Photo by Kane
The Spearhead (12,575-ft) resides in the heart of Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park. Overshadowed by a skyline of shapely peaks, The Spearhead is actually an extension of rugged ridge running north from the base of Chiefs Head Peak’s huge north face. The Spearhead’s triangular northeast face is the dominant feature in upper Glacier Gorge, (the area above Black Lake) rendering this special area a local name of “Spearhead Basin.” The unbroken, flowing slabs of granite rock set it a part from its higher neighbors. The Spearhead also has a fiercely exposed summit that overhangs 900 to 1000-ft above the basin floor. Many would argue that this is the most spectacular summit in the park and one of the best in all of Colorado.
Although I did not summit The Spearhead by a technical route, this mountain has a deserved reputation for its technical climbing; the North Ridge Route is widely considered the finest rock climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. The beauty of this climb is best described by Gerry Roach, This climb reminds me of why I started climbing in the first place. It is fundamental. It is magnificent. The climb takes place on such solid rock that you feel like you are touching the soul of the earth. Touch it. Climb it!
The north ridge separates the vast, unbroken northeast face from the more broken northwest face.
The Spearhead also harbors a fun class 3 route with an exciting finish. The last 50 yards, will test your mental makeup for the route is very exposed.
Photo by Todd Caudle
Glacier Gorge Overview
There is no other word that describes the enormity of the Glacier Gorge V-shaped valley better than “epic.” I thought long and hard looking for the right word. Words like “grandiose” or “awe-inspiring” first came to mind, but then I saw the view of McHenry’s Peak from Black Lake
…that’s when “epic” was forever engraved in my head. I have climbed over 200 mountains in Colorado and right off the bat only the Pierre Lakes Basin
(southeast side of Capitol Peak) rendered as much scenic beauty. I’m still giving the Pierre Lakes the nod but I never thought I would find a place that actually made me think twice.
The diverse landscape of Rocky Mountain National Park was created over a billion years ago and to present day displays some of nature's finest handiwork. The majority of Glacier Gorge’s scenic beauty came from powerful glaciers. These glaciers were formed when huge snowdrifts were compacted into ice by their own weight, thus freezing tons of rock and debris within its mass. Over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years, these glaciers slowly scraped and carved mountain summits into towering peaks, leaving behind a myriad of 1000-ft rock faces. These glaciers slowly continued to slide down the mountains leaving behind the perfect V-shaped valley we now know as Glacier Gorge.
There is not a better place to view the glacier evidence other than Black Lake. From here it’s obvious that a geologically powerful event took place for the enormity of it all is spectacular to view. From Black Lake an impressive collection of towering rock faces and pinnacles can be viewed, like The Arrowhead
, McHenry’s Peak
, The Spearhead
, Pagoda Mountain
, Chiefs Head
and the Keyboard of the Winds
Glacier Gorge TH
Regional WeatherClick image to enlarge
Red Tape See "Getting There"
Dogs, must be under physical control at all times. Dogs are not allowed on trails or in areas not accessible by automobile.
Vehicles must remain on roads or in parking areas. Parking any vehicle or leaving property unattended for longer than 24 hours without prior permission is prohibited.
Hitchhiking or soliciting transportation is prohibited.
All wildlife Is protected from hunting or harassment. Please do not feed or attempt to touch any wild animals others.
Do not pick wildflowers or damage plants. Regulations prohibit the destruction, injury, disturbance, or removal of public property or natural features, including plants, animals, and rocks.
Camping Camping within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park Is permitted only in designated campsites with a permit. This would be considered backcountry camping. These campsites vary in popularity so calling to find out availability 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 a few spots in Wild Basin that you can get maybe a few days out. The cost is $15.00. 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.
Campgrounds in the area include Aspenglen, Timber Creek and Longs Peak and are on a first-come, first-served basis and cost $16 per night. In summer you will find that campgrounds usually fill to capacity early each day. Moraine Park (247 sites) and Glacier Basin (150 sites) require reservations and cost $16. Moraine Park, Timber Creek and Longs Peak campgrounds are open year-round; Glacier Basin closes Sept. 7. Campground fees drop to $10 after water is turned off in mid to late September. Aspenglen is open until Sept. 20 and offers 54 sites with drinking water, tables, fire rings and toilets. 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 drinking water, tables, fire rings and toilets. There is a 3-night limit here. There are no electrical, water, or sewer connections in any of the campgrounds. Sewer dump stations are at Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, and Timber Creek campgrounds
Here is a good link for lodging in Estes Park