Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) contains some of the most spectacular, long and hard ice routes in an alpine setting. Most of these climbs involve a renaissance mixture of mountaineering skills including long approaches, snow, rock, and ice climbing complicated by difficult protection, harsh weather, objective hazards and altitude. This is the perfect playground to experience the type of remote, committing climbing that only comes from this kind of wilderness, or to practice the methods required for tackling big mountains in other parts of the world. There are however, several smaller, less expedition style, sport areas in the park where short, technical climbs can be done. In short, RMNP has something for everyone, and itís practically in our own backyard.
From Denver, head North on I-25 to US 36, through Boulder to Lyons. In Lyons, turn left and follow US 36 to the end of town. To get to the Glacier Gorge/Moriane Park Area, continue to follow US 36 to the right into the town of Estes Park. From Estes Park, follow US 36 into the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. To get to the Longs Peak or Wild Basin area, from the W end of Lyons, turn left on Colorado 7, continue this N once you hit the Peak-to-Peak Highway. The trailheads are well marked off of Colo 7.
Bypassing the lines
FWIW, if you are trying to enter during entrance fee collecting times, you can use the right lane at the Beaver Meadows entrance with the card activated gate bypassing the lines with a Rocky Mountain National Park annual pass OR a National Parks annual pass purchase at RMNP!
This 2 pitch beauty can be found immediately left of Smear and Loathing several hundred yards above 'the privy' and the Gray Jay group campsite. The ice here is visible briefly from over 4 miles away where the trail meets a meadow, but not again until you enter a small, hanging amphitheater (with 3 other climbs) about 200 yards from the ice. Allow 45 minutes for the final approach as you contour up and around a prominent rock band (see approach pics and description to the amphitheat...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Was attempting to climb Mt. Meeker on Friday, 10/11, and saw a lot of nicely formed smears on the benches below Chasm Meadow. There were some pillars begining to form both above the trail and along the creek that flows down to Peacock Pool.
The trail was relatively clear to the Ranger Station and temps on Friday were around 15 F.
This just in from Kelly Cordes: howdy Mal, not aware of anything new, just stuff fattening up. friends climbed All Mixed Up the other day, it's fat and easy (like WI3), no rock pro needed. I did hear that the things to the right of it are big and fat now, too. Might have a report on Loch Vale Gorge this eve - pretty sure it's in good. Very cold at night up here, and snowed a shitload the other night, and with the warm days of this weekend things could be good. I'm headed to the Black again, myself - last weekend was too good! I'll let you know if I hear of more, sorry I don't know much right now.
Not much going on yet. Alexander's had had some traffic but it's really thin. 8" of fresh snow on the ground up high as of 11.7 so it makes the talus hopping epic. Warm and sunny so the drips are probably starting to form. Might just be the perfect weekend...
Conditions are ok in RMNP. Loch Vale is not in very good shape, however the crowds were big this weekend. It would be nice if people would hold off climbing there for a couple of weeks and allow things to properly form. Black Lake Slabs and the West Gully are fat. A couple of flows on the east side of Glacier Gorge before reaching Black Lake are coming in nicely. Sorry, but I don't have any beta on alpine routes. I'll ask around this week and see what I can come up with.
Cheers, Ed Crothers Co-Director, Colorado Mountain School
Three weeks ago friends and I climbed a mixed alpine route in Chaos Canyon. We don't know the name of the line and haven't found it in any guide books but it's pretty obvious. It's just to the right of the Chaotic Glacier and follows a line from the top of the snow on the lower right of the Chaotic snow field. It starts in the middle of three dihedrals and goes about 150ft slanting slightly right. We rated the pitch at M3 AI3 and a little 5.5. There wasn't a lot of ice but enough to get some mixed and full ice work but I could never get a screw all the way in and ended up mostly using rock pro. After the first pitch it was a nice steep snow line angling back to the left with only a few rock steps to an upper snow field shaped like a funnel that topped out on the divide. The ice could have been better but the route was fantastic. Anybody know what we climbed?
This just in from Kelly Cordes: Howdy Mal, sorry I don't have much to report, at least not much good stuff. Went for a run in Moraine Park before this recent snow, and Jaws and related smears were totally dry. Hopefully that'll change soon. I hear there's some ice on the Crypt, and friends climbed All Mixed Up yesterday - but said it's getting sublimated, rotten and thin. Bummer. Jack Roberts did something nearby, to the right, recently. No details, will let you know if it was good or just a nasty grovel. Twice this week I optimistically took my tools for a walk. In the Emerald Lake area (Squid, etc), there's nothing. Ice on some boulders, but nothing on the routes. Very cold and dry. Saw some ice yesterday above Black Lake (long hike for a little ice), but aside from AMU, that's about it. Butt cold up high in the park, no water flowing at all. Snow conditions are typically horrendous there now, too. Set off lots of "whoomps" on my stroll, and my roommate (who is an avalanche forecaster) backed off of some skiing up around Sky Pond, too dangerous. Bummer news. Will keep you informed of other stuff. Cheers, Kelly
This just in from Ed Crothers: Conditions in RMNP continue to be OK at best. Both Hidden Falls and Loch Vale are in but suffer from the lack of mositure during the fall and having been hacked up by numerous climbers. All Mixed Up has seen traffic during the past week. The crux is starting the second pitch. The avalanche danger at the top of the fourth pitch was low last week, but that can easily change at any time. West Gully and Black Lake Slabs are still fat. Several gullies on Thatchtop in the vicinity of Deep Freeze have come in. The approach is tedious and the routes are short and mostly in the WI 2 to 3+ range. Last I heard, Alexander's Chimney is much more of a rock climb than ice climb. I have no information on the Grace Falls area.
Just back from snowshoeing around Bear Lake. Couldn't go anywhere interesting as avalanche conditions were pretty bad. Lots of wind loading of the new snow, shooting cracks, whumping and mini-slides set off on even moderate slopes approaching Dream Lake. :PBrad Hill
Lots of new snow in the Longs Peak area. Did first two pitches of Fields. Jon, if the screws from top of Smear of Fear are yours, we have them. Give us a description and a way to contact you and we'll get them back to you.
Went up to do Alexander's Chimney on Saturday, 11/2. Too many people and lots of snow (and we were the idiots with no snowshoes!), so we bailed at Chasm Lake after realizing we would be stuck behind a group of 3 on the route. But, the area looks great! Smear of Fear is HUGE this year, and assuming Alexander's and the others are the same. Peacock Lake climbs looked great as well. Snow is deep, but well packed to Chasm Lake. From there it is deep, and Lamb's Slide would probably be sketchy at best. Be careful!!!
Lots of fresh snow - high avalanche hazard. Smear of Fear and others look BIG & GOOD!
That last comment about a 70m rope is in reference to climbing up half your rope and then getting lowered like a sport climber. Which is ok. However, 50m or 60m ropes are fine if you climb and belay from above or rap with a tag/second line. 70m ropes are not at all required on a 30-ish meter route and are limited in their necessity.
Also, though some folks may inflict heavy damage on TR, many do less damage as they don't have to drive their tools as much when all you get is a bit of rope stretch if you come off. Having been on this route, I'd do far more damage to the ice if on lead. Also, you get to climb the route in leaner years.
In ref. to anon. coward post on 10.28. Those screws at the top of Smear belong to my friend, Ed. Leave a phone number where you can be contacted and I'll put him in touch with you. Was there also a daisy chain and maybe some gear down lower? You can respond to email@example.com.
Rob, I would agree with the previous poster in estimating that a top roper can afford to climb much more delicately, and therefore inflict much less impact to a climb.Of course this is comparing climbers of more or less equal ability and not including someone climbing completely over their head, in which case I agree with your previous statement that it may be better to at least wait until you know that you will be able to climb the route in good style, lead OR tr.....-Mark Pilate
If you want a good solo to do "like in Alps" do the Ames Ice Hose near Telluride, I've done a solo ascent of this one, it is the most "Alpine" type route in Colorado, the less ice the better. If you want to do an enchainment, Rigid Designator, The Fang and Secret Probation are all in condition at Vail, try climbing all of them solo in one go, I've solo climbed all three, though not all at once. If the ice climbing in Colorado is too easy for you, look at Rich Purnell's web-site m9ice.com, he has descriptions of his routes up to M10, some of them like Somnambulist, Lucky and Pitch Black are unrepeated, "sans draggonnes" or otherwise. You can get in touch with Rich or I (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like us to show you around these routes. I'm always looking for people to climb with, Rich is always keen on having other climbers try his routes, "try" being the operative word here.
Black Lake / Mills Lake area of RMNP. Report from 1 Feb. 03. Walked into Black Lake -- snowshoes recommended for last mile, but easy 5 mile walk. Left at 7:15 returned at 6:30. (Leave earlier if you don't like headlamp walking.)
From south end of Mills Lake to near Black Lake saw many smallish, new ice smears, curtains, and flows. Some of it was nice and fat. Probably WI3 and up. My partner had been here 3x prior and had not ever seen so much ice. We think the low snow has exposed some seldom seen routes. All Mixed up and nearby cliffs looked very good.
Black Lake proper: West Gully and nearby flows are in very nice. We climbed the east side WI2-3 for 4 pitches. It is wide enough for two *polite* parties to be on the flow at the same time. Ice was variable but mostly good, pro good. The lower angle flow left of this was in super big and makes a nice but shorter option if the route is occupied.
Hate to say this, but this is the fattest Black Lake has been in for many years, please don't be a jerk about access or route sharing. There is enough to go around. PS: there may be some avalanche danger on the West Gully descent, consider walking all the way to the east side gully to descend.
Snowshoed into Loch Vale this morning after a cold bivy last night. The whole area appears pretty thin with brittle conditions. We ran into one other party who had set a TR to do laps on a 15-20' section that starts out mixed (read ice doesn't reach ground). We didn't even bother to gear up. Probably not worth the hike in until we get some thawing and the flows get a bit bigger unless you enjoy post-holin' up to do mostly dry toolin'. If you do, be careful of the thigh-breaking sink holes on the last 200 ft. of the approach around the boulders. Peace.
WI6+R...? When is WI6+ not runout, is it necessary to claim R on ice pitches of ratings WI6+ on up? would it not be considered WI5+ if (good? if any) gear placements were obtained, thus eliminating the R factor?
Lots of new snow in [Odessa] today, and blowing quite strong. [Notchtop] seemed fairly loaded. [Odessa Wall] not touching, [Grace] is meager and [Guide's Wall] is thin. some interesting scratching possibly, but the howl kept us mellow. a week ago we found that [Mount Lady Washington] was poorly bonded to the rock in the hot sun. rock seemed better bonded to itself and made for interesting adventures.any one been up this week? any better? Watch for top layer wind slabs tommorrow.....
Anyone ever done any ice along the Fall River Rd past the gate? There are at least 3 lines up there. 1 across the valley, big, wide, blue, blue, blue - looks at least a rope length. 2 are a short way (0.5-0.75mi) past the falls on the sunny side up a couple drainages. Steep in parts. May go to the ridge? Currently a bit rotted out. Short of the spires on Chapin? Spied them skiing up the road. Deb
I am planning a trip to RMNP over Thanksgiving weekend. I would like to do alpine routes in the Long's/ Meeker area - Dreamweaver, Darkstar, Notch, Alexanders'....) would these be possible to climb in the end of November, avi and all? Is their even ice left on these routes this late? I know and understand the whole changing conditions thing, I was wondering more about if these routes are climbed at all this late in the fall? Not knowing much local bata, all info would be great. thanks Jon from Wisconsin
Alexander's is usually very reliable in November, and is probably one of, if not, the most reliable ice/mixed route up there. Dreamweaver and Darkstar could be just snow grovels by then. These are usually best in the springtime, but you could be pleasantly surprised. Definitely come up and climb - plenty to do regardless. Notch, Kiener's, Stettner's, The Loft, etc. I have even climbed Alexander's when it was very lean (only about a 4" wide dribble of ice over the first pitch), and it was still very fun.