Glacier Gorge is a six-mile-long gorge the starts near Bear Lake and heads down to the back side of Long's Peak. It's surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery, cleanest rock and the longest ice routes in the park. Glacier Gorge hosts a bevy of top-notch, serious, ice climbs. The routes are strewn across the northeast facing slopes of Thatchtop, the North side of Arrowhead and in the cirque surrounding Black Lake. The area is scenic and fairly remote although you are likely to run into another party on the popular routes on weekends. All of these routes should be viewed as mountaineering routes involving technical pure water ice pitches combined with long, approaches and technical descents including steep snow, loose rock, and high altitude. Protection can be scarce and/or difficult to find, and changing conditions can make a moderate full-day climb into a strenuous, post-holing, struggle. With the abbreviated winter daylight hours, be sure to start this route early, bring a headlamp and be prepared to use it. The approaches to these climbs take 2-3 hrs under good conditions and considerably longer in deep snow etc. I have made the approach from the parking lot to the base of All Mixed Up in less than 1 hour; and I have had it take 2 hours just to get the few hundred yards from Mill's Lake to the base of the route! The Black Lake cirque is a far enough trudge that most consider this a winter camping type destination.
From Estes Park, take US 36 to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. A quarter of a mile past the station, Turn left onto Bear Lake Rd, in the direction of Bear Lake. Follow this road approx. 8.5 miles to the well-marked Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking area (approx. ½ mile before you reach Bear Lake). Park there and hike the Glacier Gorge Trail to Mills Lake, approx 3 miles. Snowshoes are a good idea in fresh snow, but the trail is usually well-packed within a matter of days. (Here's a great shortcut that will save you 30 minutes: Head right immediately after you cross the second overbuilt bridge-the ones with the handrails. Follow the drainage up until you intersect the GG trail about 100 yards from the GG/Loch junction. Summer climber's note: This is not the summer shortcut which parallels the drainage on the left. The winter route follows the creek bed and is quite skiiable.) Right before you get to Mills Lake you'll have to make a decision: left takes you into Glacier Gorge, Thachtop and the climbs at Black Lake; right takes you to the Loch.
Browse More Classics in Glacier Gorge
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Glacier Gorge:
Big Mac Couloir WI4- M4- Mixed, Ice, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1200 feet, Grade IV
Black Lake Slabs WI2-3 Trad, Ice, Alpine
The Trough Mod. Snow Snow, Alpine, 2200 feet, Grade II
Stoneman WI4+ PG13 Ice, Alpine, 1 pitch, 150 feet, Grade II
Black Lake - West Gully WI4 Trad, Ice, Alpine, 5 pitches, Grade III
The Hourglass Couloir M4 Mod. Snow Mixed, Snow, Alpine, 6 pitches, 1200 feet, Grade III
All Mixed Up WI4 R Trad, Ice, Alpine, 4 pitches, 550 feet
Featured Route For Glacier Gorge
The Hourglass Couloir M4 Mod. Snow CO : CO Ice & Mixed : ... : Glacier Gorge
The Hourglass Couloir is an excellent alpine route similar in nature to Dreamweaver but with more sustain difficulties, a bit harder cruxes and a more remote setting. The route involves about six long pitches of roped climbing through gullies and around chockstones. ...[more] Browse More Classics in CO