This route ascends Andrews Glacier, which requires evaluating glacier conditions for safety. Andrews Glacier is not exceptionally steep, but it does still have crevasses and avalanche potential. Microspikes or crampons are required, and an ice axe would be a good idea for arresting a slide. For these reasons, it is worth considering the glacier itself a Class 3 route, though with the right gear and conditions, scrambling is not required. From the top of Andrews Glacier, it is simple to navigate up to the summit of Taylor Peak. The further summit of Powell Peak is visible from the summit of Taylor Peak.
Start from the Glacier Gorge trailhead ( 2
) at 9,265 feet. The immediate goal is Loch Vale, about 3 miles in, and many signs point the way. A quarter mile from the TH is the first trail split - go right ( 3
). Immediately thereafter the trail splits again, giving an option to ascend to Bear Lake to the right. Go left. ( 4
). Pass by Alberta Falls and continue ascending. At 1.7 miles the trail splits again, giving an option to the Longs Peak Boulderfield via the left branch. Go right to continue to Loch Vale.
At 2.1 miles find yet another trail split ( 5
), giving at option to Black Lake (to approach McHenry's Peak) on the left. Go right, per the sign indicating Loch Vale in 0.8 miles and Andrews Glacier in 2.8 miles. Begin ascending switchbacks on good trail at around 10,000 feet ( 6
) to reach the Loch at 2.9 miles and 10,200 feet. The trail splits around the Loch ( 7
). Go right toward Andrews Glacier.
The trail proceeds around the north side of the Loch and then continues west. At 3.9 miles, find the less obvious right hand turn to Andrews Glacier ( 8
). There is no sign approaching from this direction, but just past the turn there is a sign that can add reassurance ( 9
The trail ascends the left (south) side of the valley, sometimes obvious and sometimes less so. At 4.4 miles and 10,640 feet, the trail leaves the forest, crosses the creek flowing from the glacier ( 10
), and begins ascending the rocky right side of the valley with cairns to mark the way ( 11
). Walk half a mile up the valley from here and cross the creek again just before the glacial headwall ( 12
), ascending the center of the headwall via cairns.
Find the Andrews Glacier tarn at 5.15 miles and 11,350 feet, and study the ascent route from here ( 13
). The glacier can vary seasonally, but generally, there is a large hump in the center that creates a steeper pitch, so it may be safer to ascend along the left (south) of that hump to avoid crossing under avalanche or uncontrolled slide terrain ( 14
). Just above the middle of the glacier, the left (south) portions up against the cliff have crevasses ( 15
), so steer to the right (north) of that area once parallel to the hump ( 16
Exit the glacier to the southwest at around 5.75 miles and 12,000 feet to be closest to Taylor's summit ( 17
), though exiting due west (to the Andrews Glacier sign) is fine and slightly less steep. The tundra and scree ascent of Taylor is clearly visible from here. ( 18
). Pick a line and begin the ascent.
Taylor Peak has a 12er sub-summit slightly to the northeast of the main summit. Continue south during the ascent to climb to the true summit. The top of the sub-summit is visible from the ascent route at 12,640 feet ( 19
). The final push to the true summit is mainly scree ( 20
Reach Taylor's summit at 6.5 miles and 13,153 feet. Enjoy incredible views of Glacier Gorge, and scope out nearby Powell Peak ( 21
). The route from Taylor to Powell is mostly following the cliff edge around ( 22
). The cliff cuts deeply north into Taylor's western flank, so head almost half a mile west off Taylor's summit, even though Powell Peak is south, until clearing the cliffs at around 12,850 feet ( 23
Follow the undulating tundra from there to Powell Peak's summit. The lowest point will be about 12,750 feet. As on Taylor, Powell turns more and more to rocks on the final summit approach ( 24
). Reach the summit area and head southwest to the true cairn-marked true technical summit ( 1
) at 8.5 miles and 13,208 feet. Don't fall off the dramatic cliffs, and note McHenry's Peak directly across McHenry's Notch ( 25
), along with Longs and Chiefs Head in the distance. The traverse to McHenry's is Class 5 from here and not part of this route.
On the return route, there is no need to ascend to Taylor Peak's summit again, but some gain is required on Taylor's western slope. Cross the tundra toward Taylor ( 26
), going around the cliff inlets, and pick a line over Taylor's western shoulder ( 27
). There is no trail on the rocky traverse ( 28
). Continue around Taylor until Andrews Glacier becomes visible again ( 29
). Descend the glacier carefully ( 30
) and then follow the approach route back.
It is also reasonable to change the order of the summits on this route, traversing Taylor's western slope first, summiting Powell, and then summiting Taylor on the return.