This is the easiest route to the classic summit of Lone Eagle and in reverse is also the descent from any route summiting Lone Eagle (including Solo Flight itself). While "only" 4th class, it is very exposed and features devious route finding on terrain that quickly exceeds 4th class if a wrong turn is taken, which can easily happen despite the numerous cairns en-route, especially when climbing the route for the first time in reverse after an ascent of the N. Face route. I won't say anything else about that other than if going in reverse, look in every direction for the next cairn, and don't misinterpret a random pile of rocks!! I excerpt here almost verbatim (differences in 's) from Gerry Roach's description of Solo Flight, from the 1989 Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Guide. The differences are mostly because it seems to me that some of the directions were off. Also because if you try to follow directions too carefully on this climb, you have to enjoy being totally confused, so I'm trying to confuse you even more (e.g. just follow your nose).
From the northeast side of Crater Lake, climb southeast to a point just below the north face of Lone Eagle. Continue climbing southeast and stay below the cliffs of Lone Eagle's northeast face. The easiest going is actually right under the cliffs, and you may find some wonderful flower displays at the base of the rocks. It is also reasonable to hike across talus some distance below the cliffs.
Stay below the cliffs and continue south to a point where you can look down on Triangle Lake. It is 0.5 miles from the base of the north face to this point. It is not necessary to go to Triangle Lake, only to see it. The cliffs of Lone Eagle finally start to relent and the route ascends southwest up a ramp bordered on its north side by a dwindling cliff band. Look sharp for a good place to leave the ramp and climb northwest (right) up through this cliff band. There are at least three places to ascend this cliff band with 50 feet of Class 3 climbing. Some cairns mark the upper two places.
Once you are above the dwindling cliff band, traverse north on a broad ramp. You are finally headed toward the summit instead of away from it! After 200 yards of traversing, do an ascending traverse northwest up broken ledges to a pair of small notches in the convoluted ridge. This ascending traverse follows the path of least resistance and involves an occasional Class 3 move. The two notches are [along a spur from the north-south ridge].
The view north from the [south-east] notch can be disheartening at first, but at least you can finally see the summit. It is 250 yards north and below you. The summit is not the highest point on the ridge, but it is the farthest north. Climb [south] through the [south-east] notch and descend 20 feet on the [south-west] side of the ridge (Class 3). Turn [north-west] (right) and climb 30 feet into another notch with a curious chockstone in it (Class 3).
From here on the route is exposed and more serious. There is a steep gully descending north from the notch with the chockstone in it. Get on the west side of this gully, traverse north and descend slightly to a series of easy ledges 100 feet north of the notch (Class 3). There are at least two ways to accomplish this maneuver. These ledges are on the east side of the ridge running north toward the summit.
Traverse north 100 yards on the ledges (Class 3). When the ledges bump into cliffs, descend 70 feet east down a south-angling Class 4 pitch to a lower series of ledges. This pitch is the crux of the route and can be downclimbed or rappelled. If desired, a rope can be left in place on this pitch to aid the return trip.
Traverse north 200 feet on the lower series of ledges (Class 3) and engage the single closed contour of the summit. Ascend 60 feet northwest across the east side of the summit ridge to the summit (Class 4). The job isn't complete until you tiptoe north 30 feet on the narrow ridge to the most spectacular point.
This is a complicated route, but take heart. It follows the path of least resistance, consists mostly of easy Class 3 scrambling, is festooned with cairns and, most important of all, leads to an incredible summit.
Located in Lone Eagle cirque, above Crater Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Approach from the East via Pawnee Pass (park at Long Lake TH, 9.25 miles), or from the West from the Monarch Lake TH (7.8 miles). Easier from the West than from the East, but we did it from the East and this was nice too. Camping permits easily obtainable for $5 at the Forest Service office in N. Boulder or elsewhere. Camp either around Crater Lake, or, possibly better, above Mirror Lake. Regular folks like me will probably hike in, camp, climb, camp, hike out (e.g. 3 days), but some people do it in a day - you know who you are.
4th class sections take pro if needed, as do off-route 5th class variations. No fixed anchors.
BETA PHOTO: The final boulderfield descent. Triangle Lake appe...
BETA PHOTO: The top of the shaded buttress facing back. Lone E...
BETA PHOTO: Looking back along the ridge, notice the shaded bu...
BETA PHOTO: Ridge north to Lone Eagle, from the first notch. ...
By Chris O'Connor
From: boulder, co
Sep 11, 2006
I found the route finding to be very devious, while descending after climbing the North Face route.
By T Creighton
Aug 29, 2009
Here is some additional advice for those descending Solo Flight without having climbed it. See the accompanying photo. Going north from the summit, you go for a few yards on a 2-foot wide “catwalk” section of the ridge-top. At the end of this section, start descending the east side of the ridge, continuing north, but descending as much as practicable. You will get to horizontal ledge, which may have cairns, and is distinguished by a large rock with a fairly narrow passage behind it. Follow this south. As it ends, climb upwards until you get to a lower-angle sort of amphitheater with grassy ledges below it. (Looking back, it appears that you might be able to traverse more directly to these ledges – see alternative route in photo.) From here, continue to traverse, following a small, somewhat improbable-looking ledge around the rock buttress to more distinct ledges that take you into the gully. Climb the gully, go under the chockstone at its top, and traverse around the west side of the ridge, then back east to a notch that gives you a view down to Triangle Lake. The rest of the descent is straightforward.
From: Fort Collins, CO
Sep 6, 2010
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Hiked from Monarch Lake Trailhead to Crater Lake campground in just less than 3hrs, and was pretty exhausted. I bivvied at Crater Lake, and began the approach at 6:45am. In my opinion, the "crux" of this route was hiking up the scree field. Whether it was the hike from the day before, the altitude, or the slope, I was huffing.
I left my bivy at 6:45am. The description is right on, hike until you see Triangle Lake, which may seem like you've gone too far. The approach up to the ramp is obvious. There are easily visible cairns, but using your best judgment will probably work, too. Once you gain the ramp, it's more steep hiking to "the double notches" as mentioned in the description. They are the obvious destination at the end of the ramp, and, again, the way is well-marked with cairns.
From here, you can see the summit, and the view is "disheartening"- or "inspiring". No worries, the final scramble isn't nearly as bad as it seems. Continue to follow the cairns and the description.
I lead 5.8 trad, so I'm not the greatest technical climber, but I do have experience. The "crux" down climb was nothing to worry about in my opinion, and bringing a rope would be a waste of weight. I was able to traverse down some broken ledges. There were a few exposed 4th class moves, but nothing I ever felt unsafe doing.
Once you get to the lower ledges, just pick the most obvious and easiest scrambling route to the summit. The register could use a little TLC to anyone who might climb this - if you could bring up a pen and a few spare note pages, it would really help. Would've done it myself if I would have known.
Goes as far north on the summit as you dare, enjoying the huge exposure and awesome view. I arrived at the summit before 9am (2hrs 15min from leaving my bivy). Go down the same way as you came up. (Arrived back at bivy at 10am, i.e., 1 hour descent).
In my humble opinion, the physical endurance was the most difficult part of this climb. The scramble itself was not difficult, and, while I did consult the description and my topo often, the route follows the exact description outlined by mountainproject, not to mention the numerous cairns en route. While there are a few exposed moves, for any experienced climber it should be no trouble. I brought my chalk and climbing shoes, but never took them from my bag. The summit is beautiful, even if it isn't really a summit. Enjoy.