Type: Trad, Ice, Alpine
FA: unknown
Page Views: 8,840 total · 42/month
Shared By: Peter Gram on Jan 12, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Black Lake Slabs are on the southeast corner of the lake. If you can't find the slabs, they are probably not in! To reach the slabs, follow the trail from the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale parking lot until Black Lake. Then continue to the east side of the lake, and start up the drainage that leads to Spearhead. This brings you to the base of the climb.

There are many possiblities for ascent because the slabs are very wide. The total climb is probably around 400 feet long, but there are many spots in the middle that are just snow-groveling. The bottom section offers a long section of fun, thick, water ice 2. Above, is a choice of snow or sometimes easier ice ramps. A few short steps can be found. To keep the climb more sustained through the middle section, there is a steeper WI 3 wall on the right side of the slabs. Finally, the last 30 feet before the top steepens to around 80 degrees.

The easiest descent is probably downclimbing the ascent route through the snow, with a few short and not exposed ice-downclimbs. It is also possible to climb past the end of the climb and descend the gully by Spearhead, but this would add considerable length in deep snow.


There is plenty of opportunities to put in fat ice screws the whole way up.

Toprope Protection

This route is too long to be toproped.
Jim D.  
We climbed Black Lake Slabs on 3/23 - they are in fat & blue. The snowtrail to Black Lake was packed fine - no snowshoes needed on the way up, but the afternoon warmth required snowshoes for the walk down, otherwise a fair bit of postholing in soft snow. West Gully looks good; All Mixed Up looks weathered. Mar 25, 2002
Theo Barker
Formerly Loveland, CO
Theo Barker   Formerly Loveland, CO
4/27/03 - Black Lake slabs mostly covered in snow with a few places peeking out. What was visible required hacking off the sun-rot to get to the solid-blue. Looked like the West Gully might be good but with lots of snow. Couldn't really tell from across the lake. Apr 28, 2003
Jim D.  
Climbed Black Lake Slabs on Sunday March 28th. Conditions good, but not great. Slabs a little less wide and less thick than normal. First few inches of ice were often manky. There was 4 inches of new snow. West Gully looks good down low, but was snow covered up high. Approaching/retreating probably requires snowshoes or skis as there is lots of post-hole potential, especially during warm afternoons. Mar 30, 2004
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
BLACK LAKE ice in RMNP is everywhere!!!! The Slabs are full of ice. The ice was super hard and very brittle. The ice wasn't dinner plating but dinner TABLING!!! It made what is normally a pretty cruiser climb be quite interesting. My partner and I both looked a it and said, "We could solo this!" But we roped up and were REALLY glad we did. The hike in was not bad at all. Most of the trail was packed. Snowshoes were not needed at all. It looked like we were the only ones who'd been up to the climb in about 1 week or so. No footprints to be seen. We postholed a bit, up to the groin a few times, getting off the peak, but carrying snowshoes up would be dumb! The beta on this route says that it is 250', but we did almost 3 full rope legnths of climbing, one pitch being a snow/ice combo pitch. Then we hiked up about an additional 200' to find the walkoff. Feb 7, 2005
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
Taken from the description:

"The easiest descent is probably downclimbing the ascent route through the snow, with a few short and not exposed ice-downclimbs. It is also possible to climb past the end of the climb and descend the gully by Spearhead, but this would add considerable length in deep snow."

Since this is one of the easier climbs around it attracts beginners and since it is also quoted in Jack Roberts book as being a great place to take beginners, I would not recommend this descent, especially to n00bs. That's a long way out to have something go wrong on the descent. My advice is to climb to the top, break left and then follow the walk off trail. Even with lots of snow up there, you can still see the carins. Easy as pie.

What's up with that anchor at the top of P1? We used it but backed it up. There is red webbiing and blue webbing threaded through the ice. Is it threaded through a bolt behind the ice? How the heck did they get that webbing in there? Just curious. Feb 8, 2005
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
Hey AC! Since you told me that I as an ice climber should know what a V-thread is, why don't you enlighten me and tell me about it. I don't claim to know it all, but I am a sponge and can't learn enough. Only in my 2nd year at this and 1st year leading. So you big, strong, smart and great all knowing AC, fill me in and finish answering my original question. My partner, who is a fantastic and safe climber, was puzzled as well so obviously I'm not the only clueless one out there. Thanks. No really. . .Thanks. Feb 9, 2005
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
For detailed info on making a V-Thread see:


Found by googling: ice climbing "v thread" !! Feb 9, 2005
Maude's Advice on V-threads

Drill in a SCREW at a 45 degree angle once pointing right, then a second time oriented left such that the two HOLES meet and form a "V". When DRIVING the first SCREW, back it out about halfway to use as a guide while driving the second. Remove both SCREWs and voila, you have a V-shaped tunnel. You then thread webbing through either using a doo-hicky you can purchase at a store or using a coat hanger device you construct yourself (essentially, you route the coat hanger all the way through the V, attach the webbing, then pull the whole mess back through the tunnel). Clip in and have yourself a well deserved smoke.

There are also some good how-tos on the web as well as bomber guides like Freedom of the Hills. Feb 9, 2005
Tracy- Never mind about the ACs, they only like to compensate for certain personal inadequacies by making snippy arogant comments fom the safety of anonymity. A 'V-thread' is a very useful technique for an ice climber to know (and know well). It will make a secure placement in dodgy ice and will allow a rappel without leaving expensive gear like screws behind. Essentially it is nothing more than two intersecting holes created by boring ice screws at a V angle toward each other. After the screws are removed, a runner can be threaded through (trickier than it sounds) the V and voila a bomber anchor. The smart ass AC probablt only learned about it earlier this year. CHEERS Feb 9, 2005
Seriously, every ice climber who is leading should know what a V-thread is. Feb 10, 2005
Darren Mabe
Flagstaff, AZ
Darren Mabe   Flagstaff, AZ
Ref. V-threads: I guess while you all are playing Freedom of the Hills, maybe you guys should discuss: proper screw length (holes), cord diameter, angles of the holes relative to the ice (not each other), and other technical goodies. Though obvious to most of us, the fact that this thread (pun intended) even came up makes me think you need to clarify.

Doesn't matter to me much, cuz I don't ice climb anymore, and rock season hasn't ended yet.

Which reminds me, several years ago, my partner and I were retreating from the Black Lake ice and, while I was a bit 'out of commision', he didn't know how to tie one of these v-doo-hickies, and left several of my screws in the process. There was no time for f*ckin around, I don't miss them, and good booty score for someone, besides, one of them looked like a banana....

At any rate, tricks like that are always good to know! Feb 10, 2005
Knowledge of a v-thread is not mandatory. Ice climbers safely ascended and descended without them for decades, and still do. It's just a little trick that can save you a few bucks. How many of you v-threaders go back to pick up your tat at the base of the waterfall after melt-out? I'm thinking zilch. Feb 10, 2005
Hmmm, I've been leading ice for almost a decade and I have yet to use one. Tracy, It's really amazing that you've managed thus far, how have you done it... Feb 10, 2005
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
The V-Thread is a useful skill to know, but is hardly a gauge of ice climbing skill! Back before they were invented, we just rapped off trees or used traditional rock anchors, or, worst case, left a screw behind. I imagine expert mixed climbers these days don't even need to know about the v-thread, as the ice where they go is never thick enough to use it! Feb 11, 2005
More on V-threads: THE AMERICAN ALPINE CLUB E-NEWS February 2005

Dear Members,

New techniques can make climbing safer, easier, and more fun, but they also may be abused. One such technique is the V-thread anchor for ice climbing, in which two intersecting holes are drilled in solid ice and a sling is threaded through the holes for a quick, solid, and inexpensive anchor. Problem is: When the ice melts, that sling becomes trash. As more climbers adopt the V-thread for a convenient anchor, land managers are starting to take notice.

Greg Sievers, chair of the Central Rockies Section of the AAC, reports the U.S. Forest Service has expressed concern over the quantity of V-thread slings littering drainages near Cody, Wyoming, home to some of the best ice climbs in the Lower 48. Many climbs sprout multiple V-threads within a few feet of each other, and slings and rap rings have been found hundreds of yards downhill from Cody's ice formations. The Central Rockies Section donated materials for locals to install permanent rappel anchors on the most popular climbs where V-threads have been used. Recently, however, one of these anchors was discovered to have been chopped-a sad fate for an anchor designed to reduce climbers' impact on these wild valleys.

The best climbs and climbers have always used the minimum tools and left the minimum impact on the environment. Ironically, in some cases minimum impact may mean a permanent anchor. As ice climbing grows ever more popular, the use of V-threads should be limited to the purposes for which they were designed: descents where no other option is available or emergency retreats.

Comments? Email Greg Sievers at gsievers57@cs.com or me at dmacdonald@americanalpineclub.org .

Climb safely,

Dougald MacDonaldE-News Editor/Interim Executive Director Feb 23, 2005
I left the V-thread that Tracy mentioned. I got to that ledge and had a terrible case of the screaming barfies and needed to just get down and climb another day. V-threads are NOT safe unless you create them or inspect them very well. I visit that area often and will retrieve my webbing soon. Feb 24, 2005
Has anyone been up there in the past couple of days/weeks? Just curious about conditions...thanks. Feb 13, 2006
Ted Eliason
Westminster, CO
Ted Eliason   Westminster, CO
This is only one pitch if you rap off a v-thread. This is just under 4 full lengths of a 70m rope from Lake to the Spearhead plateau. Jan 21, 2013
Greg Sievers
Bozeman, MT
Greg Sievers   Bozeman, MT
Greg Sievers
Bozeman, MT
Greg Sievers   Bozeman, MT
Tried to climb the Black Lake Slabs today (2/7/13) but found the ice to be extremely brittle and shattering with each swing and kick. Same conditions were found for the "new" ice to the west of the slabs. Snow was deep on the approach, and snowshoes/skis would have saved us a great deal of struggling over the last hills before Black Lake.

Feb 7, 2013