Peak(s):  Pagoda Mountain  -  13,497 feet
Date Posted:  08/26/2019
Date Climbed:   08/24/2019
Author:  ronbco
 the gully from Glacier Basin is not too bad   

I first seriously considered hiking Pagoda a few years ago when I hiked down the ridge from Chief's head. Or I should say that from the neck of Chief's Head looking up at that ridge of Pagoda I told myself "well that's not gonna happen". But some of you know what happens next. You start wondering and obsessing.

My next look at it was a few years later from Stone Man, and with binos looking at the gully from the Glacier Gorge side I once again said "nope that gully looks terrible".

But then my. son did it and even traversed to Longs on the return.

We had done Navajo together (from the Niwot ridge) with a descent of Airplane gully a couple years ago, so that was a comparison to be made. When I was coming down Airplane I thought this would be just plane awful (pun intended) to ascend with all the loose dirt and scree; it's just so steep!

So I asked him my son how the gully between the Keyboard of the Winds and Pagoda compared in terms of steep/loose. He said it was "not quite as bad". But the prospect of 1200' in half a mile was daunting. But by then my obsession was full blown so I probably would have gone anyway. I started looking at trip reports but peaks like Pagoda on the front range tend to be written about by people that are out of my league and doing 3+ peaks in a day. So they are at a level of endurance than makes a gully like that hardly reportable.

So, here is my bottom line on the gully. Yes it is a lot of climbing, but not really much more than most big peaks in the Rockies. Certainly it is much less effort than the Bells. Perhaps comparable to going up Broken hand pass to get to the Crestones. I'd say less miserable than even Challenger.

One good thing is that it is broad and so you can traverse and you have choices all the way up. It's more of a face than a gully. The semblance of a trail is where the loose dirt and scree is. But if you get tired of that you can go over to the big slabs which are solid. They are not so steep that you are likely to end up getting in trouble. They are steep enough to be tiring, but it's a wash whether they are more work than the "trail". Rock fall risk is quite modest overall, especially since climbers can spread out across.

And then there is the reward....the views of Longs are out of this world. I've been up it 4 times, including from the Loft, and looking out on the mountain it is inconceivable that one can hike up it.

I also will add a word more to the sketchy data of the route up Pagoda from Wild Basin. I was going to do a through hike by going down into Wild Basin. But I could not find any report on how much more loose it might be than from Glacier Gorge. So I did not try it. But from the peak of Pagoda it certainly looks like it would not be as steep or loose as from Glacier Gorge. But I could not see down that side completely. I would recommend a serious consideration of it.

With regard to the final stretch from the top of the col to the peak, it is no big deal and you can knock it off in 30 min or less.

In the end I'm glad I returned down Glacier Gorge because the wind finally died down when we got back to the basin. and being late in the summer the basin is much easier to traverse (less boggy). Indeed it was perfect for soft grass traveling and relaxing.

Comments or Questions
The gully
08/27/2019 06:56
Wasn't as bad as it looked, or was made out to seem I thought. Going down hurt the feet tho lol. I just found sticking to the bigger boulders was way better than any bit of "trail" that was there. The views of the keyboard are nothing short of spectacular either! Glacier gorge is truly an amazing place, and above black lake, the sights are unreal. Congrats on getting this one!

Well Done
08/27/2019 20:18
That was how I opted getting this 13er summit after researching possible approaches. Great, safety-minded choice. I also found the line pleasantly manageable

some slabs to climb
08/28/2019 10:14
I ascended the slabs to the climbers right most of the way up the gully (class 3), it was pretty fun and mostly solid. On my descent I was more in the scree to the side, and slipped and fell once, landed hard but nothing too severe but I hurt my back and hip a bit. Was pretty similar to the Loft in this way, which I did a week later. Glacier Gorge approaches are always great. I also didn't find Airplane Gully so bad, sticking to the sides and there's somewhat of a trail through it.

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