What's In A Name?
This route is not described in Roach's or Gillet's Rocky Mountain National Park climbing guides. (I have not checked Rossiters' book.) Nor have I found it anywhere on the web, so I guess I have the freedom to give it a name. It could just be the North Face of Hallet Peak, but there are so many damn North Face routes in the world, why have yet another one?
In June of 1997 I was leading a Colorado Mountain Club trip on a climb of Tyndall Glacier. One of the members was a Colorado State University student from India named Krishna. He was doing a lot of climbing that spring, training for an attempt on Huascaran in the summer.
Evidence of recent avalanche activity was plentiful as we approached the base of the glacier. Most of it was coming from the south face of Flattop Mountain. The hot June sun beating down on those south facing slopes was enough to trigger slides. Tyndall Glacier is mostly east facing, but it also looked heavily loaded. As we discussed our options (dig a pit to check conditions, skirt the side of the glacier, go home and drink beer), I noticed a gully heading up towards the summit of Hallet on our right. It was north facing, relatively narrow, and posed little or no slide risk. We couldn't completely see if it would get us to the top without requiring some technical rock work, but it was clearly a possibility.
"What do you think?", I asked. Krishna was all for it. In fact, we could barely contain him. "Mind if I take the lead?", he asked. Since he was 20-something and I was staring 50 in the face I did not let pride get in the way. In any case none of us had a prayer of keeping up with him.
Since that day my friends and I have always referred to this route as the "Krishna Cutoff", and so now it makes its way into print. Krishna, if you are on SP step forward and take a bow. You have a route named after you! How did your Huascaran climb go?!
Follow the Approach section on the Tyndall Glacier route page.
However, do not pass the terminal moraine mentioned. Instead, just before you reach the moraine look for a series of parallel gullies heading up the north face of Hallet Peak. The gully on the east (left) side of the group is slightly wider than the others, less steep, and filled with more snow. That is the start of the route.
Note the above implies that this route is only viable for a short time of the year: when there is deep consolidated snow in the gullies. This is May-June in a typical year. Earlier than that the show is liable to be unstable, and by July it will be melted out to uninviting loose talus.
Climb several hundred feet up the gully. This eventually peters out at a crumbly cliff band. Fortunately there is a convenient right-traversing ramp allowing you to reach another gully that climbs directly to the summit. This ramp passes above more crumbly cliffs, but it is wide and if the snow is firm it presents no difficulties.
This second gully is perhaps 50 feet wide at first. About halfway to the summit it suddenly shrinks into a narrow inset notch. This 100-200 foot long notch is the crux of the climb. The day we were there it was a mixture of firm snow, unconsolidated snow, a bit of ice, and some awkward class 3 or 4 rock moves. Most members of the group elected to follow an alternate route, shown in blue in the photo above. This route stays on snow, bypassing the difficulties in the notch. However, the reason we were up here in the first place was to avoid south facing avalanche danger, and this alternate route tended in that direction. Careful mountaineering judgement is required when making the route decision.
Krishna of course, unhesitantly charged up the direttissima notch, and waited for everyone else to summit.
From the base of the climb it is some 800 feet elevation gain to the summit. None of us had a slope clinometer, but one friend of mine is consistently comfortable on no more than about 45 degree slopes. When he saw what we were up to he quickly decided to wait at the moraine for our return. So we can be pretty sure it was steeper than 45 degrees. My guess is about 50-55 degrees, except for the final bit of the notch, which probably exceeded 60 degrees.
See the Descent options on the Tyndall Glacier page.
On the day we climbed this some skiers arrived at Tyndall Glacier while we were on the summit. We watched them dig a pit in the snow, decide conditions were OK, and ski the glacier. We then chose to use that as our descent route.
A basic mountaineering ice axe, crampons, and helmet.