks and highly featured slab that curls toward the sky like a cresting wave.

Jackie Niles traverses into the crux. [Photo] Nathan ArganbrightJackie Niles traverses into the crux of The Barb. [Photo] Nathan Arganbright

I live for the days that begin at 11 p.m., for the quiet solitude offered by the desolate trail in the middle of the calm night, for the chance to greet the sun as it rises over the still water, washes the mountains in shades of purple, and bathes the rock in a warm alpenglow. I crave the indescribable beauty of this place and the elective suffering, character building, and bonding it offers those who are willing to seek it. Days like this are days well spent.

Jackie Niles racks up for a day on the Diamond of Longs Peak (14,255'), Rocky Mountain National Park. [Photo] Chris SnobeckJackie Niles prepares for a day on the Diamond of Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park. [Photo] Chris Snobeck

On rare occasions, and often for reasons unclear even to ourselves, we charter into unfamiliar territory; anxious, and apprehensive, and full of wild, raw energy. With heightened senses and an impenetrably calm demeanor, we set forth, embracing each challenging and uncomfortable moment.

Adam Reke racks up for his debut on the Diamond of Longs Peak (14,255'), via the Casual Route (IV 5.10a). [Photo] Jackie NilesAdam Reke racks up for his debut on the Diamond of Longs Peak, via the Casual Route (IV 5.10a). [Photo] Jackie Niles

Adam Reke: "Back in August, Jackie asked me if I would be interested in getting on the Casual Route (IV 5.10a). I hadn't yet climbed on the Diamond of Longs Peak, and although I didn't necessarily anticipate getting on it this season, I knew she would be a strong partner. With the weather forecast in our favor, I seized the opportunity. I found the Diamond to be challenging for a multitude of reasons. However the awe-inspiring environment and the high quality climbing made for a truly unforgettable day on the rock. It was the most incredible alpine experience I have had to date."

Adam Reke follows the traverse pitch of the Casual Route. [Photo] Jackie NilesAdam Reke follows the traverse pitch of the Casual Route. [Photo] Jackie Niles

After spending the majority of the spring climbing chossy desert towers and jamming splitter sandstone cracks in Utah, I felt it was time to embrace the coming summer and seek out a change of scenery. My good friend Chris Snobeck helped me do just that by insisting we trek up to the Diamond of Longs Peak for my first traditional alpine leads. I have since spent a fair amount of time reflecting on this day in particular, and yet I still struggle to find words that accurately portray my gratitude for the experience. It was one of those rare days that change you as a climber, instilling newfound confidence, destroying limiting self-inflicted preconceived notions, and expanding possibilities. In this picture I'm racking in for my first alpine lead on Pervertical Sanctuary (IV+ 5.11a).

[Photo] Chris SnobeckJackie Niles on Pervertical Sanctuary. [Photo] Chris Snobeck

As Chris Snobeck and I worked our way up Pervertical Sanctuary (IV+ 5.11a) on the Diamond of Longs Peak, two good friends of ours, Wade Morris and Ryan Kempf, kept us company from the nearby Yellow Wall (V- 5.11), where they are pictured here.

Wade Morris and Ryan Kempf, kept us company from the nearby Yellow Wall (V- 5.11). [Photo] Jackie NilesWade Morris and Ryan Kempf kept us company from the nearby Yellow Wall (V- 5.11). [Photo] Jackie Niles

Wade recalls one of his more recent ventures on the wall: "It was my third trip up the Diamond this season and it was the most committing style I'd ever attempted. Armed with 12 cams, 10 quickdraws and a 30-meter rope, Anton Krupicka and I set off from the trailhead at 3:30 a.m. Anton set a blazing pace, and in a half-hour I found myself alone. I broke into a run when the angle of the trail relented above tree line. After scrambling 500 feet up the North Chimney (5.4) to reach the Diamond, I arrived at Broadway ledge to find a shivering Anton. I looked up at the wall with the sun just cresting the horizon and a glimmering reflection laughed back at me. We would be climbing a waterfall. Anton set off linking the first three pitches. The first chimney squeeze and following dihedral are rated 5.8, but it might as well have been 5.12 in its cascading condition. I was thankful the crux pitch was dry and we summited at 10:30 a.m. From the summit we down climbed the Skyline Traverse to the stepladder. I began to lose steam as we descended into the basin below Mt. Meeker (13,911'). Anton detected my weakness and propelled us toward our next objective: The Flying Buttress (III 5.9) of Mt. Meeker. Little was said as storm clouds set in. Anton led the first block as the cirque became engulfed in a mid-July snowstorm. I sat back, feeling better from the chance to rest. I couldn't help thinking how much I love this shit, even as we had to bail and head back to the car."

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