Peak(s):  Notchtop Mtn - 12,129 feet
Flattop Mtn - 12,234 feet
Date Posted:  06/03/2010
Date Climbed:   05/30/2010
Author:  lordhelmut
 Tour de Rocky Mtn Nat`l Park   

an inviting and inspiring site from 36

Rocky Mountain National Park is obviously a special place. Whether you are looking for a multi-day adventure, a stroll through the woods, a nice vantage point to take some photos or to simly take a nice drive, this place will not disapoint. Chris and I decided to find some nice lines in the Bear Lake region, as well as a recon of Longs Peak region. Instead of writing up an entire report, I'll just post some conditions and some shots of an unbelievable day on Notchtop and Flattop Mountains.

We camped out at a free camp spot along the forest boundary off of rt.7 and get some decent shut eye friday night in hopes of climbing and skiing Longs via Keplinger's Couloir. To make a really long story short, Keplinger's was not worth skiing. Upon our arrival of the west side of the Loft, we got a glimpse of the Homestretch and middle of Keplinger's. There were too many sections that held no more snow and the Homestretch was nearly unskiable. I've always envisioned skiing off Longs as an enjoyable experience and a memorable one too. On most other days, I'd risk a sketchy ski descent for a bushwacking adventure through Wild Basin, but simply turning around, getting some turns down the Loft into Chasm Junction sounded a hell of a lot better, simply put. I was so f**king pissed I could taste it in my spit, but I channeled my anger into skiing down the bobsled run that is the Longs Trail below treeline, made it back to Chris's car at the trailhead and regrouped in Estes Park.

FYI, I'm not gonna bother posting pictures of our Saturday, I'm pretty sure everyone on this site, if not the world know what the Loft looks like. For conditions sake, the flat section of the Loft is dry, the climb up is snow covered, the descent into Keplinger's is 99.9% dry, the Homestretch is nearly melted out and Keplinger's isn't skiable anymore, unless you don't care about your skis. (Ditto with the North Face, Trough is filled in nicely).

We got a meal at Ed's Cantina right in downtown Estes. Let me note that I had the very best Spicy Ground Buffalo Enchilada of my life and they have Dale's on tap. Holy hell that was good. We ate their Saturday and came back for round 2 on Sunday, catching some Lacrosse Final 4 action as well as game 1 of Stanley Cup. Be sure to check it out next time you're in town, I can guarantee its better than the KFC/Taco Bell and its free of all the dickbags crowding the streets of downtown.

For as frustrating a day Saturday was, Sunday made up for it......and then some.
We hit the Bear Lake Trailhead around 6am, and made our way for the Lake Helene region just North of Flattop Mountain and the Tyndall Glacier drainage. We were able to boot the approach in hiking shoes till treeline. Some shots of the approach….

nice start to a day

Notchtop/Ptramigan Glacier

Lake Helene

We skinned further into the basin and got an idea of what this place is all about. Notchtop Mountain is truly something else. For anyone who has never graced their eyes with its pinnacle of a summit, here's a good idea what you are missing…

The Notchtop Couloir

Soon after we were in front of our goal for the day, the Notchtop Couloir, 1200 feet from the valley floor.

Notchtop Couloir

There was a couple about a half hour in front of us, Judd and Lindsay, from Boulder, who laid down a nice boot pack that Chris and I happily followed.

halfway up the couloir

Got steeper as you climbed higher up, but nothing that involved crampons, an ice axe would suffice. Near the top, in order to avoid the corniced ridgeline, we traversed at a left angle, gained a quick class 3 rock section and were topped out.

Some shots of the ski….

small mandatory air off the cornice

downhill is fun

not too steep, but steep enough to keep it fun and intersting

I'd be lying if I said my attention hadn't been severely distracted by this guy over yonder…..

our line off Flattop, incredible experience in an incredible setting

I had never given Flattop much interest in the past, more or less because I wasn't convinced there were any interesting ways to climb or ski it (sans the Dragon's Tail). Well I guess I swallowed the bug.

Upon finishing an extremely enjoyable 12-1300 foot descent of Notchtop on perfectly softened snow, we traversed across the Ptramigan Basin and reached the base of this mythical line. Judd and Lindsay must've been eyeing the same line, cause they were already booting up the hardpack snow. This route was deeply inset, didn't receive sun till late in the day and required crampons when we climbed it. The climbing was a tad more arduous, but the couloirs was a tad shorter vert-wise than the Notchtop. Around an hour later, we topped out and were prepared to wait it out till the snow softened. While we waited, we explored the very expansive "summit" of Flattop, taking shots of Hallet, Tyndall Glacier, Longs, Mummy Range and the still very much snow covered Never Summers. Some shots….

climbing up the chute

Longs and the Trough

Never Summers - looks like winter

Around 2pm, we began the ski on this fine May day.

Chris dropping in

it was tough to maintain control on the upper sections

"All it takes is a tweak of your quadricep and you get the feeling of floating" - Dawson

good thing we didn't choose the Ptarmigan Fingers

I know I keep claiming this throughout the Spring, but this line was the best one of the season. There weren't any "no fall" zones, but you could get f**ked up if you fell in certain sections. Chris measured the steepest section near the top to be around 47-50 degrees. There was one thin section where we had to negotiate a few exposed rocks, but nothing other than that. The snow had softened up, the sun was shining bright and there was no one else in this drainage. This is the type of line you only dream of, probably not going to find something like this on Mt.Elbert and the feeling of calling that drainage your own for a few hours is a pretty cool feeling. Finding lines like this one in such a spontaneous fashion makes me want to ski 365 days a year, its like tasting blood and wanting to kill again and again. If the statistic is true that 95% of national park visitors don't venture more than 100 yards away from their car, I can only hope it stays that way.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Money. Awesome lines... love it.
The Never Summers do look totally socked in. Crazy.


Sorry I missed you
06/05/2010 03:11
You guys have been hitting it hard this year. Hopefully we can meet up in June. The trough looks like it would be a great climb right now.

Easy Rider

Never Summer
06/05/2010 21:32


Beautiful photos, great ski
11/30/2010 17:28
This was my favorite quote:

”If the statistic is true that 95% of national park visitors don't venture more than 100 yards away from their car, I can only hope it stays that way.”

Loved the photos, and the skiing looks superb.

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