Type: Trad, Alpine, 15 ft, Grade IV
FA: Renan Ozturk and Sam Piper, early 2000s? Richard Rossiter, 11 August, 2009
Page Views: 10,030 total · 90/month
Shared By: Richard Rossiter on Oct 6, 2009
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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This ultra marathon spans (counter clockwise) the entire rim of Glacier Gorge traversing 8 summits in perhaps 15 miles. The 7 towers along the Keyboard of the Winds are not climbed. Begin at the Glacier Gorge Bus Stop. Take the Glacier Gorge Trail and ascend the Regular Route on Thatchtop. Traverse the summit and gain the Continental Divide via the Northeast Ridge of Powell Peak. Traverse Powell Peak and descend into McHenrys Notch. Climb east out of the notch (5.5, 300 feet) and traverse McHenrys Peak (Northwest Ridge/Stone Man Ridge), Chiefs Head Peak (Northwest Ridge/East Ridge), Pagoda Mountain (Northwest Face/East Ridge), Longs Peak (Southwest Ridge/Keyhole Ridge), Storm Peak and finally Half Mountain. Descend a talus gully on the northwest side of Half Mountain and regain the Glacier Gorge Trail at Mills Lake. Run the final 2.5 miles back to the GG Bus Stop. This is a very long and demanding circuit with various challenges beyond sheer endurance such as the Northeast Ridge of Powell Peak, McHenrys Notch, the Northwest Face of Pagoda Mountain and the south ridge of The Dark Tower. The descent of the Keyhole Ridge is not trivial. Best time to date: 13 hours, R. Rossiter, 11 August 2009. I am just an old guy. Someone younger and faster could probably do this in half the time.


This spectacular outing follows the complete rim of Glacier Gorge and tops every summit except the towers along the Keyboard of the Winds.


Free solo. If you need a rope and a partner, you can forget about it. You don't have time to eat much less belay.
More info about such an undertaking is found here:


So is the "Walk in the Park" different from the "Glacier Gorge Traverse"? If not, then credit goes to this Jim guy. Rossiter's got enough FA's, right? Mar 29, 2010
justin dubois
Estes Park
justin dubois   Estes Park
Nice link up, Richard.
Powell Peak isn't part of Glacier Gorge though. Jun 28, 2010
Richard Rossiter  
Justin, it requires 4 USGS QUADRANGLES to really see the complete outline or ridge crest surrounding Glacier Gorge: McHenrys Peak, Isolation Peak, Allens Park and Longs Peak Quadrangles. Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, Otis Peak and Taylor Peak are not part of the rim of Glacier Gorge, nor are Arrowhead and Spearhead.

I did the circuit "A Walk In The Park" counterclockwise, which necessarily includes the following summits: Thatchtop Mountain, Powell Peak, McHenry's Peak, Chief's Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Long's Peak, Storm Peak and Half Mountain.

The east face of Powell Peak directly overlooks and drains into Glacier Gorge via Shelf Creek.

This is not meant in the spirit of debate; it is simply the lay of the land. Jul 2, 2010
J. Thompson
denver, co
J. Thompson   denver, co
Is this not "the great wheel"?

josh Jul 6, 2010
Richard Rossiter  
A Walk In The Park is indeed The Great Wheel. The difference is that The Great Wheel, published in my 1997 guidebook to RMNP, had been climbed only in pieces. After completing the whole circuit in a single push (2009), I renamed it A Walk In The Park. I don't really care what it is called. It is a fantastic outing by any name. Jul 9, 2010
justin dubois
Estes Park
justin dubois   Estes Park
Fair enough, Richard, we're merely talking semantics here anyways, an amazing day, no matter what specific route you take. Jul 16, 2010
the Mountains
Stiles   the Mountains
Let's see some time posts. Dec 26, 2011
Estes Park
Q B   Estes Park
I climbed this today. 10 hours-ish CTC from Glacier Gorge up towards shelf/solitude, but ascending Thatchtop via the S-Gully would cut off more time. Trip report here--- quinnbrett.blogspot.com/201… Jul 24, 2012
Brody Hatch
  5.5 PG13
Brody Hatch  
  5.5 PG13
Nate Hansen and I did this traverse yesterday (9/8/2013). First off, let me just say that this route is a classic! Neither of us were very familiar with the area/features, so we found the beta to be very lacking and were often spending time trying to figure out where to go. Here is our experience/beta:

We weren't sure if there was an established trail that would get us on our way to the top of Thatchtop peak, so we waited until we got to Mill's Lake and essentially just bushwhacked straight up the mountain until we reached the ridge which was easy to follow to the summit. If there is a better way to get onto the ridge, please post directions.

We didn't know how to descend into the notch, so we guessed and went left (if you face the notch from Powell). Going left is a no no. Every path cliffs out and provides for some scary solo climbing. We scrambled back up and dropped off the right side. There is an easy ramp that takes you right into the notch. Go right! Getting up the other side was easy. There is a 4th/5th class gully to your right that takes you right to the top.

Pagoda Peak was the next problem. When approaching, don't follow the ridge unless you are comfortable soloing very exposed and somewhat sketchy rock. We ended up going left around the initial knife edge ridge to a easy gully that led to the summit.

Our last mistake was truly epic. Upon summiting Half Mountain, the beta was to take the Northwest talus gully, easy. We drop about 1000 feet when we realize that we are completely surrounded by cliffs. There is no way down, so we have to turn around and climb the talus back to the summit! It was miserable. We get to the top and realize that there are multiple talus gullies in that area. There really needs to be a cairn or some indicator for the right gully. Taking the wrong one is very dangerous. Not wanting to make another mistake, we just bailed directly north. It was a gradual descent with boulders, trees, and shrubs. It was really annoying and tedious at times but no talus or cliffs. It puts you on the Long's Peak trail. Just take a left, then a right when you hit the Mill's Lake junction.

Anyway, hope this info helps. All in all, epic day and killer traverse. Definitely a must do. Sep 9, 2013
Joe Forrester
Palo Alto
Joe Forrester   Palo Alto
I don't want to step on any toes, but there were a couple Colorado College grads who did the great wheel in the early 2000s in a day, I believe Renan Ozturk and Sam Piper were among them, maybe others. I know a bunch of us did this in segments back then as well. Have no idea about times. -Joe Sep 23, 2013
Yeeeeow! What a knee buster! Did this in 8:50:47 yesterday TH to TH. Unfortunately I had to start from Bear Lake, since GG was full at 5:45! For me, this was all new terrain from the time I left the Mixed Emotions area in Loch Vale to the topout of the SW ridge on Long's. It definitely is prudent to have climbed the Keyhole Ridge before trying to downclimb it.

I made virtually no large route finding errors (a small miracle) except getting back to Mill's Lake from Half Mountain when I hemmed and hawed about which choss gully to take. This probably only cost an extra five minutes.

This is an excellent trip and gives some excellent vantages into some not often seen places in the Park. Also gives some unique perspectives on places that we've all been many times. Aug 30, 2015
8:50:47??? Yeeeow back! I did in 13:10 last week and felt good to be sitting with Rossiter's pace.

What an amazing experience to have no signs of others, where the few footprints you see are of those on the same pilgrimage, where the minimal carins atop summits ask you to pause and contemplate the expansive views. This incredible alpine wilderness circuit is RIGHT there!

I think the crux is the Keyhole Ridge downclimb. Otherwise the beta is go do it and be prepared for it so that you may enjoy the moment. Aug 30, 2015
This is similar to the "Glacier Gorge Traverse" (summitpost.org/the-glacier-…). I've summarized these 2 routes & their fastest known times (FKTs) here:
It's confusing because "A Walk in the Park" traverses Glacier Gorge proper, while the "Glacier Gorge Traverse" traverses Glacier Gorge, Loch Vale, Chaos Canyon, and Tyndall Gorge. Sep 13, 2015
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
One can also get from the Chief's Head/Pagoda col to the summit of Pagoda via a traverse ledge on Pagoda's SW Face. It's almost all 4th class or easier except for one or two easy 5th class moves. Details here: mountainproject.com/v/west-….

Peter: to add to the confusion, there's another version of the "Glacier Gorge Traverse" at mountainproject.com/v/glaci…. That version starts with the Arrowhead/McHenry's ridge and leaves out Storm Peak and Half Mountain. Sep 27, 2015
Another year, another go. Man, this thing is so classic. The SW ridge of Long's is sooo fun. I did the exact WITP again this time, but this will probably be the last. I think the west ridge of Pagoda is more aesthetic and direct, so I'll try that next go.

Changed beta mid-redpoint attempt and had some 5th class downclimbing to get into McHenry's notch. Forgot about the ramp description. This is a bit late in the year to do this as there was snow to dodge on Pagoda's north face and the Keyhole ridge. This certainly cost me a bit of time but not much.

For future speedsters: save some gas, and be careful coming down the north side of Storm - the talus is unconsolidated there, and you can really get some big ones moving.

Thatchtop 1:14
Powell 1:51
McHenry's 2:22
Cheifshead 3:1x
Pagoda 4:01
Longs 5:00:00
Storm 5:54
Half 6:47
GG TH 7:41:29

My summer training plan of hangdogging climbs that are way over my head is probably not ideal for this kind of thing. I'm sure someone with actual fitness and talus skills could go sub 6 hours. Sep 19, 2016
garrett knorr
fort collins
garrett knorr   fort collins
Anybody know if this has been done in the winter? Sep 13, 2018