Peak(s):  Sharkstooth - 12630
Date Posted:  08/16/2013
Date Climbed:   08/15/2013
Author:  Dave B
 Gneiss and steep - Northeast ridge (5.7)   

Sharkstooth North East Ridge.

The Sharkstooth is the highest of the Cathedral Spires that make up the precipitous eastern ridge line emanating from Taylor Peak. The rock is comprised mostly of gneiss. Supposedly, the Sharkstooth is one of the few summits in RMNP that can only be reached by 5th class routes. My partner and I were trying to figure out the others, anyone have an idea of what they are? Thought Hayden Spire might be one of them but I thought there was a 4th class route on it.

The Gillet guide rates this route 5.6 but it felt more like 5.7 with a couple 5.7+ moves on the path we took.
5 pitches (~175 m)

The Climb

The weather cooperated! After a stormy previous weekend in Glacier Gorge, I was excited to see a favorable forecast for a couple of days in the high country. This was even better because John and I had made plans to climb the standard NE Ridge on Sharkstooth.

We met at the Beaver Meadows visitor center at 4:30 am. With such a favorable forecast we weren't too concerned with a super early start. We arrived at the Glacier Gorge TH around 4:50 and were quickly headed up the trail just a few minutes later. A solid pace and the awesomeness of the climber's cutoff trail had us on the western side of The Loch just as the sky began its colorful transition with the rising sun.
We continued up the trail beyond The Loch and broke off onto the Andrews Glacier trail. For those of you who might not have hiked this trail before, keep your eyes open for the sign on the left ~10 past the trail junction and facing the opposite direction. 20 more minutes up this trail and you're treated to you first views of the Solar Wall on Otis Peak with the Zowie and Wham spires reaching skyward from its eastern flanks.

Zowie and Wham Spires on the Solar Wall

Just a couple of more minutes hiking and the Sharkstooth comes into view with the infamous Gash in all of its heinous boulder hoping half-mile.

The Sharkstooth and The Gash

Close up of the Sharkstooth - the NE Ridge follows the line left of where shadow meets light

We reached the base of the route as the same time as the sun (8:30). Despite a warm day, a consistent wind and rock that had not yet warmed from the sun led to numb hands and the opening pitch (considered 5.5ish) to feel far more difficult than it should. This was only perpetuated by funky pro and a general loose/licheney/dirty rock quality. By the second pitch our hands had warmed and John took the first substantial difficulty directly - an awkward and difficult to protect flaring flake.

John at the beginning of the second pitch

The third pitch ended up the most fun with steep and super positive climbing up a left facing flake and dihedral system. This pitch, like the previous however, started with an awkward and difficult to protect flake. Once atop this pitch you're treated to awesome views of the summit of the Petit Grepon and climbers whom had (presumably) just complete the classic south face. We stopped just a short distance below the large ledge at the start of the offwidth crack.

Looking down from the top of the third pitch

Team of climbers on the summit of the Petit Grepon

John made short work of the last stretch to the large ledge and tackled the offwidth. For me getting into the crack was the most difficult, but once established (using a fist-hand jam) chockstones and face holds make the remainder of the crack relatively straight forward to climb. John led the crack, was able to get a nut-placement at the top and before the 20 foot run out slab and another large ledge for belay.

The fifth and final pitch follows an airy and exposed arÍte to the summit. The climbing was easy but traversed leftward over a solid drop-off. This coupled with somewhat sparse and funky protection made the consequences of a potential fall substantial for either leader or follower.

John on the final pitch

We reached the summit right at noon making our time on route just shy of 3.5 hours. We reveled in the views and the weather-afforded rare opportunity to be on one of the most lighting prone summits in the park, on an August afternoon, without feeling hurried to get back below treeline. So there we stayed for close to an hour.

John walks the final few feet to the summit

The views of Estes Park Valley, Lumpy Ridge, The Loch and the rest of the park were amazing

Longs Peak showing a decent amount of snow

Even though we didn't want to, after an hour, we figured we need to head down. After repacking our packs and storing gear, we scrambled over to the first of the rap stations and began the first of the four rappels needed to reach the East Col.

John tossing the rope for the first rap

Third rappel

It's unfortunate how little justice photos do to capture the immensity of the Sharkstooth when viewed from below

John contemplating an unusually large boulder at the base of the gash

The Solar Wall on Otis Peak - so much rock, so little development, sigh...


Both John and I felt the 5.6 rating was sandbagged for this route. The steep and sustained nature of this climb with sometimes awkard movement, loose and/or dirty rock and often funky pro push this route more into the 5.7 range. Several pathways may be taken to start this route, here is a description of ours:

Pitch 1: (5.6 - 40 m) follow a mossy and vegetated right facing corner up past one large ledge to a second smaller ledge atop a flake
Pitch 2: (5.7+ - 35 m) a short right traverse on a grassy ledge gains an awkward and slightly overhanging flake that is flared and difficult to protect. Once past the flake the climbing eased to 5.6 but remained dirty and loose.
Pitch 3: (5.7+ - 60m) move left into a left facing flake and dihedral system. Like pitch 2 the opening moves are awkward and a little difficult to protect. Once past this difficulty bomb up straight vertical buckets and incut jugs. Belay at the large ledge below.
Pitch 4: (5.6 - 40 m) grunt your way into the awful width crack using a combination of fist-hand and hand-hand jams. Once established and abundance of face holds and chockstones can be used for those who lack the masochistic proclivity towards offwidths.
Pitch 5: (5.5 - 50 m) follow the narrow, airy and expose arÍte towards the summit. Be careful of placing pro as the route traverses to the left a bit an a fall from the loose rock could have substantial consequences.


Doubles of C4 0.5-2 with a #3 and #4 (neither of which were ever placed) also brought TCUs 1-4 and a couple of extra Mastercams to double up the small sizes and overlap with the C4s.

The offwidth would most likely need to be protected with a #5 or #6 or Trango Big-Bro so unless you're willing to carry that much metal for one short pitch, be comfortable with unprotected offwidth climbing.

Comments or Questions

08/16/2013 23:52
love all these RMNP reports! Nice job Dave and crew. This looks awesome. Great pics and excellent TR


This is
08/17/2013 03:16


08/17/2013 03:40
you for the quality beta. There are so many fine rock climbing lines in the park.


Nice climb
08/17/2013 04:08
Hayden Spire, Twin Owls(maybe hard class 4 for a tall person...havent tried) and likely the Aiguille de Fleur( are the other RMNP peaks that require 5th class climbing, along with a whole slew of walls on Lumpy Ridge

Brian C

08/17/2013 13:57
You climbed that thing?? Haha! I did everything I could do avoid it!

Dave B

Thanks for the comments
08/17/2013 14:59

Chris - ah, I didn't even think about Twin Owls or lumpy ridge at all for that matter.

Brian - ha, yeah, nothing like a little bit of suffering to spice up an alpine route!

5th Class in RMNP
08/17/2013 15:11
The only true 5th class RMNP summits (not to be confused with 5th class climbs, of which there are hundreds in the Park), that I know of on LoJ are Sharkstooth, Petit Gripon, Ship's Prow, and Keyboard of the Winds. But that paucity of climbs I think is more a reflection of people not submitting entries, not the actual sample size of 5th class climbs. Other obvious candidates that come to mind quickly are Zowie, Zumie's Thumb, etc. etc. probably a dozen spires at least is my guess. A cool project to work on: All the 5th Class Summits of RMNP. Yeah, I like the ring of that, yeah....

Oh, and COOL report! Congrats!!

Dave B

08/17/2013 16:07
So I always thought of Ships Prow as a buttress instead of a distinct summit. Show's what I know . Thanks for the clarification, Tom. Seems like nailing down a definition of a ”peak” in RMNP with it's numerous spires and columns would be the crux of the project!

08/17/2013 17:18
Yeah, I can think of a few RMNP 5th class candidates, some I know of but have forgotten their names, etc. Others look like a 5th classer, e,g, the Sabre, but have a 3-4th class route up. Would be fun to plow through Gillett and the old Kimball guide and put together a custom list for LoJ. Oh, and I agree, Ship's Prow isn't much of a summit. I did it a few years back (I think it's here on in Carl's Beaver Route TR) and it was just a short scramble. But still a fun day in a spectacular setting.

Brian C

5th class RMNP
08/17/2013 18:13
Don't forget Hayden's Spire! It is also on the LoJ list. Is the HP of the Keyboard of the Winds actually 5th class? I know some of the other ones are, but not sure about the tallest one. Also, once you get to some of the smaller tower-like features there are quite a few. The Stiletto is another that comes to mind.

Tom - You've probably done all the 5th classers in Rocky haven't you? It would be a cool list, although not quite as unknown as outside Rocky...

I am not worthy...
08/17/2013 18:34
Hmm, I thought Hayden had a 4th class route? Not sure about that, I haven't done it. As for the rest, no, no...I haven't come close to all the RMNP 5th classers. Have done some, tried others with no success, but now my mania is the ranked 5th class list and only Sharkstooth is ranked in the Park. But that RMNP 5th class list would be a really cool project, so much high quality stuff there, unlike the loose dried mud horror-fests on the west the Squaw and Papoose above (off limits per the Hopi reservation rules, fwiw).

But I digress, this is Dave's report. Great accomplishment Dave. Looks like you guys had a great day and I fully agree, getting chased off by lightning is a hassle. Glad you had a great and safe day.

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