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Unsorted Routes:

Brain Freeze 

M5+ Steep Snow

Type:  Mixed, Snow, 8 pitches, 1000', Grade IV
Consensus: M5 [details]
FA: Andy Grauch and Chris Sheridan, 2008
New Route: Yes
Season: Early spring may be best for firm snow and ice.
Page Views: 8,467
Submitted By: Chris Sheridan on Feb 25, 2008

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GS moving out of the cave. Starting P5.


Brain Freeze climbs a series of gullies, corners and roofs up the right side of the Solar Wall on the south face of Otis Peak, directly behind Zowie. The route follows the first 300 feet of the Standard Route on the Solar Wall, then breaks up and left to follow a parallel gully system on the steeper face above.

The middle section of the route offers continuously difficult climbing up narrow chutes, steep chimneys and overhanging chockstone cruxes. Belay caves form below the two chockstone cruxes thanks to snow mushrooms which can be stomped out for a floor.

The middle gully system ends at the top of a small buttress where one or two more pitches of mixed climbing ascend the final headwall.

P1: Start in a large, left-facing corner at the bottom left side of the Solar Wall. Climb the corner then traverse right underneath a large roof. After passing the roof, climb past two old bolts and up a short shallow corner to the base of a large snow ramp. Belay off of two nice newer bolts on the left, which are used for the Zowie descent route. M4, 80 feet.

P2: Kick steps up easy snow for about 250 feet looking for a somewhat hidden, right-facing corner system to the left. Belay at the base of the corner system.

P3: Follow ice runnels through the left leaning Changing Gullies Pitch to the upper gully system. Climb the upper gully bypassing a large pillar of ice on the left, and past a short, difficult chimney to a belay stance. WI3 M5, 180 feet.

P4: Climb the narrow gully to a vertical chimney up to a belay cave directly below an imposing chockstone roof. M5, 100 feet.

P5: Chimney up then out to the lip of the chockstone roof. Turn the roof and continue up the steep narrow gully to a second cave below a second chockstone roof. The route gets is name from the spindrift that plagued the first ascent party while pulling past the lip of the crux roof, giving the climber an instant ice cream headache. M5+ 150 feet.

P6: Turn one more airy chockstone roof and climb easy ground to the top of the buttress. Continue up the final headwall, angling left to a left-facing corner. M5, 100 feet.

P7: Climb the short but steep corner then one last chimney section to easier terrain above. M5+, 100 feet.

P6-7 Alt: Instead of angling left into the left-facing corner on pitch 6, climb straight up and belay at the base of the next cliff band. Climb the left facing corner on right side of a big cleft. FA: Dougald McDonald and Jack Roberts. M5+, 150 feet.


Approach: Follow the Andrews Creek trail up from The Loch towards the south face of Otis Peak.

Descent: If visibility is limited and you are unfamiliar with the descent, it is probably best to rappel the route. Otherwise, descend by following the east ridge down until a broad glade opens up to your right. Drop down south, following the trees and angling right back towards the Andrews Creek trail. Alternately, it may be possible to descend the snow gully immediately west of the route, which will take you directly to the base of the route.


Stoppers, cams up to a #3, 2 knifeblades, 2 lost arrows, 2 angles, 1 Spectre, 1 #11 hex, 2 stubby screws and 1 medium screw.

Photos of Brain Freeze Slideshow Add Photo
Kelly Cordes exiting pitch 6.
Kelly Cordes exiting pitch 6.
Looking down the direct finish to Brain Freeze, with the summit of Zowie far below.
Looking down the direct finish to Brain Freeze, wi...
Andy Grauch about to top out into the first of two belay caves on Brain Freeze.  Photo taken on 2/24/08.
Andy Grauch about to top out into the first of two...
Experiencing the Brain Freeze at the top of the crux pitch.
Experiencing the Brain Freeze at the top of the cr...
Chris Sheridan setting up to pull the crux roof of Brain Freeze on 2/24/08. Photo by Andy Grauch
Chris Sheridan setting up to pull the crux roof of...
Andy Grauch on the surprise Changing Gullies pitch of Brain Freeze.  Equally strong spindrift avalanches and updrafts caused the snow to circulate in a stationary cloud surrounding the crux of this pitch.  Photo taken on 2/24/08.
Andy Grauch on the surprise Changing Gullies pitch...
Closer view of Brain Freeze, on March 29, 2008.
BETA PHOTO: Closer view of Brain Freeze, on March 29, 2008.
Chris Sheridan leading the first pitch of Brain Freeze on 2/24/08.  Photo by Andy Grauch.
Chris Sheridan leading the first pitch of Brain Fr...
Andy Grauch starting up the Changing Gullies pitch on Brain Freeze.  Photo taken on 2/24/08.
Andy Grauch starting up the Changing Gullies pitch...
Early morning sun on the south face of Otis Peak showing the route Brain Freeze, with sections hidden by Zowie.
Early morning sun on the south face of Otis Peak s...
Our first pitch, about 50 feet to the right of the original.
Our first pitch, about 50 feet to the right of the...
View looking up at Mount Otis from Andrews Creek.
View looking up at Mount Otis from Andrews Creek.
Upper route as seen from Andrews Creek, well beyond Zowie (sorry 'bout zoom blur).
Upper route as seen from Andrews Creek, well beyon...
Chris gives victory stance and then thinks, <br />yikes, we've been rapping off of this Jenga game?!? <br />The scary part isn't even in the picture, look at the other side of this pile when you top out.  New anchor is straight up from ropes.
BETA PHOTO: Chris gives victory stance and then thinks, yikes,...

Comments on Brain Freeze Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 26, 2012
By Dougald MacDonald
Mar 21, 2008

Jack Roberts and I did this route on the first day of spring. The weather was not spring-like, and the spindrift was in force. This is a very fine route that felt a bit like Hallett Chimney, but with more variety and more continuous climbing. To fully appreciate it, you have to be a fan of snowy mixed climbing and chimneying with crampons. I think it would be in shape from mid-January to mid-April, though you'd want to avoid it on a warm spring day or anytime after a big snow storm.

We did a different first pitch about 50 feet to the right of the original, mainly because it looked easier (about M3). We also did a more direct finish, straight up a short rock band with pumpy dry tooling in a left-facing corner. This seemed like the logical way to go above the final snow field, and it provided a well-protected hard finale (around M5+). We rapped the route, leaving a sling anchor on the top, a good two-nut anchor in the gully above the wild cave pitch, a sling around the big icicle in the Changing Gullies pitch, and another sling around a boulder at the bottom of the snow field. (Didn't find the good two-bolt anchor there...doh!) Two 60-meter ropes for the rappels.

The gear list on this page is perfect, though we never used a Specter. Do NOT leave home without a 10 or 11 hex, which is crucial for protecting the exit from the cave on pitch five.

See more photos at themountainworld.blogspot.com.
By Greg Sievers
From: Estes Park, CO
Apr 1, 2008

Kelly & I also enjoyed this route tremendously, on March 31, 2008. Kelly ran pitches 3 & 4 together, and I ran 5 & 6 together, which seemed to flow well. Sling and/or nut stations are in good position for descent. Excellent find.
By tim
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 24, 2008

The route photo with the red line marking the route doesn't seem to match the route photos. I climbed a route with Chris Erickson matching the line in the photo and it consisted of two pitches in the M4+ range. It pretty much eliminated the snow pitch by climbing a long (65 meter) mostly offwidth pitch to the right of it. Recommended and no piece of cake, be ready to haul packs. The regular line is the deep inset further left.
By Oliver Deshler
May 7, 2010

A lot of ice on the route right now! Changed the rap anchor on the third rap - 60 m ropes just reach.
By Kevin Landolt
From: Fort Collins, Wyoming
May 10, 2010

Fun route! We encountered the "brain freeze" recirculating sprindrift at the crux as well. Classic!
By Erik Bonnett
From: Nevada City, CA
Jan 24, 2011

When I climbed this route in early April, I finished on a dihedral about 40' left of the top of P6. It seemed a bit easier but still challenging in the M5 range. Another variation.... Excellent climb!
By j wharton
Mar 16, 2011

I soloed this route today. Pretty damn fun. There's a fair bit of ice on it now, and if things don't get too warm my guess is that it will only get better. I walked off via the major gully to west. Simple and easy, just plug west along the ridge for 10 to 15 minutes, looking for the first obvious, big gully. If it's not dead-easy, you're not there yet. Would save bringing two ropes for the raps. Also can't imagine needing pins on this route. Cheers!
From: Santa Monica, Ca.
May 6, 2011

As of 5 May 11 no ice on top pitch, lower pitches are still in.

A 10 hex on P5 was tipped out making the pull pretty exciting.

A tipped out #10 hex, now that's Old School! I Love it!
By scott rourke
Jul 26, 2011

Great route. #11 hex fits nice and tight!
By Captain America
From: Longmont, CO
Mar 16, 2012

Climbed route yesterday. Some ice at lower chockstone cruxes but not enough for ice screws. Upper headwall is dry. Many have been using the Horrorshow boulder pile for a topout rap point. Take a look at how these blocks are stacked, this is a no-brainer jenga pile, just tap any of the rocks with your hammer and you can feel how they are precariously joined. There is even one rather large one that juts out from the mass unsupported on one side with about a 1cm square pivot point partially supporting the major pile above it. Yikes!

Anyway, added a much safer top rap anchor straight North along topout about 15-20'. Anchor consists of new 1" tubular green webbing with locking biner. The pull is obviously not as direct as the previous anchor, but we had no problems with double 8.1 mm ropes. You might make sure rope is left of vegetation for smoother pull. 60m ropes with a little stretch will get you to the next fixed rap anchors.

Bring tat/leaver gear as anchors are not always usable or easy to find.

Otherwise, Climbing is Stellar, great route!
By Ben Collett
Mar 26, 2012

Fear not if you don't have the necessary hex. A foot higher than the hex placement is a chockstone that one can sling.