The real deal. The ultimate vertical playground. These words are more than just superlatives – they accurately describe the heart of our world, Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, a unique combination of elevation, access, sunshine, ice and snow create a climber’s paradise. Stunning scenery abounds, with plentiful wildlife, high alpine tundra, valleys that start at 8,000 feet and more than 100 peaks towering above 10,000 feet. Much of the most spectacular terrain, however, remains tucked into glacial-carved alpine cirques unseen from the road. These cirques are easily accessed via short hikes up beautiful valleys and gorges.
No single peak here forms a solitary skyline impression like the Grand Teton or Mt. Rainer. Rather, once in the mountains, an endless array of rock spires, alpine walls, snow-filled couloirs, glades and bowls dominate the landscape. Some peaks are nice to have climbed, but the Park is the place to go climbing.
Whatever your skill and experience level, spectacular climbing awaits you. Great routes abound, form the Petit Grepon, one of the best alpine rock climbs in the country, to the 14,259 foot Longs Peak, home to the world renowned Diamond face. Sharkstooth, Spearhead, Hallett, Meeker, Ypsilon and the Cathedral Spires likewise hold fantastic climbing. Though striking in their exposure and quality, most all of the Park’s routes can be climbed in a day.
And just across the valley from the Park’s high peaks lies the awesome crack climbing of Lumpy Ridge. This cluster of south-facing granite domes and spires hosts some 500 routes, almost all traditionally protected and up to eight pitches long. We often find ourselves enjoying this fantastic alpine cragging area on sunny days throughout the winter.
But don’t think of the Park as only a rock-climber’s mecca. Come fall the options explode like the colors of changing aspens. While rock climbing continues on the sunny aspects, ephemeral ice smears begin forming in the shaded corners of the high peaks. Ice climbers start to take notice, and as fall turns to winter, snow blankets the mountains, creating new possibilities.
For those in the know, there’s always incredible climbing and skiing that includes Thatchtop, Dragon’s Tail, Taylor Glacier, Flattop and Notchtop. And Longs Peak, of course, comprises an alpine destination in itself. Mountaineering routes like Kiener’s and the North Face present moderate technical grades but an enduring total package at altitude. For a step up in difficulty, we’ll often link the mega classic Alexander’s Chimney to Kiener’s or the Notch Couloir, traverse Longs’ summit and descend its North Face to create a full-on alpine day. After enduring a winter ascent of Longs, the famed British climber Doug Scott once quipped, “The Himalayas are a great place to train for Longs Peak.”
Winter also means ski mountaineering, which around here continues into spring and even early summer, captivating those drawn to the wilder side of Colorado skiing, away from lift lines. The Park accommodates skiers of all ability levels, with terrain ranging from cruiser bowls and trees to incomparably positioned chutes slicing between 1,000-foot high walls and spires. Combine a descent of the North Face and the Trough on Longs Peak to experience one of the lower 48’s greatest ski mountaineering adventures. In good spring conditions, a traverse of the Continental Divide through RMNP provides you with a Rockies’ version of Europe’s famous Haute Route.
And each spring, melt-freeze conditions create new ice and mixed routes, sunny faces warm-up for rock climbing, and corn snow brings a smile to every skier’s face. Like any alpine area, full enjoyment requires care and insider knowledge of not only the best spots to climb and ski, but of snowpack, weather patterns and avalanche conditions. Our guides live their lives in this terrain. Between skiing and climbing rock, ice and alpine routes, you always have something exciting to do with us.