Mount Bancroft is a relatively mild peak just south of James Peak in the Front Range. This route is the exception to the peak's mildness, and the main reason why this peak should not be missed! In the spring, the route is a nice mix of knife-edge snow ridges and 3rd-4th class scrambling with one exhilarating, technical climb thrown in to spice it up.
Aaron Johnson has posted the East Ridge Indirect
route which avoids the 5th-class crux of the ridge. The Direct route follows the full ridge including the initial easy ridge walking, the 80' rappel and the short, steep pitch of low-fifth-class climbing.
East Ridge profile from the south. The technical crux is the deep notch a little right of center.
As with other routes on the east face of Bancroft, this route starts at the Loch Lomond trailhead near the popular Saint Mary's Glacier area. Take exit 238 on I-70 (Fall River Road) and drive about 10 miles through a couple long switchbacks to the settlement of Alice. Make a left on Alice Road (dirt) which is marked with a small wooden sign. Continue more or less straight on this road for about 1.5 miles past a number of side streets and driveways. Look for a Y-intersection with a Forest Service trail marker (vertical brown post) on the right. Make the right (up hill) and park here. Parking is limitted and the citizens of Alice have posted the main road thoroughly. Cars parked on Alice Road will be ticketted.
Hike an easy two miles west on jeep road up to Loch Lomond. High clearance vehicles can drive most or all of the way to Loch Lomond in the summer cutting 4 miles off the round-trip distance.
From Loch Lomond, hike north west up a steep slope toward the small Lake Caroline. You will see the triangular ridge terminus above you and you want to tackle it from the left hand side.
The route proper starts at about 11,900' in a small saddle on the left side of the ridge. Climb an increasingly steep ramp to the first set of rocks. Conquer the first rocks and find yourself on a narrow, ascending ridge of snow. The route is pretty straight-forward and obvious.
The crux of the route comes about half-way up the ridge in the form of a deep, narrow cleft. Sling a large boulder about 10' back from the edge and rappel straight down to the knife-edge snow ridge about 80' below. Tie knots in your rappel rope since the drop-off on either side is considerable!
To get out of the notch, climb directly up a short but very steep wall (20') to regain the ridge. I've heard this pitch described as 5.2, but it felt a good deal stiffer than this to me with pack and boots on. Beware of loose rock! There is a finger crack that parallels a series of ledges which will take protection (nuts or small cams) beautifully. Rather than commit to the steep headwall, it looks possible to traverse right over some serious air and scramble up a steep, tundra rib to the ridge. While technically easier, this represents some serious 4th-class exposure. Don't fall!
From here, there are another few hundred feet of beautiful, exposed walking on knife-edge snow. Below a headwall (second crux), a wide couloir enters from the north. If you're already roped up, you may wish to simply lead the headwall directly (4th to low-5th class?). To the right of the ridge are a pair of chimneys. The first is harder, but requires less exposure over the north face. The second is easier, but will require downclimbing the steep couloir 30-40 feet. Watch for wet, loose rock in both chimneys. In spring, a significant bergshrund guards all of these options making life all the more interesting.
Above the chimneys, it's solid 3rd and 4th class scrambling on increasingly steep rock. I tended to take the more direct line straight over the gendarmes, but easier, less exposed routes can often be found on one side or the other. The East Face Indirect
route joins joins the ridgeline via a ramp from the north west here. There are three distinct humps along the ridge separated by more horizontal scrambling. The orange saddle mentioned in the Indirect route lies between the second and third humps.
Just as the continuous, strenuous scrambling is starting to get tedious, emerge onto a steep tundra slope with spectacular views of James Peak to the north. Trudge up to the first of two false summits and thence to the true summit 200' higher.
Descend via the Southeast Ridge or the large bowl directly to Lake Caroline.
Alternative StartFrom SP member JFox.
There can be had an alternative start to this route to add a little spice, flair or pizazz if you wish. Instead of heading up the easy slopes at the toe of the East Ridge, continue farther north to the imposing looking headwall that rises above the small lake above Loch Lomond. (See topo picture
[img:485497:aligncenter:medium:Alternate Start Topo]
From here you can add 2 - 3 pitches of low 5th class climbing to the route giving yourself a full-value day. I climbed this in winter which is what made the route. I'm not sure it'd be worth doing in summer, but I spied some interesting looking lines to climbers right that might go at 5.harder but you'd need rock shoes. My partner and I climbed this with mountaineering boots and ice tools.
Alternate start to Bancrofts E. Ridge
: 3 pitches, 5.3 M2/3, ~400'
This route description is for a winter ascent involving snow, some ice and mixed climbing. Head towards the obvious headwall and either climb a short section of easy rock for 100' or so, or climb a nice steep snow ramp around this feature on the right. Situate yourself at the base of the headwall and gear up for the climbing. Pick your line and go!
The climbing on this section is interesting and is hard to grade. I found it best to climb with one technical ice tool and my gloved hands. The route consists of many broken ledges covered in snow/ice and frozen "turf". Protection is very hard to obtain and I basically ran out of gear and rope and was forced to make an anchor. Pitons and knifeblades are a lifesaver on this route! Route finding can be somewhat difficult and rope drag is a real concern.[img:485504:alignright:small:P1 from Above]
The way I climbed it was to use an ice tool with an alpine leash attached to my harness. I'd stick the pick of my tool into frozen turf or a crack if I could find one, then move about climbing around the tool with my hands. You will be clearing a lot of snow to climb this route and to find protection. Bring small gear. Continue up for a full 60m pitch and for the next pitch begin moving left/south for about 45m to easier ground. You will be put onto the ridge at about the point where the difficulties of the normal route begin.
The technical crux requires at least 50 meters of rope if you intend to retrieve your rope. You should also bring 15-20 feet of webbing to sling a large block for the rappel and a rap ring or quick link. The climb up can be protected with a couple of finger-sized peices, a light rack of small gear is sufficient.
Ice axes and crampons may be useful in crossing the initial snow ridges on the lower half of the route.
This is not a terribly well-travelled route such as Kelso Ridge and there is still a lot of loose rock (from pebbles up to refridgerator-sized). A helmet is a must.
Gear for alternate start
small rack of nuts
small cams (I used BD C4's #0.4 - #2, but had trouble placing anything bigger than the #0.4) C3's work well, I brought one of them and wished I'd brought them all!
Ice tool (if doing this in winter)
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