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Southern Pillar
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Great Chimney 

YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a PG13

   
Type:  Trad, 2 pitches, 265'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a [details]
FA: Mark Carpenter, Tal Bielefeldt 1965
Page Views: 534
Submitted By: Peter Jackson on Aug 11, 2010

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Description 

Great as in "large," not as in "fantastic."

This route is listed largely for historical completeness, as it does not (and perhaps should not) get climbed much, other than as easy access to the better climbs adjacent to it.

Both current guidebooks list this route as 5.1, although today's consensus is that it is at least a 5.5 PG/PG13. This is not a suitable beginner's route: it's a dirty, chossy adventure route. Be warned, and be ready to retreat if you get in over your head.

P1: Begin by climbing / scrambling up a loose, dirty gulley filled with blocky bulges, dirty ledges, and loose scrambles. There is pro on either side wall, and there are some trees along the way to sling. Continue up to a tree with some in-situ slings on it. OPTIONAL BELAY.

The climbing isn't great for the first half of the first pitch, but if it's chimney moves you seek, the second half of the first pitch will not disappoint. Continuing up, move up a dirt slope passing two more good sized trees and gain the main chimney below a large boulder stuck above you in the chimney. Pass under the boulder and continue up using cracks in the back wall and chimney moves. Work your way up through the blocky upper portion to a large ledge on the left. Around the corner is Mrs. Robinson and a host of other decent climbs.

P2: Continue up through the blocky gully to the top. The 2nd pitch gets a bit more overgrown but just a short ways up the pitch are two good climbs on the right wall: Craving For Pink and Hidden Gem.

If you continue straight up P2, be prepared for a very organic experience.

Special Thanks to Andy Weinmann for encouraging a better route description, a warning on the grade, and for calling out the route as not-beginner-safe. (See discussion below.)


Location 

Begin below the large gulley / chimney that splits the formation in the WEST and EAST buttresses.


Protection 

Double ropes recommended to guard against rope drag in the gulley. Pro on both sides of the gulley and chimney. Bring some long slings for trees.



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By Andy Weinmann
From: Alexandria, VA
Oct 7, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

This is not 5.1. This is adventure climbing at it's finest. You will find yourself stemming a lot and using some decent chimney moves on this climb. I'd almost give it an "R" rating...there are certainly some 'do not fall' areas where it would be a long, tumbling ride. Pete's right, it's not a climb for beginners.

[previous comments edited as Pete incorporated them in his description]

The descent can be a little tricky too. At the top of the chimney there is a large ledge on climber's right. This ledge is actually the top of P2 of Gephardt-Dufty. There is a tree on the ledge with slings & rings. From here a 60m will get you back to the tree on P1 that has slings & rings (the optional belay).

Thanks to Pete for adding this route. There are some great climbs on this side of the Southern Pillar that sadly no one visits much...to their detriment!

By John Hughes
Apr 22, 2014
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a R

Looking down during first pitch
Looking down during first pitch
I agree with Andy completely except we never finished the climb. We made it to the first tree and bailed because we had already determined that this climb was not what we thought it was. The picture I took does not show how steep the dirt section is and I did not feel comfortable climbing the dirt section, so I did what I could to stay on either side or use Yoga inspired chimney moves to make it to the next piece placement. I was able to place gear in most places but I agree with the R rating that Andy gave it because there was virtually no gear and no hand holds on the way to the tree and it would have been a really out of control tumbly and dangerous fall on gear that I was hoping would hold. Also, we used two ropes which seamed to help since I found gear placements on both sides of the chimney.

By Peter Jackson
From: Rumney, NH
Apr 22, 2014

I have indeed climbed the great chimney. But at the time I submitted it to MP, I didn't know too much about writing a good route description.

[ inflammatory stuff edited out ]

When I climbed the route, the old guide listed it at 5.1. The new guide also lists it at 5.1. That doesn't make it suitable for a newb. The very best way to suggest an upgrade is to use the consensus rating on MP.

As the original poster of the route -- but not as the FA or guidebook author -- I felt it was important to honor the judgement of Carpenter, Bielefeldt, and Barnes.

Regardless of grade, there are no beginner routes at Seneca. Always go with someone experienced.

By Andy Weinmann
From: Alexandria, VA
May 5, 2014
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

Tony's new book will have it listed at probably 5.5. The previous guidebook authors probably never climbed the route, so honoring their judgement is your call. Tony Barnes certainly did not climb this route (and a lot of the other obscure routes at Seneca) prior to publication of his guidebooks. So Tony took from the previous guidebooks going back to the original FA in 1965. He also relies on feedback from climbers (he solicited input for the guidebook when he started writing it like 2+ years ago) and checks out stuff on MP as well.

Regarding newbs climbing here, they do. That's not going to change. And they read MP entries on the climbs. There are only a handful of easier climbs at Seneca for beginning leaders. Hopefully they're climbing under the tutelage of an experienced leader who will direct them away from sandbagged adventure routes.

In my opinion, Mountain Project exists to give people more beta on climbs than what a guidebook says. I don't think you're dishonoring the judgement of guys who climbed in 1965 by rating it what it is by today's standards or at least something closer to that. However, I understand the dilemma. The way I've tried to reconcile this is to put the guidebook grade in the entry and then state up front in my description what I think the grade really is.

Apologies for any offensive comments...text edited.

By Peter Jackson
From: Rumney, NH
May 6, 2014

Andy, I think you're right. When posting my comment above, I fell into the escalation trap. So for that, I apologize.

In any case, I left the mid-atlantic long ago, so I'm not familiar with where the noobs go these days. How about we edit the description to be a combination of my description and yours?

[ EDITED TO ADD ] I updated the description with your comments, bumped up the grade, and gave you credit in the description. If you'd like me to ping an admin to make you the route owner, lemme know.