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 Peak(s):  Pagoda Mtn  -  13,497 feet
 Post Date:  12/16/2013 Modified: 01/05/2014
 Date Climbed:   12/14/2013
 Posted By:  dillonsarnelli
 Additional Members:   emily, bkorps

 A Walk in the Clouds - Pagoda Mountain from Glacier Gorge    

A Walk in the Clouds... Pagoda Mountain from Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountain: Pagoda Mountain - Rocky Mountain National Park - Elevation 13,497 ft.
Date Climbed: December 14, 2013
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge
Route: North East Ridge
Distance: ~ 14 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 4,800 ft.
Participants: Emily Hendrick (emily), Brian Korpics (bkorps)
Time: ~ 12.5 hours

Pagoda Mountain sits at the southern end of Glacier Gorge in between two of the Parks beasts, Longs Peak (14,255 ft.) and Chiefs Head Peak (13,579 ft.). With an elevation of 13,497 ft., Pagoda Mountain is the 7th highest ranked peak in The Park. It's been said that Pagoda's summit register, which we unfortunately couldn't locate, may receive on average about 75 signatures a year, while its neighbor may receive that on a summer weekend.

Those in attendance on this cold, windy December day: myself, Emily and Brian. This would be Brian's 1st 13er (we think...the jury is still out. We do know for sure that his 1st and only 14er to date was Quandary.... last month!). The phrase hazing may be an understatement. Emily quoted the trip nicely 10+ hours in, and still 4 miles from the jeep in freezing temps, when she said, "I've had a lot of epic days out on 14er's, but this is definitely my 1st epic day on a 13er!" And so the story goes....

Part 1 Zoom 1
Part 2 Zoom 2
Part 3 Zoom 3

As we round a frozen Mills Lake with some clouds rolling in, the gems of the southern end of Glacier Gorge come into plain view.

From left to right: The Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Mountain, and Chiefs Head Peak, with The Spearhead looking spectacular in the foreground.


Emily laughing at us... "Why do you guys keep sinking?"

It was here, about half-way between Mills Lake and Black Lake, that we put on our snowshoes. There was a good solid trench all the way to Mills Lake, but beyond the lake, we'd do our own route finding to Black Lake.

The wind begins to pick up en route to Black Lake.

In the shadow of Longs and Company all day, this was one of the few times we'd feel the sun.

There's that wind again. I'm not very good at estimating wind speed, but I'd guess we had gusts as high as 40+ mph at times for sustained stretches until we hit the Pagoda/Keyboard saddle.

Once at Black Lake, we hunkered down behind some large boulders to rest and refuel. As we thawed out, I popped my head out to get a good look at Black Lake and the route ahead. From here the route takes a sharp left eastward, through a small canyon of sorts, to the upper basin below Pagoda, Chiefs Head and The Spearhead. To our surprise, there were 2 skiers behind us. They were on their way to do some ice climbing just beyond Black Lake in an area called the Black Lake slabs. I don't have any pictures of this area because my hands were frozen as we passed through, but Emily, being an ice climber herself, was in awe of all of the ice surrounding us.

One of the skiers making his way around Black Lake.

Once past the Black Lake slabs, we made another sharp turn, this time south. From here we followed cairns all the way to Green Lake. Green Lake sits at the base of Pagoda Mountain.... about 2,000 ft below the summit!

In the upper basin, just below Green Lake with the Keyboard of the Winds towering over us. Pagoda's north east ridge can be seen top right. Our route would take us up the gully to the saddle between the southernmost tower on the Keyboard and Pagoda (V notch to the far right).

Emily just below Green Lake with The Spearhead hovering in the distance.

Eat up, drink up. From here on out, you're going to need all of your energy and every muscle. 2,000 ft in less than a mile. GO!!! In all honesty, having just gained 24 lbs over Thanksgiving, I was spent about half way up! Brian and Emily were both animals. I think the hazing joke was on me.

About half way up... Emily can be seen in the center of this photograph.

Brian making his way up. We spread out to avoid any rock fall danger. Green Lake pictured below.

Another shot of Brian on his way up. Mills Lake and Jewel Lake can be seen (top center) in the distance below tree line.

approaching the notch-like saddle (where's Emily?)

Once we reached the saddle, we finally got the reprieve from the wind we were hoping for. All that remained was a few hundred feet and a class 3 scramble to the the summit on Pagoda's north east ridge. At this point the views were amazing all around, but it wasn't until we hit the summit that we realized what we were in for.

Longs and Meeker from a less seldom seen vantage point on the Pagoda/Keyboard notch-like saddle.

Emily scrambling to the summit.

Brian making his way up the final scramble (pictured bottom center).

Just below the summit (at approx 2 PM), we were finally able get a glimpse of what was happening in the clouds to our west. Without a doubt, the most amazing scenery I have ever experienced from any peak to date. The following are a few of our summit shots. It was truly an incredible day above the clouds.

Summit of Pagoda Mountain - Rocky Mountain National Park - Elevation 13,497 ft. - December 14, 2013:

group shot

The trek home was very long and very cold, but even if we had come back with a few less fingers and/or toes, we would have all agreed, it was well worth it. Brian, Emily, thanks for playing. It was a pleasure to spend the day with you both. Let's get out there again soon!

THE END - Thanks for reading!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Kevin Baker

Out of this world     2013-12-16 22:20:09
I think the views were better on Pagoda than on Longs! Huge day with snow, guys! Glacier Gorge sure is a magical place. Thanks for sharing, Dillon.


Sad I miss this..     2013-12-17 01:46:22
Looks like a great day in the hills.. Wish I could have made this trip. Great job all around, the tough summits are always worth it in the end.

Brian C

Great!     2013-12-17 06:27:20
That's some serious work this time of year. Nice job!


Awesome!     2013-12-17 07:21:14
A great report on a big day in a truly amazing place. Way to get after it!


Well played     2013-12-17 07:41:15
Way to haze the new guy. Quite the way to introduce someone to Colorado climbing!

Dave B

Slog!     2013-12-17 07:45:26
Just getting back to Black Lake makes for a long day, not to mention adding on Pagoda.

Great report, you guys had some awesome clouds and lighting conditions on that side of the park, really contrasts to the crystal clear blues on the east side of Longs. Your first picture is pretty amazing.

Well done!


Down the 13er epic Rabbit hole!     2013-12-17 08:25:50
Its a loooong way down just enjoy the ride

Really enjoyed the pictures. Great job to all involved!


Clouds > Trees     2013-12-17 09:34:37
That is all


Awesome shots!     2013-12-17 10:49:00
Looks like a stellar day out in the park!


Nice dillon!     2013-12-17 12:43:38
Cool pics. Good lookin day in a fantastic basin


something different....     2013-12-17 14:47:40
Never would've thought of doing Pagoda in winter, but I may have to add it to the ”snowflake” list. Looks like you all had a great day out. Cloud inversions are such a rare treat. RMNP always seems to deliver the goods.


Outstanding!     2013-12-17 21:25:01
Wow! Some simply super shots, and an amazing trek, crew! I love to see winter reports of some of my best-loved places that I've only done in summer! What a treat! Thanks for your post!


Incredible pictures!     2013-12-18 12:12:59
And a great report - Nice one, Dillon!


THANKS     2013-12-18 15:21:58
Kevin - on our way out in the dark, i said I bet we're the only people left in the Park right now, guess I was wrong! what a day and excellent TR on your end
Ehrlich - many, many, many more weekends
Brian - thanks. i worked off all 24 of the lbs i gained on Thanksgiving
DanR - thanks, yep that whole Park certainly is an amazing place
client JB - when do I get to haze you out there?
Dave - thanks. It looks like you had quite the day on your side too. Really enjoyed your report as well.
Abe - thanks. i think there's a little bit of everything down this hole i'm heading!
Jeff - remy > trees + clouds
Sarah - thanks, stellar indeed!
Ryan - thanks - when is the next Valhalla?!? I'll let you carry my snowshoes and/or me.
Sarah - thanks. RMNP always delivers! when you go for that snowflake, let me know. Hope you and Kevin had a great day out as well.
Doug - thanks - I think my fingers and toes really like the RMNP summers too! glad you enjoyed the report.
Jay - thanks, I think you wrote 2 reports in less than a month. well done!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all of you!


Stunning!     2013-12-18 20:09:22
Looks like a fantastic trip! Gotta love the view above the cloud deck.


@ Mike     2013-12-19 07:40:33
thanks man. Happy Birthday!


Incredible and WOW!     2013-12-19 20:10:51
Great trip report and photos. The first photo is a premium jaw-dropper.
Well done!


app     2013-12-21 14:12:04
What tracking app are you using?

Craig Cook

BBBOOOOOOOOOMMM     2013-12-27 21:51:34
I'm stealing your phrase, because really, what else is there to say after reading a trip report like this? Another rockin' report, Dillon!


THANKS - Part 2     2013-12-27 23:21:53
Bernie - thanks! those clouds were unreal.
Matt - PM sent
Craig - hahaha, thanks man! appreciate it. brinin' the BOOOOOM back. Hope all is good out your way.

AND I hope you all had a nice holiday. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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