Chiefshead Northeast Face Rock Climbing
The NE face of Chiefshead is the massive wall above Green Lake in Upper Glacier Gorge (to the left when facing Spearhead). It should not to be confused with the more popular Northwest Face of Chiefshead which lies above Frozen Lake in the cirque to the right of Spearhead (on the Stoneman Pass side). Ignored for years- I suspect because from a distance it looks a bit broken and not that big, and is a hump to get to- the number of routes on this impressive wall tripled in the 90s due to the efforts of Greg Davis and Eric Winkelman. There are now 8 recorded routes on the wall, ranging in difficulty from 5.8 to mid-5.11, with at least 2 more independent undone lines waiting for a bold leader. The routes can be characterized by excellent face climbing (runout at times), somewhat wandering and vague lines which require excellent routefinding skills, and a sense of commitment which increases as the climber becomes aware of how big this wall really is. The 90s routes have bolts where necessary, but are not clip-ups, and a full rack of gear, including RPs and TCUs, is required. The wall may seep in spots, and facing NNE receives limited sun. The best descent is to scramble up and left to the summit ridge, then hike due east (Lion Lakes and Wild Basin to your right) to the notch between Chiefshead and Pagoda, then descend (with some scrambling and snow) the East Couloir back to the base. Plan on at least 45 minutes. The shorter, alternative descent is to downclimb the snow gully which forms the right edge of the wall and leads to exposed, loose, 4th and easy 5th class ledges. I did this once and do not recommend that you follow in my foolish footsteps. Rappelling the routes is not a good option since the wall is so big, and there are very few fixed anchor stations. Still, 2 ropes are a good idea if you need to bail, but plan on leaving your own gear for anchors. The nature of this wall makes it feel somewhat committing. Chances are you will have the place to yourself. This is what RMNP climbing probably felt like in the 60s.
Approach as for Spearhead, but stay low and left, near the Green Lake drainage instead of humping up the snow and talus to the base of Spearhead. Plan on roughly 30-45 minutes further from Spearhead, making the entire approach 3-4 hours. A bivy at Spearhead may play to your advantage (and you can tick a route there and on the NW Face), although this wall is routinely climbed car-to-car. There is a nice staging area on a huge flat boulder ("The USS Winkelman") below the wall.
Climbing Season For the Glacier Gorge area.
Weather station 6.6 miles from here
4 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',2],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
Classic Climbing Routes in Chiefshead Northeast Face
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Chiefshead Northeast Face
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Chiefshead Northeast Face:
Featured Route For Chiefshead Northeast Face
Cowboys and Indians 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a CO
: Alpine Rock
: ... : Chiefshead Northeast Face
Cowboys and Indians is the most popular, and perhaps finest, route on the NE Face of Chiefshead. At 11 or so pitches, it is one of the longest routes in RMNP. On the right side of the wall, and just left of obvious terraces, find a thin finger crack (5.10d) leading to 3 bolts which protect 5.10 climbing. Belay on a ledge below an imposing, left trending roof.Undercling the roof left (strenuous) to a stance out left (optional belay) and continue up an easier left facing corner. If you skip th...[more] Browse More Classics in CO
The NE face of Chiefshead, with climbers on Cowboy...
BETA PHOTO: Northeast Face of Chiefshead
The NE face of Chiefshead from the descent on Spea...
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2002
Foolish, and not having read this, we followed in Steve's footsteps down the ramp which forms the right edge of this face (after hiking up Chiefshead). HOLY CRAP! This ramp is easy except for a 50' section where it has nearly disintegrated. The crux consists of traversing extremely loose blocks above a 30'+ drop. Without a rope this is totally gripping and potentially fatal, should the whole mass cut loose. Avoid this ramp!