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A Walk In The Park

5.5, Trad, Alpine, 15 ft (5 m), Grade IV,  Avg: 3.9 from 23 votes
FA: Renan Ozturk and Sam Piper, early 2000s? Richard Rossiter, 11 August, 2009
Colorado > Alpine Rock > RMNP - Rock > Glacier Gorge > A Walk in The Park
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Description

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.

Location

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

Protection

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.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

FYI - this is a map of a route I soloed and completed in 1982 on my fifth attempt.
[Hide Photo] FYI - this is a map of a route I soloed and completed in 1982 on my fifth attempt.
From Taylor Peak, this photo shows almost the entire route.
[Hide Photo] From Taylor Peak, this photo shows almost the entire route.
A Google Earth overlay showing the route I took on the traverse.
[Hide Photo] A Google Earth overlay showing the route I took on the traverse.
Labeled panoramas showing the peaks along the traverse.
[Hide Photo] Labeled panoramas showing the peaks along the traverse.
Self portrait atop Pagoda Mountain with yet a long row to hoe.
[Hide Photo] Self portrait atop Pagoda Mountain with yet a long row to hoe.
From McHenry's looking at Chiefshead. The ridge looked very steep and loose. It turned out very easy.
[Hide Photo] From McHenry's looking at Chiefshead. The ridge looked very steep and loose. It turned out very easy.
McHenry's Notch seen on route; Long's/Pagoda in the background.
[Hide Photo] McHenry's Notch seen on route; Long's/Pagoda in the background.
After descending Chiefshead, you get this good look at Pagoda's knife-like west ridge. I wish I knew the correct way to go.
[Hide Photo] After descending Chiefshead, you get this good look at Pagoda's knife-like west ridge. I wish I knew the correct way to go.
A Walk In The Park begins with the Regular Route on Thatchtop Mountain. This view looks down the key second gully (of the Regular Route) to the Loch Vale Trail, whereas one leaves easy hiking behind for a very long ways.
[Hide Photo] A Walk In The Park begins with the Regular Route on Thatchtop Mountain. This view looks down the key second gully (of the Regular Route) to the Loch Vale Trail, whereas one leaves easy hiking behin…
USGS Bench Mark, summit of Long's Peak.
[Hide Photo] USGS Bench Mark, summit of Long's Peak.
This shot is from the summit of Half Mountain looking  back whence I came up the very long north ridge of Long's Peak. To the right is the Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Mountain and Chiefs Head Peak.  As you can see it is rather late in the day and it is still a long ways back to the car.
[Hide Photo] This shot is from the summit of Half Mountain looking back whence I came up the very long north ridge of Long's Peak. To the right is the Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Mountain and Chiefs Head Pea…
This view is to the northwest, looking down  the Keyhole Ridge. Storm Peak and the long north ridge of Longs Peak appear to the right.
[Hide Photo] This view is to the northwest, looking down the Keyhole Ridge. Storm Peak and the long north ridge of Longs Peak appear to the right.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] More info about such an undertaking is found here:

summitpost.org/trip-report/…

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
[Hide Comment] Nice link up, Richard.
Powell Peak isn't part of Glacier Gorge though. Jun 28, 2010
Richard Rossiter
Boulder, CO
  5.5
[Hide Comment] 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
[Hide Comment] Is this not "the great wheel"?

josh Jul 6, 2010
Richard Rossiter
Boulder, CO
  5.5
[Hide Comment] 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
[Hide Comment] Fair enough, Richard, we're merely talking semantics here anyways, an amazing day, no matter what specific route you take. Jul 16, 2010
Stiles
the Mountains
[Hide Comment] Let's see some time posts. Dec 26, 2011
Q B
Estes Park
 
[Hide Comment] 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
Joe Forrester
Palo Alto
[Hide Comment] 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
[Hide Comment] 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
[Hide Comment] This is similar to the "Glacier Gorge Traverse" ( summitpost.org/the-glacier-…). I've summarized these 2 routes & their fastest known times (FKTs) here:
fastestknowntime.proboards.…
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
[Hide Comment] 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
[Hide Comment] Splits:
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 Sep 19, 2016
garrett K
salt lake city
[Hide Comment] Anybody know if this has been done in the winter? Sep 13, 2018
Ryan Arment
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Such a beauty!

We started at Bear Lake parking going counter clockwise : Storm, Long's, Pagoda, Chiefs, McHenry's, Powell, Taylor, Sharkstooth, Otis, Hallett, Flat Top, then back to Bear Lake Parking
12:07, fancy watches said 21 mi. Aug 17, 2020
Corey McD
Arvada, CO
[Hide Comment] I did the big loop starting with Flattop Mt. and going counter clockwise to Long's. I was making great time (Powell 4:22) until the notch. It took me an hour to figure out how to get down that.

At the notch, stay off the ridge, and go down the scree to the right (south) until you can easily walk adjacent to the slope and into the bottom of the notch.

Next big issue for me was Pagoda. I’ve read people go right and left. I decided to go left and really didn’t like it. It started raining, and I was not on easy terrain, I never found that easy gully that was mentioned. Sep 3, 2020
Devon Colegrove
Nixa, MO
[Hide Comment] Best beta that I've found for getting through the notch is to stay right if you're coming off of Powell and go down into the gully a ways until you can pull some easier 3rd/4th Class moves and get around on the south side of the ridge. You shouldn't have to do anything 5th Class to get into the notch. Climbing out of the notch up to McHenry's is low 5th Class, and I could do it with running shoes and feel comfortable.

The other crux is to get up Pagoda. I followed some ramps that angle down and to the right and then pulled some low, exposed 5th Class moves to get over a ledge and then followed some more easy terrain until coming to another headwall that has some big jugs and gets you onto the south ridge. The north side is more exposed, and staying on the south side allows you to keep the whole traverse at around 5.2ish terrain. May 18, 2021
Evan Gover
Fort Collins
  5.5
[Hide Comment] 8/12/22
1:58 Thatch
2:57 Powell
3:45 McHenry's
4:55 Chiefs Head
6:24 Pagoda
7:27 Long's
8:52 Storm
10:00 Half
11:15 GG TH
18 miles
Incredible outing, with the beta I now have I hope I could knock 90 min off this.... Downclimbing Keyhole Ridge was the crux by far. Quite intense. Twice tried taking a direct route up the SW face of Pagoda, lost time there, ended up going across the ledge to the easier terrain as others have mentioned. For McHenry's Notch, go down and around to the right (south side). Lost time on Thatch as well, went west from Mills' Lake straight up. The gully coming down Half while exhausted was terrible.

strava.com/activities/76280…. Aug 15, 2022
Nathanael Kerber
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] The current FKT by Joe Kennedy is 6:25:30: strava.com/activities/95325…. May 16, 2024