Tour de Flattop/Hallett

14 Jul 2001 - by Steve Blecker

Bill, Jim and I headed out to climb Flattop via the North Couloirs (see Roach's RMNP guide for more details) on Saturday, July 14. We arrived at the Bear Lake parking lot at 6:15am and started hiking around 6:30. We reached Lake Helene around 7:45 and headed toward the unnamed lakes at the base of Notchtop on a fairly well cairned climbers' trail. We choose the eastern most couloir as it provided the longest snow climb (about 600-800'). It was a few hundred feet from the unnamed lakes to the snow, where we stopped to gear up (crampons, ice ax, helmet). Beautiful view of Notchtop, Odessa Lake and beyond - plus we had the climb to ourselves (not always the case in RMNP). The snow started out around 35 degrees and gradually increased to about 55-60 near the top. The snow conditions were great, not too hard, not too soft. We topped out around 9:15, with Jim letting out a nice yodel. Low clouds and wind greeted us on Flattop (still not sure if I actually summitted or not), where we joined the masses and headed for Hallett (12,713'). Summitting around 9:45, we only hung around for a few minutes, as visibility was squat. We decided to head down Tyndall Glacier as none of us had ever been down Tyndall Gorge. The snow was just soft enough for a safe, albeit short glissade (approx 300'), which left us with a tough 1 to 1.5 mile slog down the gorge. We stuck close to the stream wherever possible, hopping through big talus and boulders, and occasionally backtracking to find safer routes. Once Emerald Lake came into view we headed to the right toward a talus slope to avoid the cliffs in the center of the gorge.

(Note: If you're looking for a quick way down, take the Flattop Trail, as Tyndall Gorge is a much more strenuous and time-consuming). 1:30 pm saw us back at the parking lot, just in time for a cool rain shower and a cold beer.


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