Pagoda-Chiefs Head Couloir

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.24940°N / 105.6414°W
Additional Information Route Type: Snow/Ice Climb
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: AI 2- (45° Snow/Ice)
Sign the Climber's Log


The trail begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead on the Bear Lake Road. Follow the Loch Vale trail for about two miles, passing the North Longs Peak Trail on the left and turn left at the Mills Lake Trail junction and enter Glacier Gorge. Hike about 4 miles to Black Lake and continue south on a well-beaten trail around the east side of the lake and up into an open meadow. Continue south through the valley, following cairns and the path of least resistance through the krummholtz past the base of Spearhead to Green Lake, the southern-most lake in the valley.

Route Description

From Green Lake, enter the gully and follow the snow to the top of the couloir to the Pagoda-Chiefs Head saddle. If you're interested in reaching the summit, scramble west over boulders about 0.5 miles until you reach the top. In spring and early summer, this couloir is snow and is a very mellow snow climb. You should be able to kick steps in, although crampons may be useful, too. In late summer and fall it will be rock-hard black ice, and may partially melt out leaving mixed ice and talus. An ice axe is recommended in any season. Also, watch out for rock-fall in from the cliffs above the couloir.

Although the snow in the couloir would make a convenient and fun descent, a loop trip is possible with a descent of either the Northwest Ridge or the Chiefs Head-Spearhead Couloir.

Essential Gear

Helmet and ice axe are required. Crampons may be useful in the early season and are necessary later in the summer.



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