Peak(s):  Bancroft, Mt  -  13,250 feet
Date Posted:  01/06/2012
Date Climbed:   01/02/2012
Author:  jbchalk
 Mt. Bancroft - East Ridge Direct  

I don't venture into the Front Range very much, but with a very dry season thus far and a favorable weather forecast, Kristine & I met our good friend Jesse Hill from Denver at the Bancroft TH for some east ridge direct fun. I know so many skiers are bummed with the current Colorao snowpack, but honestly I have been enjoying all of this dry, warm winter weather and taking advantage of it by rock climbing some and getting out high on some peaks. The skiing is just not worth it to me inbounds or in the backcountry right now until we get lots of snow, which is absolutely fine. Just means more climbing. I've heard this was a fun route in summer by some friends of mine and is in Cooper's Colorado Scrambles book, but I thought it may be more interesting & exciting in winter. The ridge definitely did not disappoint and provided awesome winter scrambling with some technical spice thrown in. After parking on the Stewart Road at 8:30am, we hiked the mostly bare 2.2 miles up to the summer parking TH at Loch Lomond. There was some semi-deep snow before Loch Lomond, but it was manageable in our plastic boots without snowshoes. The wind was whipping in the valley, so my hopes were that it would die down before we hit the east ridge. Thankfully, it did. We then made our way up to the base of the east ridge in the howling wind.

The east ridge direct route to Bancroft's summit

The initial portion of the ridge (up to the infamous notch) was fairly straighforward with some fun class 3 moves if you stayed on the ridge proper.

Kristine climbing the initial class 3 portion of the east ridge

We then approached the rappel station on the east side of the notch and found a party of two climbers setting up their own rappel. We had been gaining on them all morning and decided this was as good a place to pass as any. So, I threw my 60m, 8mm rope around a flake of rock at the top of the east side of the notch and we all rapped down with me going last. In all honestly, I should have tied some webbing and set up a rap anchor, but we wanted to get ahead of the party of two climbers and the rock was smooth enough that the rope would easily pull, so I just ran it over the rock. Not pretty or textbook, but good enough for just one rap.

Jesse & I approaching the notch and rappel station

Kristine on rappel with Jesse below in the notch

Me rappelling down past the party of two climbers on the left

Once, we were all at the notch and pulled the rope, Kristine put me on belay as I led up the 1st crux 5.2 headwall pitch west out of the notch and back to the ridge proper. I only placed a #1 cam and the 25 ft pitch wasn't too difficult and very fun despite climbing in my Koflach Vertical plastic boots. Great hand/finger holds and the rock was warm enough for me without gloves. I then set up an anchor, belyed Kristine & then Jesse up, and then coiled and stashed the rope in my backpack.

Me belaying Jesse up the 1st crux 5.2 headwall pitch out of the notch

Having passed the supposed crux of the route, the real difficulties seemed to be ahead of us. I was excited. What followed was a few hundred feet of mostly horizontal knife-edge ridges, some snow covered and some dry. This was some exciting scrambling for sure as there are serious drop-offs to the north & south. We never donned our crampons, though in retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea. This was the most treacherous section of the ridge, in our opinion, especially being in plastic boots on lightly snow covered rock. Obviously, in summer, you would just skip across this with approach shoes, and in spring, I can see this being much easier as there would be a large corniced snow ridge you can basically trudge across with your axe.

The remaining portion of the east ridge from the top of the 1st crux 5.2 headwall pitch

Jesse & Kristine on the ridge

Jesse crossing a knife-edge snow ridge

Me looking back at Kristine having crossed the knife-edge snow ridge

Jesse & Kristine almost done with the knife-edge ridge and to the base of the 2nd crux headwall pitch

I had read a route description of the east ridge which said there was a pair of chimneys that go at 4th to low 5th class on the ridge's right (north) side. However, the ledges and holds were pretty snow covered, and not feeling the motivation to put my crampons on, I chose to head slightly left of the ridge crest just a few feet and found a doable yet severly exposed dry low 5th class route up to a snow covered ledge. This 30 ft headwall definitely had a few low 5th class moves over big air. In retrospect, I really should have led this on belay. With the damage done, I set up an anchor, threw down the rope, and belayed Kristine and then Jesse up to me.

Me scoping out the 2nd crux headwall - I climbed up around the corner to my left

Me belaying Kristine up the 2nd crux low 5th class headwall pitch

Once past the 2nd crux headwall, we spotted the party of two climbers just starting the knife-edge ridge after the 1st crux 5.2 headwall pitch. They were belaying the knife-edge ridge, which just seemed so painstakingly slow. Turns out they turned around shortly thereafter and likely descended down the couloir south to Lake Caroline from the notch. They returned to their cars at the trailhead 15 minutes after we did at the end of the day.

The party of two climbers seen from above the 2nd headwall crux

We then climbed some fun and blocky class 3 rock up the ridge to a tower. Jesse had scoped a small snow covered ledge around to the tower's right (north) side and so we took the ledge route. In retrospect, we should have just climbed up the remaining 20 ft to the top of the tower and proceeded on the ridge crest as the 30 ft of climbing we endured on the ridge's north side back up to the ridge proper once the ledge ran out was quite spooky and involved some pretty treacherous moves over slick rock. Once back on the ridge proper, we covered some more fun knife-edge ridge, which soon terminated into the easier class 3 climbing of the upper ridge.

Kristine back on the ridge proper - a large party can be seen approaching the rappel into the notch right of center

Jesse & Kristine back on the ridge proper

More knife-edge ridge


The easier class 3 terrain of the upper ridge

We saw a large party rappelling into the notch from the upper ridge, though we're not sure how long on the ridge they pressed and whether they made it or not.

Close-up of the large party rappelling into the notch

The east ridge from the class 3 terrain of the upper ridge

Kristine on the upper ridge

Jesse climbing a fun little class 4 section on the upper ridge

The easier class 2 section to the flat summit plateau

We finally reached the large, flat summit plateau below Bancroft's summit and endured some pretty stiff west winds through the col.

Jesse bracing against the strong winds

We topped out on Bancroft's summit around 1:30pm in clear skies but strong winds.

Kristine almost to Bancroft's summit looking like a ninja

Mt. Bancroft summit (13,250')

Looking north to James Peak from Bancroft's summit

After 20 minutes on top, we descended the very mellow southeast ridge back to Loch Lomond and then hiked out the 2.2 miles down the road arriving back at the trucks at 4pm.

One last look at the majority of the east ridge with the obvious notch as viewed from the southeast on our descent

All in all, a wonderful day on a pretty challenging route given the conditions albeit very exciting and fun. For those looking for a ridge run with some technical spice, I would highly recommend this route as I am sure many others would as well. Hopefully, this TR may help others plan a winter ascent up Bancroft's east ridge direct. I may just have to start venturing into the Front Range more often

Thanks for reading,

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

 Comments or Questions

01/06/2012 22:53
Great TR and photos. Looks like the snow has firmed up a bit -- did this route in December and we sank to our thighs in the same area as image #9. Congrats on a well-earned Front Range summit.


01/06/2012 23:07
Fun climb so close to home.. You can almost downclimb into the notch when looking at climbers left. I've done it once, I guess it's about 5.0. The chimneys on the right you were talking about can definitely get your attention, the slabby 5.0 climb on the left is also a fun alternative. I've been both ways and I haven't decided which way I like better yet. Is this your first time up the east ridge? If so, I suspect also not your last.. It's one of my favorite climbs so close to home.. Then again I guess that depends on where you live. Grats.


No snow!
01/06/2012 23:09
Looks like a nice day, Brandon. Bancroft is looking pretty bare.


Thanks, fellas
01/07/2012 00:33
SurfNTurf, yep, saw that you guys hit this ridge in December. Looked great. Congrats. Seems like the snow sure has firmed up like you said.

Jameseroni, yes, my 1st time up the east ridge, but like you said, likely not my last. I can see why you go back and back again.

Ryan, thanks man. Yep, pretty bare up there from a skiing perspctive.


Very nice
01/07/2012 16:54
Nice report and great pictures documenting a fun day. I have been wanting to get on this since James told me about it. Congrats!


This route rocks
01/07/2012 19:22
Nice report and photos of a winter ascent in lean snow conditions. I've done this route in summer (a blast) and spring (April 2010) conditions--the latter with plentiful knife edge snow and lots of sketchy scrambling over snow-covered rocks and ledges. It looks like the line you took on the 2nd headwall was pretty much the same as we--I remember the same feeling of 'I should probably be roped up on this' as I carefully placed hands and feet on the snowy/icy holds, with unsettling exposure below. As for the 5.2 headwall, I'm curious--we got a 0.75 Camalot stuck about halfway up the crack, and I've wondered ever since if it's become a piece of 'fixed' gear that would come in handy for future parties....


East Ridge does rock...
01/08/2012 17:03
Thanks for comments, Johnson & Stoneman. Didn't find a 0.75 cam in the crack, however, Stoneman.


nice report
01/08/2012 22:58
This is one of the better reports I've seen of this route, nice job!
Some great perspective shots along the ridge too.
Thanks for posting!


Thanks, Darin
01/08/2012 23:59
Appreciate the comments.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2020®, 14ers Inc.