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BETA PHOTO: Blizten Face climbs the prow to the right of the r...
The prospect of climbing the Blitzen Face is like so many other walls when viewed from in front: a ridiculous and preposterous undertaking. So often these faces appear too steep and intimidating to juxtapose them with the thought of actually climbing them. However, once close upon the face, lines of weakness marking the possibility of climbing reveal themselves. The goal then should be to force yourself to go and touch the base of the wall before listening to the voices that would otherwise turn you around in your tracks and head you back in the direction from whence you came.
The Blitzen Face is not so different. From afar, it looks imposing; even overhanging at its base, with an upper section that rears vertical and sustained as well. Not so; close upon the base and the climber will find a path of weaknesses leading through several small overhangs, and a much lower angle, broken upper face. However be warned; this route, as with most to be found on Mt. Yipsilon, is comprised of very loose rock. Some of us donít mind a little choss mixed in with our climbing though, and this is a worthy mountain to climb.
Approach as for any climb on the east face of Mt. Yipsilon; see the description of the Prancer Ridge for a good account of how to navigate up to and around Spectacle Lakes. Remember to stay higher up on the side of the mountain and not lower around the shore of the lake for your traverse into the routes. Even in late summer, there is still a fair amount of snow present on the ground. A pair of crampons and an ice axe will not be unwelcome. On August 11, 2006, I climbed over 60 meters of steep, icy snow to reach the start of the rock. Look for a small island of stone that is on the right side of the lower Y-Couloir as a good place to start the technical climbing.
The Rossiter guide describes the Blitzen Face as climbing two or three steeper pitches up a buttress on the right side of the Y-Couloir. From there, continue up a lower-angle face to an intersection with the Blitzen Ridge, just moments beneath the summit. Starting from the rock island at the bottom of the couloir, climb over broken terrain, up through several small overhangs. If you stick directly with the crest of the buttress, you should run into a couple of pitons on what might pass for the 2nd pitch or so. If the climbing does not suit your fancy, simply go right or left a few meters and find another path; all roads lead to the same ending. After a few pitches of navigating up the buttress, lower-angled terrain will be encountered. Climb this, aiming for the pinnacle of rock where the ridge, coming in on your right, meets the top of the face. The summit is only a short distance away at this point.
There are many options for getting down. On the occasions where I have climbed Yipsilon, I always have traversed the summit plateau to the south, and headed down a scree slope into a valley that is on the south side of the Donner Ridge, and from there back down to the valley that was used on the approach to Spectacle Lakes. This is pretty easy to navigate through, though complex in description. So, just follow your nose.
The Blitzen Face is a great climb. However, this is only my opinion. There is a lot of loose rock present, and the face is in a very remote setting. Expect a long day. See Rossiterís guide to the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park as a guide. Enjoy.
A standard rack should be just fine. Nothing large is needed.