Route: South Face (5.8, 8p)

TR #: 45
TR #: 419

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

Partner (2007): Steve            Partner (2020): Will Starks          

This had been my first climb in RMNP. It was fun to return 13 years later and climb it again as part of a two-route link-up on the Petit Grepon.

This page contains two trip reports ....

June 2020 Trip Report
Second time climbing the South Face of the Petit Grepon, as part of a Southwest Corner + South Face link-up.


The South Face of the Petit Grepon is one of the Fifty Crowded Classics. This fun route route ascends chimneys and cracks up the center of the south face then veers right toward the arete. The final pitches go up the steep southeast side of the summit blade and are quite spectacular. Excellent rock and breathtaking exposure along with a moderate grade make this line one of the most coveted routes in RMNP. 

I had first climbed this route in 2007, while on a month-long climbing road trip out of British Columbia (which was home at the time). This climb had been my first (of many to come) climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as one of my first multipitch alpine climbs too.  

In late spring of 2020, my friend Will and I enjoyed a two-route day on the Petit Grepon. We climbed the Southwest Corner first (perhaps an even better route than the South Face!), rappelled down to the base, and then headed right back up, this time via the South Face. We simulclimbed the South Face until we reached a typical Fifty Crowded Classic traffic jam near the top and had to wait a bit and pitch it out. What a fun day.

The following page gives a trip report for our climb of the South Face. Click here to see the trip report for the Southwest Corner.

I've also pasted in my 2007 trip report at the bottom of this page just for kicks.


Car to Sky Pond: 2 hours
Sky Pond to base of route: 15 minutes
Climb Southwest Corner route: 3 hours 45 minutes
Rappel to base: 50 minutes
Climb South Face route: 2 hours (some simul-climbing, and some waiting as well)
Rappel to base: 1 hour 30 minutes (lots of waiting)
Base to Glacier Gorge Trailhead2 hours



Photo descriptions:
Hike to Sky Pond. Scramble up to base or route. Begin at the bottom of the south face.
1. Leaving the trailhead at dawn. No need for starting in the dark during the long days of June!
2. The Loch and Cathedral Wall in the morning sun.
3. Some snow on the trail.
4. The section between the Loch and Sky Pond.
5. The waterfall section getting up to Sky Pond.
6. Spikes were nice to have, as the snow was pretty icy in the early morning.
7. Just above Sky Pond.
8. Looking up  at the Petit Grepon. The snowpatch at the base was avoidable.
5.4. Climb either of two corner/chimney systems to reach a broad grassy ledge known as the First Terrace.
9. There are several options for Pitch 1. Somehow just get to the First Terrace.

5.5. Climb the huge chimney in the center of the face and belay on a chockstone in the chimney.

10. Looking up Pitch 2.
11. The chockstone at the top of Pitch 2.

5.7. Climb to the top of the chimney and exit left into a somewhat tricky crack that leads to the Second Terrace. 
12. Somewhere on Pitch 3.

5.6. Continue up a chimney. Exit left, then angle right beneath a right-facing dihedral and belay on a sloping shelf at a piton.
13. Somewhere on Pitch 4.

5.8. Work your way towards and then into a steep dihedral, and follow that to a grassy ledge on the east face. The crux comes at a bulge in the dihedral.

14. The crux section of Pitch 5.
15. Steph leading Pitch 5. (Photo by Will.)

5.7. A long pitch with sparse protection meanders up the east face. There are several options of where to belay at the end of this pitch. For nice exposure, traverse left to a tiny stance (known as the "Pizza Pan Belay") on the corner of the spire. 
16. A climber at the Pizza Pan Belay. I belayed up and right to execute a pass.
17. Will on the upper sections of this Pitch (I climbed a bit higher than the Pizza Pan Belay, where the climber is below.). 

(we linked)
5.7/5.6. Climb a crack/flake above the belay and work up right on exposed face climbing to a ledge. Continue up jugs to the ridge and go to the summit. With careful rope management and especially if you belayed a bit higher than the Pizza Pan Belay, these pitches can be linked all the way to the rappel anchor on the summit.
18. Another climber on Pitch 7.
19. Pitch 7.
20. Taken looking down while leading Pitch 8.
21. Pitch 9 jugs to the top! (Easily linked with Pitch 8.)


22. Will's summit photo.
23. Steph's summit photo. (Photo by Will.)

6 rappels with double ropes on climbers' right of South Face. See overlay for rappel locations.
24. On top, another party at the first rappel.
25. The first rappel from the summit.
26. Setting up Rappel 4 of 6.
27. A Fifty Crowded traffic jam at the rappels. I really enjoy being as efficient as possible on rappels, so these sorts of situations frustrate me a bit. But we sort of resigned ourselves to it when we went for the second route....
28. Fortunately, we had Jerry "The Jet" (pictured in photo) to entertain us with rap poems about big-walling in the Valley while we waited out the conga lines at the rappels.
29. Rappel 5 of 6.
30. Rappel 5 of 6 is a rope-stretcher, especially if you are a lightweight.
Some marmot had a nice lunch of ski pole handle.

June 2007 Trip Report
First time climbing the South Face of the Petit Grepon. Copied from my original 2007 trip report which also includes a climb of Notchtop Mountain South Face (5.9, 5-6p)

June 25, 2007
South Face of the Petit Grepon

800 ft - 8 pitches - 5.8 - elev. 12,000 ft
If I was to climb only one thing in the Park, I wanted to climb the South Face of the Petit Grepon, one of Steck and Roper’s Fifty Classics. It is a 8-pitch 5.8 route on a cool spire just 4.5 miles up from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. 

(By the way, I think "Petit Grepon" is a reference to a smaller version of a spire-like mountain called Grepon in the French Alps.) 

Luckily for me, Lizzy’s roommate’s friend Steve was cool enough to be willing to climb this route with a strange girl from Canada. We met up the evening of June 24 (where Steve cooked the best dinner I had had all month), and the next morning we hiking out of the Glacier Gorge trailhead at 5am. We were at the base of the climb at 7am, and after climbing at a leisurely pace and enjoying the warm weather, had finished and were back at the car by 3pm. All of the pitches were fun and the rock was great and the views were awesome. We had a great time. What a fun climb! Thanks Steve! 

Below are some photos of the climb. 

Update: In 2019, I returned to climb the Petit Grepon's SW Corner Route (5.9, 9p). I thought this route was just as good as the South Face, and a tad more challenging.
The South Face of the Petit Grepon. The overlay on the left is my original 2007 version. Belay spots are marked with white circles and rap ring anchors (double ropes needed) are marked with green circles. The second overlay I created in 2019 following a climb of the SW Corner. 
The view of the Petit Grepon from the east makes it look pretty cool (which it is, of course). Photo link.
Sky Pond, 4.5 miles from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. The Petit Grepon looms on the north side of the pond, about 10 minutes scramble up talus to the start of the South Face route.
Fun climbing on Pitch 2. Steve and I swung leads.
Cool flowers on the route. Click here to be directed to my webpage devoted to flower photography.
Steph climbing up Pitch 7. Steve and I swung leads.
Steve climbing up Pitch 8. Steve and I swung leads.
Steph on the top of the Petit Grepon. It’s a nice exposed perch.
Beginning the rap down. There are established rap ring anchors down the east face and then the south face; two 60m ropes are needed.
A marmot thought my shoes were tasty. It also stole my insole right out of the shoe – it brought it back to its hole to use as a marmot-sized thermarest I guess!