The SPEARHEAD
Route: Sykes' Sickle (5.9+, 7-8p)

AUG
8
2014
TR #: 173c
JULY
2
2020
TR #: 430

Category: Colorado       Summit Elev: 12,575 ft       Rock Type: Granite

Partner (2014): Eric Schweitzer      Partner (2020): Nate Arganbright & Cassie Vendegna

This popular climb up Spearhead was fun the first time around and even more of a blast the second time!



This page contains two trip reports ....



July 2020 Trip Report

INTRO

Sykes' Sickle is one of the more popular routes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The route ascends the obvious sickle-shaped right-facing dihedral and roof in the upper center of the northeast face of Spearhead.

I first climbed Sykes' Sickle in 2014, on a climbing roadtrip to Wyoming that took a random turn to Colorado for a few days. I thought the route was great. 

I climbed Sykes' Sickle again in 2020. I was now living in Boulder, and Rocky Mountain National Park had quickly become my favorite place to climb. I climbed Sykes' Sickle as a party of three with my friends Nate and Cassie. This was one of Cassie's first alpine routes, so Nate and I did the leading while Cassie followed. We climbed efficiently, with the leader tailing a second rope and belaying both followers at once, with the next leader climbing ahead of Cassie and getting all ready to lead the next pitch while Cassie cleaned the gear off of the previous pitch. There was a party of two that started up just after us, and despite the fact that we were a party of three, we were back at the base just as they were starting up the Sickle pitch. 

What a fun day in an amazing location. "This is awesome!" as Cassie said several times over the course of the day.

I've also pasted in my 2014 trip report at the bottom of this page.


TIME STATS

Glacier Gorge Trailhead to base of route: 3 hours 15 minutes
Climb Sykes Sickle: 4 hours 10 minutes
Summit to Glacier Gorge Trailhead4 hours
Car-to-car: 11 hours 30 minutes


OVERLAY 
(also shows The Barb)



PITCH BY PITCH PHOTOS

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach
Hike Glacier Gorge trail to Black Lake and continue up into basin below base of Spearhead. Begin with the Door, a detached flake directly beneath the Sickle Dihedral. In early summer there is a snowpatch to negotiate at the base of Spearhead, but it can usually be booted up.
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1. Trailhead photo.
2. Sunrise colors on the trail.
3. A new bridge!
4. Approaching Black Lake.
5. Spearhead in the morning sun.
6. Approaching the base of the route.
7. We were able to boot up the snow.

Pitch 
1
5.7. Climb the left or right side of the detached flake (called The Door). You can belay at a stance or continue up a flake system to Middle Earth Ledge.
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8. We went up the splitter on the right side of The Door.
9. Belay from the snow until the snow melts in late summer.
10. Looking up Pitch 1.

Pitch 
2
5.7. From Middle Earth Ledge, scramble up easy terrain. Then climb up and right via thin flakes and friction and belay at a stance. On this pitch there are a couple of options to the actual route you take
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11. Looking up Pitch 2 above Middle Earth Ledge. We went righward but you can also go leftward.



Pitch 
3
5.7. Continue climbing up flakes systems.
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12. Pitch 3. We headed left here and to the dihedral.
13. Steph leading the pitch. (Photo by Cassie.)
14. Looking down the pitch.



Pitch 
4
5.6. Climb up to a stance at the bottom of a flared chimney.
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15. Pitch 4.
16. Cassie cruising up Pitch 4.
17. Rope management.
18. Climbers on the North Ridge route.


Pitch 
5
5.7. Climb the flared corner/chimney until it is possible to stem right to a series of flakes that lead up and right to a ledge beneath the Sickle Roof.
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19. Looking up Pitch 5. Start up the flared corner/chimney but step right when you can to a flake system.
20. Looking down from the belay at the top of the pitch.

Pitch 
6
5.10a. Surmount the Sickle Roof, via some combination of stemming and chimney climbing. There are some fixed pins in the crack below the roof. You can belay just above the roof or climb a bit further up and set a belay.
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21. Nate casually stemming below the roof.
22. He made it look easy.
23. Cassie pulling through the roof.
24. Slipping when you have a good fingerlock...


Pitch
7
5.7 R. Continue up the crack system a short ways, then break right across the runnout slab past a lone bolt. Continue up and right to the walk-off ledge.
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25. Pitch 7 starts with the corner and then breaks right over the runnout slab.
26. The final bit of climbing to the summit. This is part of the North Ridge route.
27. View of Longs Peak.



Descent
Scramble down 3rd class scree slopes on SW side. Hike out....
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28. Descending the SW side. That's Frozen Lake below.
29. Descending.
30. A view of the SIckle feature.

31. Glacier Basin with Arrowhead in distance. It's a beautiful place.
32. Tansy aster.
33. Nate topping out on a splitter hand crack we spotted on the hike out....
34. ...unfortunately it was not so steep.
35. Cool patterns on a dead snag.
36. Cool patterns on a dead snag.
37. The season where the flies attack if you stop too long on the trail.
38. Some elk near Black Lake.




August 2014 Trip Report
First time climbing Sykes Sickle. Copied from my original 2014 trip report which also includes a climb of Ariana (5.12, 6p) on the Diamond.

 CLIMB 3 - AUG 8
Climb THE SPEARHEAD via Sykes Sickle (III, 5.9+) with Eric Schweitzer. Fun route with a spicy finish!

Stats:
14 hours car to car
Leave trailhead: 4:20 am
Black Lake: 6:13 
Base of climb: 7:05 
Start climbing: 7:37
Summit: 2:34 
Trailhead: 6:00 pm
Approach Map for The Spearhead:
Key Elevations:
Glacier Gorge Trailhead: 9,240'
Black Lake: 10,620'
The Spearhead Summit: 12,575'

Photos:
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Photo descriptions:
a. We had to crawl along the top of a short section of hard-packed snow to get to the start of the route.
b. A zoomed-out view of the previous photo.
c. Eric leading off Pitch 1, which follows some 5.7 cracks. The description says to take the "left crack" and it looks like we took the right, but it was good climbing in the 5.7 range.
d. Looking up Pitches 3-4, which follow flakes and slabs towards the base of the Sickle above. I led the first pitch to a belay on a horn and Eric led the second, both around 5.7ish. The climbing on this route is steep and exposed so it's the kind of 5.7 that make you think a bit.
e. Eric nearing the top of Pitch 5, which climbs into a dihedral and jams up steep cracks toward the bottom of the Sickle. This was my second favorite pitch of the route, as the climbing was pretty varied and spicy for 5.7.
f. The description for Pitch 6 calls to "
head up left into the Sickle and chimney up its left side or a short distance." We had taken a higher crack variation (I think) so we missed this chimney part the description was referring to, and as a result we ended up chimneying higher into the Sickle than we should have (Eric actually went all the way to the blocks in the top of the photo). We had to do a bit of tensioning and pendulum schenanigans to get back right to the route, but these schenanigans were actually kind of fun but took a bit of time.
g. A misleading old pin in the lower Sickle. We should have traversed right just below this to stay on route.
h. Looking up at the notch in the Sickle's roof. The crux 5.9+ section goes through the notch.
i. Looking out at the head of the "Sickle".
j. Eric at the crux of the route, which is on the second to last pitch (Pitch 7). This is rated as 5.9+. It's the kind of 5.9+ that is 5.9 yoga is you figure out the sequence, and 5.impossible if you don't. There are a few pitons and a fixed nut that provide good protection.
k. Once we surmounted the Sickle, we had one more pitch. Supposedly the route goes right at a piton onto "exciting 5.7" but we continued up to a bolt that we spotted above. We realized our mistake but decided to continue up and left, since it looked exposed but doable, and there was a dotted line on the topo suggesting this route was possible (although it gave no indication of difficulty)....
l. We made it. I'd call this "exciting 5.10-". This pitch brought us to the summit area where we could unrope.
m. Standing on the exposed summit block. This was a short scramble from where the route topped out. Note the entire NE Face drops out below my right foot.
n. A view of Longs Peak from the summit. The Keyhole route (which I had hiked earlier in the week) traverses around this side from the Keyhole notch which you can make out on the left ridgeline.
o. Looking down the NE Face from the summit. The Sykes Sickle route comes straight up the middle of this face.
p. The descent from The Spearhead is a 3rd class scramble down the NW slopes, which are shown in this photo with Frozen Lake in the distance. There is a climbers path the whole way down, and the secret is to tend left to avoid cliffing out.
q. Some stacked blocks on the backside of The Spearhead .
r. A view of The Spearhead from the meadows below, after descending the NW slopes. The shade-sun line is the North Ridge (5.6) route. The North Ridge is a popular Park moderate, and there were a couple of parties on this route. There were no other parties on Sykes Sickle on this particular day; Sykes Sickle is a relatively popular route, but the 5.9+ rating makes it less travelled than the North Ridge.
s. Some boardwalks along Mills Lake on the trail out. The hike in/out took a few hours between the trailhead and base of The Spearhead.
t. When we got back to the parking lot, Eric had a note on his windshield "complementing" his parking job which sort of straddled 1 and 1/4 parking spaces. Glacier Gorge trailhead is popular so I can understand the frustration of the note-writer, but in Eric's defense he had arrived at midnight and was parking a massive Sprinter van he had just acquired that afternoon.
u. There was a second note from another hiker, claiming they weren't the ones who wrote the note, fearing key-scratching and window-bashing in retaliation of the closest vehicle, I suppose. Fortunately, Eric and I are the types who took the notes in humor and a bit of embarrassment.