Brian invited me to join him for an outing on Veterans Day. After reviewing the Internet for information on backcountry ice, we decided to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park classic All Mixed Up on the northeast face of Thatchtop Mountain. Jeff got the day off at the last minute and decided to join us. Since I hadn't been out with the tools yet this season, I wasn't sure what to expect or how I'd perform. When we departed the trailhead at 6:20, my vehicle was the only one in the Glacier Gorge parking lot. It took 55 minutes to reach Mills Lake and a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the base of the climb. I had been fighting a cold the past few days, but Brian and Jeff held a moderate pace so I could keep up. Conditions on the approach are probably the easiest you can find for this route. There was not a significant amount of snow, and we were able to follow a shallow track up the mountain.
Jeff took the sharp end of the rope for the first pitch. The ice was thin and he was required to run out the first section of the pitch due to lack of pro. He opted to stay climbers left on the rock and climb mixed terrain until the ice thickened near the top of the pitch. Jeff did a great job leading his first ice of the season on a thin and run-out pitch. He utilized an existing piton and fixed chord/webbing for his anchor and brought Brian and I to his belay station.
Brian offered the second lead to me. When we first took a look at the route from below, this pitch looked a bit anemic and questionable. I ended up doing a fairly even combination of mixed and ice climbing. The pitch was challenging and kept me on my toes. I took the easiest line possible which ended up zigzagging and creating a bit of rope drag by the time I got to the top of the pitch. I used a combination of rock pro, screws, and a couple of existing pitons for protection. I took my time leading and built a rock gear anchor to belay Jeff and Brian.
The third pitch is just a snow climb with no pro. It was Brian's turn to lead the third and final ice pitch. I would say this pitch is the most sustained, and the ice was thick for kicks, swings, and ice screws. Brian chose to make the final pitch more difficult than it had to be by staying on the more vertical sections ice rather than following the more low-angled gully. He did a great job finishing the climb for us, and we topped out around 1:00 pm.
From the top of the climb, we traversed south to the top of the descent and shared a summer sausage sandwich and a Mountain Dew. The walk off was pretty straight forward and before we knew it we were back at the base of the route gearing down and preparing for the hike out. My cold and the day was catching up to me so I slowed down some, but we ended completing the climb car-to-car in 9 hours.