Towering over Sky Pond, just right of the Petit Grepon, is a massive spire named after its first route, "The Saber." Though most parties bypass it in favor of The Petit, it's truly an inspiring sight, taller and steeper than it's more famous neighbor. Layton Kor put up it's namesake Route in 1962, calling it 5.8. But don't be fooled - every pitch will feel a number grade harder, and it'll make the Petit's equally rated "South Face" route feel like a walk in the park. No need to worry about crowds either, thanks to the Petit. I'm willing to bet that even its two classics (The Kor Route and the Southwest Corner) have rarely been climbed more than once on the same day.
Descent: You can either climb all the way to the summit (which involves a lot of 4th and easy 5th class ups and downs) and down the back side into The Gash (may require some easy 5th class downclimbing). Once on the talus slope, you can either head down towards the Andrews Glacier trail and back out to the trail you came in on, or traverse east beneath a few smaller spires and descend the gully marked with a cairn, which, after one short rappel puts you back near Sky Pond. The other option is to do the rappel route which starts at the beginning of the summit ridge and which heads down the east face and eventually into the gully on the east side of the formation. It's a good and fairly straightforward route, and from what I remember, most or all of the anchors are slings around blocks or constrictions (except for possibly a couple that are bolted near the bottom) and are set up for double 50 meter ropes. There may also be intermediate slings put in place by retreating climbers who only had one rope.
From the Glacier Gorge parking lot, head up the trail to Sky Pond (about 3 1/2 miles) and scramble up the talus to the base. If you find yourself at a rock that looks like the Eiffel tower with crowds of people on it, you've gone too far.
The Southwest Corner goes up the obvious, sharp arete/corner on the Saber, and runs parallel to the South Face route on the Petit Grepon. Follow the approach for the Petit, and start about 100 yards right of the South Face route. There are actually a lot of different ways you could start the route, so, just pick a decent looking line, and aim for a big ledge about (at least) 400 feet up. The guide book calls this section fifth class, I dont know about that, but, it's easy enough that you can mos...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
We did the rap route from the top of the "South Buttress" (beginning of the summit ridge), and what we found for the first anchor was very disturbing: it looked like a deliberate death trap, or at the very least someone's idea of a bad joke. Slings were somewhat loosely arranged around a horn, which upon further inspection proved to be completely detached from the rock, and the back-up sling, which went up and out of sight from this, was attached to...nothing at all. Had I clipped into and weighted this anchor, it would have failed instantly and I would have fallen about 80 feet. Disturbing, to say the least.
We rearranged these slings around a different horn and hopefully that's where they'll stay. The rest of the raps are all off of slings around horns and constrictions, and seemed solid--no problems pulling the rope, not too much loose stuff, etc. 2 ropes are mandatory--we only saw one intermediate anchor.
The first rap anchor at the top of the first summit (= south buttress = spire proper) has now been refurbished. It *was* 2 stoppers set within 2 inches of eachother in the same piece of rock clipped with a single bent-gate biner on them. This is where the book topos show slings. I put a new sling around the summit and fixed this to the stoppers and put on a new 3/8" Mallion Rapide (8,800 lb.-tested). This is now a better anchor, but was limited by what I had on me for replacement. This first rap is ~110' to a good anchor. (Est. we used a 70m, which had length to spare.) The second rap is ~100 to a 'not so comforting' anchor. (Est. w/70m) The third rap is ~150' over the edge into space and down to a ledge... The next two raps can be combined with 60 or 70m ropes, skipping a not-so-inspiring anchor at the end of the gully with loose rocks to pull down when you pull your rope- so stay on the E-facing wall and skip the one at the back of the gully with the long 'leash' on it. After that, you rap to the ground on double ropes again.
A few notes on this, particularly for the descent: #1) Someone rearranged the infamous top anchor since I did in May. They have added some cord on a second pinnacle and bound this to the sling I put on the summit. While this is probably stronger than I left it, they removed the good fixed stopper on the right (BD #8 or 9). This anchor still needs a little more work. The two slings are presently joined with a third sling which is rapped from. There are single points of failure in this that could still produce "very exciting" results, or in the case of the adjoining sling, deadly ones. I was fine rapping off of it, but it does stand in harsh conditions and will erode with time, a finite amount of time. The stopper should be replaced and tied into the anchor and/or the slings should be made redundant, particularly the low one from which the link is hanging. Perhaps someone that knows this anchor can suggest an even better alternative. Backing uo the main sling placed would require ~30' of webbing. Sorry I did not do this- I feel like I am asking for something I was not willing to do myself. Actually we took the gear to do it, (small wired hexes and some webbing) but a storm was coming in and speed was our most immediate concern.
#2) The suggestion I made about avoiding a particular rap was a darn good one. After getting my rope stuck TWICE trying to pull from the station I said was a bad idea this time, I cursed the darn thing for hours. There is a natural "notch" for the rope to slip into that is a total locker. We eventually pull rope from the far end of the ledge, out to the East end on the chockstone rap. This was after climbing back up and untwisting the junk that popped into it as it rolled into the notch. Read the first set of notes and follow them.
Climbed the Southwest Corner yesterday and it was AWESOME!!! Ended up doing the last two 9 pitches of Southeast corner because we were a little far right at the belay but it was such a great route. Highly recommend simul climbing to the main belay ledge (350 - 400~) where both Kor route and SW start.
Rap the east face / gully with double ropes. 5 raps in all if I remember correctly. Despite what I read about the raps on this site, we both thought the raps were all good, comfy ledges (one was so-so), easy to find, and plenty strong.
12 hours car to car. I feel pretty good about that! Yeah summertime in the Park!!!
The rap route now goes with a single 70m. We added 1 station, all but 1 are obvious. The inobvious station is the last rap. Instead of using the obvious anchor off the overhanging chock stone...look off to skier's left, there's another rap off a chockstone.
Tony B's rap instructions are dead on. On 7-18-2010 added a secondary biner to the single quicklink on raps 2 and 3. All rap stations mentioned in the above instructions now have either 2 quicklinks, biners, rings or combination of the above.
As J. Thompson mentions, the rap route now goes with a single 70m. If you're using double 60s, Tony B's 2006 description is still accurate, but the 3rd rap (150' over the edge into space and down to a ledge) now has an intermediate rap station. Something to be aware of if you're counting rap stations and trying to follow Tony's description.
It's not hard to arrange the ropes so they don't run through the rope-eating notch that Tony mentions. This is at station #5 (Tony's original count) or #6 if you count the new rap station mentioned above.
As of June 2012, all rap stations are in good shape with fresh slings/cords and good rings or 'biners.
The third anchor is still less than comforting given what it is attached to (large, wedged block whose stability is hard to judge), but I could not find any obvious way to improve/replace it. I for one would not have any problem with a pair of bolts on the nice solid rock 30 feet or so below this one and right at the edge of the drop....
Also, one minor correction to Tony's rap instructions:
the second rap is also ~110', i.e. if you have double 60s, you'll need to use both ropes all the way down.
Finally, the last two raps are very long. Only a couple to a few feet to spare on our 60m doubles.