Thatchtop is another one of the classic peaks that sits in the forefront of the Estes Park entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It shares the skyline with Longs, Taylor, Otis, Hallett and Flattop and it’s north face is exceptionally dominating as you enter the park.
On this particular day early in the season, the crew decided to hit the south face. Not only did they expect to find better conditions, but this would lead to a bit of a scouting mission for Shelf Creek, which is the tributary coming off of Arrowhead, Mchenery’s and the east face of Powell.
Up the winter shortcut we went wasting little time and arrived at Loch Vale from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. From just before the Lake you can skin back east gradually gaining a bench that takes you to the halfway point of the south gully. This approach, although not standard, cuts off the bottom snow wallow fest that people often endure while approaching the south gully in winter. From this point we booted up the upper S until the snow turned to a rocky scramble. Eventually we gained the long ridge that would provide us access to the summit. We now had a storm moving in and the winds began to increase.
We had enough time to sign the summit register and off we went to the south face. At this point in the season, most of what we were skiing was bulletproof and wind scoured, but absolutely worth every minute considering the views of Arrowhead and McHenrys dominating directly in front of us.
We skied down to Solitude Lake but, with a bit more time, you could traverse higher up on the face to ski a line that goes directly down to Shelf Lake. From Solitude Lake we skied the ice bulges down to Shelf Lake. The next major task was skiing down to the Black Lake trail. No matter how you do this it gets pretty interesting with the amount of deadfall and small cliffs that litter this area. Be confident in your tree skiing and take your time here. There are a lot of hidden obstacles. Eventually, we skied down to the Black Lake Trail and made the 5 mile ski out.