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Lower Chaos Canyon

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Automator Boulder, The 
Bush Pilot Boulder 
Bushpilot Warm Up Boulder 
Centaur Boulder 
Deep Puddle Dynamics 
European Human Being Boulder 
Geeks of the Industry Boulder 
Gobot Boulder, The 
Gobot warmups 
Green Slab Wall 
Little Orb 
Potato Chip Boulder, The 
Revenge Area 
Skyscraper Boulder 
Unnamable , The 
Warm-Up Boulder 

Lower Chaos Canyon Rock Climbing 

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Location: 40.30479, -105.66069 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 21,043
Administrators: Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Peter Beal on Oct 31, 2008


42° | 27°

34° | 29°
Washington's Birthday

37° | 30°

41° | 29°

46° | 31°
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Danny Baker: Deep Puddle Dynamics, Lower Chaos Can...

Fragile Alpine Area MORE INFO >>>


Chaos Canyon, situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, has gained international status and become a household name in the world bouldering scene. Located at 10,000 feet, in a spectacular alpine setting, "Chaos" as it is typically known, has something to offer every kind of boulderer. With an abundance of highly featured, steep walls and overhangs, the boulders of both Upper and Lower Chaos have produced quality problems from V0 to V15. Little wonder that boulderers willingly brave the 45 minute hike to Lake Haiyaha or the hour plus to Upper Chaos

However this bouldering paradise has not been without problems. This is a fragile area, where plant and animal life struggles to maintain a toehold in a severe and barren environment. User impact has been hard to avoid noticing over the past six or seven years. Some climbers have been too ready to disregard the wilderness ethic in favor of a group mentality that emphasizes doing the problem at any price. Offenses include stashing pads overnight, landscaping landings, destruction of vegetation, and so on. The rangers at RMNP are watching the situation and it is up to every single visitor, regardless of climbing ability, to act as a good steward of a vital living natural resource. Otherwise painful and restrictive regulations could change forever the freedom that many have taken for granted in the mountains.

A final point has to do with conditions. The season for Chaos runs from approximately June to October, depending on snow. Visitors to RMNP should be prepared for any kind of weather. This includes baking sun, cold drenching downpours, hail, and potentially lethal lightning strikes. The hike back down can be complicated by maneuvering across slippery talus which can lead to a twisted or broken ankle or worse. Make sure you have brought a warm waterproof jacket and plenty to eat and drink. Watch out for altitude sickness if you are coming from lower elevations.

Finally remember that the landing for 95% of the boulders is jagged talus, making a crashpad, preferably several, virtually mandatory. If you seriously injure yourself, you are 2.2 miles and 800' elevation from assistance. Bouldering alone here therefore can be a serious matter. Be very careful. It is worth noting that cellphone reception is generally good in Upper Chaos and spotty in Lower.

Eds. This area has been turned over to the above person with permission of the original submitter.

If you want to add any problems in RMNP check to make sure there is not an area or boulder already set up that it can be added to. Do not add individual problems to this site unless there is an area and boulder description in place. If there aren't any, feel free to add them but make sure the descriptions are detailed and accurate for all three, area, boulder, and problem.

Getting There 

To get to Lower Chaos Canyon, you must enter Rocky Mountain National Park, just west of Estes Park on US 36. This requires buying a $20 week pass or $40 yearly pass. Nation-wide National Parks passes work here as well. Shortly after leaving the park entrance, you must turn left on Bear Lake Road to get to Bear Lake, following this road for approximately 10 miles to Bear Lake. Be advised that the Bear Lake parking lot is very full on summer weekends and you may have to turn around, park at the shuttle parking (prominently signed) and catch the free shuttle that runs along the upper Bear Lake Road. You can even catch a shuttle from Estes Park itself. Carpooling is highly recommended. Watch your speed. Rangers will ticket you.

From the parking lot, you can head up the trail for Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha. However, since you will likely be carrying a pad or two, sharing the trail with other hikers can be difficult. The trail is narrow and often filled with families and other groups. Please remember to be courteous and friendly to other hikers. If they ask what you are carrying, explain clearly and nicely and move on.

At Nymph Lake, head up another steep section for another 10-15 minutes to the junction for Dream and Emerald Lakes. For problems such as the Kine Traverse, head right to Emerald Lake. This is also the approach for Hallett Peak. For Chaos Canyon, head left and tackle a steep pair of switchbacks that lead up to beautiful views of Long's Peak before a short dip and the stream that leads to Lake Haiyaha. From the parking lot, you can expect to take between 30 and 40 minutes to get here, depending on fitness.

From where the short descent ends, look on the right for an obvious trail heading right into the trees. Follow this, which can be wet in spring (stay on it, don't add social trails) to a spot where you can either rock-hop close to the edge of the lake, heading southwest, or stay more in the woods, eventually heading up and right along the talus. For the Warm-up Boulder, heading left is best. You will see the boulder on the left after about 5 minutes. The right option is best for boulders such as the Centaur Boulder, the Automator, or Deep Puddle Dynamics. The very tall boulder that is very prominent is the Skyscraper. From the main trail, expect to take about 5-10 minutes to find your way to the bouldering proper.

It is worth remembering that finding specific boulders in Chaos Canyon can be difficult (It is named Chaos for a reason!). The general drift of the canyon is east-west so as you look up the canyon you are looking west. To your right is north and left is south. This will be helpful on a number of descriptions.

Climbing Season

Weather station 9.5 miles from here

44 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',7],['3 Stars',18],['2 Stars',11],['1 Star',8],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Lower Chaos Canyon

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Lower Chaos Canyon:
Middle Warm up   V1 5     Boulder, Alpine, 12'   The Potato Chip Boulder
Malice *   V2 5+     Boulder, Alpine   Revenge Area
East Face   V2 5+     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   Warm-Up Boulder
Northwest Corner   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 12'   Warm-Up Boulder
Warm Up V3   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 8'   Bushpilot Warm Up Boulder
Potato Chip Layback   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   The Potato Chip Boulder
Warm Up   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 9'   Revenge Area
Potato Chip Pinch   V5 6C     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   The Potato Chip Boulder
Autobot   V5 6C     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   The Gobot Boulder
Counter Attack *   V5+ 6C+     Boulder, Alpine   Revenge Area
Revenge   V6- 7A     Boulder, Alpine   Revenge Area
Warm Up V6   V6 7A     Boulder, Alpine, 12'   Bushpilot Warm Up Boulder
Potato Chip   V7- 7A+     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   The Potato Chip Boulder
Interference aka Geeks of the Industry   V7 7A+     Boulder, Alpine, 9'   Geeks of the Industry Bould...
Tommy's Arete   V7 7A+     Boulder, Alpine   The Automator Boulder
Gang Bang   V8 7B     Boulder, Alpine, 10'   Centaur Boulder
Potato Chip Sit Start   V9 7C PG13     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   The Potato Chip Boulder
Handicapps   V9 7C     Boulder, Alpine, 11'   Centaur Boulder
Deep Puddle Dynamics   V9+ 7C     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   Deep Puddle Dynamics
Marble   V10- 7C+     Boulder, Alpine, 10'   Centaur Boulder
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Lower Chaos Canyon

Featured Route For Lower Chaos Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Bush.

Bush Pilot V11 8A  CO : Alpine Rock : ... : Bush Pilot Boulder
Bush Pilot starts in a dihedral and goes up....[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Lower Chaos Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Lower Chaos Canyon.
Lower Chaos Canyon.
Rock Climbing Photo: BH on Skyscraper Boulder, RMNP.
BH on Skyscraper Boulder, RMNP.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bouldering at Lower Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
Bouldering at Lower Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
Rock Climbing Photo: BH on T's Arete, Lower Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
BH on T's Arete, Lower Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bouldering in Lower Chaos Canyon, photo: Bob Horan...
Bouldering in Lower Chaos Canyon, photo: Bob Horan...
Rock Climbing Photo: Danny Baker: V6+ problem on boulder across from Ga...
Danny Baker: V6+ problem on boulder across from Ga...

Comments on Lower Chaos Canyon Add Comment
Show which comments
By Joshua Merriam
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 8, 2008
Could an admin move my entries to the new area?
By Eli Helmuth
From: Estes Park, CO
Aug 23, 2009
The Bear Lk. trailhead is at 9450' and Lake Haiyaha sits at approx. 10,200'- much of the bouldering is above the lake.
It is amazing that pebble pinchers 'willingly brave' this 45 minute uphill hike.
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Aug 24, 2009
800 feet is not much rise, especially given how mellow the trail is. The hike to the Satellites in Boulder is the same elevation gain a but much steeper hike to get to bouldering that is not nearly as good.
By Helldorado
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 1, 2010
People really need to have more respect for this place, it's already been trashed by overuse.

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