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Notchtop & vicinity
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North Face (which actually faces NE) 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b WI3

   
Type:  Trad, Ice, Alpine, 5 pitches, 600', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b WI3+ [details]
FA: Thomas Hornbein and David Thurston, 1952
Season: Early Season (maybe Nov)
Page Views: 9,792
Submitted By: Jason Nelson on Nov 15, 2001  with updates from erik rieger

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Notchtop N Face, November, 2007.

Description 

North Face follows the concave north face of Notchtop Mountain. [Approach] via a gully on the east right, gain some meadows, and hope that there is ice on the route. Can be prone to avalanche danger. We did the climb in about 4 pitches with some simul-climbing on the snow patches separating the ice sections. The first steep section of ice was not formed (pitch 2) so we traversed left along a ledge and climbed rock (maybe 5.7) to gain the snowfield above. Pitch 4 was the crux, a nicely formed piece of water ice in the 3-3+ range. Then some more snow, the summit and an "easy if dry" descent down the west gully (easy to find). There was more snow on the descent when I climbed Notchtop in the summer and I slid a hundred or so feet down the hard snow and bounced across the talus for awhile before stopping. The easier pitches (1 and 3) had thinner ice and didn't protect so well, but that would probably depend on conditions. Overall, it is a good time if you get the right conditions with fun, but not too difficult ice sections in between easy sections of snow.

Protection 

Ice screws, light rack of rock gear (single set of cams), maybe snow pickets, slings, maybe pitons, pitons might be useful on a winter ascent.


Photos of North Face (which actually faces NE) Slideshow Add Photo
Hope that snowpack holds Dave!  Dave finishing the...
Hope that snowpack holds Dave! Dave finishing the...
The North East Face of Notchtop in very thick cond...
BETA PHOTO: The North East Face of Notchtop in very thick cond...
3rd pitch, check for neurons, WI3.
3rd pitch, check for neurons, WI3.
P1, in nice conditions, 11/9/4.
P1, in nice conditions, 11/9/4.
Goin' for the top, to the rock island is 190ft, th...
Goin' for the top, to the rock island is 190ft, th...
The North Face of Notchtop on 11/11/07.  Look clos...
BETA PHOTO: The North Face of Notchtop on 11/11/07. Look clos...
1st pitch, big fun, rock gear, M-?
1st pitch, big fun, rock gear, M-?
2nd ice bit, in nice conditions, 11/9/4.
2nd ice bit, in nice conditions, 11/9/4.
11/11/07 pitch 4.
BETA PHOTO: 11/11/07 pitch 4.
Third ice step on November 18th, 2007.
Third ice step on November 18th, 2007.
11/11/07 Pitch 3 from above.  Slog through the sno...
BETA PHOTO: 11/11/07 Pitch 3 from above. Slog through the sno...
Went out there Nov. 3rd, 2013. Way too much snow o...
BETA PHOTO: Went out there Nov. 3rd, 2013. Way too much snow o...
11/11/07 Sunrise at the base of pitch 1.
11/11/07 Sunrise at the base of pitch 1.
BETA PHOTO
A really good mountain route! It had good protecti...
A really good mountain route! It had good protecti...
11/11/07 Approach from the chimney to the base of ...
BETA PHOTO: 11/11/07 Approach from the chimney to the base of ...
Thin but easy ice on the first pitch of the north ...
Thin but easy ice on the first pitch of the north ...
11/11/07 Above pitch 5.  Snow slog from the ice to...
BETA PHOTO: 11/11/07 Above pitch 5. Snow slog from the ice to...
North face full of snow!
North face full of snow!

Comments on North Face (which actually faces NE) Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 3, 2010
By Dave
Nov 18, 2002

About mid-height in the photo and under the left-center portion of the huge snowfield is the stunning and free-hanging *Hot Doggie* pillar. This consists of an approach pitch and then the goods. Consider this as a start to the more moderate N Face route. Heck, you've walked this far, why not tack-on a couple more pitches?
By Joseph Crotty
From: Broomfield, CO
Nov 23, 2002

Completed the middle route on the North Face of Notchtop III AI 3+ today, 11/22/02. The first ice pitch is thin and constitutes the crux. Both the second and third ice pitches are in and pretty much a walk up. Just the usual battles with frozen turf and tools bouncing off hidden rocks while spindrift pours down your neck. Avalanche danger was moderate with a few pockets of considerable near the exit at the top. CAUTION: The top layer of snow has formed a nice firm crust that once loaded with future snow will create problems. Any attempt to climb this route from Nov-April should involve a very calculated assessment of Avalanche danger; this route could be a death trap in a heartbeat! Hourglass WI 4 and Hotdoggie WI 6 have not touched down yet, but Hotdoggie is probably a few storm freeze/cycles out. Guides Wall is thin. Didn't get a look at Grace Falls.
By Mike Oberg
Oct 25, 2004

Climbed this route on 10/24/2004 in full on conditions.The first pitch of ice was in fat on the bottom. Took a couple long screws up to the first little ledge the second half of the pitch was chandeliery and seemed to me to be the ice crux of the climb although you could get nice rock pro in on the wall to the left before moving up this section. once you pulled over this chandelier ice you were pretty much done with pitch 1. I'd say WI 3-3+. Then snow slogged to the second ice pitch which was probably WI2-2+ which we simul climbed. a couple of screws were useful for this and again the ice was solid. Once over this section another slog up 35-40 degree, sketchy snow to the base of the 3rd ice pitch which was by far the best pitch. Took great ice pro and was solid all the way up, except for pulling over the top which was snowy and hard to get good purchase with ice tools, kind of sketchy. Then post holed in sketchy snow to the left of cornice forming up top. We opted not to take the normal descent since the gully seemed to be taking on a lot of snow. Instead climbed a snow ramp to the top which had good rock pro and was actually pretty spicey with real good exposure and not really firm snow. Got to the top in semi white out conditions and found a gully to descend that was rocky up top and snowy below and glissaded into the basin and back out and around to where we started, weather kind of made it for a long day with the crux probably trying to find a good descent route with snow and wind building up. Classic climb though with a fantastic alpine style setting.
By Jason Carter
From: Monument, CO
Nov 9, 2004

Climb Date: 11.7.04

Ideal conditions. The ice pitch on the first rock band seems to be the crux - steep and friable WI 3 or 4 depending on your line. Middle ice pitch is a cruiser ice slab at WI2, and the upper ice pitch is 60ft of thick consistent bomber WI3.

Snow conditions were a bit soft as it is still early season and some wallowing in thigh deep sugar snow made us earn some ground above the third ice pitch.

Gear - small to medium stoppers and cams. 1-2.5" cams came in really handy at the belays above the 1st and 3rd ice pitches. About 6 screws of which 2 or 3 are short should carry you through.

One of Colorado's finest alpine routes when the conditions are in!
By Leo Paik
Administrator
From: Westminster, Colorado
Nov 11, 2004
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b WI3+

Couple bits: with any wind, a visor/goggles may be appreciated to look up with spindrift & the exit to the W gully is well L of all the cornices on top. Also, apologies, conditions comment 11/9/4 was mine not Leon H's. Long day, gettin old, wine, crying 2year-old....

Addendum: from the top of the 3rd ice section, you can go 190' to a sheltered rock island and get rock pro. Then, it's about 100' to where you can start to descend.
By ac
Oct 31, 2005

Sounds like someone just took an Avy course.
By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Oct 29, 2007

Climbed this on 10/28/2007. Nice sunny day and good conditions. Climbable ice on all pitches although a bit hollow in spots lower down. Snow well-consolidated after a week of warm weather. Mid-size cams were useful at belays and for protecting the crux of the 1st pitch. We did the 1st pitch as two pitches; there's a small ledge and a peg belay/rap station on the right-hand side where the ice steepens.

For the descent, we hiked all the way up to the summit (the cornice hasn't really formed yet) and over to the Flattop trail. Didn't save us any time but lots of good views.
By Caelan
From: Dysfunctional, CO
Nov 2, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b WI3+

Climbed this route today. The weather was perfect all day - warm w/ minimal wind. Conditions were Stellar - couldn't ask for more. P1 was both the crux (~WI3+/AI4?) and the most interesting pitch IMHO. Do not let the rating fool you though - be prepared. There was enough ice to make it a pure ice climb - we did not need to dry tool, though the ice was funky/chandeliery/thin, and conditions could change rapidly. P2 & P3 were less notable IMHO. After slogging up the snow to the cornice, we went left and up this interesting right angling sketchy snow ramp/gully that had rock gear on the left side.

Couldn't tell you about the avalanche danger, as I haven't taken a class, but there did not appear to be a lot of snow up there, and we felt secure. I could see how this thing could be a total death trap w/ more snow though. Protection through the snow is either non-existent or very minimal. Snow pickets would not have worked. My understanding of the avalanche forecast is that it had "considerable" pockets. Also, apparently my partner saw a random basketball sized block of rock roll down the route. BEWARE!!!

Basically, I mostly disagree w/ the original description, but strongly agree w/ everyone else's comments. Other than that, there was a pitch of WI 4 just to the right of the normal route. FA potential? *shrug* it looked okay, w/ maybe more sketchy stuff up higher.

BETA: P1 takes good rock gear on the left side at the crux. I would recommend a #1 & #2 Camalot or a size between those two. I used a WC Hex #6 (the red one) and a very, very, small nut at the crux. A full set of nuts is also recommended for the rest of the route. Also, it would be wise to bring ~7 to 9, no bigger than 17cm, for P1 if you protect conservatively. Also, I would recommend setting a belay just before the crux (there is a fixed belay to the right in the rock w/ 2 pins & a nut), otherwise you may be finding yourself unable to reach the rock above P1 to set an anchor. A 70m rope might make it, but that would still be pushing it.

Let's see, what else? I would recommend approaching the NE Face via the left side via a nice easy chimney. There is a gi-normous boulder at its base. There was one ~5.5 section (w/out snow) in the chimney. Above the chimney there is plenty of room to gear up. For the descent, I would recommend walking over to Flattop, and down the Flattop trail. I've been down the gully on the west side in the Summer and it sucked.
By Ramo D
Nov 12, 2007

Route is still in good shape with the exception of Pitch 2. The ice is pretty ratty simply due to the amount of traffic, but there is abundant rock pro on the left side of this pitch. (Red and yellow Camalots). Not much snow above the climb. The descent gully is virtually snow free. Pitched climb with screws, light rock rack, and 60M rope.
By Kirk R
Nov 17, 2007

Climbed it on Wednesday 11/14 and didn't see another soul. The ice is in good shape, albeit a bit brittle in spots. The exit left and up to the descent gully required some waddling in deep, unconsolidated snow but overall the slopes seemed stable. The wading pretty much precluded going to the top of the mountain for me! Screws worked well on all pitches and a Camalot #1 or #2 will protect the only funky move on the route.

Gully descent was easy, only rating a 3 on the 10 scale of descent horrorshows! The trail in and out from Bear Lake features several long passages of ice that will trip you up if you are daydreaming about post-climb margaritas! We thought the trail was sketchier than anything on the mountain!
By Gil Weiss
Nov 28, 2009

Climbed the North face today and it was pretty fun. Really thin ice on the first ice pitch, but the last ice pitch was pretty fat (and now it's nice and chopped out!). Snow was not ideal but safe enough.
By Kevin Landolt
From: Fort Collins, Wyoming
Nov 3, 2010

Climbed this route yesterday - What an enjoyable outting! The first pitch is a bit tricky without ice through the rock-band, but the protection is decent. We brought a few pins and used them all.