The approach is identical to the one for the east ridge
of Elk Tooth
. Please refer to that excellent description. To summarize: from the Middle Saint Vrain TH hike for four miles to reach the wilderness boundary. Follow the Middle Saint Vrain Glacier Trail. Staying on trail is quite easy until it reaches a talus slope. There, watch out for a crossing of the creek on logs. Notice that there are many cairns on the wrong side beyond the crossing point and that before sunrise it's not difficult to miss the right spot.
After threading the stream a few times, leave the trail to climb the first significant weakness in the wall that forms the north rim of the drainage. This gully
is full of scree, but if you stay to the right and use the grassy slopes and the broken rocks, it's not bad. At the top of the gully turn left and follow the crest of the ridge to the first false summit. From there you can see that Elk Tooth has quite a few such summits.
The most expedient route is to skirt them on the right (north) until you are under the main summit that you gain from the northeast. This keeps the difficulties at Class 2. You could actually skirt the main summit as well, but coming back another time just to tag Elk Tooth will probably not appeal to you. Elk Tooth is seldom visited. The summit register was placed there in 1989 and there were some ten entries for 2004 and five for 2005 (up to August 21). Enjoy the scenery
and rejoyce: after nine miles, the approach is over.
From the summit of Elk Tooth, descend its west ridge for about 400 ft toward the saddle that divides it from Ogalalla Peak. The strategy is simple: keep initially to the right (north) of the crest, bypassing a few towers in the process. You soon come to a point where progress on the north side becomes suddenly very problematic. You can't miss it , because from Class 2 you would go directly to Class 5. (See this picture
.) It's time to switch to the south side of the ridge, along which you continue with the occasional Class 3 move down to the saddle.
From the saddle, stay left of the crest of the ridge climbing on talus until you are under a cliff that blocks direct access to the summit. There are other cliffs along the way, but they can all be obviously bypassed on the left. There are at least three options to pass the final cliff. The easiest is to perform a short exposed traverse to the right of the crest (Class 3) and then aim directly for the summit on talus. This is what I did, since rain and hail had made the rock slippery and thunder added a sense of urgency. I have not tried the other two options, and therefore I only mention them briefly.
The cliff band forms a nice slab in correspondence of the crest of the ridge. Direct ascent of this slab is reportedly Class 4. (Source: Mark Oveson on climbingboulder.com
.) The third option, according to Roach, is to traverse left (south) on ledges until you find a gully leading to the summit. This is also Class 4. I have seen the slab and briefly considered attempting it, but I have not seen the gully.
Standard scambling equipment in the summer.
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