ARROWHEAD
Route: Airhead (5.11d, 5p)

JULY
12
2020
TR #: 434

Category: Colorado       Summit Elev: 12,660 ft       Rock Type: Granite

Partner: Nate Arganbright

Climbs a giant left-facing dihedral taking a plumb line up the center of the main south face.


INTRO

In July 2018, I climbed Arrowplane (11a, 6p) on Arrowhead. In June 2020, I returned to climb The Godfather (11b, 5p). Both were great routes on great rock. This trip report is for Airhead, which climbs the obvious left-facing dihedral taking a plumb line up the center of the main south face. This is one of the best routes on the wall. 

We climbed Airhead as the second of two climbs on a weekend overnight into the spectacular Glacier Gorge basin. On Saturday we climbed Birds of Fire (11a, 9p) on Chiefs Head, spent the rest of the day reading/studying/relaxing at our bivy, climbed Airhead on Arrowhead on Sunday, and then hiked out. What a great way to spend a hot weekend.

We climbed Airhead in three roped pitches. We soloed up Pitch 1, then I led Pitches 2+3 as one long 60m pitch, Nate led the crux (11d) Pitch 4, and I led the final pitch to the top. The route took only a few hours and we were back in Estes Park by early afternoon, with plenty of time to hang out with Nate's uncles (who had come to visit for the week), grill a wonderful dinner, write two trip reports, and watch a movie. 
 
The following page provides a trip report for the climb. Enjoy!

TIME STATS

Approach route from camp in Glacier Gorge: ~45 minutes
Climb route: ~3 hours
Descent back to base: ~30 minutes
Hike back to trailhead: 1 hour 50 minutes


OVERLAY



PITCH BY PITCH PHOTOS 

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach
Hike the Glacier Gorge Trail to Black Lake. Just as you reach Black Lake, head rightward, crossing the outlet and picking up a path through the brush to a talus field on the slope to the west of the lake. Follow a faint path up the right side of the talus field, and then head left (south) over grassy slopes and ramps, wrapping around until beneath the south face of Arrowhead. Here you can see the route. We racked up at a boulder below the south face and then scrambled up to the base of Pitch 2.
Note: We actually approached from Glacier Gorge basin, since we had climbed and bivied near Chiefs Head the previous day.
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1. The beautiful basin below the south face of Arrowhead. We approached from the Spearhead/Chiefs Head area.
2. Our bivy was in the shade in the morning (near the shady Spearhead in the background), so we hiked about 45 minutes and stopped on a nice boulder in the sun for breakfast.
3. We had a nice view of the route from our breakfast boulder. The route climbs the obvious shaded corner, just left of the sun-shade line. To give an idea of how early the sun is on this face in mid-July, this photo was taken at 7:35 am.
4. A view back at Spearhead.
5. The route climbs the obvious shaded corner, just left of the sun-shade line. To give an idea of how early the sun is on this face in mid-July, this photo was taken at 7:58 am.


Pitch 
1
(we soloed)
5.6. Scramble about 200 feet to a ledge at the base of the large dihedral. We soloed this in approach shoes.
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6. Looking up Pitch 1, which climbs to below the big corner. It is 5.6. We soloed this in approach shoes.
7. Soloing in approach shoes.
8. Nearing the corner.


Pitch 
2
5.10d. Stem up the corner with thin but good pro. At some point move out onto the arete for awhile before moving back into the corner to gain a belay stance. Or better yet, combine with Pitch 3 for a stellar rope-stretching lead up the entire corner to a nice belay ledge.
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9. Looking up Pitch 2 from where we belayed.
10. Looking up the corner.

11. Looking down the section where I stepped right onto the arete.


Pitch 
3
(we linked with Pitch 2)
5.10c. Continue up the dihedral to a nice ledge on the right.
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12. Looking up Pitch 3. I linked this short pitch with Pitch 2.
13. Looking down from the top of Pitch 3.
14. Nate nearing the top of the pitch.
15. There is a nice belay ledge at the top of this pitch. This is a good reason to link Pitches 2 and 3, since the belay at the top of Pitch 2 is not nearly as comfortable.
16. A view to the west down the steep walls of Arrowhead towards McHenrys.


Pitch 
4
5.11d. This is the crux pitch. Climb the left-facing corner, turn a small roof, and then climb a thin crack on the face to a nice big ledge. One of the best 5.11+/12- leads in the Park!
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17. Looking up Pitch 4.
18. Nate cruising up Pitch 4. Excellent lead!
19. Stellar climbing on Pitch 4.


Pitch 
5
5.9. Climb up a right-facing corner to a chockstone. Then move left a bit and climb a leaning finger crack and then through some steep and teetering blocks to the ridge. (We went right instead of left, and it ended up in a pretty long traverse rightwards on steep and exposed terrain, so I wouldn't really recommend going right.)
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20. Looking up Pitch 5. The best way is to climb the right-facing corner and then cut left and to the top.
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I cut right. It worked but involved a pretty long rightwards traverse on steep and exposed terrain.
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Topping out. A unique aspect to climbs on Arrowhead is how you climb pretty vertical rock right until the topout.

Top!
Yay! Scramble to the summit - it's worth it if you haven't been to the summit before.
(see my other trip reports for Arrowhead for summit photos)
Descent
Scramble down to the low point between Arrowhead and McHenry's Peak. Locate the first rap station (under a big boulder). There are two raps and some 4th class downclimbing. A single 70 works just fine. Scramble back to the base of the route (not too far from base of rappels). Hike out the way you came.
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23. Downclimbing after the rappel.
24. Columbine on the hike out.
25. Back at Glacier Gorge Trailhead by early afternoon.