<-- Map of summer 2019 
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)

Route: Southwest Corner (5.9, 9p)

TR #: 359

Category: Colorado       Summit Elev: 12,001 ft       Rock Type: Gneiss & Biotite Schist

Partner: Erin DeMarco

A wet adventure up a great route overshadowed by the Fifty Classic next to it.


Sometimes a great route hides in the shadow of a Fifty Classic right next to it. This is true of the Southwest Corner of the Petit Grepon. It is not uncommon for the South Face to have half a dozen parties patiently (or not so patiently) queuing up at the base while the Southwest Corner route hides in plain sight just 100 feet to the left, devoid of parties. The Southwest Corner of the Petit Grepon follows a crack system to the Second Terrace and then climbs up left onto the southwest corner. This upper section of the route is sustained and exposed and offers excellent climbing.

In 2007, I had been a part of the conga line up the South Face of Petit Grepon. This was my first (of many to come) climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as one of my first multipitch alpine climbs too. So it was fun to come back and climb the Petit Grepon over a dozen years later. This time by the Southwest Corner route with my newfound Boulder friend Erin.

The weather forecast for the day wasn't exactly ideal ("70% thundershowers after noon"), but we hoped that with an early start we could beat the rain. But the weather arrived much earlier than expected. It was only 8:30am when we arrived at the top of Pitch 4. Vertically, this is halfway up, but it is also the harder half of the route that is still to come. It was at this point that the sky began to spit. We decided to just continue upward, hoping the forecast was correct and any significant rain would hold off for a couple of more hours. It began to pour when we were at the base of Pitch 6 (just after 9am). Pitch 6 is the crux 5.9 pitch of the route. At this point we had to make a decision to go up or down. There was a mess of slings around a flake at the base of Pitch 6, giving a relatively easy bail option. On the other hand, the gully below looked like no fun, and as of yet there was no thunder or lightning, just a wet blanket of stable-looking clouds. We decided to go by the motto that it is often easier and safer to just continue up than to go down, so upward we went. I actually found myself enjoying the added challenge of leading up slick gneiss on 5.9 terrain. We had the opportunity to bail off onto the rap route when we intersected the South Face route two pitches from the summit (plenty of fixed gear to rap off of), but at this point the terrain had backed off a bit and our summit fever inspired us upward. The rain stopped just as we reached the summit. Ha! The 6-rappel descent went smoothly, with weather continuing to improve and dry us out a we descended. 

Overall, it was a really fun day, and the rain just added to the overall adventurous nature of the climb. Thanks Erin for being such an awesome partner for this adventure! (And for not complaining about the chilly belay at the base of Pitch 6, that couldn't have been comfortable on that exposed arete in the cold rain.) It was pretty cool to be the only party of the four parties on the Petit that day to be determined enough to continue to the summit.

The following page gives time stats, and overlay, and pitch-by-pitch photos from the climb. Enjoy!


Glacier Gorge Trailhead to Sky Pond: 2 hours
Sky Pond to base of route: 12 minutes
Climb route (wet conditions definitely slowed us down): 4 hours 45 minutes
Rappel route: 1 hour 25 minutes
Base to Glacier Gorge Trailhead2 hours



Photo descriptions:
Hike to Sky Pond. Scramble up to base or route. Route starts at the bottom of the wall towards the west side of the south face.


1. Approaching the Petit Grepon. We left our extra gear in a nice bivy cave in the boulder field just above Sky Pond.

5.4. Climb easy terrain to the left side of the First Terrace. (We soloed this pitch in rock shoes.)
2.     2. This is where we started the route. We soloed this pitch to the First Terrace.

(we linked)
5.6. Follow a prominent, left-facing corner system to the Second Terrance in two pitches. Go left on the ledge 50 feet to start the next lead.
3. Pitches 2 and 3 follow the corner system to the Second Terrace. They are easily linked.
4. This is where we roped up.
5. Midway up the corner.

5.7. Climb shallow corners, cracks, and steep slabs up left to a ledge just left of the southwest corner.


6. Looking up Pitch 4, which follows the cracks up the face to the left of the corner.
7. Erin on the slabby section near the end of Pitch 4.

5.8-5.9. Ascend corners and cracks on the sharp ridge for a long, sustained pitch. Belay on a ledge on the exposed arete.
8. Looking up at Pitch 5. Really good sustained 5.8 climbing up cracks and corners.
9. Looking down Pitch 5.
10. Erin having fun despite the conditions.

5.9. Continue up the southwest corner to a stance below the overhanging summit blade.
11. Looking up Pitch 6. The rock is soaking. Time for the crux! (I think the actual route goes right up a steep crack, but you can also go left through the roofs. Both seem about 5.9.)
12. This is where we belayed. Not sure if it is the standard belay but it worked for us and better yet was sheltered by a roof above (the overhanging summit blade we figured) so it kept us dry.

5.7. Climb up and right to Pizza Pan belay. (Some route descriptions say to traverse right, but we climbed a corner up and right rather than traversed. Hmmm....) This short pitch could probably be linked with the previous, but there would be rope drag.
13.    13. We ended up here at the top of Pitch 6. Not sure if this is on route but it seemed logical. Our Pitch 7 climbed to the gap to the right of the roof and popped out at Pizza Pan Belay on South Face route.

South Face route. 5.7. Climb a crack/flake above the belay and work up right on exposed face climbing to a ledge.
14. Looking up the start of the second to last pitch. This shares the route with the south face. There were lots of fixed cams on this pitch. Due to the rain, we considered bailing off a fixed cam, but decided it was just as safe to continue upward on the wet 5.7 terrain to reach the established rap route on the summit. Plus, now that we were so close it would be nice to tag the summit.
15. This section was a bit dicy in the wet conditions, since it was face climbing on slightly slick ledges with no pro for about 20 feet.

South Face route. 5.6. Climb straight up jugs to the ridge and go to the summit.
16.    16. The final juggy pitch to the top.

17. On the summit.
18. Our topo survived the wet adventure, but just barely.

6 rappels with double ropes on climbers' right of South Face. See overlay for rappel locations.
19. Steph at the first rap station on the summit.
20. Erin on the first rappel.
21. The fourth rap anchor is above a chimney and has a mix of bolt anchor gear.

22. The fifth rappel is off the Second Terrace and is a bit hard to find from above. Here's a photo looking up at the anchor location from below.
23. The sixth rappel anchor.
24. The final rappel to the ground. Safe!
25-26. Some pretty Rocky Mountain Columbine.
27. Another photo of the topo after the descent. "Ra___  __5 feet to a ____ and scram___ __ feet to the ____." Hmmm....