Daunting in apperance, the shaded north face of Hallett Peak (12,713′) rises 1,000 vertical feet in a clean sweep. It dominates the gorge below and looms high above the popular and beautiful Emerald Lake.
This imposing wall appears too steep for moderate-grade climbing. But once on the face, positive, incut edges abound on superb (albeit runout) rock, yielding phenomenal face climbing in a dramatic setting. With difficult route finding and scarce protection, the climbing demands respect, experience and knowledge.
Classic routes like the Englishman’s Route, Better Than Love, Culp-Bossier and Jackson-Johnson comprise the most popular outings. Easier, but still superb routes, like the Center Route and Great Dihedral, ascend the lower-angled and less intimidating first buttress. Great rock, stunning scenery, and awesome positioning – all this and the shortest approach to any of the high peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park make Hallett Peak high on any Colorado climbers’ tick list.
For decades, a large percentage of the climbers looking to tackle its North Buttress went straight to the Northcutt-Carter route, one of the famed 50 Classic Climbs of North America. In the late 90’s, rock fall decimated the first two pitches of this route and traffic was displaced to another line that went straight up a blunt prow on the Second Buttress, known as Culp-Bossier. Bob Culp and Tex Bossier first climbed this obvious line in the summer of 1961.
Culp-Bossier, Grade III, 5.8+
Hallett Peak rises abruptly above Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. For decades, a large percentage of the climbers looking to tackle its North Buttress went straight to the Northcutt-Carter route, one of the famed 50 Classic Climbs of North America.
In the late 90’s, rock fall decimated the first two pitches of this route and traffic was displaced to another line that went straight up a blunt prow on the Second Buttress. Bob Culp and Tex Bossier first climbed this obvious line in the summer of 1961. Having never climbed the equally historic Northcutt-Carter, the Culp-Bossier has always been my route of choice on the wall. I consider it to be the finest moderate route among the Park’s many distinguished alpine rock features. The added bonus of a relatively quick approach make this a must-do on your tick list.
The route is just over 1000’ long and follows a mix of crack and face climbing up a wonderfully exposed wall. Hallett’s North Face is made up of gneiss, a highly featured metamorphic rock. This makes for steep face climbing at an accessible grade. The technical crux comes up high on the route, at an airy overhang with adequate protection. However, much of the route consists of face climbing at the 5.6-7 grade, where protection is sparse. Efficient route finding and a cool head are requisite skills here.
For many, the route-finding provides the crux from the get-go. Do your homework before your climb. An abundance of bail anchors litter the first several pitches, as evidence of those who did not. Accurate topos and route descriptions are available both in print and online. Another option is to hire a qualified guide professionally trained by the American Mountain Guides Association. Our familiarity with the terrain and enthusiasm for such great alpine rock will make your ascent one to remember.