How to Climb Lone Eagle Peak
How to Climb Lone Eagle Peak
How to climb Colorado’s most striking (in my some-what educated opinion) mountain? Turns out getting up is the easy part! This gals tears came out on the way down THE GULLY OF DEATH.
What? Gully of death? That sounds terrible- why would I want to climb this mountain? Because, people smarter than I, you will go down the correct way and not get lured by the demon cairns like we did. You will not cry downclimbing 20 ft walls and you will not have to rap off 100 peices of 100 year old tat. You will find the walk off and hike away confused as to why Annie was crying again.
Why climb it? Just look at it! The route I describe for the rest of the post is about the classic Stettner route, a 5.7 that goes up the north face. This route is a fun and chill day of trad climbing with just a little tough route finding on the way up. If you are looking to push grades and only touch vertical granite, this route is not for you. But if you are looking for a classic alpine ascent with an incredibly dramatic summit- keep reading!
Getting To The Trailhead (From Mountain Project)
From the west: take US 34 north out of Granby. Exit to the east on Arapaho Bay Road. Skirt the southern side of Grand Lake; the road turns into solid gravel. Pass Arapaho Bay and continue towards Monarch Lake Trailhead. Park and start hiking east on Cascade Creek Trail. Follow signs towards Crater Lake, Lone Eagle dominates. It is about 8 miles.
From the east: access the Brainard Lake Recreation Area via the Peak-to-Peak Highway (northwest of Denver and north of Nederland). Drive west past Brainard Lake to the Long Lake trailhead and follow the Pawnee Pass trail 4-5 miles to the pass at 12,500 feet on the Continental Divide. Descend the west side of Pawnee Pass (very steep), passing Pawnee Lake en route to a junction with the Crater Lake Trail 3 miles below the pass. Hike a gentle uphill mile south to Crater Lake (camping permit required -- you can get these at the National Forest Service office in Boulder). Lone Eagle Peak is the towering pinnacle just south of and above the lake.
I did the approach from the west both times I have made a run at this peak and it is a beautiful hike (though I have only seen it once in daylight)!
Getting to the Climb
Wait stop! Have you gotten your backcountry permit for Indian Peaks Wilderness area??? Brent and I learned the hard way (AKA $100 fine way) that you cannot just show up and camp willy nilly in this area. No one really tells you this so you find out by reading signs at the trailhead. The permits are just $5 and you need to reserve it in advance. They will then assign you a campsite number (we also didn’t even notice those, probably because we got to the campground circa 1 am). Here is where you apply for the permits and get additional info: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recarea/?recid=80803. You don’t need one of these permits if you are climbing after September 16th (or before May 31st but thats too early). The first time we attempted this climb (more on that ‘attempt’ below), we went late September. The next time we went in June we didn’t know to get a permit because we hadn’t needed one the first time. Lesson learned and now lesson passed.
You can reasonably make this climb happen in a 24-30 hour period if you are crunched for time. Drive up after work on Friday and hike in the 8 miles to the campsite. We got in at about 1am I think. Set up your tent/hammock (we did hammocks the first time and a tent the second) and sleep a few hours. Wake up early around 5, eat and pack your climbing pack, head for the climb. You will walk around the left side of mirror lake (Left as you are looking at the peak) and walk up a boulder field to the start of the climb.
As usual, I am not going to give detailed beta (other than my personal suggestions) because safety means you do your research blah blah.
But of course, I will make it easy for you because that’s my new chosen unpaid profession!
Here are the links you need:
We took the North Face route. SO FUN. Really easy climbing/scrambling for the first few pitches and the actual climbing pitches were really really great. If you’re expecting beautiful granite walls without a speck of dirt, go home this is alpine. If you’re expecting to summit the coolest mountain in CO- make your camping reservation already!
We are not the only people to have ventured down the Gully of Death and proceeded to rap off the BOMBER TAT below
Please look at this map of the descent and pray for wisdom. https://www.mountainproject.com/approach-trail/113553649/descent-of-lone-eagle-peak
The first time we attempted this mountain, we took too long and got a little lost on the route finding after the chimney (head up until you reach the top of that feild/gully and then take a right, don’t go right too soon) so we bailed off the opposite side 3 pitches from the top. A totally legit option if you find yourself running out of time. You can find the beta for that on the mountain project post.
This is a great climb that requires a relatively light rack. Go forth and stand on top of the things!