GPS: 40.292, -105.67 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Peter Holcombe on Jun 4, 2002 with updates from Ken Duncan
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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Zowie is the towering fin of rock seen while approaching/descending from Sharkstooth. It is an impressive sight. It's very similar looking to the Petit Grepon, just smaller. It is a pinnacle eroded from Otis Peak.

Getting There

Park at Glacier Gorge Junction one mile before the Bear Lake parking lot. Take the trail to Alberta Falls, and keep going. Hike past The Loch for a mile, cross a footbridge and go right heading up towards Andrews Glacier. Once you start to leave the trees, start looking to the right and you'll see the tower. Wham is the other tower to the right. Addendum: It's now ~4 miles.


There appear to be at least 2 descents.

A. From the top, there is at least one rappel route down. From the northeast end of the top, there is a 2 bolt ~90' rappel. (~80' reaches a ledge with an exposed scramble north to the next anchor.) Note, this rappel can be challenging to pull, so consider using one rope. The second rappel off a 2 bolt anchor goes down a gully going north to the saddle. From there, snake your way down exposed 3rd class, traverse skier's right into a chimney, continue snaking down past a notch, and go to a pair of brown, Metolius rap hangers near the bottom of the descent. Rappel ~80' over a wet chimney.

B. Per John Peterson: The first rap is down the east side (right over the 5.8+ crack). Take a grassy ledge north (right as you face the summit) to an anchor that leads to the notch behind Zowie. This is hard to see from above. Both of these rap stations have good anchors. Follow the gully down until you hit a drop off near the bottom and rap one last time. It looked possible to downclimb, but it would be very exposed. This rap anchor wasn't as good as the other two.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Zowie

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
One for the Red Team
Trad, Alpine
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
South Face
Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Magic in the Middle
Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
One for the Red Team
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine
South Face
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
Magic in the Middle
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Zowie »

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My main comment for this route is a lot of people offer it up as a much less crowded alternative to the Petit. I would have to say it's not really a good alternative. It looks the same, and the summit is as good, but the rock quality is really marginal on the bottom, and if you get hurt, there isn't someone a pitch away to bail you out. The last pitch and summit make it worth it, but don't kid yourself - there's a reason it doesn't see hundreds of parties a season.

Frank Dec 17, 2001
I climbed this route last year and found it quite enjoyable. I have to agree that the rock quality on the first pitch is poor but not terrible, and there are several options.

The descent is very straightforward, and it takes half the time to get there. Really depends what you are looking for, solitude in a spectacular setting or a classic.

I recommend it as a fun route, not a must do. Jun 7, 2002
Great beginner alpine experience. Enjoy! Aug 6, 2002
I sure would hate to be the poor guy climbing a pitch away from someone on the unfortunate day that they decided to get in over their heads. If a party doesn't feel comfortable climbing this climb without someone else there to facilitate their rescue, they sure as hell better not be getting on the Petit! Be self-sufficient! Don't depend on a good samaritan to bail you out. Seriously. Oct 16, 2003
Tim Stich
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Tim Stich   Colorado Springs, Colorado
Our ropes got stuck at the North rappel anchor and required me to fix one line and ascend the other with Tiblocs. This was easy to do, as you can walk up a ridge to an old pin and climb about 40ft from there. There are several slots and corners that a knot can jam in after the rap station.

To avoid this situation, just pull the knot below the last lip that the rope runs over. Of course this means you will get on rappel over the lip yourself, but it sure beats the hell out of the alternative of having to deal with a stuck knot.

In addition, on the West descent gully I went to the left side of the gully and saw there was a short but exposed downclimb in a V slot to get to an anchor. This was very wet and impossible to downclimb safely, so we slung some boulders above to get there. This rap anchor is pretty funky. It is three equalized nuts and a 1/4" bolt with a hanger held on by a rusted wing nut. Aug 23, 2006
Pitches up to ledge--not great
5.7 crack--exciting, good
5.5 meander--not good
5.6 E. Face--exciting, good(-)
5.8 finish pitch--exciting, great(-), 4 or 5 pins

I recommend rapping off the East face from the summit. I wouldn't try to descend to the N. in one long rappel from the top. We tried this and the rock caused so much FRICTION that we couldn't get the rope to budge an inch. After 35 min. of effort to free the rope I decided to return to the summit.

How to avoid this: 1. Spot the next anchor ~30m down from the summit (to the NE.) 2. Rap off the E. face to the base of the last pitch. 3. Then use the other anchor to rap down the gully to the saddle. Jul 7, 2007
J Walton
Round Hill, VA
J Walton   Round Hill, VA
Good beta on the rappel Craig...we had a rope epic on the rap over the north side. We did the direct start, which is given a "s" after its 8+, but failed to find the severe section or risk. In the end, it was one of the best pitches.

It's no Petit, but still a good climb & viable destination for moderate alpine in RMNP. Climbed 7.14 Jul 29, 2007
Eli Helmuth
Ciales, PR
Eli Helmuth   Ciales, PR
Tobe- it must have been your heart rattling and recoiling as there are no snakes of any kind living at those altitudes...let alone in the middle of a cliff...sure you weren't 'flashing back' to climbs in Joshua Tree or somewhere in Arizona where those types of serpents live? Sep 28, 2009
Let's make sure that the descent is correctly described. You only need one 60m rope to get down. The first rap is down the east side (right over the 5.8+ crack). Take a grassy ledge north (right as you face the summit) to an anchor that leads to the notch behind Zowie. This is hard to see from above. Both of these rap stations have good anchors. Follow the gully down until you hit a drop off near the bottom and rap one last time. It looked possible to downclimb, but it would be very exposed. This rap anchor wasn't as good as the other two. Jul 26, 2010
bradtaylor Taylor
Colorado Spings
bradtaylor Taylor   Colorado Spings
The rap off the summit is prone to serious rope retrieval issues due to rope friction over the rock. This is still a major problem even when sliding the knot clear. If you rap west, the rope friction to the anchor increases and ropes will likely not pull. I highly recommend a single rope rap directly north to the first ridge step below the summit. From there, another single rope rap north takes you to the decent gully leading west. This is a great summit! Jul 16, 2013
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
Bring hiking shoes for the descent. It's not rappels all the way like the Petit Grepon or Saber. There's a long scramble down a loose gully. Not fun in rock shoes. Aug 9, 2015
Climbed this today with my long time climbing partner Mike Carr. We both found it quite enjoyable and exciting for the grade. Many times on the route I thought this should be called High Exposure. We did the 5.8 start to the right, it was quite the way to wake up. The rest of the climb was fun too maybe only one long kind of ledge pitch and the rest was good in-your-face Alpine fun.

Descent wasn't too hard to figure out, but the walk down the west gully was longer and pretty exposed and for sure have your approach shoes for it.

Highly recommend this climb. Jul 9, 2016
Hey all,
We climbed Zowie on 8/10/16 (via a wandering counterclockwise corkscrew route) and ended up rapping off of the top in the middle of a lightning storm. Our rope got stuck, and we had to ditch it. If anyone comes across a blue twin rope, still through the rap rings, I would love to get it back! I live in Boulder and will happily reward you in beer!

Sweet tower, by the way, and there are a million crumbly, but still fun, variations if you continue up the chimney too far and decide to climb the left side like we did!


-Michael Aug 11, 2016
Dick Stone
Dick Stone   Boulder
My partner left my new 0.4 Camalot near the top of the first pitch of the “direct” start today. Would gladly reward a 6 pack for its honorable return!.... Jun 25, 2018
Kevin Pula
Kevin Pula   Denver
I thought this page could use some help with the descent info. Maybe it was just me but before climbing this it seemed like there was a lot of conflict in the comments on this page and the route pages about the two descent option. There is no need to get a knot stuck, because there is no need to have two ropes on this climb. It was incredibly easy and straightforward, but it seems like there is a mix of support for the northeast rap route and a lot of criticism of ropes getting stuck. Apart from the few twin rope climbers, I don't see why anyone would want to take two ropes on this climb.

One 60m rope is plenty for all three raps. The first raps are about 8 feet up and right of the top out point of the last pitch, modern bolts. The 2nd rap is also modern bolts on a grassy ledge about 20 yards to the right and around a corner of where you end the first rap. Snake down the gully, and go past the first opening of the couloir which is on skier's left until you reach another gully. The third rap is the brown Metolius bolts on the right side of the gully. One last free hanging rap to the ground. Aug 13, 2018