Glacier Gorge is a six-mile-long gorge the starts near Bear Lake and heads down to the back side of Long's Peak. It's surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery, cleanest rock and the longest ice routes in the park. Glacier Gorge hosts a bevy of top-notch, serious, ice climbs. The routes are strewn across the northeast facing slopes of Thatchtop, the North side of Arrowhead and in the cirque surrounding Black Lake. The area is scenic and fairly remote although you are likely to run into another party on the popular routes on weekends. All of these routes should be viewed as mountaineering routes involving technical pure water ice pitches combined with long, approaches and technical descents including steep snow, loose rock, and high altitude. Protection can be scarce and/or difficult to find, and changing conditions can make a moderate full-day climb into a strenuous, post-holing, struggle. With the abbreviated winter daylight hours, be sure to start this route early, bring a headlamp and be prepared to use it. The approaches to these climbs take 2-3 hrs under good conditions and considerably longer in deep snow etc. I have made the approach from the parking lot to the base of All Mixed Up in less than 1 hour; and I have had it take 2 hours just to get the few hundred yards from Mill's Lake to the base of the route! The Black Lake cirque is a far enough trudge that most consider this a winter camping type destination.
From Estes Park, take US 36 to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. A quarter of a mile past the station, Turn left onto Bear Lake Rd, in the direction of Bear Lake. Follow this road approx. 8.5 miles to the well-marked Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking area (approx. ½ mile before you reach Bear Lake). Park there and hike the Glacier Gorge Trail to Mills Lake, approx 3 miles. Snowshoes are a good idea in fresh snow, but the trail is usually well-packed within a matter of days. (Here's a great shortcut that will save you 30 minutes: Head right immediately after you cross the second overbuilt bridge-the ones with the handrails. Follow the drainage up until you intersect the GG trail about 100 yards from the GG/Loch junction. Summer climber's note: This is not the summer shortcut which parallels the drainage on the left. The winter route follows the creek bed and is quite skiiable.) Right before you get to Mills Lake you'll have to make a decision: left takes you into Glacier Gorge, Thachtop and the climbs at Black Lake; right takes you to the Loch.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Glacier Gorge:
Big Mac Couloir WI4- M4- Mixed, Ice, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1200 feet, Grade IV
This is the obvious couloir splitting the south face of Arrowhead. It is similar to Dreamweaver on Mt. Meeker in its legnth and difficulty. Either climb the West Gully out of Black Lake, or hike up and around to the South Face of Arrowhead and head straight for the base of the couloir. There could be some ice in spring with proper conditions. Expect mostly snow climbing with 4-5 mixed steps/constrictions, ranging from M2-4. About 5 pitches with a 60 meter rope, but...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Not really ice, more snow, but: Got a pretty good view of the upper trough on Longs this weekend. It looks horrible. Forget trying to climb it this spring. It looked like there were spots where the snow was probably not more than 20 feet wide. It will be gone by the end of the month. Last year in late May the snow was 100 yards across at least.
We went up to climb Spearhead - the rock was cold, but the climb was great. For the approach we used snowshoes for the last 2 miles and it seemed to help, though others got through okay without them. Check out the swath of avalanche busted trees below Black Lake! If you ever want to do a snow route in the area (ex: the Trough), now may be the time as conditions look great - dense snow in all the gullies. Beware the mid-day slush though as we heard a big wet slide come off the east side of McHenrys around noon.
We went up to climb Spearhead - we used snowshoes for the last 2 miles and it seemed to help, though others got through okay without them. Check out the swath of avalanche busted trees below Black Lake! If you ever want to do a snow route in the area (ex: the Trough), now may be the time as conditions look great - dense snow in all the gullies. Beware the mid-day slush as we heard a big wet slide come off the east side of McHenrys around noon.
It was COLD this weekend up high in Glacier Gorge. Ice is starting to come in. Thin, but it is coming none the less. If conditions keep staying cold (i.e. freezing hard at night with a little sun during the day) count on an early start up around Black Lake and around McHenry's and Pagoda. Keep an eye on it and get your tools ready!
Hiked to the far side of the Loch today, high winds and blowing snow, typical November conditions, but NO ICE ANYWHERE, no Necrophilia, Crypt, Deep Freeze, and no ice in the Practice area. Winter is around the corner, nice day for a hike but leave the tools at home for a couple more weeks.....
Got back to Black Lake on the 28th. Slabs look fine if thats your thing. The West Gully is in WI3 shape (harder for a few feet if you attempt the strange overhanging wind formations). Fat down below thinner on the upper half (still very doable). Stone Man was still a bit iffy though. Pillars are there but looked quite wet and unstable. A couple of more weeks will hopefully fim them up.
Was up near Black Lake yesterday, got a glimpse of the Hourglass Couloir on Arrowhead (N. Face?) Looks fat and beautiful!! Has anyone been up there this year? Unbelievable face, probably won't last long if things heat up too much this week.