The Southwest Chimney is probably the best way off of the Third Flatiron that doesn't involve a rappel. It is NOT a walk-off, nor is it for the faint-of-heart, but if you are experienced and like to solo up Flatirons with just your rock shoes and sunglasses, this is a pretty good way to escape from the summit.
From the top of the Third, downclimb about 50 feet on the east face (the last 50 feet of the standard route) to the giant chockstone that allows easy passage between the Third Flatiron's false summit and actual summit. Traverse onto this chockstone and climb west into the alcove it creates. This leads to the ledge where the second rappel is usually made when rapping off the summit. As you're climbing through this alcove you'll notice an archway of rock to your left. Head through this arch and out to the other side. This will put you on a 10 foot wide ramp on the South side of the of the Third Flatiron that heads steeply downward and towards the East. At the bottom of this ramp, about 100 feet away, is a very large pine tree which is constantly visible. This is your goal. The ramp itself is probably 4th class scrambling. Once at the pine tree you'll see an eye bolt which marks the SW Chimney route and indicates that there is 148' of downclimbing to the ground. Head down and SW into the obvious start of the chimney. This will take you all the way to the ground.
A point of note - the climbing down the chimney is very easy, but it is VERY exposed. A fall would be very, very bad, but the holds are huge and everywhere. Unlike soloing up a Flatiron, you are doing vertical climbing here - but the climbing is indeed very easy (never exceeding 5.4) - it's just a much higher fear factor.
Once at the bottom, you can descend south of the Third Flatiron to a trail, or hike up and around the back of it to the usual descent trail. I can't imagine anyone every wanting to UP-climb this route... but I'm sure it's possible.
There is probably decent pro on this route, but I mainly am listing the description in case you are looking for a way off the Third after soloing an east face route without gear.
David downclimbing the 4th class ramp.
|Comments on Southwest Chimney
|By Mike Sofranko|
Aug 30, 2001
I think this is a very enjoyable way to ascend the Third, and I've done it several times. You have solitude, interesting climbing, and amazing scenery. It's a really cool and improbable natural passage up a big piece of rock.
Also, since climbing up is usually easier than climbing down, it makes sense to scope this route out on the way up first. I think both the bottom and top of the chimney are two cruxy sections that possibly won't be entirely obvious if doing this route for the first time as a downclimb.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 5, 2001
This route is not obvious and I agree with Mike that it is best to have climbed up it before going down. However, if you are confident scrambling down easy 5th class rock and have a good eye for keeping yourself out of trouble, you will be able to find your way down this route, even if you've not done it before.
After passing through the arch mentioned in the description, look for an eye bolt. I would call it more of a tunnel than arch, it is a tunnel under an enormous boulder. You can rappel from the eye bolt diagonally down to the "very large pine tree" in the above description. The section is slabby and smooth, and a fall would be bad. Near the start (top) it is similar in difficulty to the East Face (Standard) route.
The area around the (second) eye bolt above the SW chimney is trickier than this description indicates. Although you can climb right down into the top of the SW chimney, it is easier and less exposed to climb EAST down a slab, and then cut back west when you are below the level of the top of the chimney. A third alternative is to rappel, but note that with one rope you won't reach the bottom of the chimney.
When the regular rappel route is crowded, this makes for an alternate rappel route. Note that you must either do the first rap on the normal descent route, or else downclimb the final pitch of the East Face (Standard) route and then climb west through the above mentioned alcove. If you do the first (standard) rappel, you will still end up doing three rappels, with a bit of scrambling between each of them, and after the last one. When the standard rap route is really chocked up, you can easily pass people this way.
This is actually a fun (up) route in itself. The chimney is very clean rock and filled with excellent jugs.
|By Rodger Raubach|
May 23, 2013
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c
BITD when I was young and stupid, we used to downclimb this unroped all the time. I wouldn't really recommend this for a n00b, since a fall would probably be pretty messy...if not fatal.