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East Face
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East Face

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East Face

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 40.31880°N / 105.6941°W

Object Title: East Face

Route Type: Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Ice Climbing

Season: Fall

Time Required: A long day

Difficulty: M2+, AI4

Number of Pitches: 4

Grade: III

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes
 

 

Page By: Timothy Pearl

Created/Edited: Nov 14, 2007 / Jun 11, 2008

Object ID: 356820

Hits: 5120 

Page Score: 90.81%  - 33 Votes 

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Overview

We did a lot of research on this one before climbing it, so I'll pass it on.
The East Face of Notchtop Mountain (sometimes named the North Face or NE Face) is one of those "climb it when it's in" routes, no doubt it is one of the hottest alpine routes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Although the route is best climbed in late autumn / early winter before any significant snow accumulates, you also must wait for thick enough ice to develop or it's a rock scramble. The best years to climb this one are those years that your skier-pals are crying about very little snowfall and it's getting cold at night.
3-6 pitches
1300 total vertical feet:
500' 30-degree snow, 500' ice, 400' 50-degree snow.
Rated from: M1 AI3+ grade III
to: M2+ AI4 grade IV
(depending on conditions)
FA: Tom Hornbein and Bob Frauson, 1952.

Getting There

Start at Bear Lake in RMNP (9450'). Head north toward Lake Helene and the Ptarmagin Valely. There are 2 options to approach the base of the climb from Lake Helene: 1) Follow the bowl west above Grace Falls then use routefinding through the steeper sections of the lower east face to gain the start of P1. 2) Continue on trail about 1/4 miles past Lake Helene towards Odessa Lake. Then drop into and across the Odessa Gorge aiming for the left side of the talus field which is on the north side of the E Face (just south of the Guide's Wall). Route-find your way to the base of P1.
Approach routes
 

Not sure which approach is safer when there is higher avalanche danger. Probably neither.

Route Description

East Face Pitches
Notchtop's East Face

P1: 30m (WI2) This short pitch is a nice warmup, free solo or belay from left side to avoid debris. Climb above the first ice and head for the rock just to the right of the next waterfall where you will find a couple pins and a nut for belay under a protective overhang.
P1 short and easy
 

P2: 40m (WI3+)crux Climb vertical ice then up to a rocky section of your choice for anchor.
P2 begins
 

Simul/free climb (up and right around some low angled rock reaching the base of the next steep section of ice.
Traverse to P3
 

P3: 50m (M1 WI2) An easy 20m pitch of ice leads to 30m of low-angled snow and mixed. Head for the next steep section of ice where you will find a nice crack and a couple more pins on the right side.
Tim Starting P3
 

P4: 45m (WI3) Belayer should keep right and protected by rock. This is a good sustained vertical section of ice that leads to steep snow and a rock band that can be used for anchoring.
Jim C starting P4
 

From the top of P4 a decision must be made because there are a few options for exiting.

1) Follow rock band up and right to a short ice section (8m) then head straight up through 50-degree snow to the ridge top and summit(cornice sometimes).
Middle Exit
center exit

2) It looked like it was possible to trend up and right and exit onto the ridge to the north. Some difficulties on that ridge might be avoided to the north side.
East Face of Notchtop
right exit

3) Trend up and left through 50-degree snow to the upper saddle above the main "notch" on the southern flank of the upper E face. From here there are yet 3 possible exits.
SuperSlogger
going left

3a) Summit the Notchtop spire and rappel the south face (4 pitches) to the southern gully. You should be familiar with the anchor locations and lenghts before heading for this one. Return to Lake Helene.
Notchtop spire summit
spire exit

3b) Cross over saddle and descend southern couloir which leads to the base of the spire climbs. Return to Lake Helene. Best route but no summit.
3c) (M2+) Continue up SE "ridge" missing any difficulties on the north. When you reach the final summit block take the ramp that leads up and right straight to the summit. Descend along continental divide south to the Flattop trail and head east following the "Flattop Trail" back to Bear Lake.
Left summit finale
ramp exit

4) Rappel the route after the final waterfall.

Essential Gear

Knowledge of avy danger and current conditions!
Small rack from #0 C2 to #3 camalot, nuts, 6-7 ice screws, think about a two-rope system if planning a rappel.
Headlamp! It's bigger than you're thinkin'.
Here's a great link for current weather and route descriptions:
climbinglife.com click on current conditions or find notchtop route description.

Warning! Avalanche hazard.

This is face is quite the funnel of hazards. Spring-time/winter climbs are considered considerably dangerous here regardless of conditions... if you must, climb fast in the wee hours of night. The route pictures featured here were taken November 13, 2007 (Indian Summer): The last snowfall was 1 inch on Nov. 12, notice how a 1-inch snowfall produced 4-feet of wind-deposited sugar snow on the face...Probably the last summit of the year (any deeper snow would have scared me into rappel-mode).

Images