Petit GreponNovember 3, 2016
SpearheadNovember 3, 2016
Rocky Mountain National Park: Notchtop
Sitting high on the continental divide, Notchtop Mountain’s name comes from a sharp notch separating the main summit from Notchtop Spire. The Spiral Route and Direct South Ridge both top out on the exposed Notchtop Spire.
The approach to Notchtop begins from Bear Lake and takes the Fern-Odessa trail to Lake Helene, about 3.5 miles. From here a climbers trail contours around the right of the lake before climbing through a series of rock steps to a series of tarns below the Ptarmigan Glacier. The first of these tarns marks the cut off to the base of Notchtop Spire. The approach in total is about 2.5 hours.
Somewhat recently, a rappel route down the west face was established by equipping the belays of Instant Clarification with rap anchors. The addition of the rap anchors allows parties to bypass the upper West Gulley, the descent of which was considered by many to be the least enjoyable part of climbing Notchtop.
The Spiral Route, 5.4 II
The Spiral Route, as it’s name implies, circumnavigates Notchtop to link up a consistently exciting, yet moderate route to the summit. Two or three moderate pitches low on the South buttress give way to the East Meadow. From here, the path of least resistance is a pitch up the headwall below the notch. The route passes through the notch ascending a ramp on the west side of the summit block.
The Direct South Ridge, 5.9 III
The Direct South Ridge route climbs some of the best rock in the Park. The start is the same as for the Spiral Route, but at the ledge system that cuts right to the East Meadow, parties aiming for the South Ridge will scramble left to gain the prominent arête. From here, about seven pitches of excellent and continuously exposed dihedral and crack climbing deliver you to the summit of Notchtop Spire.
Arranged on a Private Basis
May through September
1:1 – $599
2:1 – $349
3:1 – $299
Direct South Ridge
1:1 – $699
2:1 – $449
No Hidden Fees
- Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Transportation to the trailhead and back
Notchtop Itinerary & Route Options
Our climb of Notchtop via either the Spiral Route or the Direct South Ridge begins at 6 am. Your guide will meet you at a pre-arranged location either in Estes Park or at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. From there you will drive to Bear Lake and take the Fern-Odessa trail to Lake Helene. The approach is approximately 3.5 miles and around 2 – 2.5 hours.
The Spiral Route (II, 5.4)
This is a wonderful route and not too sustained for its grad. It is a great first-route in Rocky Mountain National Park for someone looking to do a moderate technical climb in the mountains and begin to build a foundation of alpine climbing skills with other future objectives in mind. It involves about 5 pitches of climbing with some 3rd class scrambling.
The Direct South Ridge (III, 5.9)
This is an inspiring and steep line from below, and offers a surprising amount of quality crack climbing. The start is the same as the Spiral Route but instead we will scramble left to gain the prominent arete. Seven pitches of varied technical climbing take you to the summit of this worthy peak and climb!
The Spiral Route takes approximately 8 – 10 hours round trip.
The Direct South Ridge takes approximately 10 – 12 hours round trip.
Notchtop Equipment List
|Osprey’s Variant 52 is the ultimate pack for expedition and high alpine climbers. Designed to carry specialized mountain gear such as skis, wands, ice protection, and ice tools, this pack can be easily stripped down to minimize weight for a summit push.|
|Coffee is the lifeblood of champions. We highly encourage the consumption of coffee on our programs. The darker the better.|
|Water Bottles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.|
|Bottle Insulators||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Insulating water bottle parkas are recommended in the winter months, for ice climbing or cold weather alpine trips.|
|Stuff Sacks||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Stuff sacks are a great way to organize your gear in your pack and help to keep things tidy in a variety of ways. A great addition to any of our programs.|
|Personal Food||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.|
|A good pair of wrap around sunglasses are an essential item for all of our trips. When the sun shines brightly on fresh snow in the mountains your eyes will thank you for a quality pair of shades. Looking good is important too.|
|Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack. |
|Lip Balm||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lip balm is important to bring on all trips. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.|
|A headlamp is recommended for all of our programs and is an essential piece of equipment you will use in a variety of circumstances. Most LED type headlamps will do but we recommend the Black Diamond Storm for its versatility.|
|First Aid Kit||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An excellent investment for all of our programs. Our guides always carry a comprehensive medical kit but it's nice to have your own as well.|
|Small Knife||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A small knife is an indispensable tool to carry with you in the mountains. We like the Spatha knife for its size, weight, versatility, and ability to clip onto a harness.|
|Digital Camera||Description||Guide's Pick|
|While phones these days offer excellent quality, nothing beats the reliability of a dedicated digital camera. You'll be glad you brought it and your guide will make sure to help capture the moment of you being awesome.|
|Hand Warmers||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An optional item, but nice to have on cold weather climbs and courses. Consider having a few stowed away in your pack and you can break them out if you feel you need them.|
|Synthetic socks area must for all outdoor activities. Select a pair that fits well, is warm, and is comfortable. Bring 2-3 pairs depending on the type of trip.|
|Base Layer Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Choosing the right base layer really makes a difference in comfort, moisture-wicking, and the balance between cool and warm at the right time and in the right places. The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody also offers good sun protection.|
|Base Layer Bottom||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Similar to the base layer top. These are wear all the time in all conditions base layer pants. A must have for alpine and ice climbing trips and objectives.|
|Mid Weight Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A midlayer for anything from ski tours to alpine ascents, the CoEfficient Hoody features Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency fleece with a gridded interior for increased wicking performance and added breathability. The under-the-helmet hood and full-length zipper let you regulate temperature on the go, so you don’t find yourself overheating a half hour into the day. A slim cut helps the CoEfficient Hoody fit comfortably under your shell, and with a redsigned, trim fit, this layer takes up little space in your pack.|
|Soft Shell Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our most ruggedly built Ferrosi piece is an alpine focused style that can really take a beating. Using Cordura® fabric in the main body, this hooded jacket provides additional abrasion-resistance while shrugging off wind and light rain. The Halo Hood™ seals out bad weather without limiting peripheral vision.|
|Soft Shell Pants||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Cirque Pants are a durable, heavy-weight technical soft shell pant built for high-energy climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing. The highly breathable, wind and weather-resistant double-weave stretch fabric excels in high-mountain conditions. The zippered thigh pocket ensures energy bars and maps remain easily accessible.|
|Insulated Parka||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Pack it for those days where you need just a touch of down insulation, or on those cold days on the chairlift when an extra layer might be crucial. Our new hooded version of the Filament has the same design as the popular hood-less version and a DWR-treated shell of ultralight 10D Pertex® Quantum GL keeps moisture away from premium 800-fill down inside.|
|Insulated Vest||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Same spirit, same guts, and same award-winning hybrid-mapped design of the Cathode Hooded Jacket, minus the sleeves and hood. An insulated vest is an optional item on our programs but we do think vests offer excellent flexible layering options in a variety of circumstances, weather conditions, and trip types.|
|Shell Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal “Gear of the Year” award-winning storm shell is engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day backcountry tours. You need at minimum either a soft shell jacket or hard shell jacket for local Ouray based winter courses and programs.|
|Built for flash-storm protection, the 100% waterproof, super-breathable Helium II weighs an incredibly light 6.4 ounces. An ultra-compressible piece you’ll never leave behind, it’s so light and packs down so small you’ll forget it’s clipped to your harness until you throw it on to ward off a sudden mid-route downpour.|
|Shell Pants||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Waterproof, breathable and lightweight, the GORE-TEX® Foray Pants provide dependable rain protection and shrug off the wear-and-tear of the trail and cityscape alike.|
|Warm Hat||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Booster’s reversible design lets you choose. The soft yarn blend will provide a cozy sanctuary throughout winter’s chill.|
|Baseball Cap||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A required item on the majority of our programs, a baseball cap helps to keep harmful sun off your face. The Radar Pocket cap is packable, durable, and looks great!|
|Lightweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Updated for touchscreen compatibility, the StormTracker Sensor Gloves are equally at home alpine climbing, ski touring or ice climbing. Low-profile GORE® WINDSTOPPER®. Soft Shell fabric deflects biting gusts, and a tricot lining retains valuable heat.|
|Midweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Built to handle cold mornings on the up-track and powder turns all the way back down, these versatile gloves feature a new stretch nylon shell outer, a goat leather palm with textured fingertips, and a warm, quick-drying wool blend lining.|
|Belay Device||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A belay device is a required item on any of our technical climbing or mountaineering courses. While not necessary to have the Guide ATC specifically, we think owning one of these offers additional versatility as you progress and gain additional knowledge about the various levels of functionality provided by a device of this type. |
|The BD Aspect Harness is a great all around performer for all types of climbing - ice, rock, alpine etc. The adjustable leg loops and integrated ice clipper loops make this a solid investment as your do-all harness.|
|Locking Carabiners||Description||Guide's Pick|
|We recommend at minimum 2 - 3 personal locking carabiners on our climbing courses and any technical private guided program. We prefer classic screw gate carabiners over other types of locking mechanisms.|
|Climbing Helmet||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A versatile, hybrid-shell helmet for lightweight protection in any discipline, the Vector features excellent ventilation and a ratcheting adjuster.|
|Balaclava or Buff||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, Original BUFF® headwear is the product that started the multifunctional headwear revolution. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. We recommend the BUFF for all of our programs as a multi-purpose insulation piece and trendy headgear!|
|Non Locking Carabiners||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A selection of non-locking carabiners is recommended on all of our technical climbing programs. Consider at least 4 - 6 and we prefer wire gate carabiners over more traditional gate carabiners. Many options exist so just consider a variety when putting your carabiner rack together!|
|Climbing Boots||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Light and fast this boot makes you feel like a wood nymph bounding through the mountains. All synthetic and designed for spider like alpine climbing performance; it is waterproof and ready for a semi-automatic crampon. The Vibram® Mulaz outsole, has an edging platform and sticky Supertrek Rubber. The 3D Flex™ ankle provides supreme ankle maneuverability for technical routes.|
|Adjustable Trekking Poles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|This is an optional item on our programs. However, a good pair of trekking poles is a worthy piece of gear to have with you for long approaches or treks through the mountains. There are many added benefits to trekking poles. The new BD Distance series poles are light, collapsible, and adjustable.|
|Accessory cord or cordelette material is essential equipment that offer great versatility in use and application. Consider getting a few for your climbing rack.|
|Climbing slings or runners are an excellent compliment to your climbing gear. Versatile in their use and applicability, consider having a few of each length on your rack.|
|Sleeping Pad||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season mattress is lightweight, durable, extremely warm, and the ultimate solution to year-round backcountry comfort. Stable construction and 2.5-inch thickness offer greater comfort for a full night of sleep, so you won't feel the uneven, rough terrain beneath you.|
|Sleeping Bag||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30 Degree Sleeping Bag large cut sleeping bag for bigger folks or those seeking plenty of space. Have a fear of being closed in or perhaps a wide set of shoulders? This 850+ down fill sleeping bag has a 64" shoulder girth and 39" foot girth. Lay back and enjoy being wrapped in soft, fluffy down on nights down to 30°F.|
|Mountain Crampons||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A classic 10-point crampon for mountaineering and glacier travel, the Contact features a durable stainless steel construction and a stable, lightweight design. Available in a Strap or Clip version.|
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
Before Your Trip
Trips in Rocky Mountain National Park should be considered strenuous. Therefore, previous experience hiking in the mountains and/or multi-day backpacking experience will be very helpful to you on this program. Though the actual climbing level will very according to your custom itinerary, but the best training regimen would include a mixture of cardiovascular fitness training (running, biking, hiking etc.), and muscular/core fitness exercises. The addition of some Yoga/stretching exercises will help to insure that you maintain good muscular flexibility as well.
For trips in Rocky Mountain National Park you should be ready for:
- Hiking up to 6-7 miles per day with up to a 30 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000′
- 8 – 10 hour summit days with a lighter “day pack”
- Wilderness travel
Follow Up Climbs
Estes Park, Colorado: Getting There
Estes Park, Colorado is located in the Northeastern part of Colorado and approximately 45 minutes from Boulder. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip. Estes Park serves as the launching point for all of our climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park.
*If you are planning to combine additional days of climbing in Eldorado Canyon or The Flatirons then Boulder, CO is also a logical place to base your lodging for your trip.
The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Denver, CO. Many airline options exist, and because Denver is a major airline and travel destination there are typically many one-way flights to choose from.
You will likely need a to organize a rental car to drive to Estes Park from Denver. Typically in the summer months you can choose any type of vehicle but in the spring and winter months please consider that weather can change rapidly in the mountains so an All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive vehicle is worth considering. Below are some approximate driving times to get to Estes Park, CO.
- Denver, CO: 1.5 hours
- Boulder, CO: 45 minutes
- Colorado Springs, CO: 2.5 hours
Estes Park has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
Boulder, CO also has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!
Registration & Cancellation
Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.
- Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
- Group technical gear (ropes, etc.)
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Transportation to Estes Park, CO
- Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
- Guide gratuity
- Lunch food or snacks
- Personal hiking/climbing clothing
- Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
- Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides
Book This Trip!
We Offer Online Registration
- Click on Book This Trip
- Select your Program dates
- Enter your Info and Payment
Or, call 800.642.5389 to register