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Hourglass Couloir, The 

The Hourglass Couloir 


Type:  Mixed, Alpine, 6 pitches, 1200', Grade III
Original: M4 Mod. Snow [details]
FA: Harry Kent
Season: Spring
Page Views: 11,800
Submitted By: Chris Sheridan on Apr 10, 2006

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Chris Sheridan about to get pummeled by spindrift ...


The Hourglass Couloir is an excellent alpine route similar in nature to Dreamweaver but with more sustain difficulties, a bit harder cruxes, and a more remote setting. The route involves about six long pitches of roped climbing through gullies and around chockstones.


The route is an obvious gully in the middle of the north face of Arrowhead Peak directly above Solitude Lake. Descend the Southeast gully to Black Lake (may require some rappels) or climb west to the low point of the ridge between Arrowhead and McHenry's, then drop down and right back to the Solitude Lake cirque (I haven't tried this descent, but in hindsight it seems to be the best).


A standard mixed rack works fine.

Photos of The Hourglass Couloir Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: And another photo showing the chimney systems righ...
BETA PHOTO: And another photo showing the chimney systems righ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Eric taking a turn kicking the steps to the base o...
Eric taking a turn kicking the steps to the base o...
Rock Climbing Photo: This was about 6 pitches although I marked up 9 be...
BETA PHOTO: This was about 6 pitches although I marked up 9 be...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Hourglass Couloir.
BETA PHOTO: The Hourglass Couloir.
Rock Climbing Photo: Possibly the correct NFace descent is seen in cent...
Possibly the correct NFace descent is seen in cent...
Rock Climbing Photo: The top of the ice pitch is seen in the distance.
BETA PHOTO: The top of the ice pitch is seen in the distance.
Rock Climbing Photo: Narrow slot in center of pic shows wedge chock sto...
Narrow slot in center of pic shows wedge chock sto...
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris setting up the rappel in the Southeast Gully...
Chris setting up the rappel in the Southeast Gully...
Rock Climbing Photo: Eric starting up the third pitch of The Hourglass ...
Eric starting up the third pitch of The Hourglass ...

Comments on The Hourglass Couloir Add Comment
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By Dougald MacDonald
Apr 12, 2006

Definitely a great route, likely better and perhaps harder later in the year. (Like when we did it in May.) There's a chockstone on the first technical pitch that felt harder than M4 to me (it might be harder with less snow). Higher (4th pitch?) there was a classic short ice and mixed pitch: a runnel in the back of a chimney, which you exited by hand (tool) traversing across a flake at the top. Easy but fantastic! Don't underestimate the approach: It takes a long time to wallow up to the Solitude Lake bench, and there can be avalanche danger. And bring flotation for the trip back out; one year we walked in on firm snow but literally had to crawl down to Mills Lake in the afternoon heat.

We descended to the Arrowhead-McHenry's saddle, and then down to the north (to Solitude Lake). I don't remember the details, but it wasn't bad.
By Ross Swanson
From: Pinewood Springs
May 26, 2008
rating: M4 Mod. Snow PG13

25MAY08 The 4th pitch, ice pitch, had ice all the way, exiting at the top without a traverse. Passing the chock stones on this climb are a lot of fun. Glad I didn't have a pack on for the 3rd pitch, odd, double chockstone, I still can't believe I actually put a sling on it, doh!

There is adequate pro but just enough, a deadman came in handy passing the one cornice we encountered. Our rack was a set of Camalots 3 to 0.5, wires, two Aliens, 2 screws, and a deadman. A yellow Camalot came in handy for the ice pitch. We found a fixed wire on the first pitch, crammed in the left corner that came in handy. You will want short ice screws.

In the conditions we had, the climb was at least twice as hard as Dreamweaver but not as hard as the crux chockstone pitch on Hallett.

We went to the top and on the descent found cairns, but they ended. We then went down about 500 or more feet on a steep snow slope looking for the descent but did not find it, likely it continues down see pic. So we ended up making 3 long raps to the skiers left of the snow slope. Don't go over there. In retrospect, it would have been best to rap the route after the ice pitch. The rock above the ice pitch catches a lot of sun.

One of the best mixed climbs!!!
By ABaxter
From: Estes Park, CO
Dec 20, 2008

This was my intro to alpine mixed climbing, screaming barfies, and spindrift from above AND below. Absolutely loved it (after bailing at the top of the 3rd due to fear of frostbite in my digits). Way psyched to get some burly gloves and get back out. FA - Harry Kent sometime in the '70s or '80s.
By Kevin Landolt
From: Fort Collins, Wyoming
May 9, 2010

An excellent climb in a beautiful setting.

We were able to find the descent down to Solitude Lake without too much heartache, and downclimbed it all easily except for one 30m rap midway down the gully. We left a single nut and biner (for the rap), which will hopefully be of use to future parties.
By Mark D.
From: Santa Fe
Jun 5, 2013

Climbed the Hourglass on June 1. Conditions were great. This is a very nice route. Definitely the best mixed line I have climbed in the Park. Approach took about 3 hours on hard snow. We were able to walk across Solitude Lake. Coming out was punchy but doable without flotation. The ice pitch was in great shape! The chockstones on P1 were tricky, and pro was a little scarce.
By Jonathan Stickel
From: Golden, CO
Jun 8, 2016

We had great conditions June 5, 2016. I'd say the crux was the ice pitch at solid WI 4. It protected well with screws and rock gear. The ice on the toughest chockstone was difficult, because it didn't have good pro and the feet were sugar snow, but probably AI 4-. Overall not much drytooling. Sections were melting fast.

The approach is quite a challenge. We found pink ribbons and few cairns marking the way up the slope to Solitude Lake. Even so, it was hard to find the way, and lots of wallowing in deep snow. It took us 4.5 hours. Glad we bivied.
By Ryan Marsters
Jun 19, 2017

We tried it a month apart - mid-May had it choked full of storm snow with nothing supportive and the pro opportunities buried. Mid-June had ample pro, reachy moves and a great pitch of ice but a lot of loose rock. I think June 1st time-frame might be prime.

In mid-June, we broke it out as:
-P1: three chockstones and about 120 ft. Sheltered belays on right. The chockstones get progressively harder, M3-5. The first was a shower. The last chock is the crux and might be easier with more ice.
-P2: around 170 ft, though I think most stop it around 100 and split our P2 and P3 into three pitches. Easier snow, ice, and M2-M3ish. Belay at old knife blade on left.
-P3: around 180 ft too. WI2 and M2 for a bit until a final chimney. Stem over the sketchy chockstones or squeeze under? WI 3 with ample rock and ice pro and a bit of M3ish to finish.
-P4: Aout M3ish tundra and rock scrambling up to a ledge, head left to re-join the main couly and head up snow.
-Step left and scramble or simul the rest around M2.

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