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[TR] Chimney Rock - Several 7/17/2010


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Trip: Chimney Rock - Several


Date: 7/17/2010


Trip Report:

I am usually too impatient to write trip reports but due to a recovering broken leg and continuous nostalgia from a great weekend I've decided to write a TR for mine and John's trip to Chimney Rock.


I drove in on Friday night from the Priest Lake side with plans to meet John and Amanda at their camp on the west side of Chimney on Saturday morning (they came in a day earlier). The road seemed rougher than normal up high and I parked at the final switch back and slept. Next morning, I hiked over the Roothaan Saddle and down snow and rock to John and Amanda's camp in a wet little meadow just below the scree on Chimney's west side. I set up camp as a small rainstorm moved through and got us wet for about ten minutes, a sign of the weather to come later that day.


We made our way to the sunny east face and started on Canary Legs, a high quality layback and jam crack that is a great warm-up for the rest of the routes on the east face. John led and Amanda and I top roped.






Climbing on the east face was difficult due to the heat, so we made our way to the west face to get in some shorter pitches in the shade. We scrambled up the rappel chimney and climbed Twin Cracks, located on the wall left of West Side Girls. John and Amanda gave me the lead on this one.






John and I went to check out the routes on Prow Ledge and were amazed by the amazingly clean lines Lord Greystroke, Magnum Force, and White Lightning.




While on the ledge we noted the strong winds and looked to the west.




We bailed to camp and waited out a three hour rain storm with the four of us (John and Amanda's dog Cooper was there too) crammed in their tent. The storm ceased at about 7, just in time to cook dinner, and we were greeted with a beautiful sunset and a clear night.




Amanda and Cooper had to leave early Sunday morning to head back to work in Sandpoint so the next two days John and I climbed. At least 3 parties were already on the face climbing the standard and rappel chimney routes, who we chatted with as we racked up. We began the day on the west face with Scuffin' Up, a physical and rarely climbed route that John did in one long pitch. The crux involves "scuffin up" an insecure slot with a ledge right below you to keep in mind. John made quick work of the climb and set me up to climb Fun Roof, an awesome crack with a slightly loose start and an extremely exposed position. I highly recommend this pitch but make sure you put in lots of pro for the second and make sure they know how to ascend in the event of a fall.



We rappelled the South nose exit down to the chain anchor on the final pitch of Cooper Hiser. Here we made one long rappel down to Prow Ledge. We both wanted to climb Magnum Force but neither of us had the cajones’ to lead so we top roped the route. It starts at 4 inches and only gets wider. The layback at the bottom is wide with glass smooth feet. A crack switch brings you to a squeeze chimney finish that is protected by one (new) bolt. The route is physical, very high quality and would be a bold lead without large pro.


We pulled the rope and walked to the left side of the ledge to Lord Greystroke. I racked up for the 40 foot pitch and was instantly greeted with flaring ring locks, strenuous laybacking and difficult feet. Although I ended up failing greatly on the onsight, the crack is easily aided and John and I had a great time top roping the route. Hopefully next time I’ll climb clean.


After a lunch break we made our way to the east face to climb East Face Direct, a great two pitch route that parallels Cooper-Hiser and ends on a bolted ledge. John led the first pitch, a combination of crack and face climbing with great protection, very unique for Chimney Rock. I got the second pitch which starts as overhanging thin hands, leads to an awesome crack switch to an arching 4 inch layback. A jug greeted me as my forearms tired, and a final layback led to Cooper Hiser, which required some spooky down climbing to reach the anchors. This was my favorite pitch of the weekend, highly recommended. We rapped and made our way back to camp, spent from several pitches of jamming and laybacking.




Our last route of the weekend (Monday actually) was Free Friends, the highly acclaimed three pitch line on the east face. I led the first pitch, a strenuous layback that led to moderate face climbing and a large ledge. Jon led the second, most definitely the money pitch of the route which involved even more sustained laybacking in an awesome 140 feet. I got the last short pitch to the summit where we signed the register and patted each other on the back before rapping the west face just as the cold and rain moved in. A short and slightly wet hike out led us to the car and a couple of tall Miller High Lifes a piece.


It seems that everyone who goes to Chimney Rock climbs either the standard route or the rappel chimney, with the occasional climb of Cooper Hiser on the east face. If you make your way up there give some of the other routes a try. They are undoubtedly among the highest quality rock climbs in the Northwest and crowds are never a problem.


Gear Notes:

Set of nuts, double set of cams with two 4-inch pieces being useful for Free Friends and a bunch of double length draws. Bivi gear for the camping on the west side, bug spray.


Approach Notes:

Priest Lake is shorter but a rougher drive. Pack River road is a longer hike but much more accessible for Sandpoint folks. Check out the North Idaho guidebook by Thad Laird for info.

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Drive to Sandpoint, then north on US 95 towards Bonner's Ferry a few miles (10 or so??? - IIRC) to Pack River Road. Turn left and drive PRR (gravel/dirt) for about 15-20 miles to West Branch/ Chimney Rock Road. Follow WB Roadand turn left as you cross the Pack River. Stay right at every big junction from here for 2.5 miles on the most heavily traveled roads to the trailhead. Hike for 2.5 miles to the north face.

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Great TR and photos punk rocker, and way to get on some of the better routes on Chimney.


Like punk rocker says, quickest access is from the west side via Priest Lake. From the Priest Lk East Side Road, take the Hunt Creek and Horton Ridge Roads, with the last half-mile of road requiring 4WD and high clearance. Parking & car camping is at the old Horton Ridge Lookout location.


The east side access via the Pack River Road is a longer drive and longer hike in, although is at least as aesthetic. I don't recommend the access from the north via Indian Creek unless you like to spend all your time bushwhacking.


Current book for routes is Thad Laird's Climber's Guide to North Idaho. As far as his Chimney route info goes, almost all is taken from Randall Green's out-of-print North Idaho Rock, which many still consider a better guide for Chimney, if you can find it.

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You got it, Sobo. Right, actually Idaho Rock, even though the furthest south it covers is Laclede, several miles north of Spokane and CDA. I see it's available at Amazon: quite a few cheap used books plus a couple new, by one seller, at about its original price.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nice work on the rock guys!


FWIW we did the east side approach again this fall. The walk now starts on the Pack River at a foot bridge. The upper road (now hiking only) and wilderness trail are in terrible shape or none exsistant.


You'd have to shoot me and carry my lifeless body into Chimney before I would do that approach again :)


The east side was never a great approach compared to Horton ridge unless you lived in Sandpoint. More elevation gain on foot and not all that pretty to look at. Now it is just a slog.


Hopefully the Horton ridge/road/trial side has seen a little love and affection for the powers that be in North Idaho. As second place really sucks in comparison.



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