Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 40.26352°N / 105.63825°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Mar 9, 2014
Activities Activities: Ice Climbing
Seasons Season: Winter

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With Emily, Jake, and Josh; the first outing i have combined skiing, ice climbing, and winter camping. Happy see to see that my crampons worked great on my AT ski boots. 

The Black Slabs at the end of Glacier Gorge in RMNP proved to be fun scenic enough for the effort. I t took us 2 trips to pull it off, because the first time we went in February it was snowing hard. After goofing up the parking and approach, we decided that breaking trail all day in deep powder was enough, so we instead turned around after finding the Jewell lake Overflow ice. 
The weather on the March trip was much better. Jake wasn't feeling the climb after an alpine start from Denver, and Emily wasn't feeling the climb after the first pitch though. We did blow the benefit of camping with a leisurely morning, so we ended up skiing out by headlamp and 1/2 full moon int he dark, getting to our car at 9:30pm and back to town 2 hours later.

One recent dilemma is the construction on 36 to rebuild the road after the flooding in September 2013. If you are driving in during the day, you are better off to go around this by using St. Vrain canyon (highway 7) and/or the Peak-to-Peak highway (72). If you are driving through when it is dark, they can't do any of the blasting or other construction, so the direct route on highway 36 is OK.

Because of the long approach, we decided to winter camp near (1/3 mile) the climb. The camping and overnight parking permits are free during winter season, but must be picked up during daytime operating hours. There is a limit of 5 groups camping in Glacier Gorge, but you can call in (970-586-1242) to check/make a reservation. They do require you to pack everything out, so bring a wag bag. You don't need a bear canister during the winter however. 

Remember to keep your cooking stove warm, so that it works. We found our MSR Whisperlight International would not pressurize Saturday night night and was only running by gravity. It took an hour to melt a pot of snow that way. Instead warm it in your coat while you are making camp and you may have better luck (we did Sun morning).

The other option is an alpine start. Meaning wake-up and leave Denver no later than 3am to get to the TH at 5am. The gates will be open at RMNP and you will not need a park pass. This option makes for a long day though!  

Either way, the snow reports at Eldora and Winter Park were for a foot of snow the day/night before the trip. With my duffel of stuff for climbing and camp at 55 lbs, i brought my big sled for extra flotation. It was warmer than forecast in the Glacier Gorge valley, so we found some melting and less than 1 foot of snow. Because the south end of the valley is not well traveled it is worth  having good flotation regardless.

6775 routes and climbing description: The descriptions i have seen advise to make good use of the ice that is present on your visit to minimize the time climbing on snow or rock in between sections of ice. I had 11 ice screws, which worked well for protection and anchors. They could be all long, although i found it nice to have at least 2 shorties (10 or 13 cm).
We followed the blue route to finish on the green. The climb was 3 pitches on 70m twin ropes. Another option that looked good on our visit was the yellow route (although it's tough to say whether there was ice present under the big patch of snow, below where the yellow route merges with the blue route. The trip report on climbinglife ( seems to suggest that the red route might be an option in prime conditions. The red route, however, was mostly rock on our visit. Again, the key is to take the routes marked in the photo as suggestions and make best use of the ice that is at the slabs when you are there. The climb goes up to a ridge that is an easy walk off (see also the topo map of the climbing area). 

To return, follow the purple line by walking towards (N40.26427 W105.63470). There was a lot of post-holing in the drifts up there, so try to use as much of the wind exposed rock as possible. We found the walk above the climb really windy and that is probably often the case there. If you are with a group, consider having the last climber cache skis or other flotation at N40.26463 W105.63423 for a quick escape down the climb from Black lake.    

Another option at the end of the climb would be to create v-threads and rappel. Keep in mind the climb might be as many as 4 pitches on a rope shorter than 70m.

There was a reasonable amount of ice on our visit, but not as much as i have seen in other web photos. While the air was warm, the wind kept the ice cold. The ice was brittle: often resulting in small plates on first impact from ice tools; or chipping at the surface while first trying to place screws. The remote location means the surface can be almost featureless, because of lesser use. While I got solid placements in the alpine ice, it required some extra work that you would not necessarily need in a lower elevation or ice park location.  

Topo route: The key is to park at the Glacier Gorge lot and use the popular winter shortcut to minimize the approach. The waypoints for these are all marked in the map image series. The location for the Jewel lake Overflow ice is best guess, because it's tough to get a gps signal there (maybe from the top of the climb).  


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