OverviewBlitzen Ridge is one of the finest ridges that can be climbed in Rocky Mountain National Park. In its alpine setting, this route challenges the soloist to make a fast ascent to the summit, or a roped party to move quickly and efficently to avoid the summer storms. With Donner on the left, the Y couloir in the middle, and Blitzen on the right, Ypsilon Mountain is indeed impressive. When first entering the park, Blitzen looks blunt and rounded. However, a trip up Trail Ridge Road will reveal the true definition of this beauty. Metamorphic granite created marbled layers of white and gray rock to give this route an unbelievable solid structure and unprecedented artistry. The exposed ridge, knife-like and jagged, forces the climber to make a fast ascent. There is little escape off this route and weather, especially lightning, is a continuos factor. Be aware that this ridge is committing and rather long. Please see "Bail Route" section. Also, keep in mind this route holds some of the finest views, best rock, and an inspiring summit.
Getting ThereStart this adventure at Lawn Lake Trailhead. You will be taking this trail toward Ypsilon Lake via merging onto Ypsilon Lake Trail. When arriving at Ypsilon Lake, there is a faint trail that leads North West to Spectacle Lakes. After following this trail you arrive in the cirque. Avoid the lakes by heading right, up a talus hill for a few hundred feet. (Heading up the grassy gully behind Ypsilon Lake is more direct). In all, the approach is about six miles. The hill will eventually round off, becoming rocky, and the route will be directly in front of you.
Route DescriptionAt this point you will be able to see the Four Aces- prominent figures that spike up nearly a hundred feet. You do not need to climb all four of them. The first two Aces can easily be passed by going around the left side of them. Note that there are scary ledges of grass (class 4) that remind you how high up you really are. The third ace should be climbed directly (5.4). It is solid rock and you will enjoy some great exposure. A rappel down to the bottom of the fourth Ace may be necessary because down-climbing can be difficult and potentially dangerous. Twin ropes will allow one rappel.(Note there were fixed anchors but they looked old and new webbing seemed needed) The knife-like saddle at the bottom is about as exposed as you will get on this climb, though the ridge past the forth Ace doesn't let down much. The last Ace can be passed by going up and right which leads to much talus (staying on the ridge is exposed as noted above).
Andy for your contribution!
The rest of the ridge from here is forth class climbing unless you attempt the head wall (which I hear is 5.4). All of these Aces require route finding. 5.4 is the standard rating for the route but you may find some harder moves. Also, the route can be as direct as you want it. All of the Aces can be climbed directly if time and endurence and fear permit.
Joe for your contribution!
DescentAfter you soak up the views from the summit, a down-climb on Donner Ridge is an option. However, I strongly recommend a glissade down the gullys between Yplison and Chiquita mountains. During late summer the snow is soft. Look for the gentle slopes, some are definitely steep and scary. There are also rock taluses that can be used though the rocks are loose. The base is spectacular. From here, enjoy the walk back down to Ypsilon Lake. This land is prestige and full of life. In fact, I saw a mountain lion cub during this ascent. The hike back is longer than the approach. Keep this in mind when venturing out on this journey.
Bail RouteThis information was provided by mlweaver:
It IS possible to bail from this route before the summit. However, it involves almost as much time and effort as going up, so be prepared to spend the night! (Much safer to bivi than stagger down the talus, snow and scree in the dark). Retreat off the north-east side of Blitzen Ridge. If you are near the summit, you can make a moderate descending traverse to the north on scree. If you are further back on the ridge, you will probably have to rappel. There are many snow filled couloirs on this side of Blitzen - they are too steep to descend. Be careful. This retreat will deposit you in the broad, shallow cirque between Ypsilon (to the west) and Fairchild (to the north). There is a gentle tongue of tundra that bisects the upper portion of this cirque, and the easiest path is to its left (north side) on the way down. Beyond that tundra covered spit of land, work back to the south (right) along the bottom of the drainage that follows the northeast side of Blitzen Ridge. (Some maps list the pools in this drainage as the "Fay Lakes".) As you curve around the "backside" of Blitzen, you will eventually see the tree covered, moderately angled slope at the end of the ridge, which will get you back to Ypsilon Lake on its south side! When we used this escape in late June 2008, there was lots of snow in this drainage, and we could glissade easily and quickly over most of it. I don't know what's under all that snow, but even if it's just scree, the angle is low enough to make a reasonable descent with no significant cliffs. An ice axe is highly recommended (also having a water filter was very helpful!).