Peak(s):  Lone Eagle - 11,940 feet
Post Date:  08/14/2011
Modified:  02/20/2014
Date Climbed:   08/12/2011
Posted By:  Brian C
Additional Members:   Glen

 Alone on the Eagle   

Part 2 - Alone on the Eagle
a.k.a. Having an Extra Large Day

8/11/11 - 8/12/11

Lone Eagle via North Face (5.7) - Indian Peaks Wilderness

This is a continuation of Part 1 - The Tofflesan

The north face route from below Mirror Lake.


Wanting to continue my end-of-summer hiking spree, I had saved a special plan for last. My buddy Glen and I had knocked out some classic routes (Crestones, North Buttress to Traverse - Longs, Keyhole Ridge - Spearhead, North Ridge, The Bastille, Rewritten) and had thought hard about what would be next.

Some of the classics...

Offwidth-ing on Keyhole Ridge

The Bastille

Trying not to knock off the top of Spearhead

Lone Eagle:

For those who have never set eyes on Lone Eagle in person, there are not many ways to describe it. It often appears in dramatic photos of Colorado's mountains and always seems to be too surreal to truly exist. It resides deep in the Indian Peaks and the shortest hike to see it is about 7 miles (one-way). From Crater Lake at its base, Lone Eagle soars into the sky and manages to dwarf all of its much larger neighbors. The summit tapers to a tiny point 1,700 feet above the lake and seems like an impossible target to reach.


In reality, Lone Eagle is not a true peak itself. It is simply the dramatic finish of a narrow ridgeline that starts on Mount George and extends down past the reclusive Iroquois. The standard route to the summit is a tricky path that tests your ability to remain cool while you descend then ascend highly exposed class 4 ledges. It is aptly named Solo Flight and is considered by many to be one of the hardest "easiest" routes to a summit in the Indian Peaks. My first experience with Lone Eagle was on Solo Flight about 4 years ago and the final push turned me around. My friends who I watched make the summit returned shaken and weary. I've always referred to it as my summit that got away and have been waiting for the right time to return.

Flying High:

Setting our sights on Lone Eagle, we decided to go for the classic north face. First ascended by the Stettner brothers, the route climbs up the sheer face directly above Crater Lake. Rated a modest 5.7, the climb is 11 pitches long and alternates between easy stretches and tricky climbing. As Roach says in his Indian Peaks guide, "It is a serious rock climb in a remote setting and you should approach it with the proper skills polished and ready. If you don't know what the proper skills are, then stay away from this route."

Glen picked me up at noon and we made the long drive to the Monarch Lake trailhead south of Grand Lake. The hike in was long and my legs could tell that it was my fourth day climbing in a row. We finally rolled into Crater Lake around 7pm and set up camp as the weather threatened thunder and rain. The route was in full view from below and we both had a mix of excitement and nerves. The climbing looked much harder than rated from below and it was a daunting sight. We joked about expecting to hear deep drums (think Lord of the Rings) coming from the peak during the night.

Long haul in.


Lots of flowers this year.

Cool corridor.

Lone Eagle dominates the view.


Dueling tarptents.


Summit holding the last light.



Morning came quickly and with a perfect forecast we enjoyed being able to cook breakfast and drink coffee. We left camp about 7 and made for the rock. The opening pitch was damp and alternated between rock, grass and trees.


Morning approach.

Pitches 2-4 was an ascending traverse up an easy (class 2-3 with one spot of 5.0) ramp covered with trees and brush. The thistles reminded us this was an alpine climb whenever we put our hand in one. We simul-climbed this entire section and set up a belay below a steepening chimney system (simul-climbing is dangerous!)

P2-4 were easily simul-climbed.

Pitch 5 lead up to into the chimney (5.5) and pitch 6 was the routes first crux (5.5+) to get on grassy ledges above the chimney. Loose rocks were everywhere and we had to be careful not to knock them down on each other.

Starting the chimney.

P6. The route's first crux.

Above the chimney.

Above the chimney we simul-climbed pitches 7 and 8 up alternating class 2 grass and low 5th class rock steps. I was amazed to see marmots living up on the cliffs and wondered how they got there. We belayed the final awkward 5.4 step to the top small gully we were and found ourselves below the crux pitch.

5.4 topout of P8.

Pitch 9 was a class 3 ascent to move the belay below P10. The 5.7 crux looked steep and fun. It started with a steep traverse into an even steeper crack system. The climbing was very reminiscent of Eldo crack pitches and after pulling some slightly overhanging moves I began to run out of gear. Stopping about 100 feet up, I brought up Glen and he quickly lead the last half of the crux. The exposure opened the higher we got and we both agreed this would be terrifying for somebody just breaking into leading 5.7 trad.

Thinking about the crux.


Looking up P10.

Lots of air high on the crux.

Above the crux, we moved the belay and lead up the final pitch taking the variation right on the edge of the face (5.6). The summit came quickly and was an amazing perch. The views in all directions were spectacular and the exposure was astonishing.




Summit catwalk.

After soaking it in, we coiled the rope and headed down Solo Flight. The initial downclimb was easier than I expected and we soon we traversing the lower shelf. We missed the 3rd-4th class upclimb and ended up soloing low 5th class back up to the ridge (oops). Happy to be back on easy terrain, we quickly made it back down to the lake.

Solo flight.


I peered back up the face while pumping water and wondered if anybody camping at the lake had seen us climbing. We reluctantly packed and made for the car. Lone Eagle soon disappeared from view and reminded us of how far in we had to go to even see it. It had been an amazing climb. Definitely a classic route on one of the most striking peaks in Colorado.


Note: All the photos from Lone Eagle are taking by Glen. My poor camera crapped out on the way plus all his photos are better anyway. Thanks Glen!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

wow     08/15/2011 00:40
You fellas are on a killing spree! What's next!?


Again, awesome!     08/15/2011 03:42
Good TR and great climbinging with you. This was a great climb!


Nice TR, Thanks!     08/15/2011 15:33
Looks like a lot of snow had melted out since Traderaaron's TR. Get any good shots of the flanking glaciers (Fair/Hopi)?

Brian C

Floyd     08/15/2011 16:24
The slope aspect affected the snow alot. Some spots were holding strong and some had melted completely. The Fair Glacier was still pretty continuous and the crevasse looked covered (although sagging a bit). Didn't check out Hopi. Hope this helps!


Nice Brian     08/15/2011 18:37
Way to be getting out. Enjoy Rewritten when you do it!


Nice summer     08/16/2011 00:24
Looks like you've hit up all the classics this summer, job well done. This Cirque is arguably the most aesthetic in the state and this climb looks like a solid way to spend time there. Hell of a climb.


The sound of drums     08/16/2011 03:14
If there's anywhere one would hear ghostly drums in the dark of night it would be that cirque. Congratulations on returning to the one that got away and summiting on better terms.

The photo captioned Awesome clearly shows how beautiful Apache's north ridge is. The Chessmen are the perfect pawns in Lone Eagle's dominance.

Great TR! Thanks for posting it.


AWESOME!     08/28/2011 13:10
Stunning photos and well done!! This one is definitely on my list!


One of CO's best summits     01/07/2012 19:52
Great report on a simply fantastic technical peak climb!

There's nothing quite like Lone Eagle, the way it dominates that whole cirque while being lower than the flanking peaks. I've been up it several times a la the Solo Flight over the years, and was finally able to hit the N. face route in September of 2010. The route was pretty much everything I thought it would be--half scrambling, half bona-fide rock climbing that winds its way up the peak. That 5.7 crux pitch was stellar, and like you mention, near vertical, imposing, and pretty intimidating for 5.7. I found Roach's route description to be spot-on expect for the very last pitch--we couldn't find the chimney he speaks of, but instead a 5.4-ish line of shallow corners maybe one or two hundred feet left of the ridge crest. Sounds like you did a variation, as well--though I don't remember any 5.6-ish looking line close to the crest. That summit is unbelievably cool, probably my favorite of any peak yet in CO.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2015®, 14ers Inc.