Pilot Mountain, Tanima & The Cleaver

Pilot Mountain, Tanima & The Cleaver

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 40.24010°N / 105.6592°W
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Elevation: 12411 ft / 3783 m
Sign the Climber's Log

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Pilot Mountain Overview

Mount Alice, Rocky Mountain National Park

Both Pilot Mountain and The Cleaver reside within Wild Basin, just south of the world famous Glacier Gorge. Wild Basin is fully contained by Rocky Mountain National Park and protected by National Park status. Known for its long tree-laden approaches and extensive trail system Wild Basin is home to numerous alpine lakes and miles of pristine tundra. Beyond the sparkling lakes resides many great mountains that line the Continental Divide. Peaks like Copeland Mountain, Ouzel Peak, Mount Alice, Tanima Peak and Chiefs Head, make up a natural boundary for Wild Basin.

Don’t forget that Wild Basin is within RMNP boundaries, if interested, you will need a camping permit to split your 17-mile adventure into two days. Attaining Wild Basin camping permits is not as difficult as you may think; just stay away from weekend crowds.
Pilot MountainPilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain is an officially named, unofficially ranked summit anchoring the jagged southeast ridge of Mount Alice. Over the years, Pilot has eroded into more of an elegant feature of Mount Alice than its own mountain. However, some of best climbing on Mount Alice resides directly on Pilot Mountain. From Pilot’s tiny summit the north face is protected by 450-ft of near vertical slabs of granite, while 800-ft of air does its best to protect Pilot’s south face. Pilot’s summit block is connected to Mount Alice by a classic knife-edge ridge. Expect a short but complex, class 4 route with enormous exposure. Adding Pilot Mountain to the fun Hourglass Ridge of Alice makes for a very rewarding, and memorable day.

Pilot Mountain was probably named because it’s hard-to-miss summit soaring above Thunder Lake. From the lake patrol cabin Pilot is quite impressive, from anywhere else; Pilot seems to blend in to its surroundings. It’s just another reason why Pilot’s exposed and tiny summit doesn’t host many visitors. Tough logistics makes Pilot a 100% guarantee for super solitude. If bomber rock, mad exposure and spooky solitude excite you, then make Pilot a high priority.

The Cleaver & Tanima Peak Overview

This well named rock pinnacle resides within a section of ridge just north of Isolation Peak’s classic North Buttress Route. Like Pilot, The Cleaver is officially named but it is not ranked. In theory, The Cleaver is another graceful feature of a bigger mountain (Isolation Peak), similar to the Pilot Mountain/Mount Alice relationship. However, combining Isolation and The Cleaver could be one of Rocky Mountain National Parks longest routes for attaining a single summit along the Continental Divide.
The CleaverThe Cleaver

I’ll remember The Cleaver as a great place to be instead of a great summit. Great places are sometimes a lot better than great summits but for some reason summits get all of the attention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a great place like The Cleaver, for this obscure gem only inspires about 5 people a year. The view combines perfectly with huge solitude, and makes The Cleaver a place worth the 10-mile approach. The Cleavers small summit overhangs 500-ft above the pristine upper East Inlet, providing some nice exposure and great views. Expect class 3 climbing en route to its summit from the Boulder Grand pass area. An ascent of Tanima Peak east ridge en route to The Cleaver makes good sense. You can descend the Divide via Boulder Grand Pass.

At 12,420-ft, Tanima Peak is another forgotten summit of Wild Basin. Tanima is officially named and it’s an officially named 12ver. Its lesser-known summit doesn’t measure up to its higher neighbors, but views along its east ridge are excellent and very unique. The view of Wild Basin’s southern ramparts is excellent. The east ridge also provides some nice class 3 scrambling on bomber rock. Combining The Cleaver with Tanima Peak via Thunder Lake makes for a worthy loop route.

Wild Basin TH

Getting there provided by Brenta

The common approach to Thunder Lake is from the Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead located in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park. The Wild Basin entrance to the Park is located on Colorado Highway 7, between Allenspark to the south and Meeker Park to the north. After turning west from Colorado 7, go for less than half a mile until you turn right at a sign indicating the Wild Basin entrance station. The Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead (8480 ft) is located at the end of the dirt road that starts at the entrance station. The dirt road is passable by passenger cars.

RMNP-Red Tape

  • Pilot Mountain is contained by Rocky Mountain National Park and therefore under the administration of the National Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior. This is a rather different jurisdiction for those used to climbing on National Forest Service lands administered by the Department of Agriculture. The most immediate difference is that the park costs a bit of change: daily admittance is $20, camping is $20 and limited by a permit system. In addition the park has a remarkable trail system. So the price does provide some amenities.

  • Camping, as stated above, is limited to permits. To find out more information from the Park Service contact the listed below or see “Camping.”

    Rocky Mountain National Park

    1000 Highway 36
    Estes Park, CO 80517-8397

    -Visitor Information

    -Visitor Information Recorded Message


    -Campground Reservations


  • Camping within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park is permitted only in designated campsites, with a permit. These campsites vary in popularity so reserving in advance is recommended. For example, the one spot to camp up in Glacier Gorge is booked for every day of the summer on the first day they allow reservations. In contrast, there are campsites in Wild Basin that may be available that night. The cost is $20.00. Here are a few good links showing the designated campsites within The Park. Designated campsites #1 Desinated campsites #2 You can get a backcountry bivy permit if you are doing technical climbing. Your technical climb must be on a written list of technical climbs within the Park. If your climb is obscure, and potentially not on that list, the Park most likely will not allow you to bivy.

  • Campgrounds in the area include Aspenglen, Timber Creek and Longs Peak and are on a first-come, first-served basis and cost $20 per night. In summer campgrounds usually fill to capacity early each day. Moraine Park (247 sites) and Glacier Basin (150 sites) require reservations and cost $20. Moraine Park, Timber Creek and Longs Peak campgrounds are open year-round; Glacier Basin closes Sept. 7. Aspenglen is open until Sept. 20 and offers 54 sites. Longs Peak campground, the main access point for climbing 14,255-foot Longs Peak, is four miles north of Wild Basin on Colorado Highway 7 and offers 26 tent-only sites with a 3-night limit.

  • Here is a good link for lodging in Estes Park

  • Children


    Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.