REI Community
Ypsilon Mountain
Select Route:
Blitzen Face T 
Blitzen Ridge T 
Prancer Ridge T 
Y Couloir (Left Branch) 
Y Couloir (Right Branch) T 

Blitzen Ridge 

YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c

Type:  Trad, Alpine
Original:  YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c [details]
FA: Clint Brooks, Charlie Ehlert, Dave Fedson, James Walker, and Phil Ritterbush, 1958
Page Views: 28,817
Submitted By: paco on Jan 29, 2002

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (73)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
Beautiful alpine forget-me-nots found below Donner...

Seasonal Closures MORE INFO >>>


Thanks to its beautiful rock and wild position in a wilderness setting, Blitzen Ridge is perhaps the best ridge climb in the Park.

Don't be fooled by the 5.4 rating. When planning for this route, keep in mind that you'll be climbing a rather commiting, lightning prone ridge which is blind to approaching storms. Soloists in good alpine shape should find themselves on top of Ypsilon by late morning. Roped parties must take extra care to move fast and efficiently.

If sending the whole shpeal in a day, you'll want an early start out of the Lawn Lake trail head. Hike to Ypsilon Lake, and head NW on a small trail leading to Spectacle Lakes. When arriving in the cirque you'll want to avoid Spectacle Lakes by cutting right and straight up a talus hill to the start of Blitzen Ridge.

Head NW and the rounded hill will slowly narrow into a sidewalk of granite. From here, you'll be able to see how Blitzen curves up and to the left reaching Ypsilon's summit.

The cruxes of Blitzen Ridge are the Four Aces. You won't hit the peaks of all the Aces but rather to the right or left. For the first two Aces, climb on their left side to get around them. Climb straight up the third, and to the right on the fourth (which felt like the crux to me). From this awesome position, continue straight up a prow for 200ft.

Here the ridge eases to 3rd and 4th class but with outstanding exposure to your left. Run up this 1000 ft ridge trying to stay left for the best rock and best view.

A neglected super classic!


Bring a light rack.

Photos of Blitzen Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Gorgeous columbine, 6/06.
Gorgeous columbine, 6/06.
Rock Climbing Photo: Photo by Avery N.  The Aces as seen from the Y cou...
Photo by Avery N. The Aces as seen from the Y cou...
Rock Climbing Photo: Wow!  Exposure at its best. 6/06.
Wow! Exposure at its best. 6/06.
Rock Climbing Photo: The clouds break over the Aces.
The clouds break over the Aces.
Rock Climbing Photo: Lower Spectacle Lake.
Lower Spectacle Lake.
Rock Climbing Photo: The full cirque (with most of the traverse we did)...
The full cirque (with most of the traverse we did)...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approaching the First Ace.
Approaching the First Ace.
Rock Climbing Photo: Wade Morris on top of the 2nd (?) Ace in Winter.
Wade Morris on top of the 2nd (?) Ace in Winter.
Rock Climbing Photo: Wade Morris near the top of the 3rd Ace, 2017 Wint...
Wade Morris near the top of the 3rd Ace, 2017 Wint...
Rock Climbing Photo: En route to the summit.  Spectacular! 6/06.
En route to the summit. Spectacular! 6/06.
Rock Climbing Photo: Easy going so far on Donner.
Easy going so far on Donner.
Rock Climbing Photo: From First Ace, killer views!
From First Ace, killer views!
Rock Climbing Photo: Meaty part of the Blitzen Ridge.
BETA PHOTO: Meaty part of the Blitzen Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Kepley on the Blitzen's airy final approach.
Kepley on the Blitzen's airy final approach.
Rock Climbing Photo: Donner Ridge (descent we used).
Donner Ridge (descent we used).
Rock Climbing Photo: Approach gully from lower Spectacle Lake.
Approach gully from lower Spectacle Lake.
Rock Climbing Photo: Good view of the Aces.
Good view of the Aces.
Rock Climbing Photo: Spectacle Lakes from the approach gully.
Spectacle Lakes from the approach gully.
Rock Climbing Photo: Just below the summit, on the descent. Blitzen on ...
Just below the summit, on the descent. Blitzen on ...
Rock Climbing Photo: 'Aces high' and the final approach ridge of the Bl...
BETA PHOTO: 'Aces high' and the final approach ridge of the Bl...
Rock Climbing Photo: Progress so far.
Progress so far.
Rock Climbing Photo: Tony M. on Ace 1.
Tony M. on Ace 1.
Rock Climbing Photo: Another view of Spectacle Lakes and Donner Ridge.
Another view of Spectacle Lakes and Donner Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Donner Ridge (routefinding was fairly easy; we mad...
Donner Ridge (routefinding was fairly easy; we mad...

Show All 59 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Blitzen Ridge Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 14, 2016
By Elijah Flenner
Jan 29, 2002

This is probably the best climb I did last year, and I would recommend it to anyone. The exposure is great, the rock is solid for the mountains, and you climb forever. A couple of comments. I did two rappels from the third Ace, and had a hard time finding where to rappel. This can be downclimbed instead, but it is exposed. I have talked to others who have rappeled also, and they rappeled from a good second anchor, while I used a manky piton. Look around for the rappels. I would of loved to have two way radios on this climb, because it is easy to get out of earshot while going around the four Aces. The approach is about 6 miles, and the descent is longer. Be careful in planning the descent. I got lost, and it turned into an epic. Lastly, while the climb is only 5.4, if you hike in, climb, and hike out in a day, expect it to be a long day. Soloing parts, or simuclimbing parts can speed things up a lot. Did I mention the exposure, simply magnificent.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Jan 29, 2002

Definitely NOT a "date climb" (see Petite and the Bulge). Don't plan on completing this route before dark if you belay all the 5th class sections. Often soloed (in terms of how often it gets climbed), but there is some sneaky, loose rock.

An alternate approach that seemed nice and direct was to head straight up the slope above the NW side of Ypsilon Lake, to hit the ridge where it is walking terrain. It seems like this would save a considerable amount of time compared to the Spectacle Lakes approach, although that way is prettier.
By Frank Stock
Feb 4, 2002

Yup, definitely not a date climb. For that matter, one might best think of the Blitzen Ridge as a good solo and leave it at that. The approach and decent make this a high overhead climb for the amount of technical rock.

Buyer beware. This is a full day with a long and technical descent, and you need to be moving to beat the afternoon storms as you will be the highest thing on the big flat summit. While it is only 5.4 and has really solid rock, the huge approach, technical descent and exposure should make the 5.6-5.7 leader think twice about tackling this route.

The climb described above is pretty much how I remembered it. I didn't like the slippery grass ledges on the left side of the first Ace and chose to climb to top and downclimb, but otherwise right on.

Downclimbing the summits of the Aces may be the mental crux, at 5.4 it's hard to identify the climbing crux as there is a lot of 5.4 ish climbing. The fourth Ace may be because you have a bit of route finding combined with steeper rock.

The descent is the peach of the climb. Several hundred feet of glissading down a gully-too much fun. I was late season so it was pretty soft snow, but I imagine in early season this would be an exciting trip. After the glissade it is a thrash to get back to the lake, and then a long day out. I am guessing that a couple miles of hiking would bypass the need to glissade, but that would be a shame.

All and all, a good alpine rock route worth doing every couple years, especially early season to see where you are at. If nothing else, it is a beautiful setting.
By Joe Keyser
From: Scottsdale, AZ
Jun 3, 2002

The long approach gets confusing through the morraine. Granted it was dark, but, the trail just seemed to stop in the middle of the trees? Got to the cirque after some postholing, and tree-whacking... Though approaching from/to the cirque may be prettier than going up climbers right of the cirque/ridge, it may be way more time consuming? A few icy and wet sections were on route (6/1), and the rope management is quite troublesome. We went straight over the top of the Aces, and found some nice climbing. The third was particularly pleasant. Downclimbing the Aces was a little sketchy. We ended up bailing before the summit due to time, and some gnarly clouds that faked us out. I agree with the above comments, this climb should not be taken lightly for the given rating(s). That said, the whole area is quite impressive, and I was surprised by the scale of the wall. Awesome views of Diamond, Spearhead, Chiefshead, etc... Start early!!!
By David A. Turner
Jul 5, 2002

Great route. I thought the climbing itself is worthy of perhaps two stars, but the position is magnificent. If you are comfortable soloing 5.4 climbing up and 5.0 climbing down, consider leaving the rope at home. Not reminiscent of the Exum Ridge at all, more of an Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata Peak type route. Heading up the grassy gully on the N. side of Ypsilon Lake was very straightforward and direct.
By Bill Wright
Jul 8, 2002

A few years ago John Prater and I did this route, car-to-car, in ten hours. I don't think that involved any simul-climbing as John was a neophyte technical climber back then (not the hardman he is today). You definitely want to be nowhere near this ridge when the electrical storms hit.

The approach is long but worth it. If you move at a steady pace and don't have route finding difficulties, this goes quite quickly. Great position and great views!
By Joe Keyser
From: Scottsdale, AZ
Jul 8, 2002

Damn fast time, Bill! When we did this, we ended up approaching it from the cirque which added quite a bit of time (I would assume anyway?). We also went straight over all the Aces. We rapped off the top of the third Ace, since the downclimbing on that one was steep, and didn't look good to us at the time. Maybe it was the cloud that was freaking us out? You are right on point with the route finding thing though, time can easily be wasted on this thing (we did a little of that). We ended up bailing, but, rejection equals motivation, right! I need to go finish this thing off using the path and approach of least (less) resistance, but, with a rope, ten hours is moving super fast IMO! At least for what we did.... Good climbing.
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 16, 2002

My partner and I climbed the ridge in perfect weather on Sept 3. We hiked up the day before to bivy at Spectacle Lake. After lots of scrambling, looking for the best bivy/start off point around, we went back to the area of the outlet and spread our bags on somewhat level rocks and ate some good Hormel Chili straight out of the can. With a casual start at 1st light, we hiked up to the ridge with some easy 3rd and followed the ridge to the 1st Ace arriving at 9AM. All the Aces have some 5.4 moves, but it is only 10ft to 50ft of climbing at any one time with big ledges. The 5.7 direct finish on the 4th Ace is only about 30ft total of 5.7 moves and the rest is 5.0 to 5.4. The downclimbing is all in the the 5.0 to 5.2 arena, but you can make it harder if you go straight down. Rack consisted of single set of wires (did not use any wire smaller than no.4) 3 TCUs (did not use the smallest) and 4 midrange DMM 4 Cams and #4 and #6 hex, 4 double slung quickdraws and 3 10ft slings (used those a lot) - took 60 meter single rope. Made it to the top of the headwall by 11:30AM and to the top of Ypsilon by 12:30 to 1PM (due to trying to following the ridge line exactly). Had casual time on top - lunch and partner's blistered feet repair. On the downclimb, we tried to follow the Donner Ridge exactly and cliffed out about 2/3 of the way down. Made our way back to a grassy gully and followed it down and it too cliffed out and we had to do a single rappel to hit the valley floor (sorry RMNP - but we did leave a sling on a rock). Climbed back up to the ridge and back down to Spectacle Lakes. (Climbing back up to the ridge from the valley floor - look for trees on the ridge line and go up - 4th class slabs. Then, go to a low spot on the ridge and zig zag down to the lakes.) In hindsight, the better place to bivy is before starting up the gully drainage to Spectacle Lakes and on the down climb from Ypsilon go to the valley floor behind Donner Ridge and follow it back to the packs (would have saved a couple of hours). Put on the pig and made it back to the car at 9PM. Due to age (bad knees, bad back, more fat) we are not in contention for the speed ascent and descent. All in all, a beautiful Alpine climb and position - highly recommend it. Did not see anyone else until the top and again until the parking lot.
By Anonymous Coward
Nov 8, 2002

Cool pic of the Aces, Bill. This climb is great.
By justin dubois
From: Estes Park
Jan 20, 2003

This is an absolute must do! Think of it as a really exposed and beautiful hike. Just go do it. I am a big fan of ridge climbs, and this is about as good as I have seen. Better than the Ellingwood Arete. It seems to go on forever, and you really don't want it to end. Very exposed and mostly excellent rock. The 4th class headwall at the end is about as close to 5th as you can get, I've been on 5.9s that are not as steep as this section, but it's like climbing a ladder.
By Anonymous Coward
May 7, 2003

This route rocks! I did it a few years ago and did most of it in tennies. We roped up for two very short pitches and soloed the rest. We took 100ft. of 8mm dynamic rope and a set of stoppers, and the first three tri-cams. You really don't need much more. Either way, this route is amazing!
By Nate A
From: Estes Park, CO
Jul 6, 2003

Great route, incredible views and exposure, my mutant partner and I recently soloed this route in 5hrs 40min, car to car.
By Warren Teissier
Aug 4, 2003

Myke and I did this climb yesterday.

Very cool climb.

We started at 5:30am from the Lawn Lake TH. We reached Ypsilon Lake in 1.5hrs. We went around (clockwise) the lake and climbed the grassy gully north of the lake directly up the toe of the ridge.

We passed the first Ace on the left via comfortable ledges and were greeted by phenomenal exposure on the downclimb to the second Ace.

We roped up, changed shoes and simulclimbed over the second Ace (starting on its left side) and third Ace. When climbing the third, follow the leftmost of two dihedrals or lines.

On the fourth Ace, we traversed right at about the level of the saddle and around the arete. (5.4-5.6) but other options were available....

We found the headwall past the 4th Ace to be really steep and in the 5.4+ range, at least the way we did it. There was lots of loose rock and Myke had a hold break off on him. We started on the left side of the headwall, up to a large white boulder atop a buttress and climbed up and left from there.

The climb is far from over once you finish the Aces and the Headwall. Lots of scrambling and about 1,000 vertical feet remain.

We summited 6 hrs after leaving the car. As we were getting ready to return via the Donner ridge, a hiker we met at the summit offered to give us a ride from the Chapin Pass TH to our car.... So we hiked down the South East slopes. Happy times.

Long climb but well worth it.

Cheers, WT
By kyle kingrey
From: Loveland
Aug 18, 2003

Attempted the Blitz on the 16th. Joe and I left the T.H. @ 3am, started the route at 7. Grassy gully north of Ypsilon Lake is not as long as it looks. Once we started on the ridge itself, we knew we were in for a long haul. Climbed each of the 4 Aces directly, much harder than 5.4, but the pro was excellent. The 4th Ace had beautiful exposure, this is truly mountain climbing at its best. Once we reached the headwall, the clouds were getting dark and moving fast. Decided to bail off the ridge towards Spectacle Lake, very easy and convenient. Good thing we did because later on the sky opened up. Checked out the Y Couloir routes, which looked far from decent but still probably in for some mutants. All in all, a great day in the mountains, can't wait to go back and finish this enduring route.
By Gary Schmidt
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 4, 2004

Expect a long demanding day unless you are a mountain god. Nowhere near a beginner outing, and even though "officially" rated 5.4, don't be fooled. We chose to bivy at a beautiful ledge a few hundred feet above Spectacle. Got the 5:30 alpine start, hit the ridge and first Ace shortly afterward. Started to skirt the first Ace to the left but ended up climbing the top of it. There is a rap station on the back side of it which helps speed the descent. From then on, we climbed directly up and over each Ace which required some 5.7 moves along the way. (There are two rap stations for a descent from the third Ace, but beware that there is a giant, loose rock at the second station ready to kill some unlucky rapper). Since we didn't want to return to Spectacle Lakes but take advantage of the glissade on the the other side of Donner, we had a lot weight on us while doing some fairly technical climbing. After the fourth Ace, your work is far from over. Lots of very exposed class 4 and probably lower 5th class with some dubious loose rock up the headwall and then the ridge to the summit. Roach rates this outing at 5.4. to 5.6. Spectacular climb in a spectacular setting.
By alpinglow
From: city, state
Jul 6, 2004

Just climbed this for the first time a few days ago, hopefully won't be the last. What a wonderful day. All of the above comments are true.

That ridge just didn't stop. Great vistas of the Y couloir, and that big cornice!

A great alpine outing in RMNP with all the fixins.
By Brendan Sheehan
Aug 9, 2004

Climbed this on Aug. 8. Have to agree that it's a VERY long day. Descended into the basin between Ypsilon and Chaquita staying well away from Donner Ridge, then hiked back to Ypsilon Lake. This worked but was a bit difficult and exhausting after the long climb. Descent into the basin is steep, loose, and tedious and the way from the basin to Ypsilon Lake is not totally obvious. I'd say having a car at Chapin Pass would be a huge help. Anyway, a great climb.
By Cisco
Aug 17, 2004

Started up this today after getting up late at 9:00am, made it to the Aces at around 11:20, and then up to the headwall about 40 minutes later when all of a sudden BOOM! Dark skies and thunder sure scared me off. I didn't know of any quick descents, so I downclimbed the route entirely with the exception of the third Ace which I climbed around the right side. All in all, it was not that bad, and I look forward to returning and finishing this bad boy.
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 27, 2004

Rossiter holds this route in similar esteem to the Exum ridge. Whoa! I don't know about that but it's a good day in the mountains.
By Richard Rossiter
Oct 7, 2004
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

I would like to qualify my comparison of Blitzen Ridge to the Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton. I am refering to the Upper Exum Ridge, rated in the old days II F4, which I have climbed many times and of which Blitzen Ridge is every bit an equal. The Direct (or complete) Exum Ridge, rated in the old days III F7, which I have climbed twice, is a whole different bucket of haddock, and certainly rates among the finest alpine rock routes in North America.
By Billy Danger
From: Asheville, NC
Jun 20, 2005

I found the crux of the route to be the 4th class moves after the 4 Aces. While the climbing wasn't very hard, the exposure was intense. As we passed the serious scrambling after the 4th Ace, we had to cross some snowfields, and in doing so we set off some "wet slides". This was scary. Great route up an amazing mountain.
By Dan Levison
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 3, 2005

Major slog to Ypsilon Lake; beautiful hiking/scrambling from the lake to the summit, and again; major grind down Donner's West drainage to the lake and back to the car. Soloed w/ Paul Kunasz car-to-car in 7 hrs, 45 min - if soloing beware of the short steep/ fractured headwall step exiting 4th Ace; lots of exposure here on totally loose rock. In summary - great exposed scrambling sandwiched between multiple hours of trudging.
By Anonymous Coward
Jul 18, 2005

I soloed the route yesterday and took the route of least resistance (i.e. easiest): bypassing the first two Aces to the south via exposed grassy ledges (4th class), climbing and downclimbing the third Ace (5.0-5.2), and skirting the fourth Ace via a solid low fifth class ledge system on the north and then up the headwall, which I found to be 4th class with a move or two of 5.4. On the whole, the rock was very solid except the headwall where there was enough loose rock to make me nervous (not that it takes much). The third class ridge to the summit seemed very long. Lightning can be an issue on the plain that is Ypsilon's summit, and it has been an issue to me there in the past, but yesterday I had great weather. Not that it needs to be said, but consider the weather before slogging up to the summit. Thanks to R. Rossiter for a good description in his High Peaks.
By Rob Kepley
From: Westminster,CO
Jun 22, 2006

Climbed this amazing odyssey again yesterday with my bud Skip. However, this time we didn't use the standard approach up to Spectacle Lakes like most do. Instead, we continued around Ypsilon Lake in a "clockwise fashion" until you reach a talus field. Once here just follow the gully up and aim for the saddle above on the ridge. I think this way is quicker and a more direct access to the Blitzen Ridge.

We chose to climb around all four Aces on their left sides. Yes, there were some sketchy moments but never terrifying. Expect "in your face" exposure doing it this way.

After summiting, we headed down the Donner Ridge until we picked the line of least resistance and headed down to the drainage leading up to Chiquta Lake. We then picked up a faint path that takes you back to Ypsilon Lake.

Yes, expect a long, knee jarring day, but it is well worth the effort.

Right now there is really no snow to hinder your climb. All you need is a good pair of mountain running shoes and strong legs.
By Merlin
From: Grand Junction
Apr 23, 2007

About as great a climb as it gets. Use doubles for the rappels and expect sore knees but this is a must do.
By Andy Leach
From: Denver, CO
Aug 15, 2007

I climbed Blitzen Ridge August 12, 2007. Find some photos, a video, and a trip report at

We passed the first three Aces on the south and the 4th Ace on the north. We ended up downclimbing the third Ace on belay which I think was probably faster than rappelling. The most difficult moves I did all day was the last bit of the headwall, but my partner informed me that if I had stepped to the right a meter, I would have found a much easier exit.

Ypsilon is a big mountain and Blitzen Ridge is a big route! I was thoroughly destroyed by the time we made it back to the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Anyone who can do it in a day to and from Lawn Lake Trailhead is way, way stronger than I'll ever be.
By John Korfmacher
From: Fort Collins, CO
Aug 27, 2007

Climbed 8/25 with A. Wiedmann. This is a splendid climb, but it's a very long one. Start early and move fast. The 5.4 version seemed to me to be a reasonable solo--the rock on the steeper parts is good and the holds are massive buckets. In fact, it might be a bit safer as a solo since one can move a lot faster and thus avoid the inevitable weather. Thought the most enjoyable part was the 5.easy stuff after the 4th Ace--it goes on and on.

The 5.7 pitch on the 4th Ace was a pleasant surprise. Good pro, varied moves, great exposure. A light rack (#0.5, 1, 2, 3 Camalots, set of stoppers, 6 hexes) plus lots of slings were sufficient for us.

It is possible to escape the route to the left with a couple rappels anywhere before the headwall. There's a nice grassy ramp angling down to the left after the 4th Ace which probably wouldn't require a rap.
By jhump
Sep 25, 2007

I did this one late August 2007, solo, with little beta. I saw no one on the entire route beyond Ypsilon Lake.

I hit the summit in 3 hours from Lawn Lake TH. The ridge was nice. The adventure started there. I meant to go down Donner Ridge to the basin above Ypsilon Lake. I obviously missed this descent by wandering too far from the edge of the South Face on a faint trail I believed would "save time."
Noticing that I had missed the Donner Ridge, I faintly remembered hearing of a glissade descent over by Chiquita. I kept heading toward Chiquita until I got to a col, where it was either up Chiquita, or down the steep gully into the basin. Was it the correct gully? Anyway, I had to downclimb the most loose and dangerous rock I have ever seen for about 200 feet to reach the snow to glissade. Upon reaching the snow, I find that it is hard as iron and way steep for an axe-less glissade. So, to lose altitude, I chimney between the snow/ice and the rotten rock/mud in the moat. This quickly soaks me. When I reach the point where the moat ends, I must commit to the snow. I grab the sharpest rock I can find laying around- easy, there are lots of dangerously sharp rocks laying around. I chop steps with that sucker for a good 300 feet. I crimp on the ice bare handed hack a foot ledge and repeat. Soon, my frozen hands become useless. I am still 300 feet from the end of the snow. Now, I must glissade. I grab the rock and sit down. I crank the rock into ice the best I can and start to slide.

This ain't no Freedom of the Hills glissade. I feel like a whack greenhorn noob out to end his life.

Within 50 feet, the rock is torn from my hands. I claw and grab at the ice, further punishing my wooden fingers. The angle relaxes and I grab a stone frozen into the ice to stop. It was lower angle than it looked. I really wasn't in danger once I got on the ice, but the fear of the runout forced me to attempt the downclimb as long as I could. Live and learn.

I sit on a sunny rock in the basin for an hour consuming all of my water and food. I cannot find a trail for the life of me, and I bushwhack all the way to Ypsilon Lake. I took some cool waterfall pics and looked at some awesome boulders. From the lake, I jog the rest of the way to the car.

My times: 3 hours to summit, 5 hours to get down! What a freakin'' gumby.

I would like to come back and do this thing proper. Some beta requests:

1. Once you climb the final headwall, do you stick to the ridge or wander into the vast loose scrambling to the right of the ridge? I went right and ended up climbing some pretty loose and scary moves.
2. Once on the summit, what identifies the Donner Ridge descent? How far to walk before reaching the descent?
3. Once back in the basin, is there a trail leading back down to Ypsilon Lake?

By Andy Leach
From: Denver, CO
Nov 3, 2007

I received this note from Charles Ehlert regarding a trip report I had posted on my website. I thought some here might enjoy:

Found your site while Googling Blitzen Ridge on Ypsilon Peak. Many years ago (about Sept 1958) Phil Ritterbush, Clint Brooks, Jim Walker, Dave Fedson and I (students at Yale at the time) did the first ascent of the Blitzen Ridge. We were slow, got to the summit just before dark. Spent a cold night out, wrapped up in a climbing rope - not that it did any good... Walked down to Fall River Pass in the morning and hitch-hiked down. We named the two ridges "Donder" and "Blitzen" ridges - thunder and lightening. It's fun to read of others' adventures up there, remembering that great day all those years ago...
By John Korfmacher
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jul 30, 2008

jhump, your story was hilarious...don't sweat it, everyone's a gumbie once in a while. If you can get from the TH to the summit in 3 hours, you're at least a well-conditioned gumbie....

To answer your questions,
1. The best climbing after the headwall is directly on the crest. When I climbed it, I occasionally detoured right onto 3rd-class ground to avoid funky stuff.
2. Donner Ridge is the major, southern ridge of Ypsilon. Should be pretty obvious unless it's foggy, just be able to walk south and a bit west from the summit, less than a half mile IIRC.
3. There's sort of a trail from the Spectacle Lakes basin down to Ypsilon Lake. You have to scramble down the outlet stream from Spectacle and eventually you'll pick up a trail. It's not a particularly good one though.
By Nick Sandstrom
Oct 1, 2008

Just went up this today! Spectacular day in the mountains. I didn't see another person the whole day. North end of Ypsilon worked great for an approach too. I descended Donner and then just followed the Roaring River out for some peace and change of scenery. If my legs would handle it, I'd be up there tomorrow.

By Dave Bohn aka "Old Fart"
Jan 28, 2009

I know one of my old partners, Pat McGrane did a mid-winter ascent with his brother ~'77-79.
By Joe Brannan
From: Lyons, CO
Jul 18, 2010

Great day out! OSFS 7:19 ctc. Leave rope, harness, rap kit and axe in the car next time. Buy approach shoes instead of lugging mountain boots everywhere.

Something useful to add:
If descending Donner Ridge, once you get to Spectacle Lakes outlet and begin following the stream, make sure you trend skier's right to a wide gully rather than following the gorge to the left. Make a note of this when the stream disappears into the rocks below the first waterfall, otherwise you will encounter some ridiculous bushwhacking and two mandatory, chimney down-climbs. All of this was harder than anything on the route. Once near Ypsilon Lake, I looked back and realized my mistake.
By abovethebolts
Aug 9, 2011

Awesome day of climbing. On 8/6, we added new webbing and rap rings to the raps at the top of the 3rd and 4th Aces. Pin and webbing at the second rap on the 3rd Ace were in good shape.
By jmeizis
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Jun 10, 2012

Great climb. Something to be careful of with the rappel off the Third Ace is the rappel anchor that is there is in need of some fixing. The slings are on kind of a slopey horn that looks like it's pinched by a block. The problem is the block is easily moved so as not to pinch the slings, and then it's just some slings on a slopey horn where if you lean wrong they'll easily pop off. I'd suggest either downclimbing on belay or adding a backup to the slings or something of that nature. As it is now, I did not trust that as my sole connection to the mountain. Make sure to always check rappel slings and make sure it's: tied correctly, not chewed through, and that the fixed equipment (nut, cam, horn, block, etc.) are good enough for their intended use.
By Alan Doak
From: boulder, co
Aug 13, 2012

Left TH at 2pm on Aug 12, 2012 with Stefan Griebel. 8h50 CTC, it seems that 4 days is not enough time to fully recover from a blood donation....

Awesome route, great weather. Up Blitzen and down Donner.
By justin dubois
From: Estes Park
Aug 14, 2012

Is that fast?
By John D
Dec 2, 2012

Anyone tried this route in winter? I'm kind of tempted to give it a shot once we get some snow and ice.
By Joe Forrester
From: Palo Alto
Aug 11, 2013

Went up Donner Ridge then down soloed Blitzen 8/10/13, 7:20 CTC. Would be a long day if roping up 5th class sections. Sweet position and solid rock. If coming down Blitzen, make sure to cut down to Spectacle Lakes sooner than later on the ridge, otherwise you get cliffed out trying to get to Ypsilon Lake.
By Alan Doak
From: boulder, co
Dec 5, 2013

Finally saw the question if 8h50m is fast: no rope, constant movement, onsight but no real route finding issues, never jogging or running, fit but hungover from a blood donation.... It can be done way faster. It can also be done way slower. A record of 4 or 5 hours wouldn't blow my mind.
By erik rieger
From: Ridgway, CO
Jul 12, 2014

Nice position and good rock.
By Eric Bratrud 1
From: Boulder, Co
Feb 2, 2015

Great route. I've done this many times with and without partners. Usually about 7 and half hours solo at an easy pace. Ryan Jennings and I did it in winter at 14.5 hours CTC back in the late '90s. We both thought that was a little slow. Just go do it!
By Anton Krupicka
Aug 29, 2015

Really nice ridge scramble. I was surprised at how consistently quality the rock was…seemed to be very little choss (relatively speaking, for the alpine) in general. I made it car-to-car in 3h52---or, rather, bike-to-bike, I suppose, as I approached via bike from Boulder. This might now supersede Kiener's and/or the Keyhole Ridge as my favorite alpine scramble in the park, simply for the quality of rock and length of the ridge.

A couple beta points: at Ypsilon Lake, I went around its west end, bushwhacked on a very faint trail parallel to the lakeshore for maybe 5min, and then went left/NW/uphill in the steep, somewhat narrow grassy gully. This took me straight to the ridge and felt quite efficient.

I came down Donner Ridge, and when I got to the big, seemingly impassable cliff/notch in the ridge at ~12,300', I dropped down a loose-ish gully SOUTH off the ridge, stayed high on descender's left out of the underbrush in the basin and at treeline eventually picked up a very faint use path, crossed the stream to the right on a giant log, and soon ran right into a very obvious social trail that quickly led me right back down to Ypsilon Lake. Need to be heads-up, but this felt like a very logical, efficient descent.
By burado
From: New Hampshire
Sep 10, 2015

This route is very straightforward. Follow your nose on the Third and Fourth Ace. It would be hard to describe the path of least resistance, but you can search around a bit before committing to anything. After the Fourth Ace, there is still a considerable amount of elevation and scrambling to cover.

I followed Donner Ridge the whole of its length down. Some 5.0 downclimbing was needed, but I found it more aesthetic to follow the ridge, rather than drop down to the lake. This descent felt fairly casual and easy *with blue skies around*.

I would consider this a good solo or a tedious roped climb.

I really enjoyed this route and would recommend it to anyone looking for an intriguing solo scramble with spectacular views. It took me about 8 hours car-to-car with a few naps and breaks along the way. Do not pass up a dip in Ypilson Lake on your way out!
By Ryan Nevius
From: Estes Park, Colorado
Jul 6, 2016
rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c

Maybe I'm sandbagging...but this felt like 98% hiking and class 3/4 scrambling, and 2% technical climbing. That said, the position and views make this a worthwhile outing. In my opinion, it would be a stretch to call any of the mandatory climbing 5.4, and I didn't encounter any Ace downclimb any harder than 4th class. As noted in other comments, it's definitely possible to pick harder lines.
By nolteboy
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jul 14, 2016

Spectacular. The Aces and headwall are great, but for me, the 'endless' 3rd and 4th class above the headwall is what made the route amazing. My partner and I just kept saying "wow!!!" I was struck by how solid most of the rock was, given the elevation.

We gained the ridge via the gully on the NW or N side of Ypsilon Lake, which was very straightforward. It is easily visible on the opposite side of the lake. For descent, we strolled down from the summit of Ypsilon to the Chapin Pass TH and hitched a ride back to our car at the Lawn Lake TH.

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About