YPSILON Mountain
Route: Blitzen Ridge (5.4)

AUG
4
2020
TR #: 440

Category: Colorado       Summit Elev: 13,514 ft       Rock Type: Gneiss & Biotite Schist

Partner: solo

A gneiss solo scramble.


INTRO

Ypsilon Mountain, with its great southeast cirque that spans more than 180 degrees and rises 2000 vertical feet above Spectacle Lakes, is one of the more beautiful summits in Rocky Mountain National ParkBlitzen Ridge is a classic route that follows the long ridge that forms the right (northern) margin of the southeast cirque. The route is mostly 3rd class scrambling on beautiful gneiss, with a few 5.4 sections. The crux of the route is navigating through the Four Aces, a series of four towers separating the lower ridge from the upper ridge.

I soloed the route in approach shoes. The entire adventure from the Lawn Lake Trailhead and back again took me just under 7 hours, at a fairly relaxed and steady pace with multiple short stops to take photos and oogle at the cool rock along the way (thanks Doug for your geology input for some of the photos below). (Note: A roped party would probably take significantly longer than 7 hours.)

The following page gives a map, overlays, and photos from the adventure. Enjoy!


TIME STATS

Leave Lawn Lake trailhead: 6:00 am
Ypsilon Lake: 7:29 am
Summit: 9:57 am
Trailhead: 12:51 pm
Total car-to-car: 6 hours 51 minutes

Lawn Lake trailhead to Ypsilon Lake: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Ypsilon Lake to summit (via Blitzen Ridge): 2 hours, 28 minutes
Summit to Lawn Lake trailhead (via Donner Ridge): 2 hours, 54 minutes


MAP, GOOGLE EARTH, and OVERLAYS

Map Google Earth
Four Aces Overlay (as seen on approach) Four Aces Overlay (as seen on descent)


PHOTOS

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach
Starting at Lawn Lake Trailhead, hike to Ypsilon Lake (4.7 miles from the trailhead). From Ypsilon Lake, scramble up the long, grassy gully to gain the crest of the ridge.
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1. A pleasant 2 hour hike through forest.
2. A path around to the north side of Ypsilon Lake.
3. Looking up the grassy gully I ascended from the north end of the lake to the ridge crest.
4. Higher in the grassy/flowery gully. 

Lower Ridge
Scramble 2nd and 3rd class.
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5. Fireweed on the lower ridge.
6. Easy scrambling on the lower ridge, with the summit of Ypsilon now in view.
7. Alpine columbine.
8. Augen gneiss, formed by concentration of quartz  and feldspar forming 'eyes' (augen is German). Those on the surface are differentially weathered into miniature chicken heads. A fresh augen is visible about 8" to the left of my foot.


Four Aces
The cruxes of Blitzen Ridge are four towers separating the Lower Ridge from the Upper Ridge. These towers are called the Four Aces. The standard route goes as follows:
(1) Traverse narrow and exposed ledges (4th) around the left/south side of Ace #1.
(2) Continue traversing ledges (4th) around the left/south side of Ace #2.
(3) Climb (5.4) to the top of Ace #3 and then downclimb (5.2) Ace #3 to the notch below Ace #4.
(4) Traverse narrow ledges (5.4) around the north/right side of Ace #4, all the way around to the notch below the Upper Ridge.
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9. A view of the Four Aces as I approached them from the Lower Ridge.
10. Nearing Ace #1.
11. Narrow ledges on the south sides of Aces #1 and #2.

12. A rap anchor on top of Ace #3, to descend the 5.2 section.  I downclimbed of course, because I didn't have a rope.
13. Downclimbing the 5.2 on Ace #3.
14. Ace #4. I traversed right/north around this one.
15. This is where I traversed Ace #4. There could be other ways, but this felt like 5.4.


Upper Ridge
There is a short 5.4 section immediately after the Four Aces. After this, the ridge eases to 3rd and 4th class but offers outstanding exposure. Scramble up this ridge to the summit, staying as close to the ridge for the most aesthetic line.
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16. Gain the ridge just above the big white boulder.
17. More cool rock. The giant 'eyes' are likely  to be small pods of intruded granitic rock.
18. Beautiful banded gneiss. 
19. Pink granite, further supporting the presence of intrusive igneous rock in the area.
20. Beautiful rock on the ridge. 
21. Soloing in approach shoes.

22. Looking up at the upper ridge to the summit. 


Summit
Enjoy the view!
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23. Other people on top. I didn't see any other climbers on Blitzen Ridge or Donner Ridge, but I did see people on the summit and on the trail.
24. Summit timestamp.


Descent via Donner Ridge
I descended Donner Ridge (3rd), which offers great views of Blitzen Ridge across the way and Spectacle Lakes below. It is also possible to descend the South Slope (2nd).
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25. View south from the summit plateau. This was the way I headed to begin the descent.
26. Looking down Donnor Ridge.
27. Spectacle Lakes below.
28. Enjoying a view/photo break on the exposed ridge.
29. Looking back up at Donnor Ridge. It looks steep, but it is possible to keep it at 3rd class.
30. A view of the southeast cirque of Ypsilon taken from low on Donnor Ridge. The lakes are Spectacle Lakes.
31. A view of the Four Aces from the descent. This and #30 show deformation of foliated metamorphic rocks on a fairly large scale.

32. Waterfall below Spectacle Lakes.
33. The descent gully between Spectacle Lakes and Ypsilon Lake. This seems to be a relatively popular hike as there is a beaten path here and I passed a few different people headed up to the lakes.
34. Pretty pegmatite.
35. Pegmatite in center, granodiorite on left and far right. Feet for scale.
36. Migmatite.  "Mixed rock" = blend of high -grade metamorphic rock (gneiss) and partially melted felsic (light colored) rock.