Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 8,371 total · 40/month
Shared By: George Bell on Jan 29, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This is one of the classic snow climbs of Colorado. In early season, there is generally a huge cornice at the top of this route. It is safest to wait until it falls down (which often seems to be around July 4th). Hence this route is in best condition later than most snow routes, early July through August.

You can bivy below the couloir or start early and blast in a day. From the Spectacle Lakes, head up easy snow and branch right at the Y (the Left Branch I consider a separate route). This lower section is not that steep, and we did it unroped.

Soon the right branch enters a nasty chimney filled with dripping water. Before you get too far back into it, look for the 5.4 rock exit on the left. Rope up and do two leads up the left wall (some loose rock) to a nice grassy ledge above the top of the chimney. Traverse right on this ledge back into the Couloir.

The upper section steepens to about 55 degrees. Romp up this to the final cornice/headwall. If training for Alaska, you can attempt to tackle the headwall directly. When we did this it was 80 degree snow wallowing, and we backed down. We bypassed the headwall on the right (via some rock). According to Rossiter, you can also exit left via a gully.

Descend south to Chapin Pass if you have a car there, or drop down the south face into the drainage between Ypsilon and Chiquita and follow this down to Ypsilon Lake.


Light rock rack and maybe snow pickets or flukes. Ice screws unlikely to be useful.
Sometimes the "nasty chimney" is 40 feet of grade 4 ice. The rock bypass on the left seemed kind of sketchy in crampons, and there could be more placments if you're soft like me. Mar 17, 2002
Jason Carter
Monument, CO
Jason Carter   Monument, CO
July 3rd 2004 -

Good conditions in the Y. The chimney was dripping, but was stuffed with good ice. Bring at the most 4 screws as there is very little if any rock pro if you venture up the ice. Also, the pinch at the top of the ice is a funnel with a variety of debris shooting through. Although good ice, it seemed dangerous to climb as you may get nailed in the face topping it out by a large rock or hunk of ice traveling at a high rate of speed (but at least you'll have those 4 screws in)

The rock variation on the left seems to have at least three starts. One about 15ft below the chimney, one about 50ft below the chimney and one way low at the the start of the buttress itself.

We ended up in the middle start after bailing from the ice. The only beta is to continue up the rock but staying to a rightward vector as It seems that left could get one into more difficult rock. All the rock can be scoped before branching into the right Y and it is a good idea to do so. From the middle start it is 3 pitches to the grassy ledge. The grassy ledge is huge and comfortable. If you escape back into the Y just above the chimney you'll end up below a nasty chockstone where the grassy ledge offers a re-entry point quite a bit above the chimney and the chockstone.

The cornice up top was still pretty big (overhung) on the left and fairly vertical on the right. We climbed (wallowed) up a snow arete on the right side of the cornice that offered some big mountain exposure and tenuousness but it was short lived and well worth the effort. It looked as if the rocks either right or left below the cornice could get you to the top as well - Jul 15, 2004
This route can be skied with a single rope rappel over the ice chimney. I had to set and leave a rappel anchor when I climbed/skied it from below the cornice in march 2007. The upper couloir is beautiful, steep, and exposed. In the spring, the huge cornice and hanging snow make the objective hazards on this route rather severe. May 4, 2007
Shane Zentner
Shane Zentner   Colorado
As of Saturday, June 30, the cornice at the top of the right branch of Ypsilon Mountain is non-existent. We were climbing the right branch, above and left of the narrow chimney on the rock face when the cornice broke and fell. Luckily we were not in the couloir or the consequences would have been drastic. (The damn thing almost pulled us from the mountain.) Jul 2, 2007
Mike S  
Update to Brian's above post for the skiers. At this time, one cannot safely rap the ice chimney with a single 60m rope. A 70m will get you below the vertical ice, with a bit of easy downclimbing to a safe zone below the chimney. Two 60s would be ideal to quickly get you out of the firing line. The fixed anchor at the top of the chimney consists of two well-placed pitons in good rock. Mar 30, 2015
Anyone have input as to what the conditions might be like in late August? Apr 24, 2017