Type: Trad, Alpine, 1500 ft, 7 pitches, Grade III
FA: Buckingham, Brook, Catwood and Cox, 1958
Page Views: 15,749 total · 103/month
Shared By: Eli Helmuth on Jul 4, 2006
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This overlooked classic takes a dramatic line up the center of the north face of the very aesthetic Pagoda Mountain. Although the route is a bit "raw/dirty" at the moment, only due to a lack of visitors, the rock quality, route quality, position and big summit make this a moderate classic which compares easily to the nearby North Ridge of Spearhead - arguably, it is an even more aesthetic and inspiring route.


The North Buttress is very obvious to see from below when standing in the meadows just east of Spearhead. Approach the route up this valley aiming for the col between Pagoda and the West Ridge of Long's (Keyboard to the Winds). There is an obvious, horizontal, dark band of rock which bisects the bottom of the route, about 400' above the base of the first slabs at the bottom of the face. Approach a grassy ledge system from the left (east) side of the buttress and make an easy but exposed traverse into the base of the route which is easily identified by the 3 left-facing, corner systems rising up on the left side of the buttress crest.

Taking advantage of nice but mostly small belay ledges, we did a 8 pitches consisting of:

P1. Climb 40m up left-facing corners to belay on top of a flake (exposed 5.5).

P2. Go 55m up more left-facing corners to a small ledge (halfway) where one traverses left to climb a short unprotected slab (5.5) up to another splitter crack system which leads via more discontinuous cracks to the top of the 1st ridgecrest (5.7).

P3. Go 45m up and left on slab (5.4) to large grassy ledge directly below and left of a vertical prow.

P4. Climb 50m up an almost vertical section of juggy climbing (30' left of prow) aiming for chimney system which contains a fair bit of loose rock (be careful here) (5.7)- belay at nice stance in chimney.

P5. Go 50m up a chimney then a face to top of ridge crest (5.5).

P6. Continue up ridgecrest (airy 4th class) or step down to the west side of the ridge and walk through talus to base of 50m slab below and just right of crest (5.3).

P7. Do a 40m pitch up featured slabby terrain to just below summit. Scramble or rope another 20m pitch to the top (5.3).

Descend down the mellow (2nd) class East Ridge of Pagoda and then down from the col between the "Sievers' Tower" and Pagoda. It is an easy walk down, stay north to avoid short cliff bands.


No fixed pins, slings or any signs of travel were observed on a recent ascent. Many parallel cracks exist on the gorgeous granite of this ridge so many cams up to 3" and some nuts will suffice for protection.
Brian Story
Brian Story  
This is not a classic route, but still worthwhile. The rock quality is good on the lower slabs and OK in the steeper middle section. I never encountered anything harder than 5.6 climbing. Nov 14, 2006
Tim Stich
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Tim Stich   Colorado Springs, Colorado
To access the start of the climb, you bypass more than half of the lower face of the buttress. There is a scree ramp to the left of the lower face slabs that gets you to the black band of rock. Traverse right at the top of the black band to get to the start of the route.

The crux 5.7 pitch on the vertical tower is pretty nice, though perhaps not as good as the one on Lone Eagle for comparison. It starts at a few detached flakes of rock and trends left from thin cracks with good face handholds and footholds to the even widening chimney. The lower moves are the best. Aug 27, 2007
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
Climbed this on July 19, 2008. Great line - we enjoyed it more than the N ridge of Spearhead, although the rock isn't as clean on account of not getting as much traffic.

The route description above isn't very accurate. It takes 4 ropelengths to reach the ledge below the steep headwall, not 3 (have a look at Jfox's Sept 2007 beta photos). Also, once one gets above the steep headwall there are at least 3 ropelengths of scrambling along the exposed ridge crest before one reaches the summit. Nothing harder than 4th class, though. Jul 21, 2008
chrisp   boulder
I agree with Martin here the description above isn't so great. Jfox's pictures pretty much should be the beta for this line. My partner and I did it in 4 roped pitches (70mrope) - we started above the obvious dark band up the descent gully-I managed to get off route (see other picture) and got to the crappy roof.

We unroped once we passed the obvious headwall- lots of large loose blocks above- and scrambled to the summit.

The downclimb off the backside is great- pretty much a trail the entire way down.

There wasn't much harder than 5.6 on this route.... Jul 21, 2008
Boulder, CO
kevinnlong   Boulder, CO
BEWARE, this route receives little to no sun in the morning. Even with many layers on top and bottom, gloves, and hats, we shivered the charm away out of much of this climb. There was snow/ice on most of the belay ledges, and it was August 12!!! It was all because of the high winds.

Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes if there is any chance of wind, which, then, is almost always.

Also, we were off route twice, and the difficulty of the climb substantially increased in both cases. Our variations to the first two pitches contained 5.9, slippery run out moves. Follow the line of the route if you want a 5.6 climb. Aug 13, 2008
Andy Novak
Golden, Co
Andy Novak   Golden, Co
I think Eli's description is right on. Although I do think Spearhead's north ridge is waayyyy more dramatic. Four pitches to the headwall? Bollocks. Did the lower buttress in three long stretchers. Start high. And although the ridge above is airy, no rope needed. Be prepared for a rather nasty (but very scenic) descent down the gully. Sep 8, 2008
Mic Fairchild
Mic Fairchild   Boulder
While not necessarily recommended, I've done this route by starting at the very base of Pagoda, just above the lake. There's some sneaky slab climbing to get to the normal start, and little pro along the way (although hard to gauge solo). Fun as a roped climb, with 3rd class above the top of the buttress. Great scenery regardless. Sep 20, 2008
Really liked that climb. I didn't like the descent, but it was worth it.

I had Eli's beta with me and proved to be helpful. We didn't do the 3rd pitch as described: IMO, I think you can make it whatever you'd like for the 3rd pitch (that is if you break the first 5.5 section in 2 pitches)... go far left to drop the grade or just go straight up to keep it at 5.6ish. Aug 25, 2009
Fort Collins, CO
tongmengjia   Fort Collins, CO
Climbed this Saturday. The climbing was just plain fun. I've done a few alpine routes in the Park, and I have to say the view from the summit of Pagoda is one of the best of seen. Amazing. I would whole heartedly recommend this climb.

That being said, the approach and descent were both a pain. I think the description says to allow 40min from Black Lake, but I'd recommend more like 1-1.5hrs. Of course, this was my first alpine climb of the season, and neither me nor my partner were in tip-top shape, so take that advice with a grain of salt. The descent wasn't bad as far as difficulty or exposure, but it was a slog. It probably took us half an hour to scramble down the boulders from the summit to get to the scree gully, and then another 1.5hrs to get down the long, loose gully.

I led P3, and went left. It was kind of 'get-er-done' climbing, and I made an ugly pitch by linking up a series of broken cracks, ranging from finger width to off hands. It was all slabby, though, so the feet were relatively good, with the lichen adding a little spice and insecurity. Some parts were a little run out, but nothing to really worry about. I'd say this variation was approximately 5.7.

We had a little trouble finding the chimney at the beginning of P5. The beginning isn't really a "chimney" per se, you have to do about 20 or 30ft of awkward face climbing to gain the chimney proper, which lived up to its reputation of being extremely loose, but also juggy (just be careful which jugs you grab).

It took us 18hrs car-to-car on this bad boy (we weren't exactly setting any speed records). When we left the parking lot in the morning, there were a few parties already there, all of which were going to Spearhead. We had Pagoda all to ourselves. Despite the long approach and the burly descent, I'd strongly recommend this as a great moderate, true alpine route. Jul 19, 2010
Andy Nelson
Fort Collins, Colorado
Andy Nelson   Fort Collins, Colorado
This route is classic in the sense that it has a lot of the parts of what make up a good alpine rock climb: a long approach, fun climbing, airy ridge scrambling, a spectacular summit, and a heinous descent. Pagoda has a truly unique summit on par with the summit of Spearhead, maybe even more beautiful. The descent is a beast, and our total mileage my partner logged on his watch was pushing the upper teens. Pagoda is far back in there! Yes, the route is cold and windy in the morning - just think about the aspect in relation to the giant that sits next to it! Bring a good wind shell and layers.

I think this would be an interesting start to a 2-day bivy. Hike in early, climb the route in the afternoon (weather permitting) when it is most sunny, come down to you bivouac spot, and then have another two days of climbing! Jul 30, 2016