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Spearhead

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Age Axe T 
All Two Obvious T 
Barb, The T 
East Prow T 
North Ridge T 
Obviously Four Believers T 
Spear Me the Details T 
Spearhead, Chiefshead, Pagoda, Long's Traverse T 
Stone Monkey T 
Syke's Sickle T 
Ten Essentials, The T 

Spearhead 


Photos: Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 12,575'
Location: 40.2569, -105.6513 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 390,110
Administrators: Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: Charles Vernon on Jan 1, 2001
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Spearhead 14-Oct-06 from Mill's Lake.

Description 

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).


Getting There 

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.


Climbing Season


11 Total Routes


['4 Stars',3],['3 Stars',5],['2 Stars',3],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',1],['5.7',1],['5.8',1],['5.9',2],['5.10',2],['5.11',3],['5.12',1],['5.13',0],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Spearhead:
North Ridge   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches   
East Prow   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches   
Syke's Sickle   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 900'   
The Barb   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, Alpine, 9 pitches   
Age Axe   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 600'   
Obviously Four Believers   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, Alpine, Grade IV   
Spear Me the Details   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 700'   
All Two Obvious   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a R     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 800'   
Browse More Classics in Spearhead

Featured Route For Spearhead
Pope on a wet 1st pitch.

Syke's Sickle 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a  CO : Alpine Rock : ... : Spearhead
Amazing! Spearhead is located in Rocky Mountain National Park and is perched above Glacier Gorge. Spearhead is an 800 foot granite buttress that rises to a sharp point above the upper basin (past Black Lake). In the middle of the immense vertical wall is a right-arcing crescent roof dubbed the "Sickle". Syke's Sickle is a wonderful route that ascends several crack systems before arriving at the "Sickle". P1 ascends a 5.5, left-arcing, wide crack (easy to spot in the center of the wall), then uni...[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Local Information for Spearhead
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News
Aug 18 New Feature: Season Charts   2
Aug 15 Wayne Crill's Fundraiser 0
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Photos of Spearhead Slideshow Add Photo
Spring snow on the way into Spearhead.
Spring snow on the way into Spearhead.
Larissa Phillips on the Spearhead approach.
Larissa Phillips on the Spearhead approach.
Taken Feb. 17th, 2013, from Mill's Lake, showing an awesome, vertically curling snow plume blowing up along the southeast ridge of Spearhead.
Taken Feb. 17th, 2013, from Mill's Lake, showing a...
September snow in Glacier Gorge.  Spearhead and NW wall of Chiefshead.  Birds of Fire might be difficult in these conditions.
September snow in Glacier Gorge. Spearhead and NW...
The Spearhead as seen from the base of Arrowhead
The Spearhead as seen from the base of Arrowhead
Elk getting up in our faces at Spearhead bivy.
Elk getting up in our faces at Spearhead bivy.
Spearhead from just above Mills Lake.
Spearhead from just above Mills Lake.
The Spearhead from Mills Lake
The Spearhead from Mills Lake
Spearhead NE face 3/3/05
BETA PHOTO: Spearhead NE face 3/3/05
The Spearhead!
The Spearhead!
Entering Glacier Gorge with Pagoda in the forefront and The Spearhead just in view on the right.
Entering Glacier Gorge with Pagoda in the forefron...
The Spearhead as seen from the "hidden trail" that goes up the side of the valley to Arrowhead and McHenry's Peak
The Spearhead as seen from the "hidden trail" that...
How can you not love it?
How can you not love it?
Small pond below the Spearhead.
Small pond below the Spearhead.
The Spearhead from Pagoda's N. Buttress.
The Spearhead from Pagoda's N. Buttress.
Autumn (which lasted about a week or so this year) colors in upper Glacier Gorge.
Autumn (which lasted about a week or so this year)...
Bivy hotel under N. Ridge.
Bivy hotel under N. Ridge.
There are many quality bivy sites south of the pond towards the base of the Spearhead. This one was perfect for the two of us sleeping together. It was sheltered from the wind and would be for the rain as well, and it was relatively close to water.
There are many quality bivy sites south of the pon...
Spearhead from Black Lake, with Chiefshead in background.  Kevin Groves photo.
Spearhead from Black Lake, with Chiefshead in back...
Spearhead
BETA PHOTO: Spearhead
Green Lake w/ Long's in the background....
Green Lake w/ Long's in the background....
Lee on the lovely North Ridge.
Lee on the lovely North Ridge.
Jimmy leading up Syke's Sickle at bottom corner of photo.  View from belay on Northwest Ridge.
Jimmy leading up Syke's Sickle at bottom corner of...
BETA PHOTO
Sun on the Spearhead.
Sun on the Spearhead.
BETA PHOTO
Lauri Stricker following P3? of the Barb.
Lauri Stricker following P3? of the Barb.
Traversing below the inspiring east face of Spearhead, June 2008.  (look closely for the little dot in the snow)
Traversing below the inspiring east face of Spearh...
Great bivi spots under Spearhead.
Great bivi spots under Spearhead.
Spearhead conditions on July 3, 2011.
Spearhead conditions on July 3, 2011.
Welcome to the snow motel! This is spacious and totally covered. It sleeps two separately and has a nice tea drinking location. This bivy site is also between the pond and the base of the northeast face of the Spearhead.
Welcome to the snow motel! This is spacious and to...
Descending the snowfield back to the base of Spearhead.  NE face of Chiefshead in the background.
Descending the snowfield back to the base of Spear...
Ribbon Falls.
Ribbon Falls.
Looking up at the northwest ridge of Spearhead about 3 pitches up!
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at the northwest ridge of Spearhead abo...
Destination.
Destination.
Spearhead. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Spearhead.
Photo by Blitzo.
The massive east face of Spearhead.
BETA PHOTO: The massive east face of Spearhead.
Adam on ATO.
Adam on ATO.
A classic alpine face!
A classic alpine face!
Sweet bivy at the base of Spearhead.
Sweet bivy at the base of Spearhead.
Glacier Gorge trail.
Glacier Gorge trail.
Spearhead.
Spearhead.
The crux fifth pitch of Spear Me the Details.
The crux fifth pitch of Spear Me the Details.
Coming down the descent from the Spearhead-Chiefshead col on 30-degree slopes in "early" season (June 2008).  The col is on the far left.  For easiest descent be sure to follow the ridge all the way to the col before descending north.
BETA PHOTO: Coming down the descent from the Spearhead-Chiefsh...
A big thanks to the trail crews who helped clear the trail from last winter's tree fall.
A big thanks to the trail crews who helped clear t...
Glacier Gorge from the Keyhole showing the Spearhead and the massive walls of Chiefshead.
Glacier Gorge from the Keyhole showing the Spearhe...
Black Lake.
Black Lake.
Glacier Gorge.
Glacier Gorge.
Glacier Gorge.
Glacier Gorge.
Bivy at the Spearhead.
Bivy at the Spearhead.
Jay Nelson at the bivi the evening before we climbed the Barb, c. 1980.
Jay Nelson at the bivi the evening before we climb...
Comments on Spearhead Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 29, 2009
By Mike Sofranko
Jul 30, 2001

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.

By Joshua Lewis
Mar 18, 2002

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!

By Anonymous Coward
Feb 6, 2003

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.

By Hill
May 10, 2003

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.

By Steve Levin
From: Boulder, CO
May 12, 2003

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.

By Ben Hoyt
Jun 16, 2003

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.

By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Jun 17, 2003

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.

By Old Fart aka Dave Bohn
Jun 18, 2003

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 !

By Anonymous Coward
Jul 7, 2003

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 climbingboulder@bryansignorelli.com

Thanks,Bryan

By Cisco
Aug 2, 2004

Heads Up!!! If your heading out to the Spearhead, or any other place in the Park, bring some deet for the mosquitoes are Hell.

By Anonymous Coward
Aug 21, 2005

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 grantortman@hotmail.com

By jhump
Aug 29, 2009

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.