Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 7 pitches
FA: Ruckman/Coats Brothers, 1988
Page Views: 1,593 total · 8/month
Shared By: Alex Shainman on Oct 29, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


It's hard to justify giving 3 stars to a route when only one pitch is 3 stars.... Topnotch, the name, is dedicated only to the crux pitch which is 3 stars...I thought this pitch was somewhat reminiscent of Butterballs in the Valley, just not as splitter. When standing under the right side of the east face, it's hard to mistake the 80 foot plaque of stellar rock.... You only need to climb funky alpine rock on pitches before and after. The 5.9 pitch just after the crux is actually OK (exciting). After 4 or so pitches, arrive on the large ledge of the East Meadows. A couple hundred feet of the Spiral Route puts you in the notch where you have two descent options...4th class weaving down the northwest ridge or 3 double rope raps down the west face (2 bolt stations).

To find the first rap: From the notch, 3rd class move over the chimney/gully toward the west, look for a large boulder leaning against the wall.


Alpine rack + 0.4"-1.5" cams for the crux pitch.


This is a great line. Got a bit of everything. And it can be climbed rather quickly. We simul-climbed the first pitches to the first 5.9R pitch. This is 400' of fun alpine climbing. This saves on time. The finger crack is excellent and had a little bit of veg in it when we did it. You were able to span the flowers still and get the good locks. Jul 12, 2005
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
  5.11+ R
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
  5.11+ R
"400' of fun alpine climbing"? Hmmm....
I counted a 200' pitch followed by a 100' pitch to reach the ledge with the block belay on it, then 80' or so to reach the base of the Shield Pitch, which has a 50' 5.9 section to get to the splitter section, which is 50' more. That's 480'. Then after that, there is another 5.9 pitch, for ~600 feet. Then we did another pitch up and then a traverse pitch (or one very long one with tons of drag) to get into the meadow or up onto the Ridge, followed by a walk through the meadow then a 200' pitch to get into the notch.
So this is far nearer 1000' (possibly in excess of that) of climbing than 400' if you count the climbing required to return to the ground via any standard descent.

As for the quality and difficulty:
Maybe in 2005 the vegetation in the crux was spannable, but in August of 2010, it was pretty completely filled with dirt and roots and there was a 4-5 foot section that was unjammable. After our ascent, there are jammable sections in that area again. However, with living plants in there that die back every year and grow above/below their last year's position, you can expect the crack to refill again.
If you want this to be a "great" climb, do it right after someone else suffers through it. Aug 23, 2010
Shockingly enough, this route is a bit of a pain to get stuck in a storm on. If the rock is running with water, heading right at the tree past the crux will get you to a well protected (if slightly chossy) corner that will get you to easy ground, avoiding runout slabby climbing.

On the vegetation front, at 6ft 2, I was able to reach past it, but my considerably shorter and stronger climbing partner was unable to do so (not that the torrential downpour helped). Descent-wise, it is pretty easy to descend the Spiral Route from the top of Topnotch. Just walk down the ramp and do 3 single rope raps. Jul 1, 2013