Overflow is a broad ice apron on the lower east face of Thatchtop Mountain, about 200 yards south of Jewel Lake and maybe 100 yards west of the Glacier Gorge Trail. The area is very secluded and is difficult to see from the trail. This year (2007/2008) the ice is very good and somewhat more extensive than when it was first climbed in 1977. Though not very tall (70 to 80 feet) the curtain is maybe 200 feet wide and offers 4 or 5 interesting lines of ascent. The routes are not too challenging, mostly WI3 M0, but are great fun. To escape from the top, wallow down steep snow to the south or rappel from trees.
Begin from the Glacier Gorge parking area and don show shoes or skis as necessary. Follow the line of the summer trail to the Shortcut, but donít take the Shortcut. Turn right (west) and follow an unnamed drainage (usually tracked) until it is easy to veer south and gain the main trail near the Loch Vale Trail junction. Proceed west and take all the left branches in the trail. Follow the general line of the summer trail to the log bridge across Glacier Creek, stay right and follow the creek to Mills Lake. Head south across the frozen lake (normally safe until May) and continue across Jewel Lake, beyond which the valley bottom can be followed all the way to Black Lake. Look for a large boulder on the left side of the trail maybe 100 yards past Jewel Lake. Go straight west over/around windfall and across Glacier Creek. The ice flow will be obvious about 200 feet above the creek.
This ice flow may have a real name. If so, please post. It seemed worth entering this as distinct sections for a few more details.This small, ice crag is split into 2 sides. The left side is shorter and probably could accomodate up to 2 parties, but it might be tight. Overall, the ice is thinner on this side. It is never vertical, but the thinner ice may not be thick enough for stubbies up the center.Starting up the corner right of the ice cave and moving up the thin ice seemed the most interest...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Eli Helmuth calls this Jewel Lake Ice on his website, I haven't heard it called "Overflow" before. Is this a historic name or should we change this area name to Jewel Lake Ice with routes of Overflow Left and Overflow Right?
I am not fussy about the name, but I do know the source of the name Overflow. Ralph Baldwin, Time Hogan and myself were skiing in to Black Lake to climb what is now known as the West Gully, December, 1977. I caught a hint of the ice through the trees (Overflow that is) and said, "Hey, let's check this out." So we did. I led the pitch up the thick ice in the middle of the flow and brought up Tim and Ralph. We rapped off and on our way to Black Lake came up with name Overflow for the whole feature. See ROCK AND ICE CLIMBING, RMNP, THE HIGH PEAKS (1997), page 176. I have since then soloed all the obvious lines (some repeatedly because they are really fun) and given them the following names (I am not fussy about these names either):
1. Cave WI3+ Begin at a cave beside a left-facing dihedral near the left side of the ice apron. Climb icicles past the right (or left) side of the cave and continue up easier ice to the top of the flow. Look for slings around a tree and lower off.
2. Thin WI4 Start above a big tree near the middle of the wall. Climb very thin ice over a rock slab to a conspicuous bush. Continue more easily to the top of the flow.
3. Center WI3 FA: R. Rossiter, Ralph Baldwin, and Tim Hogan, 1977. Climb thick ice up the middle of the flow and rappel from a tree.
4. Tommy Knockers WI3+ The right side of the flow is steeper and thinner and develops a dull orange cast perhaps from minerals seeping out of the Earth.
5. Thinner WI4 To the right of Tommy Knockers the ice is even thinner.
BTW, we did climb the beautiful West Gully route in a snow storm the next day. I do not know who first climbed it. Duncan Ferguson, Dakers Gowans, Pete Metcalf or the like would be good candidates. I also do not know the origin of the name West Gully. I had only seen the climb a month earlier having gone into Black Lake to climb the ice on the southeast side of the lake, already a known destination in 1977.
Climbed/guided here about 1/2-dozen days this year and, while it's still forming, it's very thick and widening out each day. It's a good lead but can be walked/scrambled around on either side to access the anchor trees. The left-most ice up a gully feature would be the easiest lead. If you're looking for more of that steppy, easy ice there is also an upper tier in the WI2+/3- range and is slightly shorter than the main area. Upper tier could be nice on busy days.
If you're feeling really adventurous, you can follow "Overflow's" water source high up onto Thatchtop (this ice can be seen from Jewel Lake). This involves a bit of unfortunate snow-slogging above the upper tier, following a bench that traverses way left, and then up ice-covered slabs (WI2ish) to a short (~30'), steep headwall that has a couple thin-ice variations. It's not classic but is fun exploring and, from "Overflow's" base to the top of the headwall is a 1000' elevation difference. It's worth noting that this high route goes right up a serious avalanche path (lots of large trees snapped off) and would be less-than-prudent in certain conditions.