Peak(s):  Pagoda Mtn  -  13,497 feet
Date Posted:  09/07/2019
Date Climbed:   09/07/2019
Author:  trkl9
 Soloing Pagoda: Pagoda-Keyboard Couloir  

Pagoda Mountain via the Pagoda-Keyboard Couloir

TH: Glacier Gorge

Distance: 13.18 miles

Elevation gain: 4,264 feet

Start: 4:45 AM

This weekend I continued my quest for the RMNP 13ers with Pagoda. I've heard only great things, minus the steep scramble with tons of loose rock and talus but thought I'd give it a try. I took the shortcut trail bypassing Alberta falls as described in the route description. The junction is really easy to find, even in the dark. I arrived at Mills Lake at 5:32 AM and with everything still pitch black so I continued on towards Black lake.


The day started a little gloomy and ominous. Just before sunrise, a thick, low cloud deck revealed itself and was shrouding all of the peaks from my view. The above photo was taken between Mills and Black Lake, approaching ribbon falls


Increasing light brought ribbon falls into view and Black lake soon after around 6:30 AM.


Next, I ascended up the gully above black lake with moderate incline but relatively easy hiking. Those clouds sure didn't want to leave.


After gaining the shelf, the rest of my route came into view. Honestly, this was the most annoying part of the climb as it consisted of mixed rock and marshy vegetation and a slew of cairns which seemed to lead to nowhere. Your best bet is to pick a line and stick with it, trying to string together the rocky slabs. (Go away clouds!)


Getting closer to the main ascent! From here the scrambling begins. The goal is to get between the two towers with the wide gap at the top and middle of the picture above. Pagoda doesn't seem to want to peek out quite yet.


I scrambled up a little further and had great views of Green Lake. I sat here for a while and watched the clouds cycle through falling down into the valley then up towards my route, Pagoda and the Keyboard of the Winds. I was waiting to see if it would clear up at all as it was sunny looking north towards the Mummy Range. After about 20 minutes, not much changed so I decided to slowly start my ascent up the Pagoda-Keyboard Couloir.


The 4 pictures above are at various stops up the couloir. It's about 1,200 feet to the top where you gain the ridge. They weren't kidding when they said it was steep and loose, but really it wasn't too bad. I tended to string together larger, more stable rock with a bit more class 3 scrambling.


I gained the top of the couloir around 9:00 AM and the weather was looking up!


After gaining the ridge, I made a right turn to the final push towards Pagoda. The picture above is looking back towards the backside of the Keyboard of the winds with Longs peak completely shrouded in clouds towards the north and east.


Almost to the summit!


Summited at 9:33 AM. View looking down into the Glacier Gorge valley and nearly the complete trail I ascended from the trailhead. In the distance you can see Mills and Jewel Lakes.


Looking south from the summit towards the Wild Basin area. Mount Orton and the North Ridge, Keplinger Lake and Sandbeach Lake all in view.


Looking south and west from the summit. Here, Chiefs Head and the big peaks of Wild Basin should have been visible including Mount Alice but the clouds were still too dense.


The rest of the above pictures are all of Longs Peak. I watched the clouds roll over the top and it was probably one of the most mesmerizing things I've ever seen. I shot a lot of really cool video of the clouds blowing by here as well that I wish I could share. Wind was fierce up top.


As I was descending off the top, the clouds cleared and Longs came into view as well as the loft and Mount Meeker. Incredible views up there.


Two more photos of the Glacier Gorge valley while descending. Good views of the Mummy Range further North.


When getting back to Green Lake at the bottom of the couloir, I skirted the eastern side and around the backside of the lake to get a little different perspective.


Green Lake looking towards the Keyboard of the Winds and Longs Peak (covered in clouds again).


Green Lake looking back south.


Two good photos on my descent of Longs (left), Keyboard of the winds, and Pagoda (right).


Black Lake on the descent.


Just chillin' with zero cares in the world. Near Mills lake.


Mills Lake was one of my first hikes ever in RMNP. This view from Mills lake is a favorite of mine and I always try to spend a few moments taking it all in when I return. This place holds a special part of me and it's great that now, years later, I can summit the big peaks that make up this great valley.

Another fantastic climb and day in RMNP!

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

09/08/2019 08:18
Love the cloud effects in your photos; couldn't plan for that
even if you wanted to. Thanks for posting.


Good Choice
09/08/2019 11:25
This qualifies as a favorite RMNP thirteener line of mine. It is an excellent way to reach Pagoda's summit. Thanks for posting the trip report. Keep climbing all those peaks


09/08/2019 13:46
nice job man.


Killer pics
09/09/2019 08:36
Those clouds in the Park were something else Saturday! I was up on Hourglass Ridge about an hour after you summitted. The clouds coming off Chiefs Head and Alice were so trippy.

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