Shark's Tooth Rock Climb
Rocky Mountain National Park
Author: Mike Sullivan
Participants: Mike Sullivan, Laurie Toeppen
Tooth is the highest in a cluster of spires that sits at
the head of Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park.
At 12,600', it sits directly above it's more famous
cousin, the Petite Grepon. It has the distinction of
being the only USGS-named summit in the Park that is
inaccessible by a nontechnical route.
at 5 AM from the Glacier Gorge trailhead, headlamp beams
bobbing in front of us. By dawn, we were passing The
Loch, and heading up the righthand fork of the drainage,
towards Andrews Glacier. By 7 AM we could clearly see
our objective. Shark's Tooth is a very appropriate name.
We kept an easy pace and reached our
destination after 3 hours of hiking. The last 45 minutes of the
approach involves some scrambling up "The Gash," a gully on the E
side, filled with beautifully variegated gneiss boulders of every
size. It was well below freezing, and much of the rock was coated
with verglas and rime ice. Snow from last week's storms filled the
Our goal was the NE Ridge of the
Tooth. At 6 pitches of 5.6, it is the easiest route to the summit,
and is reputed to be *the* classic route. The route went easily,
with clean rock and many climbable variations. It's easy to stay on
route, because the walls are nearly vertical on both sides of the
steep ridge. Fat belay ledges are abundant.
After two pitches we
reached a point where the sun beamed in over the nearby
"Saber" and we stopped to soak some warmth into our
aching feet and hands. Pitch five begins with a wide,
clean offwidth, which would be much harder if it weren't
for the fat chockstone wedged securely in it. The final
pitch climbs a sharp ridgeline, with a great chasm on
the right. 80' of scrambling leads to the summit, giving
great views of Long's Peak, Otis Peak, and Loch Vale.
It's also very cool to look down upon the tiny blade of
the Petite Grepon.
Three raps (last one was 160') led to
the saddle between the Saber, Grepon, and Tooth. From there it was
an easy scramble back down The Gash. On the hike out, we stopped
many times to gawk at the colorful aspens which we couldn't even see
on the hike in. All in all, it was a wonderful day. Car-to-car took
about 12 1/2 hours, at a pace which afforded lots of stops to loaf
and take photos.
Most important beta: Stopping at the
Notchtop Bakery and Pub in Estes Park is mandatory after all
climbing outings in the Park.