This is one of Rocky Mountain National Parks most popular trails. Folks from all over the world walk this trail to see the forest, Alberta Falls, or possibly an elk. But we are headed up past Loch Vale, past Sky Pond to one of the parks most classic moderate alpine rock climbing routes, the Petit Grepon. This teetering tower of rock was named after a perch in the Chamonix Alps called the Aiguille du Grepon, in other words the steep needle with a sloping rock slab.
After a couple hours of hiking we stroll past Sky Pond and start our final approach with a little talus scrambling to the direct start of the Petit Grepon. This option follows an easy right facing dihedral up through a wide inset chimney for 2 pitches to a large ledge.
The next pitch leads up the left side of large cave, on to a slab, ascending left into a variable size crack. This steep section eases into the next spacious belay ledge. Another moderate pitch leads up cracks, face holds, and ledges eventually putting us at the base of the crux pitch.
At the sloping belay ledge a memorable piton or two stares straight up at the 5.8 or optional 5.9 crux pitch. This fun and funky pitch heads up under a roof, traverses right to a 5.9 or 5.8 right facing corner. Firing up the 5.8 section ample gear protects the crux as you exit the right facing dihedral into a left facing open book. A little friction smear move leads into cracks on solid rock.
After recharging on the summit with a savory lunch and refreshing fluids, soaking in the views of The Sabre, Sharkstooth, and the Taylor Glacier and not soaking in afternoon thunderstorms, we prepare for the 6 rappels down to the base of this premier Cathedral Spire. A sense of accomplishment comes as we plant our feet on terra firma, now out of the vertical realm that is reserved for the feathered, adventurous, or fearless.
Eventually we turn from the lower "sloping slab" onto blocky terrain and the true south face of the teetering and towering Petit Grepon. With the ground far below another nearby spire, The Saber seems close enough to touch. Working up the next 3 steep and spectacular pitches “the exposure hits you.” Coming to the edge of the tower, hovering high above Lake of Glass and Sky Pond, onto the pizza pan ledge, and the final summit ridge that over hangs the valley 1,000’ below, there is no mistaking that this is a leaning tower. Finally we reach the levitating magic carpet summit. This narrow platform in the sky seems to hover over the mountains with nothing below but beautiful openness.