Peak(s):  Ogalalla Pk - 13,138 feet
Elk Tooth - 12848
Date Posted:  06/27/2013
Date Climbed:   06/23/2013
Author:  Kevin Baker
Additional Members:   sstratta
 Ogalalla & Elk Tooth: Solitude in the Front Range   

Ogalalla Pk (13138')
Elk Tooth (12848')
21 miles RT, 4900' gain
Via Middle St. Vrain approach
June 22-23, 2013

Ogalalla has been on my short list as an orphaned 13er for quite some time. It's usually climbed by itself or with 12er Elk Tooth as it is a long slog from any approach. I was hoping to do it as a snow climb with a pack in via the Middle St. Vrain drainage. The traverse to Elk Tooth complicates things a bit though as you have to wait until the snow has melted enough to dry out the ridge. I checked out a seldom climbed snow line on Summitpost called Dalkes couloir on the southeast face that I hoped would still be in. Keegan, Sarah, and Greg were up for the adventure, which turned out to be a pretty sweet trip in a pristine area that doesn't see a whole lot of visitors higher up.

Sarah, Keegan, and I set out from Beaver Reservoir (9200') at about 1:45 Saturday. Greg's goal was to ride his bike to the wilderness boundary early Sun morning and meet us near treeline for the snow climb. The advantage to starting at Beaver Reservoir is you do start about 550' higher than the Middle St. Vrain road, but you do give up about 200' of that later on. We were bummed to see the Coney Flats 4WD road still gated at the bottom, although there was a tree over the road just mile in. We made good time to Coney Flats and soaked up the view of Sawtooth. Ogalalla and Elk Tooth looked a long ways away!

Sawtooth & Red Deer from Coney Flats.

Ogalalla and Elk Tooth a long ways away.

We took our time on the approach as we had plenty of time to setup camp before dark. The trail is cruiser other than a bit rocky in spots until you get to an annoying boulder field around 10400' that really slows you down. I ended up just crossing the creek and weaving through the bogs while Keegan and Sarah stayed high. We came across an enchanting pond that wasn't marked on the map and the views from there to the upper basin were awesome. We finally would a good place to camp right off the trail on a bench at around 10760' after a little under 5 hours of hiking and 8.5 miles.

The upper basin draws nigh.

Oh, the joys of camping in summer! It is so much easier compared to winter. As I was unpacking, I discovered that in my sleeping bag stuff sack was my down coat instead of my sleeping bag! This was gonna be a long night. Seems like I always screw up with some minor detail when doing a trip with Greg. Last time, I forgot the stove and pot on Crestone Needle in winter. He must think I am a royal clusterfrick. (That's a Nazarene f bomb)

We set off the next morning around 6:45 and Greg caught up with us at a tarn just above treeline. He made great time using the bike for about half the approach, and now we were a complete team heading to Dalkes. The upper basin in a sight to behold for sure, and we soaked it all in. We were able to stay on firm snow most of the way to the apron of Dalkes at 12000' and geared up.

Middle St Vrain at treeline

Elk Tooth and Ogalalla

A huge snowbridge

An unnamed tarn


Dalkes is a southeast facing line that actually held more snow than we thought. I was worried it would be too melted out to be a worthy climb, but it was pretty much still in all the way to the summit. The unknown variable was a deep runnel down the middle of it that varied in size to the summit. I have noticed that slope angles can vary widely from one year to the next and it also depends on what time of the season. Late season climbs can sometimes be steeper, because there is less snow to fill in the steep areas.

Heading up the apron of Dalkes

The snow in Dalkes was very firm early on and the slope angle in the lower section was probably in the upper 40's. I wished I would have brought my 2nd tool! Greg led the way all the way up. Other than the very top, I felt like the first 300 feet was the steepest. It then mellowed out to the mid 40's. Sarah made her own tracks outside the runnel, while the rest of us were mostly in the runnel on the right side of the couloir. The finish featured an optional, very steep exit out of the runnel that everybody did except for me. I decided to exit left via a mellower line.

Some shots in the couloir



Greg on the steep exit

Sarah exiting the runnel

We topped out a bit before 10am and took off the crampons for the final 40 feet to the summit. We took a long break at the summit enjoying the fine views and it was a little mini milestone for me as it was my last Front Range ranked 13er.

Group shot on the summit of Ogalalah

North to Longs and company

Westward for Kimo's beta

Keegan and Elk Tooth

The traverse to Elk Took is only 8/10ths of a mile, but it is pretty time consuming. Most of the difficulties are faced before you reach the saddle. There is some slabby terrain below the summit with notable but manageable exposure on both sides. The traverse can be kept at 4th class with routefinding. The toughest sections were generally skirted on the south side via grassy ramps. The views over to Elk Tooth are pretty sweet.
The 2nd half of the traverse is not as fun and is a lot looser. We skirted towers above the saddle on the south side, then regained the ridge at around 12500'. We finished the traverse on the north side of Elk Tooth, which had some nice scrambling sections.

Beginning the traverse

Some exposed slabs

Upper difficulties on Ogalalla

Keegan traversing ledges with Copeland beyond.

Keegan on a downclimb

Greg on an optional downclimb

Traversing below towers

Looking back at Ogalalla, Dalkes is partially visible

Back up to the ridge

Out on the north face for the finish

The traverse took about 1:45, a lot longer than we expected. Elk Tooth is a spectacular perch and we enjoyed another long break here as we had a long pack out awaiting.

Sarah enjoying the views on Elk Tooth

We descended the standard east ridge route of Elk Tooth, which you drop off of via a gully at around 12100'. The gully still held snow lower down, and it was not as soft as expected. I stayed on rock as long as I could, while everyone else descended the snow. It was still too firm to glissade. Our tent was in a direct line below the gully, and we were soon back at camp packing up for the long haul out. Greg reaped the rewards of having a bike, athough the 200 foot reclimb up the rocky road to Coney Flats must have been rough! The rest of us were treated with a moose encounter on the way down! We were back at the cars at 8pm. Thanks for coming Greg, Keegan, and Sarah!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
06/28/2013 04:20
Looks like a fun route all around!

06/28/2013 08:56
Did Elk Tooth by itself last Summer and hopefully getting Ogallala this year. Such a cool area, thanks for the sweet report!

06/28/2013 14:56
Now that's a good one... how'd you fare without the sleeping bag, Kevin?

Looks like you guys had a blast. What a great group and awesome area! Big congratulations on finishing the Front Range 13ers.

Love that shot of the waterfall with the lake below.

A Gear Curse?
06/28/2013 15:16
You forgot your sleeping bag the night before our 18 hour tour of the Maroon Creek drainage as well. And Greg was in the vicinity for that one camping nearby with his brother. I think a curse is brewing...

Congrats on a fine day out.

FYI - Greg ditched us to go with your team. There is simply no such thing as loyalty in this game (sobs and walks away from computer)...

One more thing...
06/28/2013 15:27
Is that the ”groundhog pose” you have going on the summit?

Hey man, this is a family site. Come on now...

06/28/2013 15:29
Great line. Love to get on that with good snow sometime.

06/28/2013 16:50
Way to finish the front range 13ers in style. That looks like a great line and that basin is more aesthetic than I thought. Thanks for posting and congrats again.

Kevin Baker
06/28/2013 18:13
Papi, the groundhog pose must have stirred something up as the groundhog did make it's presence known near the summit of Elk Tooth. You gotta watch out for that Greg character. You never know what bandwagon he's gonna jump on. I'm surprised I lured him to try Ogalalla since it's just a lowly low 13er! Woody, sstratta was kind enough to share her bag and luckily it was a mild night.

Hikeforturns, I'm assuming you are a skier. Dalkes would be a great line to ski earlier in the season for sure when there's no runnel and smoother snow.

Steve Knapp
Love those peaks!
06/28/2013 19:44
Great hike everyone, that is such an awesome place. Congrats on your last front range 13er Kevin. Sharing a sleeping bag? That may have been more fun than the climb itself. At least you didn't forget your boots, which I have done.

@ Steve Knapp
06/28/2013 19:50
But you still made the summit...

Congrats on finishing the RMNP and Front Range 13ers, Kevin.

Congrats on the FR 13er finish
06/30/2013 02:54
Elk tooth is now on my wishlist. Please keep me posted on these climbs. Good to see you today after a long time.

Summit Lounger
06/30/2013 20:32
First of all, congratulations on your front range finisher. Nice job posting the report, then bashing me when you knew I would be out climbing.....

Kevin B. Next time that we do a climb together, you will have to take the Sani-hut test first. You will have to enter an inconspicuous looking portable toilet with your pack on. Next a full body scan will be performed to assess if your are carrying the appropriate gear for the trip or not. If you pass, you will never know what just happened. If you fail, the door will automatically lock for 24 hours. You can enjoy the evening with you ”sleeping bag.” Gotta stop now, this is a family site. Thanks for the reminder Papi.

Papi, since when is walking on a dirt road considered climbing? If you want me to choose a dirt road over a snow climb next time, you will have to entice me with cash... Edit. Now that your 13er list is updated, I could not help but notice you need an ascent of Ogalalla. Now you consciously chose a dirt road over a fun snow climb? What gives?

Nice to see you again Keegan. It was great to meet you Sarah.

finally a name to go with the face
07/02/2013 13:58
Always wondered what that peak was when driving north from Ward - now I know it's Sawtooth. I always thought that was Elk Tooth or maybe Ogallala. Nice work, I need to get up to those peaks sometime. Looks like a fun route.

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