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Ypsilon Mountain
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Blitzen Face T 
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Y Couloir (Left Branch) 
Y Couloir (Right Branch) T 

Y Couloir (Right Branch) 

Type:  Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: Unknown
Page Views: 5,443
Submitted By: George Bell on Jan 29, 2002

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Photo by Avery N. The full right branch of the Y....


This is one of the classic snow climbs of Colorado. In early season, there is generally a huge cornice at the top of this route. It is safest to wait until it falls down (which often seems to be around July 4th). Hence this route is in best condition later than most snow routes, early July through August.

You can bivy below the couloir or start early and blast in a day. From the Spectacle Lakes, head up easy snow and branch right at the Y (the Left Branch I consider a separate route, hopefully someone will add it). This lower section is not that steep, and we did it unroped.

Soon the right branch enters a nasty chimney filled with dripping water. Before you get too far back into it, look for the 5.4 rock exit on the left. Rope up and do two leads up the left wall (some loose rock) to a nice grassy ledge above the top of the chimney. Traverse right on this ledge back into the Couloir.

The upper section steepens to about 55 degrees. Romp up this to the final cornice/headwall. If training for Alaska, you can attempt to tackle the headwall directly. When we did this it was 80 degree snow wallowing, and we backed down. We bypassed the headwall on the right (via some rock). According to Rossiter, you can also exit left via a gully.

Descend south to Chapin Pass if you have a car there, or drop down the south face into the drainage between Ypsilon and Chiquita and follow this down to Ypsilon Lake.


Light rock rack and maybe snow pickets or flukes. Ice screws unlikely to be useful.

Photos of Y Couloir (Right Branch) Slideshow Add Photo
Photo by Avery N. <br /> <br />The cornice. July 3rd, 2004.
Photo by Avery N. The cornice. July 3rd, 2004.
The snow couloirs from Fay Lakes on the N side of Blitzen Ridge from the summit of Mt. Fairchild. Only the top section can be seen.  Y Couloir is on the S side of the Blitzen Ridge.
BETA PHOTO: The snow couloirs from Fay Lakes on the N side of ...
Ypsilon Mountain and the Y Couloir at dawn. Photo by 'Sneaky' Pete Lardy.
Ypsilon Mountain and the Y Couloir at dawn. Photo ...
Photo of myself on the rock pitch before the cornice broke and landed on 'Sneaky' Pete Lardy and myself.
Photo of myself on the rock pitch before the corni...
Photo by Avery N. <br /> <br />The first bit of rock. The chimney drops off to the right. July 3rd, 2004.
Photo by Avery N. The first bit of rock. The chim...
The Y Couloir the approach trail on 7/7/02. You can clearly see the break in the snow.
BETA PHOTO: The Y Couloir the approach trail on 7/7/02. You ca...
'Sneaky' Pete Lardy starting up the gully.
'Sneaky' Pete Lardy starting up the gully.
Photo by Avery N. <br /> <br />This is the snow arete on the far right of the cornice if the cornice can't be climbed direct. July 3rd, 2004.
Photo by Avery N. This is the snow arete on the f...
Bowie topping out on 10/16/2010.
Bowie topping out on 10/16/2010.

Comments on Y Couloir (Right Branch) Add Comment
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By Anonymous Coward
Mar 17, 2002

Sometimes the "nasty chimney" is 40 feet of grade 4 ice. The rock bypass on the left seemed kind of sketchy in crampons, and there could be more placments if you're soft like me.
By Jason Carter
From: Monument, CO
Jul 15, 2004
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

July 3rd 2004 -

Good conditions in the Y. The chimney was dripping, but was stuffed with good ice. Bring at the most 4 screws as there is very little if any rock pro if you venture up the ice. Also, the pinch at the top of the ice is a funnel with a variety of debris shooting through. Although good ice, it seemed dangerous to climb as you may get nailed in the face topping it out by a large rock or hunk of ice traveling at a high rate of speed (but at least you'll have those 4 screws in)

The rock variation on the left seems to have at least three starts. One about 15ft below the chimney, one about 50ft below the chimney and one way low at the the start of the buttress itself.

We ended up in the middle start after bailing from the ice. The only beta is to continue up the rock but staying to a rightward vector as It seems that left could get one into more difficult rock. All the rock can be scoped before branching into the right Y and it is a good idea to do so. From the middle start it is 3 pitches to the grassy ledge. The grassy ledge is huge and comfortable. If you escape back into the Y just above the chimney you'll end up below a nasty chockstone where the grassy ledge offers a re-entry point quite a bit above the chimney and the chockstone.

The cornice up top was still pretty big (overhung) on the left and fairly vertical on the right. We climbed (wallowed) up a snow arete on the right side of the cornice that offered some big mountain exposure and tenuousness but it was short lived and well worth the effort. It looked as if the rocks either right or left below the cornice could get you to the top as well -
By Brian Story
May 4, 2007

This route can be skied with a single rope rappel over the ice chimney. I had to set and leave a rappel anchor when I climbed/skied it from below the cornice in march 2007. The upper couloir is beautiful, steep, and exposed. In the spring, the huge cornice and hanging snow make the objective hazards on this route rather severe.
By Shane Zentner
From: Colorado
Jul 2, 2007

As of Saturday, June 30, the cornice at the top of the right branch of Ypsilon Mountain is non-existent. We were climbing the right branch, above and left of the narrow chimney on the rock face when the cornice broke and fell. Luckily we were not in the couloir or the consequences would have been drastic. (The damn thing almost pulled us from the mountain.)