Type: Trad, Alpine, 800 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Bernard Gillett and Bill Briggs, 1998
Page Views: 7,483 total · 37/month
Shared By: justin dubois on May 9, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

30 Opinions

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This superb route is located on the clean, left hand side of Arrowhead, left of the Summit Ramp. There are several stellar lines up this part of the cliff, including Ithaca (12a) and Airhead (11d). Ithaca is probably the most distinct of all the lines in the area, as it follows the long, left-facing corner system left of Arrowplane.

This is a brilliant and sustained climb on excellent granite. The rock on this wall is like a steeper version of Lumpy. Orange splitters and good featured faces. It wanders up cracks for 5 pitches before forging up the "lightning Bolt" crack (5.11) on the last pitch headwall. One of the more memorable pitches in the Park!

Start by fourth classing to the bottom of the clean, concave wall right of the lowest point of the ridge on Arrowhead/McHenry's. One might want to rope up to reach the ledge below the first pitch as the approach meanders up some smooth easy slabs.

P1. Climb up a blank slab and water streaks to some right facing flakes and a ledge. 5.8 spice? 175'

P2. Traverse right along some grassy ledges and boulder up into a crack system above. Now follow these up past a small gold colored roof and up to a small ledge. 5.9.

P3. Continue with obvious cracks above, passing a jammmed flake, which grow steeper and lead to a small left facing corner with twin finger cracks. Climb up this awesome corner(5.9) and step across right at it's top.Exciting 5.10 and head right to belay at a spike below a splitter that forks above.

P4. Head straight up the fantastic crack and go left when it splits. Head around the giant flake on its left side and up to a small ledge below the killer Lightning Bolt crack. 5.10 It is possible to go right at the base of the flake when the crack forks, it leads to the same belay and looks fantastic. But requires some bold moves to begin. Bernard says it is 5.11a R getting into it.

We stopped at a ledge before the Lightning bolt and did a small but stout 10c pitch in a small, left-facing corner and block to gain the actual stance below the headwall. A 60 meter rope could probobly combine these.

P5. No route finding here. Step up and send the incredible 100ft. lightning bolt crack with bouldery moves off the belay to sustained stoking up above. 5.11 crux. Continue up through the maze of stacked blocks above, scary looking but very solid and mantle onto the ridge. Incredible 5.9.

Walk left a few hundred feet and rappel off a boulder in the lowest point of the saddle. Two or three fixed raps get you to 3rd class terrain, just left of the starting ledge.


Rack up to #4 Friend with extra finger size. 2 60 meter ropes required for the raps.
Shaun Reed
Santa Barbara
Shaun Reed   Santa Barbara
This route is what alpine climbing is all about. Long, sustained, scary climbing in the middle of nowhere. I did this climb a couple days ago, and it felt like a first ascent. Route finding proved to be very difficult, though the headwall to which to finish was obvious. After a couple of scary runout pitches on bad gear, my partner and I decided we must not be on route but getting up to the headwall, we soon realized that flared is just the name of the game on this route. Justin, to give this 3 stars, you must be quite a fan of flared, awkward cracks in the most beautiful setting. Though the climbing was awkward and scary, the moves eventually open themselves up and the exposure on the headwall is incredible. Bring an extra sling and biner for the first rappel if you have a hard time rapping on a single sling and biner, though they are in good condition and just below a block keeping them out of the weather. The descent down 3rd and 4th class terrain to Black Lake is difficult at night even with headlamps since it is very easy to cliff out. The "trail" consists of elk trails, bushwacking, and scrambling up scree. If you are looking for an adventurous climb on a beautiful wall with an amazing setting and you are comfortable with 5.11 climbing with difficult gear, this will probably be a 3 star route for you. Shaun Reed Jul 12, 2005
justin dubois
Estes Park
justin dubois   Estes Park
No offense Shaun, but those cracks ain't flared. Jul 12, 2005
Let's face it, the protection is terrible, and the rock is poor. It's really not that cool up there. Everyone should stay away. And you, what do you know from "flaring," you strange little person. Try not to take it all so personally, eh? These rocks, they are pretty nice, but they do not need your protection.

Maybe this climb not as good as you hoped? ....Vaya con Dios Jul 12, 2005
I partnered with [Shaun] this past weekend to do [Arrowplane] and his [description] of the route was completely accurate. Bicker and call names, but this simple fact of the matter is there was not a three star pitch on the entire route. To be placed in such a category, the quality of rock should be well above par coupled with enjoyable movement across stone. The setting and the pure adventure of the entire climb should allot it at least one star but a three star description such as in [Gillett's] "High Peaks" and this web site will only set future parties up [for disappointment]. That being said, I would also like to add that simply because you yourself, or Shaun and I in this case, embarked and returned from such a wild place as the Arrowhead region, does not mean that we should send others out blindly and with incorrect beta.-Will Butler Jul 14, 2005
jason seaver
Estes Park, CO
jason seaver   Estes Park, CO
That's a shame you were disappointed by such a terrific route, but it's no excuse to call your opinion a "simple fact". If I were you, I would turn my back on Glacier Gorge and never return. Try the High Sierra. Jul 14, 2005
Ok, this is getting weird. This climb is unbelievably beautiful. The last pitch alone would make it an absolute classic (ropelength of splitter hands & fingers hundreds of feet off the deck), but the clean, gorgeous pitches below make it a real gem. The perfect, clean 10a splitter? The sexy 5.8 fist crack? The wild 10 corner? The flawlessly enervating runout slab on pitch 1? Nothing flaky or flaring about those pitches. There are some occasional lichen crumbs, but this here's an alpine route.

The cracks really are clean, deep, and oftentimes parallel-sided. Mmm good. Go see for yourself!

I think these two guys might have gotten a little rattled by the occasional, spicy runouts (1st pitch esp.!!) . while they are all on moderate ground, they could inspire panic & loathing at the thought of returning.

Or perhaps some trousers were filled? Some shorts soiled? Terribly slow progress was made? All of which really can make a climb "suck" in hindsight. Jul 14, 2005
It is obvious what the "[Estes] boys" are trying to do here. And I am sure that all of you are from Estes, grew up in Estes, and have a "Native" sticker on your car. Jul 25, 2005
I think you mean the opposite of 'enervating', actually. My American Heritage gives 'enervate' "to weaken or destroy the energy or vitality of."

The word just doesn't mean what most people think it does when they hear it. Aug 10, 2005
Ken Cangi
Eldorado Springs, CO
Ken Cangi   Eldorado Springs, CO
With all due respect, his use of the word enervating is applicable to his statement. Unless you are Peter Croft or Dean Potter, dealing with runouts tends to have an enervating effect. The idea that he meant the opposite of enervate is non-sensible. I understood his comment, perfectly. KC Aug 10, 2005
I used "enervating" specifically and deliberately to express my meaning. KC got it precisely: the runouts on this route may tend to "weaken" one's focus/resolve/grasp on reality. Of course, that's not to say that this route is anything but absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous. Go do it, you'll see what I mean.

Cheers, thanks for the musings about word-meanings, I love that stuff. Aug 10, 2005
Lizzy Scully
Lyons, Colorado
Lizzy Scully   Lyons, Colorado
Arrowplane was one of the best routes I've ever done in the Park. Regarding the first statement posted on this page: It's true that the first pitch is spicy and there are a few other run out moves (before the short 10c pitch, for example), but there's solid gear all over that thing. Also, I thought the route finding was straightforward (using topos from Bernard Gillett's guide book), and the route was clean and gorgeous. I was really impressed with the quality of the cracks. I didn't find the cracks to be flared at all. In fact, the last 11a pitch had incredible jams all over it. All I can say is, wow. Jul 23, 2007
I climbed the route yesterday. I agree with Lizzy. It's a little more runout than Bernard's book makes it seem. The first pitch, in particular, isn't hard but is dangerous. And as Lizzy says, getting into the corner of the short pitch is dicey, as a single nut is the only pro for the traverse. Route finding isn't particularly desperate, but a few key elements help. On pitch two, you traverse down to the lowest part of the roof above a big, grass hummuck. Pull it here and head upwards and right for 20 feet to the obvious golden roof (you're not actually pulling the golden roof right after the traverse). On the next pitch, you are aiming for small flake with a spike (not the obvious pillar on the left). The flake with spike is about 12 feet to the right.
From this point on, you won't get lost. Aug 23, 2010
Dan 60D5H411
Colorado Springs, CO
Dan 60D5H411   Colorado Springs, CO
Definitely a classic line, but do not underestimate the first pitch. Be ready to run it out 40 feet on 5.8 slab. Early in the season, we had to traverse a hanging snow patch to get to the base. Although the route was completely dry, our shoes were slightly wet and the first pitch was a bit terrifying. A fall from the runout portion is not an option. Oct 17, 2011
Felix Rigau  
We did not find an existing rappel route. Weather was building, so we set the following:

-From low point on Arrowhead/McHenry saddle, go west 60 ft.
-1st rappel: Two stoppers, blue cordelette. 195 ft rappel. Rappel slightly left. Tie knots! This is a full rope stretch rappel.
-2nd rappel: Three stoppers, orange cordelette. 180 ft rappel. This lands you on tiered ledges. Start walking.

Hopeful that this will remain. We used care in building solid stations. It is a straightforward rappel line.

The climbing is excellent! Great position in Glacier Gorge. We found some wet rock and vegetation in the middle pitches, par for the course in alpine. As stated above, getting into the 5.10 corner is dicey. Be solid here. Overall good rock quality, run out in spots but decent/good gear at the hardest parts. Jul 30, 2012
Golden, CO
Monty   Golden, CO  
Such a fun route on great stone. As stated above, the first pitch is VERY "R"....

A note about the rappels:
- Yes, you can easily get off with one 70m.
- To find the raps, walk to the saddle and look for a large boulder that overhangs the edge of Arrowhead. Peek around the corner and you'll find the anchor. 2 raps and a short 5th class downclimb puts you at your packs. Jul 10, 2013
Golden, Co
WadeM   Golden, Co
Great route!

First pitch is very runout, so we soloed up to the ledge.

Traverse easy, so an award move or two. Rest of climb was straightforward.

doubles 0.1-0.4,
singles 0.5-3.

Probably could have done without the three, but it's nice to have in a couple spots.

Topout is great! I've gardened the mud out of the splitters, so this thing is clean for the season! Jul 20, 2015
Mr. Stevens
Boulder, CO
  5.11- PG13
Mr. Stevens   Boulder, CO
  5.11- PG13
The 2nd to last pitch felt just as hard as the final crux pitch. Really cool climbing throughout, although route finding is a bit tricky, and each pitch has some spice, except for maybe the last one. The rock is great, it's like Lumpy and Tuolumne had a baby.... Aug 26, 2015
ejesse Jesse
Colorado Springs
ejesse Jesse   Colorado Springs
P3 if you go straight up the twin splitters to the curving roofs and over, then right through the next towards the obvious, right-facing corner you are deposited at a small roof at the base of said obvious corner. The corner has a fixed nut to protect a fun but difficult entry into the dihedral which provides great climbing. It's a good way to add another 10+ pitch as opposed to going left then right over paths of least resistance.

P4. The 11a option protects really well, it's not R and is drop dead gorgeous. It's as good as the final headwall pitch. You have a bomber yellow Alien at your feet when firing the crux and a great jam after to place a bomber piece, a 0.75-grey would all fit. There are 8-10 feet between these pieces. You could be on top rope the whole time with a blue-green Alien offset or at least mentally protect with a green Alien in the best lock of the crux. Jul 18, 2016
Kat A
Boulder, CO
Kat A   Boulder, CO
Both times I've climbed P2 of Arrowhead (also P2 Godfather), there was water seeping onto the key hand and footholds for the bulge move at the traverse. If that section were dry, I'd leave the #4 behind, but if it's seeping (even after a couple dry days), it's nice to have that pro. Aug 11, 2018