The cliffs bordering the east and north sides of Thatchtop offer the most consistent, accessible and greatest variety of ice climbs in the park. Low angle slabs, thin mixed climbs, free-hanging pinnacles, top roping and pure ice falls abound here. This is also the most crowded area in the park, and it is not uncommon to see 15-25 parties in the area when the ice is "in". Classic routes are everywhere: Mixed Feelings gives you the chance to try dry-tooling to a free hanging pillar is a fairly safe environment; the Curtains are a perfect top-rope area.

Getting There

From Estes Park, follow the signs to RMNP. After the entrance station (~10 if your blew the alpine start), turn left and head towards Bear Lake. Park in the Glacier Gorge parking lot (now 0.3 miles from the old parking lot at the hairpin turn), about a mile before you reach Bear Lake. Follow the trail to Glacier Gorge. After a couple of miles you'll have to make a decision: left takes you into Glacier Gorge and All Mixed Up and the climbs at Black Lake; right takes you to the Loch. (Here's a great shortcut that will save you 30 minutes: Head right immediately after you cross the second overbuilt bridge-the ones with the handrails. Follow the drainage up until you intersect the GG trail about 100 yards from the GG/Loch junction. Summer climber's note: This is not the summer shortcut which parallels the drainage on the left. The winter route follows the creek bed and is quite skiiable.) For rad skiing when the conditions are good, don't take the trail down from the Loch, follow the drainage. Pick up the trail near the junction with the Glacier Gorge trail.

17 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Loch Vale Gorge

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
More Classic Climbs in Loch Vale Gorge »

Sun & Shade

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season
Malcolm Daly
Boulder, CO
Malcolm Daly   Boulder, CO
This just in from Leo Paik: 11/29/01 Loch Vale Gorge report.

There is a bit of newish snow. Trail is well packed. Blustery above today. Not exactly a ton of ice.

Gorge Yourself WI3 (right of Blade Runner) is the only thing that you could call fat. Loch Ness Monster WI4+ is in but lean. L of Loch Luster M4 (where the trail come in) is quite lean. The 2 to the right are meager. Mixed Emotions is decent. Not as fat as the [Gillett] guide photo, but you can swing your tools at it perhaps 6 feet above the sling.

The word on Jaws from another climber is that it is dry!

Leo Nov 30, 2001
Julian Smith
Colorado Springs, CO
Julian Smith   Colorado Springs, CO
The Crypt is in nice and fat with lots of new ice on the bottom column. Quite the hump. If you are so inclined, you may want snowshoes for going up the hillside. Dec 9, 2001
Loch Vale Practice area is little more than wet. Some ice has begun to form up but nothing that is climbable for at least another 3-4 weeks. Snow is pretty deep into most areas in the park also. Use caution and watch for avalanche danger. Nov 1, 2002
Climbed Mixed Emotions on November 3 with Irina and Free Strike Zone November 7 with Irina and Rich. Ice curtain is very much in "scarecrow" conditions with highly amusing dry-tooling needed to gain "ice" on left side. There is a fixed pin in place as you gain the ice, but the run-out is hardly trivial before you get a stubby ice screw. Both routes require Power Cams #3-9 and 3 screws, 10 & 13cm. ME is about M6+, WI6R, FSZ about M7+, WI6R. FSZ has three bolts and a pin, but be prepared for sustained and exposed climbing above on weird cam placements. The routes are a little tougher now than when we led them as Irina yanked off a key hook in an icicle. The ice is starting to sublimate and detach, these routes may be past it as you read this.

I noticed that these routes are prone to be top-roped rather than led, inflicting heavy damage to the ice by those unsure how to proceed. These routes are one of the best mixed climbing venues on the east slope. If they exceed your abilities one year it may be best to return later when ability and state of mind permit you to lead them, a far more rewarding experience than puzzling on a top-rope.

Like I said, the ice is thinner than I've ever seen it, reminiscent of the crux pitch on Sea of Vapors, not for the faint of heart.

A most high quality climbing experience, both routes offered difficult and fascinating climbing.

It's cold up there even on warm days. Bring a stove to brew up and down jackets to belay in. The hike is rigorous and if you hurt yourself you're some distance from the road. The routes have an alpine feel, the ratings may not bely their seriousness. The potential for a spectacular lead fall exists on both routes, hence the R designation.

The bolts on FSZ seem sound. The fixed pins on ME and FSZ are not to be trusted to any great extent. A long draw is necessary on the first bolt and a doubled draw on the 3rd to prevent rope drag on a sharp edge. A 70 meter rope is useful. Nov 8, 2002
Okay, here's the deal. Sea of Vapors in February 1996 was in mixed conditions, not the "Canadian Girl" magnitude of the following 1996-7 season when it was Grade 5 with no mixed climbing. You had to climb Postscriptum, set up a belay and then traverse out right across steep limestone to gain thin ice. Everybody said how easy it was, but several people I know or know of took spectacular falls off this bit, ending up well below their belayer. After my ascent, everyone had the benefit of two key fixed pins I had dry-tooled up and placed in the corner above the traverse (I fell off climbing back down to start the traverse). I know everybody used them because when I went back up the following year to do Terminator they were still there. Mixed Emotions in RMNP this year was remiscent of that pitch.

As far as the top-rope issue goes, there wasn't enough ice on the ME curtain this year to drive tools into much less over-drive, it was all hooking, partly to conserve the resource, partly because that's it, that's what the ice would tolerate, you can't overdrive into a pair of two-inch thick icicles stuck to a rock wall, you hook the hole they offer between them, or you bust them off and nobody gets to use them. It ain't the Ouray ice park up there where the ice is nine feet thick.

As far as "sans dragonne" goes, without leashes, I'm all for it. I'm presently using modified Cobras with no components, the Aermet picks are bolted straight to the empty handle, and I use a yates M9 leash. When I identify a leashless tool I think will meet my needs I'll be sure and get a set, right now I like the Cobra, it's an older tool but still gives excellent performance, especially with the Aermet blade.

I can be reached at if you want to talk more or go ice climbing.

Ciao for now Nov 24, 2002
Craig Quincy
Louisville, CO
Craig Quincy   Louisville, CO
Climbed at Loch Vale on Thursday 11/28 while others were cooking the Turkey. Perfect day with no wind. Conditions sound similar and perhaps not any fatter than those listed by Leo on 11/17. The trail is still easily walkable. My partner, Dale, led Mixed Feelings by getting a creative RP placement and a good blade placement above the regular piton and to the left of where the ice comes down. The blade is currently insitu if you're game.

The slopes above All Mixed Up do not look particulary hazardous from a distance. Nov 29, 2002
As of 1-2-03, the conditions in Loch Vale are thin to bad though the BIG flow of easy ice in in thick. Most of the mixed routes can be done if you do not need any ice or ice that is suspect. The area need some more solidification.

John Parsons7205650215

As of 1-2-03, the conditions in Loch Vale are thin to bad though the BIG flow of easy ice is thick.

Most of the mixed routes can be done if you do not need any ice or ice that is suspect. The area need some more solidification.

John Parsons7205650215 Jan 3, 2003
Nathanial, the ice above Free Strike Zone is basically nonexisent as of 2/9/03, but who needs ice to mixed climb anymore! The whole Loch is not worth the hike in. Dry crappy beat out and thin. Feb 12, 2003
Mixed Feelings, Mo Flo than Go, Lochluster, et al in that area are thin. Blade Runner only has a tiny bit of ice at the top, but Mixed Feelings has some thin WI5 starting about 2/3 up the face (higher than in Brad's photo from 11/23/01). Bring your shorties. Feb 17, 2003
As of Sunday the 20th there is good climbing. Nov 21, 2005
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
Mark Cushman   Cumming, GA
Eli Helmuth posted a decent guide to Loch Vale Gorge on his website, it is a great overview of this area. Dec 3, 2007
Eli Helmuth
Ciales, PR
Eli Helmuth   Ciales, PR
Nice to let this place fully form before hitting it with the tools- mid Dec. is usually the earliest and the later the better.

Knocking on these routes while they are starting to form just prevents them from forming fully if at all..patience is a virtue that benefits all in this well traveled area. Oct 25, 2009
If you use GPS, then here is the coordinate for the area where you can immediately see the Mo' Flo' Than Go to your left and the other ice routes to the right (N40 17.635 W105 39.018). Just follow the Loch Vale Trail to that GPS point and you will be set. Jan 2, 2011