The Heroes Traverse is a steep and exposed snow traverse used to access the Y Couloir from either the Pikes Peak Road or The Crags Trailhead. Along the route you will encounter snow ranging from 40-60 degrees in steepness and depending on coverage, sections of ice and mixed climbing. Do not underestimate the time commitment involved with such an undertaking. Half way through the traverse would be a bad place to get caught under the blazing sun on a warm day. A camp at the Crags Campground or bivy at The Devil's Playground would be ideal to catch the traverse nice and crusty in the morning.
Approach from the Crags Campground and follow the route description for the Northwest Slopes Route
. Near 13,400 feet turn northeast from the trail and peer out over several large cornices onto the North Face of Pikes. This is your first view of the route.
Selecting your entrance into the traverse is typically the most difficult part. The North Face drops off sharply and its terminus is usually guarded by large cornices. To the right the cornices get bigger and the entrance steeper. To the left choices are limited by a spur that drops north down into The Bottomless Pit. If you are so inclined, several large blocks would serve well as rappel anchors (you did bring a rope right?) to get you past the initial corniced section. You can retrieve your anchors while descending The NW Slopes. As you are hanging out over The Bottomless Pit, take notice of the terrain around you. There is 1400 feet of exposure below you and large looming cornices above you, and now you are going to descend 500 feet into it.
Once you are in, get comfortable on the sustained 45 degree slope and try to spot a line that descends slightly below several rock buttresses shooting out from the summit of Pikes. This is where you want to go. Try to stay as high as possible on the traverse, but keep in mind that staying too high will cause you to endure some very steep mixed down climbs. Careful route finding will keep the route at Class 3. Continue dropping when necessary and traversing until you pass the second prominent buttress where your altitude should be at around 12,900 feet. You should be standing in the mouth of an enormous couloir. This is the Y. Begin your ascent and pick your variation of the Y Couloir.
- Ice axe (two if you're squeamish)
- Rigid boots
A short rope and some webbing isn't a bad idea, although they may stay in the pack.
Other than that, hope for a cold day and overcast skies.
- Climb it in winter, or in spring after a storm to avoid the crowds on the summit. Make sure to properly top out, i.e. climbing onto the roof of the summit house.
- An alternative to that: Climb on a nice day and immediately head into the summit house, making it a point to drag your cramponed feet and swing your axes menacingly when you are approached by the tourons.
- In any case, come armed with an assortment of stoic and manly poses, because you are likely to get some attention on the summit.