What: Adventures in Evolution: First Chick Ascent of the Evolution Traverse
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday
Where: UMC 384, CU Campus on Tuesday; Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday
Info: cualpine.com, neptunemountaineering.com
When climber Michelle Peot heard that famed Sierras climber Peter Croft highly recommended the Evolution Traverse, and that no woman had ever done it, she started planning a first female ascent.
But she had to get on it quickly.
“There was another couple in Bishop who I knew was going to do it, so there was pressure for me to do it,” Peot said.
On Tuesday and Thursday, Peot will give a presentation on the Evolution Traverse, a long ridge climb in California that connects 13,000 foot peaks with scrambling and rock climbing up to 5.9.
We caught up with Peot, who just moved back to the Boulder area and is now living in Eldorado Springs, to talk about the Traverse, why she likes climbing solo and why she’s getting lectured when she climbs in Eldorado Canyon.
Q: What exactly is the Evolution Traverse?
A: It’s an 8-mile long ridge traverse. It goes over nine peaks that are 13,000 feet. It’s pretty remote, and I think that a lot of people underestimate just the approach and the magnitude of the route.
The approach is about 10 miles long and goes up and over a pass — I think it’s a 12,000-foot pass. It’s not an easy approach. It’s one of the harder approaches for the Sierra climbs. So it’s not day trip-able. A lot of the guys are like, “I’ll day trip it,” but then they find out it’s not day trip-able.
Q: What intrigued you about the Evolution Traverse?
A: Probably mostly because Peter Croft, who is a very well respected high Sierras climber, gave it a high rating.
It’s a good goal for high Sierra routes, and it was a good stretch goal for me, just because of how long it is, and I generally like to day-trip things, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to day trip this.
Q: What was the hardest part for you?
A: I didn’t find it, from a technical perspective, overly challenging. The biggest problem I had, I hadn’t spent a lot of time at that altitude, so I had a hard time eating. …My food tasted like cardboard, basically. I would run out of gas earlier in the day than there was daylight, so that was a little frustrating for me.
Q: When I don’t eat, my brain goes. Were you worried about making bad decisions up there?
A: I was definitely trying to be a little more conservative than I would be if I had a partner with me.
Q: Why did you want to do it solo?
A: Partly because I like climbing solo, and partly — I hate to say it, but I feel like if I’d climbed it with someone else, especially a male, people would say, “Oh he helped you along.”
Q: What about soloing is so appealing to you?
A: I find that climbing alone is very meditative. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. For me, I find it very calming, and there’s a level of focus you need to have for that.
Q: Have you been soloing in Eldorado Canyon?
A: I have been soloing and I’ve gotten a few lectures…about the rock quality.
I’m definitely very respectful of Eldo in terms of the rock quality, one, and that it can be devious, that route finding can be tricky.
And of course I’ve been soloing in the Flatirons, too. If you’re roped up, the placements aren’t great anyway, plus it’s nice to blow by people.