- Date Hiked: August 12,
- Miles Hiked: 9.0
- Elevation Gain: 3,000'
- Hiking Partner(s): Jeff Shafer
- Jeff and I left the Bear Lake Trailhead at 4:30 am and made quick work
of the approach to Notchtop Mountain in our attempt of the Spiral Route.
We hiked past Lake Helene and scrambled up to the west face of the
mountain. We decided to add two easy pitches of climbing to the
standard route and start lower down on the climb. I started out
under dark skies and climbed up mostly easy forth and fifth class
terrain with one short 20 foot section that maybe increased to 5.5.
Rope drag became and issue, so I stopped and Jeff finished the lower
section of climbing on 5.5 to 5.6 terrain. He was able to cross
over to the start of the standard route and tie in the first pitch which
- As we looked for the next pitch that would lead us to the east
meadows on the Spiral Route, Jeff spotted a fixed nut in the wall
above us and encouraged me to give it a go. I reached a good
stance, clipped the nut, and was then stuck. The rock above me was
not vertical, but the holds were thin in comparison to what we had just
climbed. I finally gained the courage to make a couple of thin
moves and reached another good stance. I placed a couple of pieces
of gear, continued up an easier crack, placed one more piece and quickly
reached the meadows. Jeff followed and when we reconvened, we both
felt there were a couple of solid 5.7 moves below. So much for
choosing the path of least resistance.
- We coiled the rope and scrambled around the hanging meadows to the
headwall below the notch. In keeping with our theme of making
things interesting, Jeff led the right side named Mornin' which is rated
5.7. This was a very fun and sustained 5.6-5.7 pitch that made the
route for us. We both agreed that although none of the moves were
quite as hard as the few on my short pitch below, this line was
definitely longer and more sustained. We scrambled to the summit
spire of Notchtop Mountain and then the crux of the day began.
- Rappelling off the west face of the mountain in windy conditions
proved to be relatively difficult and took much longer than expected.
We used the rope we climbed with and a 60m tagline. On the first
rappel off the summit, I overshot the first set of bolts and had to re-climb about 40
feet of class 4 terrain using a self belay technique. Jeff got
down to me easily and started down the second rappel and found the next
set of bolts easily. I reached him and then found the third set of
bolts easily too. However, when we tried to pull the rope for our
fourth and final rappel, it got stuck. Jeff ended up reclimbing quite a ways back up the pitch on 5.7 terrain with a prusik
around our two rappel strands that were still through the anchor.
After freeing our rope, he rapped down to me and we did the last rappel
to grassy slopes below.
- We scrambled down to our packs at the base of the early pitches we
did and were hiking out in no time. The hike out went quickly, but
the day took longer than I expected with the difficulties we had on
rappel. It ended up being a 10.5 hour day car-to-car.
I'm not so sure traversing and down-climbing the gully wouldn't have
been quicker on a windy day like we had. Nevertheless, we had the
opportunity to hike through the Bear Lake area with packs and helmets
for the tourists to look at. Although not a terribly difficult
route, it was within my wheelhouse and I felt comfortable on the entire
climb. Jeff had climbed the route with a guide several years ago
and was glad to return and do it on his own.
to view a
map of the area where this hike is located.