Blitzen Ridge in winter

Its funny (in a sick and twisted way) how often the word "death" gets used as an adjective while climbing..."hey Buster, ailment are you on the death flake?" "Oh man, I can't wait to do the death march back to the car tonight." "That Death traverse was sooooo fun!" But Death in the mountains, along with poverty, injustice, and war, are all things of the past now that Obama is president. That's why we never took the rope or any gear out of our packs during our mile long, 5.5 hour ascent of Mt. Ypsilon's Blitzen ridge, although the extra weight did make it more "fun." But really people, who needs a rope when you've got hope?


I had wanted to do the Blitzen ridge as a summer rock solo since I got to Colorado. Unlike the Sierras, Rocky Mountain National Park has almost no long and exposed rock ridges, except for the Blitzen Ridge. I missed my opportunity in summer and fall to climb this classic, but winter is no excuse to stop pulling hard. So with a weather window in the forecast, I shot the idea to Buster about getting on the Blitzen Ridge. 4 days later we were sorting gear in my living room. The next morning we headed out from Boulder around 8am, and pulled into the Northeast entrace of Rocky Mountain National Park around 10am, with the massive east cirque of Mt. Ypsilon (13,514) greeting us from afar. We hiked/snow shoed about 4.5 miles to Ypsilon lake, set up camp, kicked steps to the base of the ridge for some recon, and then hiked to the base of the descent to stash our snowshoes so we wouldn't have to posthole our way through the forest after the climb. [youtube]E7uz1Nw6Mgk[/youtube] The next morning we started hiking around 7am and got to the base of the technical business around 830am. We carried one 8mm rope, a single rack with 3 knifeblades, crampons, climbing axes, and rock shoes. After a very short discussion, we decided to go as long as possible in our boots and not break out the gear. [youtube]bJY8GTV88j0[/youtube] 2 hours later, we had surmounted the 4 technical towers on the ridge (the 4 aces), sans rope, and had only put on our rock shoes for about 100 feet which, in retrospect, was not even the hardest part of the climb. 4 aces in summer Then came the 1000 feet (read: fuckin' endless) of 4th/low 5th class rock and snow to the summit. The top greeted us with sustained 25-35 mph wind, which was responsible for the huge cornice on top of the east face and the relatively dry summit plateau. buster on top We traversed the summit plateau and downclimbed the other mile long ridge (donner ridge, 3rd class), hoping to drop into a notch and down a gully to our stashed snowshoes. blitzen beta But we screwed up somewhere and ended up having to make one short rappel off a piton and a nut to avoid a sketchy snow downclimb. death rappel This horrible mistake ruined our plan of making it back to Boulder in time for happy hour at the Southern Sun (4-6pm every day), but justified the 30+ pounds of gear we carried on the entire climb. [youtube]gV9QRfsI-W4[/youtube] We encountered climbing up to about 5.8 on the ridge and took 5.5 hours from camp to summit, with another 3 hours to descend. We could not find any record of this route being done in winter, although the guidebook states that the ridge, "has been the scene of some classic winter ascents." P=G!