Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) needs little introduction as one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Consequentially it has some of the most beautiful climbing in the U.S. The routes here are long, (grade III to V), committing, usually have some sections of loose rock, require a lengthy hike in, require some knowledge of snow travel, and are absolutely spectacular. In short, you need to be a competent climber to safely enjoy this area.
Climbing in the park is a complex endeavor that requires being able to analyze many different objective hazards, all while sucking air at 12-14000 feet. These hazards include loose rock, bad weather, bad pro, etc. all of which are magnified in this alpine setting. A first-time climber in the park should feel competent at leading trad at the very least a grade harder; probably two or three than the climb they wish to tackle. One should have a good deal experience on multi-pitch climbs, and one should feel in shape enough to hike five miles uphill in the dark and then climb a thousand-foot face.
All this said, the climbs are magnificent and unforgettable. Some good introductory routes would include the North Ridge of Spearhead (5.6), the Northeast Ridge on Sharkstooth (5.6), or even the East Gully on Sharkstooth (5.4 and NOT a chosspile, a really good climb). A step up from these routes would include the South Face of the Petit Grepon (5.8, with a time-consuming descent), the magnificent Culp-Bossier on Hallett (5.8+, runout 5.7). Climbing in the park really starts to open up in the 5.9 and 5.10 range. In the 5.9 range, Syke's Sickle (9+++, (7s)), the steep Hesse-Ferguson on Hallett (5.9 with low dihedral variation is in my opinion the best route on Hallett), and the Direct South Ridge of Notchtop (9) all offer spectacular and incomparable climbing.
In the 5.10 range you can't beat the Casual Route on Long's (10a), but there are other stellar 10s in the park. Chasm View Wall offers some spicy routes, and Spearhead has a couple classic 10s (The Barb and Age Axe?) with The Barb having a reputation as an "easy" 10. The Yellow Wall on the Diamond is 10c if done with the Forrest Finish variation, and is possibly the most spectacular route I have ever done. Pervertical Sanctuary (10+) is also apparently totally classic.
I have yet to venture into 5.11 and 5.12 range in the park, but two routes come to mind as totally classic, these are D7 on the Diamond (11c) and Birds of Fire on Chiefshead (11a). There are tons of other routes in the park, some suck, others are hidden gems. Exploring the more obscure routes is part of the fun of park climbing.
Take US 36 north to Lyons. From Lyons, follow US Highway 36 to Estes Park. From Estes Park, take CO Highway 7 south to get to the Long's Peak trailhead or Wild Basin, or head directly into the park [US 36 and then left on the Bear Lake Rd.] to get to the Glacier Gorge area and the Bear Lake area.
Bypassing waiting in 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!
Cowboys and Indians is the most popular, and perhaps finest, route on the NE Face of Chiefshead. At 11 or so pitches, it is one of the longest routes in RMNP. On the right side of the wall, and just left of obvious terraces, find a thin finger crack (5.10d) leading to 3 bolts which protect 5.10 climbing. Belay on a ledge below an imposing, left trending roof.Undercling the roof left (strenuous) to a stance out left (optional belay) and continue up an easier left facing corner. If you skip th...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
I remember reading in Dumais' ole guide to the RMNP high country how Yvon Chouinard had described the Petit as "one of the more amazing positions" he had been in. If it's okay for Yvon, it's okay for me; one of the best moderates I've ever done.
Along with the usual dangers of Alpine climbing,(weather ,altitude ,lightning, rockfall) make sure you include marmots !! My first bad encounter was with one at Chasm Meadows 30 yrs. ago. I'd gotten a long ways ahead of my partner on the descent from the Loft so I decided to take a nap in the sun and grass using my pack as a pillow. My nap got interupted when my head hit the ground after a marmot pulled my pack out from under me! That was 30 yrs. ago and they've gotten a lot smarter in the mean time. EVERY major backcountry cliff especially Long's/Meeker, Spearhead, The Petit, and Notchtop are home to roving hordes of outlaw marmots. You might laugh but it's a real bummmer after wasting yourself on a climb to get back to your pack/bivy and find EVERYTHING eaten or torn to shreds. I string my gear up as if I was in bear country with a piece of cord thrown over any overhanging boulder to get my stuff up of the ground and out of their reach. Be carefull out there!
Who is this mysterious Pat "Hook" Vernon you ask? And what is the location of his standard-shattering testpiece the "Pathook"? Why, that is one of the best kept secrets in RMNP and Sheffield, never to be revealed!
The marmots are just as bad in the Chicago Basin in the San Juans beneath Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus. When I was there a few years ago in June, there was only one other guy and a marmot ate through his Bibler and thermarest while he was climbing. He didn't have a scrap of food in the tent either. On his advice, we hung everything like you would for bears, but they still got to some things. It makes you mad that you have to take down your tent and hang everything at the crack of dawn before you go out to climb...
The area around Mummy Pass (just inside th RMNP boundary), has an abundance of unclimbed boulders, some of which will easiy go V6 or 7. The Mummy Pass trail is off Pingree road near Rustic on hwy 14. If you don't mind a long hike (7mi), and a little altitude 11,500 ft, you will find piles of quality rock. Prepare for cool nights when camping, often below 49F even in summer.
By Brad Short From: Saudia Aurora, CO Apr 18, 2003
Per the RMNP website: Bear Lake Road Construction
A two-year road reconstruction project on the Bear Lake Road will begin in the spring of 2003. Beginning on May 1, 2003, the road from Sprague Lake to Bear Lake will be accessible by shuttle bus only. Buses will begin running May 1st and will operate through October 31st. The shuttle bus route for this section of Bear Lake Road will run daily every 30 minutes from 5:00am to 10:00pm. The construction will recommence May 1, 2004, and will conclude, weather permitting, October 31, 2004. Again, during this time the road beyond Sprague Lake will be shuttle access only.
Winter travel from November 1, 2003, through april 30, 2004, will be allowed for private vehicles to Bear Lake. The road surface will be gravel. The Sprague Lake road will be closed during the winter of 2003 - 2004 for bridge construction.
For questions, call the park information office at 970-586-1206.
To update Brad's comment above regarding the Bear Lake Road construction, the road will now be closed to private vehicles starting June 1, 2003 (rather than May 1, 2003). See the link below for more info:
Attention Long's Peak enthusiasts!!! 2 years ago, in what some call a foolish effort, but my friend, Stuart, and I call an epic rock climbing experience, we attempted the Casual Route of Long's Peak's Diamond on August 21st, 2001. Upon incliment weather we retreated on the final pitch of this impressive line. I being 15 years old at the time, and he 16, we believe we are among, if not, THE youngest combined age to attempt and nearly complete the East Face. We would appreciate anyone with information concerning the validity of our statement, or else some record should be made and massive bragging rights are rightfully ours. If you have any questions, or think we're full of it, please contact myself, Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org__ or Stuart at email@example.com__
Two young people did it a long time ago, maybe 1996? I cant remember they were both sixteen, ones name was Austin. Nice going, get back up there and complete it. Oh yeah Tommy caldwell did it really young too, I cant remember but I think it was something crazy like 8?
Latest update from the Park service (as of 5/12) is construction will begin sometime in the second or third week of June. The road will stay open until then. They said the construction may start rather abruptly, so be aware the road may close quickly. Once construction begins, the road will be closed from Sprague Lake to ALL personal travel (no bikes in construction zone). The shuttle bus will run from 5am-10pm, every 30 minutes. It will run all the way to the Bear Lake parking lot, stopping at all the currently designated spots (including Glacier Gorge Junction, don't know about future plans for this lot...).
The rangers are concerned about people that miss the last bus, but will not have any other transportation after 10pm - you'll be hiking if you miss that last bus. It's ~4mi. back to the parking lot at Sprague Lk.
There's tons of snow in the Park right now; NW face of Cheifshead had ice/snow plastering the top 1/3 on Sunday. Snow coverage on the peaks is impressive. Potential for lots of ice if we get the right freeze/thaw going.
RMNP - Bouldering problem called 'Get Over It,' I heard about it through a friend but have been unable to find??? I suppose since it is a "newer" bouldering problem few have yet to hear of it, but if anyone has any information on it's whereabouts please e-mail me! Thanks! Care :) OoOooMilieuooOoO@aol.com
Bernard Gillet's guide is far superior to Rossiter's.Rossiter's topos look like they were drawn by a two year old, and I find them confusing.I have never seen a more precise and clearly drawn topo as Bernard's.Only problem is, in his Lumpy book , there's all these pictures of Chris Hill.
I disagree with Justin. I find Rossiter's topos to be better than anyones. They're very detailed and usually quite accurate. Bernard's are pretty good, but more basic, with not as much detail of surrounding features. Both Guidebooks are worth owning, IMO. Bernards descriptions coupled with Rossiter's topos would make an ideal guidebook. Compare either of these to Don Reid's Yosemite guidebook and you'll realize that we've got it pretty good.
As far as High Peaks vs. Crag Areas, it depends on what areas you're more interested in.
For guidebooks, both are pretty darn good - it's pretty much a matter of personal preference. Check 'em both out at a bookstore and buy the one you like best (or both). I agree with Scott, Rossiter's topos are excellent while Gillett's guide has more routes and is more up-to-date. The topos in the first edition of Gillett were really poor, but he has improved them a lot in the current version (he removed the cartoons, though, this is a major minus!). The "Crags" guides I'm not so familiar with, but I believe they do not cover exactly the same areas. There are a bunch of obscure areas in the Gillett crags guide that are not in the Rossiter crag guide. They both cover Lumpy but if you want to go to any of these obscure areas this may matter to you.
The first RMNP guide I bought was by Richard DuMais. This was a very minimalist guide with no topos at all. So rejoice in the guidebook glut, either of the latest versions is a lot better than that.
Can anyone provide me with the current conditions on the lower east face of Longs? (Kor route/ Stettners) I'm hoping to get up there soon, and wondering what mills glacier and upper kieners are like these days, and if the lower east face is still seeing much runoff.Thanks in advance!
I was wondering where some snow was in the front range for skiing. The San Juans are getting a little thin by now. I am hoping to ski some lines this next week somewhere. If anyone has any information it would be appreciated as I haven't been North for a few months. (quality lines are a plus, but July is a tough month to be picky!)Thanks, Scott
I'm looking for any information that anyone has on the Pfiffner Traverse, which is an 80+ mile traverse of the continental divide from Berthoud Pass to Milner Pass. Roach took 16 days to do this and I heard about someone doing it in under 24 hours. That's a big difference. Any beta would be much appreciated.
Dana Ernst, The Pfiffner traverse is roughly from Longs Peak to Arapahoe Peak, but it could be longer like Gerry Roach's version. It is very hard to carry a pack on some of it. Yesterday I traversed from Longs to Pagoda and descended the West Ridge of Pagoda and headed toward Chiefshead, I only had a short piece of rope (60 feet) and used it once for a short rappel on the west ridge. The west ridge of Pagoda is the only 5th class climbing that I know of that isn't on a north ridge and it may contain the hardest climbing, although there are sections I haven't done but I don't think they are difficult. The north ridge of Paiute is also difficult and it isn't written upin Roach's books. We did a rappel there also but I think it could be avoided by stayinglower on the west side of the ridge going toward the big notch. The climbing beyond the big notch is easy enjoyable 5th class climbing. Travelling southward makes sense for the whole traverse except for the west ridge of Pagoda. Gerry Roach's books cover almost all of the terrain.
The first guide book to RMNP was not written by Dick DuMais. Walter Fricke wrote and published A CLIMBER'S GUIDE TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK AREA in 1971. The book covered features in the Estes Park valley, to include The Crags and Lumpy Ridge, as well as the High Peaks. The book contained textual descriptions as well as some excellent black and white photographs. The book was humorously nicknamed "Fricke's Follies," and has been out of print since the mid-1970s.
Hi, My name is Grant Ortman. I was just posting to see if anyone will be climbing on Spearhead in the next few days. Today, Aug 21st, myself and a partner had to bail off The Barb because of shitty weather. I'm basically looking to see if someone is doing this route in the [coming] days if they could pluck the gear. We only had one rope so its kind of spread everywhere. Anyway [I can't] get up there until [Friday] so if someone could pluck the gear that would kick ass. I'm willing to give you one of the cams I left if anyone could contact me with the goods. So, if anyone out there plucks my gear and wants to earn karma points along with a free cam give me a call at 970-222-6469 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers grant
Here's a link to the Long's Peak "web cam". 'Word on the street, however, is that it is truly a Long's Peak JPG, and infrequently updated. This is to say it's not too useful in its current incarnation/state of upkeep. Here it is, anyway: mms.nps.gov/romo/netcam.jpg
Pfiffner Traverse - LA Freeway. I just saw the query/post from '03. I did Long's Peak to Arapaho, all on the divide, on July 8 & 9, 2002. I named it the "LA Freeway". ("Longs" to "Arapaho", and because it's not much of a freeway; there's some stout sections in there). I did it fairly casually, 16 hrs both days, car - car. Very highly recommended.
9th Annual Lumpy Trails Day at Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado. The Front Range Section of the American Alpine Club will be hosting a trail improvement day at Lumpy Ridge in Estes Park, Colorado. This project is in conjunction with the Access Fund ‘Adopt-A-Crag’ program. A full day is scheduled on Sunday, October 18th. Interested persons should register early by emailing event organizer Greg Sievers at email@example.com, or calling 970-586-4075. Only those registered will receive a free lunch at the work site and T-shirt. The group will meet at 7:30am at the Estes Park Town Hall parking lot on MacGregor Ave (downtown next to the Police Dept. and behind the library) where coffee and donuts will be provided. National park staff will supply tools and transportation to the trailhead. Volunteers should bring gloves, plenty of water, dress appropriately and are encouraged to stay for the full day (but part day help is very welcome). All volunteers in attendance at 4pm will be eligible for gifts and raffle items that are sure to please and thrill. A good turnout will prove that ‘climbers’ are good stewards of the land and considerate users but also proactive about our interaction with one of this countries largest land management agencies. This year’s goals include work on the badly eroded “Sundance Buttress” approach trail. In 2005 this event won the Access Fund’s “Adopt-a-Crag of the year award”. Be part of this energetic proactive event and the beauty of splitter Lumpy granite.
I climbed the Southwest Corner with my brother a couple years back. It was my first time in the park climbing. We had a great time. Remember get there early the routes get stacked with climbers in mid am. You may not get a chance on a route if you get there after 12 noon.
Obviously it depends on how big of a snow year it was, but how are the routes in the park around Memorial Day weekend? Trying to plan a trip and were in between sweating to death in Zion or needing crampons and axes in the park...advice?
South facing routes could be good. Diamond won't be in by most people's standards. A major late spring snowstorm is always a possibility at this time too. Great climbing on nearby Lumpy Ridge if there's too much snow in the Park, though.
Sounds like you may be looking for long adventure routes...consider the Black Canyon, which is usually about perfect in late May. Possibly a tad warm, but much less so than Zion.
Either looking for a ton of aid and walls or long, awesome, alpine free climbs...The Diamond would be on the list along with a few others, so I may need to bump our trip back a little to get us a better chance of nice weather.... Thanks, CV!
By Leo Paik Administrator From: Westminster, Colorado Aug 23, 2013
From Kelly Cordes:
I live in Estes Park and was thinking about my weekend plans and had forgotten about the road closures up here on Saturday for the pro bicycling race. I glanced at a few links and maps, and on the NPS RMNP page it mentioned that Lumpy Ridge and RMNP access will be shut down most of the day. Climbers will probably want to know this. in looking at the map, I think that access to the Monastery will probably be closed or limited as well. Basically, all kinds of stuff around the Estes Valley seems like it'll be a mess on Saturday.
I tuned out after looking at it a little bit, and figure I'll just stay home and work Saturday anyway -- I'm buried in deadlines. So, I don't know a lot about it, but your site's viewers might find it useful.
Figured I'd email you and let you know, in case you wanted to announce it under "climbing news" or something. Or would the forum be a better place for it? I'm swamped right now and thus kinda didn't want to hassle with posting in the forums, and then dealing with questions (and accusations and insults, ha! can't imagine it, though it is a web forum, and it seems it takes about one page before the name calling begins :) ) or anything that follows -- I don't know anything more than what I quickly perused online, just figured that people would want to know about it.
If it's best for me to just post it in the forum, though, I can do that. I'll just copy-paste this.