Peak(s):  Ypsilon Mtn  -  13,514 feet
Date Posted:  07/21/2014
Modified:  07/22/2014
Date Climbed:   07/19/2014
Author:  Gruff
Additional Members:   SnowAlien
 Ypsilon Mountain - Blitzen Ridge  

Date: July 19, 2014
Partner: Natalie (nkan02)
Route: Lawn Lake TH to Blitzen Ridge
Descent Route: Donner Ridge to Lawn Lake TH
Stats: 14.1 total miles, 6,100' total elevation gained
Difficulty: 5.4 to 5.7 depending on your line of choice
Rack: 60 meter rope, set of stoppers, single set of BD C3 cams from #.3 to #2, assortment of long slings


Expect a long demanding day unless you are a mountain god. Nowhere near a beginner outing, and even though "officially" rated 5.4, don't be fooled. -- Mountain Project comment

If this comment doesn't convince you to get on this route then I don't know what will! We are certainly no mountain gods but that doesn't mean we can't believe we are for the day. It just meant a little bit more suffering and wallowing in the pain cave for us. This route offers it all...moderate alpine climbing, great rock, outstanding position and exposure, and amazing views. Go do it!

This adventure started with getting the hall pass from my wife and baby. Since having our first baby just over a year ago, my climbing time has taken a bit of a hit...not surprising. But now that our son is getting older and we are getting a better handle on balancing our lives I'm finding more and more time to get out. This trip was at the top of my list.

In need of a partner, I posted up here and thankfully Natalie was all for it! It had been over a year since we last climbed together, but I knew she would be up for the adventure.

The trip started at 3:30 AM. We left from the Westminster AMC Theater and headed towards RMNP and the Lawn Lake Trailhead just off Old Fall River Road. After convincing Natalie that she would be better suited to carry the rope up the mountain we were hiking by 5:05 AM.

At about 1.3 miles you come to a junction with a sign for Lake Ypsilon. Go left here and immediately cross the river. The bridge for this crossing was destroyed in the Fall 2013 floods, but a good log crossing is in place only 50 feet or so downstream.


After this river crossing, you pound out the miles (~3.2 miles) as you gradually gain elevation up to Lake Ypsilon.

View of Ypsilon from Chipmunk Lake

At Lake Ypsilon we continued clockwise around to its north side heading for a steep grassy gully that deposits you on Blitzen ridge.


Looking down the grassy gully


Once on the ridge, you still have a bit of easy hiking before you get to the start of the 4 Aces which mark the start of the technical climbing.




The 4 Aces are nothing short of breathtaking. The ridge from here has several options to "choose your own adventure" that range from 5.4 and up. Here's how we did it:

Ace 1 and 2: We donned our harnesses at the base of the 1st Ace but decided to forego the rope on these first two Aces. We passed them on climber's left using ledge systems and ramps to traverse from one saddle to the next. If you didn't have your caffeine in the morning, the exposure on the 1st Ace will get you jump started!


Ledges on the 1st Ace that we traversed


Ace 3: We geared up at the base of the 3rd Ace. I took a direct line up climber's left side of the Ace all the way to the summit. I veered slightly right at the very top through a slot and belayed from blocks. From here we searched for the first rappel station. As you are looking down the backside of the Ace the first rappel is completely hidden from view on climber's left side. We traversed down and left to an obvious alcove and found the rappel station. It consists of several slings around a block. The next rappel station is also completely hidden from view. As I rapped down, I finally noticed it to my far left when I was level with it. It is located under an overhang on a large grassy ledge/alcove. It consists of an equalized piton and stopper. At the end of this rappel we traversed over to the saddle at the base of the 4th Ace.

Looking up the 3rd Ace Pitch

Top of the 3rd Ace

1st rap off the 3rd Ace

Looking back at the 3rd Ace

Ace 4: I took an upward and right trending line up the 4th Ace with the intention of skirting around the right to the backside. As I got higher I found a more appealing line via cracks that lead to the summit. This allowed us to do it in one long pitch without rope drag. The way we went was probably the most technical climbing of the day at about 5.7. We packed up the rope and down climbed the backside to the base of the Headwall.

4th Ace. Our line went from the saddle trending up right to the cracks right of the summit

Looking back at the 4th and 3rd Ace

Headwall: The Headwall is the last stretch of roped climbing. We decided to do this in one long pitch with about 100 feet or so of simul climbing. I stayed to climbers left of the white pillar and continued straight up; belayed from a slung block at the top.



Top of the Headwall pitch

With the technical climbing behind us we packed up the rope and got psyched for the 1,000'+ of class 4 and 3 climbing to the summit. We stayed near the ridge top most of the way.





Looking back down Blitzen Ridge

Spectacle Lakes


We finally reached the summit at 1:10 PM; 7 hours after we started. The weather report had said a 30% chance of thunderstorms after 2pm which was in the back of our heads all day. Upon reaching the summit we breathed a sigh of relief when we saw blue skies all around.

Descent: Prepare yourself for a tedious descent. Harder than expected! From the summit we followed the left edge toward Donner Ridge (directly opposite of Blitzen ridge). Donner ridge has a touch of class 3 and then cliffs out abruptly about mid-way. I believe this goes at low 5th class but we didn't test it out. Instead, we took a gully down the right side of the ridge into the valley between Mt. Chiquita and Ypsilon. Near the bottom of the gully we took a grassy ramp that exited left. After one last tricky down climb via a grassy slot, we were in the main valley. We followed the valley staying on the left side all the way back to Lake Ypsilon. This consisted of boulder hopping until we reached tree line. Once you make it down into the trees you can pick up a small trail (difficult to follow) that deposits you back at the lake. Whew...only 4.5 miles to go!


Top of Donner Ridge

The start of the gully down to the valley



Looking down valley towards Lake Ypsilon

Looking back at the descent off of Donner Ridge



After soaking our feet in the lake and filtering some water we began our march out arriving back at the trailhead at about 6:30 PM.

What an amazing and challenging day with a great partner. I arrived home at about 9 PM after stopping by Walgreens to pick up some baby Ibuprofen; little guy was running a slight fever. Thoroughly wrecked I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. But my adventures in fatherhood continued; baby was up and ready to go at 4:30 AM. My turn!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

07/22/2014 04:44
A truly spectacular place to be!


07/22/2014 13:43
Donner and Blitzen! Great report and pics on what looks like an amazing day in the Park! Nice job gang.


jealous again
07/22/2014 15:25
Natalie gets to do all the climbs that keep lingering on my to-do list. Looks like a great day!


Wow and Wow
07/22/2014 16:12
That is all I have to say. This has always been on my list but your pics do it much better justice than even what I had envisioned in my head. Looks like a must do!


Image #2
07/22/2014 16:29
classic RMNP shot of Ypsilon from Chipmunk Lake. Great route, job well done.


Nice Write Up
07/22/2014 16:43
Really enjoyed the read - thanks for sharing!

Also jealous
07/23/2014 02:53
Great report and photos of a classic!


07/24/2014 12:23
Great pics and a nice description of what looks like an amazing route. Thanks for sharing!


04/02/2015 19:45
was like Little Bear on steroids - Y couloir for Hourglass, Blitzen ridge for SW ridge and Donner for West ridge, just the rock was much more solid (except for that hold on the 3rd Ace that broke off). On the 1st Ace I felt like this guy - the ”no holds” zone was weird, especially when weighted with a backpack. Thanks for giving me a helping hand!
My favorite part, I think, was simulclimbing the headwall - what fun! Donner starts deceptively easy, but progressively gets harder on the descent. That grassy gully was the steepest grass I've ever downclimbed. Thanks for letting me tag along on this one.
P.S. You rock

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