Home » Rocky Mountain National Park » Recent Articles:

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

March 18, 2010 Classics, Climb No Comments

Looking down the last pitch of Brain Freeze, with Zowie behind. Photo by Dougald MacDonald

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

Good Snow Discovered in RMNP

February 2, 2010 Ski No Comments

Proof that decent skiing can be found in Rocky Mountain National Park during this low-snow year. Eli Helmuth filmed this recent descent of the Corral Couloir, the south-facing chute that drops into Tyndall Gorge from near the summit of Flattop Mountain.

Introducing: The Terrain Park

January 7, 2010 Ski 3 Comments

By Eli Helmuth

Those backcountry travelers who have visited Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in the wintertime will understand why locals refer to it as the Patagonia Training Center or Windy Mountain N.P. Although this area is known for its outstanding summer and autumn alpine climbing, along with a few winter ice and mixed testpieces, only in recent years has the backcountry skiing of RMNP been truly realized.

Is this wind-blasted Rocky Mountain National Park? Yup. Courtesy of ClimbingLife Guides

Spring and early summer are typically the best seasons for ski mountaineering in RMNP, with countless couloirs and open slopes dropping off the Continental Divide. During midwinter, when the snowpack is less stable for above-treeline skiing and the wind often prohibitive, the key to a fun powder day in the Front Range is knowing where the snow lands once grabbed by the wind—areas like the Terrain Park are the sweet spots of RMNP.  … Continue Reading

Another Day in the Park

November 30, 2009 Climb No Comments

Taylor Peak’s east face is one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most imposing walls, but it’s not nearly as famous as the clean rock climbs of the Diamond or Chiefshead, in part because it’s only in decent climbing condition in winter and spring—it’s a proper alpine wall, in other words. Any winter ascent of the biggest face on this 13,153-foot peak is a major undertaking, always beginning before dawn and often ending long after dark. During an attempt this month on the face’s right side, CSU graduate student Doug Shepherd saw two dawns:

I thought to myself, “What if I combine [a] shoulder shrug to warm up my hands with running in place? That will displace less snow than jumping jacks and should keep me warm!” Some unknown amount of time later, my feet were warm again and my hands had finally warmed up. “I’m a genius!” I thought, followed by, “Genius, huh? That’s why you’re about to crawl back underneath a snowy boulder and repeat this process in another thirty minutes?”

I wiped the snow off the rope and tiny foam pad next to my partner, who was passed out under his space blanket and big-ass down jacket. I quickly realized he was the genius, because he hadn’t had to get up once to warm up, whereas I wasn’t even sure how many times I had crawled out and invented new and amusing ways to return blood to my extremities….

Read the rest of Shepherd’s amusing account and see photos and video at his blog.

Join Us…

We welcome stories, photos, video, and cool trip reports. Drop us a line, and we'll get you started.

Recent Comments

  • Jamie Jones: The secret chute was only a secret top all you easterners....
  • Jeff: Awesome!!!! Are they ever going to be published in book form! These stories need to be made into a movie!!!!...
  • Karen D McCall: What a story, I read every word, absolutely enthralled. As an aging outdoor enthusiast headed for hip replacement, I can...
  • Kirk Miller: New rats in the Platte. Well done sir....
  • Dale: I met Clerin Zumwalt hiking on the Long's Peak trail back in the 1990's. He was with his family and was wearing his RMNP...
  • Ben Collett: Dougald, I miss the updates on this site. Anyway, there is a great route on the 4th Flatiron (see MP.com for details) th...
  • Tim: Thanks for the great writeup. We just did this loop yesterday and had a blast. Do you know if anyone has skied the coulo...
  • 14er Sports: Awesome accomplishment!...
  • Kailas: Yes Wick there are that many people. And they are all from back east or Texass... booooo. I've skied up here for ove...
  • jeff: What amazing experiences Dr. Cook had. I feel so fortunate that I've found this website and have been able to enjoy Dr. ...

Supported By…

Category RSS Feeds

Firsts

A Fine Line on Arrowhead

March 26, 2010

A Fine Line on Arrowhead

Climbers Scotty Nelson and Gil Weiss have discovered (or maybe rediscovered) a great-looking moderate mixed route in Rocky Mountain National Park that might take pressure off overcrowded climbs like Dream Weaver or Martha. The line, which they called Deborah, splits the south face of Arrowhead above the high bench to the west of Black Lake [...]

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

March 10, 2010

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

Colorado’s Shelf Road , a network of vertical limestone cliffs near Cañon City best known for sunny moderates, has a new 5.13d pitch and may soon get its first 5.14. On Sunday, March 7, Mark Anderson redpointed a striking, super-technical arête at Cactus Cliff that was bolted in the early 1990s but apparently never free-climbed. [...]

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

February 14, 2010

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

Jason Haas, who’s working on a new guidebook to South Platte rock climbs, has just redpointed what’s likely the Platte’s hardest pitch, a roof seam that’s protected with removable pro and might be 5.14a. The new route, Comprometido, took about a year and a half to complete. Here, Haas tells the story.
While researching routes [...]

Supported By…

Classics

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

March 18, 2010

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

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 [...]

Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

February 19, 2010

Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

Kevin Landolt is a skier/climber/student, based in Fort Collins, who writes the fun Alpine Ambition blog for the Mountain Shop. Here, Kevin describes a favorite midwinter ski tour near Cameron Pass offering a little of everything.
Trailhead: Lake Agnes Road, 2.5 miles west of Cameron Pass
Tour Distance: 7.3 miles
Total Vert: ca. 2,900′
Season: Midwinter to spring; two [...]

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

January 28, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

Two of the wildest and most difficult water-ice pitches in the state are in plain view from Highway 50, en route to Ouray and Telluride from points north, plunging down the sheer face of Grand Mesa. Yet few people notice them, and far fewer have climbed them. The routes are tough, to be sure, but [...]

East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

December 28, 2009

East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

Mt. Bancroft’s rocky east ridge is a terrific mountaineering adventure for Front Range climbers, beginning less than an hour from Denver. The 13,250-foot peak is relatively close to the road, and avalanche danger can be easily managed, making this perhaps the most accessible technical winter summit on the entire Front Range. The east ridge offers [...]

Wild

Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

February 5, 2010

Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

Photographer James Beissel sent us this fantastic dawn-patrol shot of the full moon setting over South and North Arapaho in the Indian Peaks, shot from Flagstaff Mountain. Said Beissel: ”The first full moon of the New Year is often called the Wolf Moon. The name comes from Native American culture, in which it was associated with [...]

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

January 20, 2010

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

By Bob Berwyn
Stakeholders in the San Luis Valley have taken a giant step toward protecting Great Sand Dunes National Park from mining, energy development, and water exports. Lexam Explorations has agreed to sell its mineral rights if a $9.7 million deal can be finalized by May.
Great Sand Dunes National Park was created by Congress [...]

Supported By…