In the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, a granite spindle called Zowie protrudes from the convoluted south face of Mt. Otis. Just to Zowie’s left is a zigzagging chimney and gully system that holds an unlikely mixed-climbing gem. Brain Freeze was discovered very recently (early 2008) by Andy Grauch and Chris Sheridan. Several parties quickly repeated the route and confirmed its neoclassic status—it’s perhaps the best of the Park’s recent “it doesn’t have to be in to be in” climbs.
What makes Brain Freeze so good? First is variety: The route climbs face, chimneys, and giant chockstones, and it even has a nearly pure ice pitch (rare for long alpine routes in the Park). The difficulty is continuous but never extreme, protection is adequate, and the views are memorable: intimidating from under the crux chockstone, and simply lovely from the top, down past a snow arête and over Zowie’s summit blade. And Brain Freeze has a surprisingly long season. It’s south-facing, so melt-freeze often keeps the ice pitch in good shape from January through April, and yet much of the route is shaded by Zowie and the deep chimneys. Spindrift is a frequent hazard, however. (The route is called Brain Freeze after the intense ice cream headaches caused by spindrift during the first ascent.) And beware wet-snow avalanches and rockfall on warm spring days. … Continue Reading