A beautiful, white NE facing wall which starts as a slab and steadily rises to vertical, Spearhead is surrounded and dwarfed by taller mountains in the center of the Glacier Gorge Cirque-- one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Expect clean, sharp flakes and cracks. Syke's Sickle is possibly the best 5.9 in the Park (and the Sickle itself, a huge dihedral/roof on the upper part of the face, is a good route-finding landmark), the North Ridge is a classic mountaineering route, and there are numerous excellent climbs in the 5.10-5.12 range.
Descent: from the (very worthwhile) summit, or from routes that end west of it, descend third class to the SW, down scree and slabs, taking care to go far enough left so as not to be cliffed. Some routes on the left half of the face end on a ledge which provides access to a fourth class descent on the mountain's east flank (I've never done this, so I won't pretend to give the beta--look for it in the route descriptions).
Park at the Glacier Gorger Junction trailhead (a mile below Bear Lake), and follow signs to cliff-ringed Black Lake at 5 miles. Head east above the Lake on a faint trail until you reach tree-line, then cut back south to the base of the now-obvious cliff across slabs and meadows.
This is a magical mystery tour. It has lots of variety including steep face climbing similar to the domes of Tuolumne Meadows. There may be no better face climbing in the Park.The route starts on Middle Earth, which can be accessed by various means.P1. The first pitch of the route proper begins to the right of the Eye of Mordor, a huge, seriously sinister, vertical gouge left of center on Spearhead's east face.The first pitch is easy, taking you to a big ledge. The next pitch climbs straight up...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
To descend from the top of the North Ridge, Barb, or Syke's (if not going to the very wild and worthwhile summit):
Head straight down west (broad gully) from where you topped out. From the point where it gets obviously steeper, start looking to head left (south). The steeper part has a somewhat obvious and loose trail heading down it. If you follow this, you will cliff out. While heading left, we passed a steeper part that looked almost downclimbable but it was vegetated. The next gully over south is the one to take. A few feet of loose class 3 downclimbing will put you on the loose trail - head right.
I'd recommend spending the night at the base of this beauty. There are spacious boulder caves all over the slope below, eliminating the need for tents/tarps etc. You need to get the proper permits, which, I think are limited to 8 people/evening, and are a bit pricey...but its well worth the solitude and fresh AM start to your climbing. --God's country, to say the least.
By Ernie Port From: Boulder, Colorado Jul 25, 2002
Joshua's right, call the backcountry office (970)586-1206 to reserve a bivy spot at the base of the mountain. The permit is $15 per night, but don't forget the entry fee to the park is an additional $15, unless you don't plan on bivying. In that case enter the park before 7AM and its no charge and the gates are open. Many people choose to sans sleep, enter the park at 3:00AM or so, drive to Glacier Basin trail, park and hump the 3 hours or so to the base of mountain. Then, do the climb (approx. 4-4 1/2 hrs.) and go home. A very long day. The people who followed us up the climb last weekend did just that.
Note: The bivy caves closest to the mountain are the biggest and farther away from the vegetation surrounding the stream and nearby pond. We opted for one a little farther away nearer to the pond and were awoken by a curious elk that showed up at midnight and chomped on the vegetation for a good hour and came very close!
Syke's Sickle is OUTSTANDING!!! In my gumby days, I got benighted on this puppy just above the Sickle and sufferred a hanging biby with cotton pants and a fleece in September. My gosh, the stars....
Came back and sent it with much better style a couple years later, start early!!! Both times used the Bivy option. Long hike with Bivy gear...pack light!!! #3 Camalot is as big as you need for the Sickle. Mark Michaels, SLC, Utah.
Though a lot of people seem to [recommend] a bivy for this one, here's a vote for the one day ascent. Here's why:1. Avoid park entrance fees and bivy permit fees2. Avoid carrying a heavy pack up there3. With a relatively mellow approach, in terms of elevation gain, it's easy to get up there quickly.
We had great weather, which probably helped influence me to [recommend] the one day ascent.
One last comment; we had a much more epic day doing the Casual Route on the Diamond, over what turned out to be multiple days, than we did doing Syke's Sickle in one from Denver.
There are also good arguments for bivying up at Spearhead:
1. Incredible light show on the Keyboard of the Winds each evening as the alpenglow takes over. 2. Sipping coffee from your sleeping bag in the morning as you watch the day-trippers wind their way through the willows far below. 3. Watching from 4 pitches up as a marmot tries to reach your hanging food bag- and stumbles up-side-down into the talus. 4. Excellent bouldering sessions while the soup is cooking. 5. A chance to use all that fancy, expensive titanium / Schoeller / gortex bivy gear. 6. The option to climb until dark- linking a couple routes, or even starting later in the morning on those stellar, cloudless days. 7. An escape from the heat of the lowlands, far below and seemingly another world.
Either way it's a treat to climb on The Spearhead.
However, this year, with the road construction, be forwarned that logistics will be very different. Private cars will be banned from continuing past Sprague Lake, and a shuttle service will operate instead to Bear Lake. I have heard the shuttle will start at 5am each morning (this may not be exact), so "car-to-car" days may be impacted- plus you'll have to hike the extra stretch from Bear Lake. What all this means is that bivying may be the best option this year and next, until the road work is completed. So bivy permits are going to be at a premium this season- plan ahead.
We got rejected on a parking spot at the Glacier Gorge lot Sunday 6/15 since we didn't show up until 10:30, so I timed the "extra" hump from Bear Lake parking to the start of the trail from the Glacier Gorge lot (downhill). 8 minutes. So, if you are ridiculously slow, with the new shuttle, and the horrible extra distance, you're forced to start at 5:08am. You can do it. Save the $ you would have spent on Gore-Tex and all that camping stuff and buy something useful instead.
But Ben, Consider that while you can indeed be hiking by 5:08 AM, if I'm bivyed, then I can be climbing by 5:08 AM. On the other hand, that will allow ample time to get me far ahead of you so we don't crowd each other on route.
What's more likely is that you start hiking at 5:08, get to the base at 7:08, while I waited to start climbing until about 6:58 when I saw you hiking across the slabs, and finally decided to get my ass in gear.
Don't skip the bivy. This is the greatest "backcountry site" in all of RMNP and it's only available to climbers. I have pulled a permit and bivied many a time "JUST" for the camping and then hiked the N. Ridge to at least make my permit legit. Even a bivy permit won't guaranty a first start though. I have seen many parties arriving at the base for Syke's, the Barb and the N Ridge as early as 4:00 AM while I'm still eating breakfast !
Does anyone know if it is possible or advisable to hike from Long's Peak through the Trough(s?) over to Spearhead? We want to camp at the Boulder Field on Long's Peak one day, summit the next morning and then hike over to Spearhead and bivy.
Any hints/tips or suggestions please send them to email@example.com
Free Gear!! My [name's] Grant Ortman. I'm checking to see if anyone will be climbing "[The Barb]" in [the] coming days. i had to bail today (Aug 21st) and had to leave some serious gear. I had to leave a decent amount of my rack since my partner [doesn't] have any gear. Anyway I was checking to see if someone would be willing to get my gear down. If someone does pluck my gear and actually tells me about it([instead of] adding it to there rack) I will give them any one piece of gear that they took of the wall. [It's] kind of all over since we had to rap with one rope. All of the gear is at basic stances along the route exept for two cams about 20 feet below the [Middle Earth]ledge. If your an honest person call me when you have the gear at 970-222-6469 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Descent comments: In 2007, I did the North Ridge and descended to the North and West at no harder or more dangerous than 2nd/3rd class. This seemed to be the quickest way back to the start of the North Ridge. Yesterday, we climbed Syke's and decided to try the South and East descent option. I did not care for it, but here is how we did it:
The descent starts at the saddle between the sub-summit where Syke's tops out and the true summit- you will see some cairns leading east (out over the face you just climbed). Head out over the face and descend skier's right, diagonaling over a large ledge with lots of loose rocks. Use caution as there are many routes under you. Pass a few gullies on your left, but do not descend yet. Stay close to the headwall on your right, then ASCEND just a few meters up and right to a place where you get cliffed out. A large cairn was here and we did an easy scramble slightly left to access a large gully. Once in the gully, angle skier's left and descend the face all the way to the scree field below. The gully is easy and safe until you get near the bottom, where you encounter some water polished rock with piles of sand and loose rock on top. You will encounter a few "slip and die" areas due to the exposure to your (skier's) right. Because of this, I can not recommend this descent to anyone. If it is wet or icy, do not even consider this descent. I will be heading off to the West in the future. Be safe out there.