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Ridge 1 aka Stairway to Heaven
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Stairway to Heaven 

YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a

   
Type:  Trad, 6 pitches, Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a [details]
FA: Unknown
Page Views: 7,427
Submitted By: Bill Wright on May 20, 2002

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (44)
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George Bell, Kreighton Bieger, and Warren Teissier...
  • Some crags in this area are closed 1 February to 31 July: MORE INFO >>>
  • Climbing areas reopened after flood MORE INFO >>>

  • NOT subject to raptor closures 

    Per Tom Wilson: This route is not subject to seasonal bird closures. Eds. this is a clarification due to the limitations from the website.


    Description 

    Head up Skunk Canyon to the base of this ridge (the second ridge) and start climbing up the bottom of the slab heading toward a big roof. The crux is moving left underneath this roof. Once around the roof continue up easy ground 4th class and some 3rd class. Further up you'll actually step off the rock completely as you come upon a deep cleft. Now step out to the right onto the east face of a pinnacle known as Like Heaven. Climb up to the notch just north of this pinnacle on typically great rock.

    An extra credit ascent can be done by hand traversing out to the summit of Like Heaven. This traverse must be reversed back to the notch.

    Continue up the ridge to the summit. Some might find the downclimb to the ground the crux of the climb. Downclimb to the east from slightly north of the summit. This is a steep slab with some tricky moves on mossy rock.

    From the ground you can descend south along the base of the east face of Stairway to Heaven back to the base. This involves some 3rd class scrambling.

    See Gerry Roach's classic and out of print "Flatiron Classics" guidebook. Gerry lists this as one of his Top Ten Flatiron routes. Despite its discontinuous nature this climb is on excellent rock with great positions and fun moves. And there is lots of it - this climb is almost a thousand feet long.


    Protection 

    Like many Flatiron scrambles, there will probably be large runouts, but on this route the terrain seems easy most of the way. A typical Flatiron rack is sufficient: light rack of stoppers, and cams through a #2 Camalot.



    Photos of Stairway to Heaven Slideshow Add Photo
    I marked the crux. If you are using a rope and are looking for gear, there isn't much around the dotted red line. Our group came to the consensus that this was the crux of the climb.
    I marked the crux. If you are using a rope and are...
    BETA PHOTO
    Greg on the down climb from Like Heaven.
    Greg on the down climb from Like Heaven.
    Kreighton Bieger, Warren Teissier and George Bell at the notch just north of Like Heaven.
    Kreighton Bieger, Warren Teissier and George Bell ...
    Bill, Warren and Kreighton approaching Heaven.
    Bill, Warren and Kreighton approaching Heaven.
    Heroic picture of Amy near peak.
    Heroic picture of Amy near peak.
    Kreighton, Warren and Bill on the downclimb from Heaven.  You go down the corner behind Bill.
    Kreighton, Warren and Bill on the downclimb from H...
    View up the downclimb.
    BETA PHOTO: View up the downclimb.
    About halfway up Stairway to Heaven, 6/5/02
    About halfway up Stairway to Heaven, 6/5/02
    This photo is on the first pitch and is what I believe is being described as the roof /crux (description below). Unless I was in the wrong area this was not the crux. The entire climb was pretty easy. The last pitch was a little run out, but sill there was adequate holds to get past it. <br /> <br />"Head up Skunk Canyon to the base of this ridge (the second ridge) and start climbing up the bottom of the slab heading toward a big roof. The crux is moving left underneath this roof."
    This photo is on the first pitch and is what I bel...
    A mid-day, mid-week, break from school bus driving.
    A mid-day, mid-week, break from school bus driving...
    This is a shot of the down-climb to the tree with rings and webbing.
    This is a shot of the down-climb to the tree with ...
    Rick climbing up 2nd pinnacle. Rock well-featured here.
    Rick climbing up 2nd pinnacle. Rock well-featured ...
    Greg atop Like Heaven.
    Greg atop Like Heaven.
    Rick on top of 2nd pinnacle of ridge. Shows route to 3rd pinnacle. Like Heaven summit to right of Rick.
    Rick on top of 2nd pinnacle of ridge. Shows route ...
    Looking down at Like Heaven
    Looking down at Like Heaven
    West side of downclimb to rap tree showing good holds & foot ledges.
    West side of downclimb to rap tree showing good ho...
    Toward the downclimb.
    Toward the downclimb.
    Comments on Stairway to Heaven Add Comment
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    Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 1, 2014
    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    May 20, 2002

    This climb was inadvertently left out of Rossiter's new Flatiron guide due to a printing error. It appears in the index and on one topo but there is no description of it.

    You do not have to do the downclimb if you bring a rope, you can do a short rap from a tree.

    By Warren Teissier
    May 21, 2002

    Just to clarify Bill's description: this is indeed the second ridge on your right as you are hiking West up skunk canyon.

    Hillbilly rock being the first ridge. However, Hillbilly rock sits way high North of the canyon and thus does not reach the bottom of it.

    Because of this, the Stairway ridge will be the first one on your right that you will see reaching almost the bottom of the canyon.

    By Kreighton Bieger
    May 21, 2002

    This is a fantastic route! It's like a hidden Flatiron! Of course, as the photos indicate, I could generally only see 100 feet at a time, but it was still a terrific outing.

    I did think the downclimb had some of the hardest moves of the route, so consider that if 5.3-5.4 downclimbing is not your strong suit.

    By Guy H.
    From: Fort Collins CO
    May 21, 2002

    When we did this route about 2-3 years ago, there were 2 very old bolts on the summit of Like Heaven. They seemed solid enough to do a low angle rap back down to the ridge line. So if down climbing is not your thing, don't let that stop you from tagging this exposed summit.

    By Leo Paik
    Administrator
    From: Westminster, Colorado
    Sep 21, 2002

    Couple additions: It's probably 1250+ feet. It gets better as you get higher. There is a fair bit of 3rd-4th class terrain. Like Heaven turns out to be the lower (the one with the groove/chimney that tapers to a #4 or 4.5 camalot sized crack at the base of the downclimb from its top) of 2 intermediate summits. The 2 bolts on top of Like Heaven are button heads with those recalled Leeper hangers. You can walk off the ridge about 1000 feet up before the last little flatironette. The last flatironette is about 240 feet to the top. From the top you can traverse the arete, bear L, and rap about 45 feet to the ground from a tree.

    By Leo Paik
    Administrator
    From: Westminster, Colorado
    Sep 21, 2002

    2 stars perhaps. Pales a bit in comparison to routes like Direct East Face 1st Flatiron, Standard East Face of 3rd Flatiron, Satan's Slab, Swanson's Arete, Icarus. More like East Face Left of Der Zerkle, Beserker of Red Devil, NE ridge of 5th Flatiron, East Face of Flying Flatiron, East Face Right of Seal Rock in quality.

    By Jake Wyatt
    From: Longmont, CO
    Dec 12, 2002

    Was on this route last weekend, and found it very enjoyable. I don't know whether the intended line goes up along the left edge of the last flatironette, but we climbed pretty much straight up the face, and found the rock there to be fun and of high quality.

    By shad O'Neel
    Apr 29, 2003

    what a fun scramble!! Awesome climbing the whole way and it just keeps going and going. Fun to combine with hobo and hillbilly for kicks.

    By Tony B
    From: Around Boulder, CO
    Jun 12, 2003
    rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c

    I'll be frank- it was a bunch of broken scrambling between ledges. It was, in my opinion, "second class" third class scrambling, and I LIKE the flatirons.

    It was, in my opinion, "second class" third class scrambling, and I LIKE the flatirons.

    Uh- comfy in tennis shoes with just a move here or there exceeding 4th class, if any.

    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jun 12, 2003

    Aw c'mon Tony (or Frank, whoever you are). Admit it, the worst part of this climb is hearing that tired Led Zeppelin tune cycle through your brain over and over as you climb it. The intermediate summit "Like Heaven" is very nice and worth the detour.

    By Anonymous Coward
    Jun 12, 2003

    "Like Heaven" is as spectacular a summit as T1 at Eldo.

    By Paul Weiss
    Jun 24, 2003
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    My better half and I really enjoyed this climb. Great views and quality rock. The climbing is not that hard but the climb goes on forever. Add that up and it is good old fashioned fun. If you are just looking to go out for a easy going day this is it. We in fact stopped after the first pitch at a small tree ledged oasis for a picnic. Shaded, quiet, and perfect for a midday nap. Depending on what line you take on first pitch the grade can push 5.4 and whatever you do climb to the summit of Like Heaven.

    By Warren Teissier
    Jun 24, 2003

    I consider this a really fun scramble. Perfect if you like moving fast and un-encumbered on easy rock that just won't end.

    To Tony's point, the scramble is interrupted a bit too often by ledges.

    My all time favorite climb of this genre is Angel's Way (see description). Located a couple more ridges to the West it is as long as Stairway, but does not have the ledge interruptions. In addition, it provides more variety of climbing: Face, crack and even liebacks at a very soloable grade for us mere mortals.

    The downside? it is subject to bird closures...

    So, if you like Stairway, or even if you didn't (Tony), give Angel's Way a shot when the time comes. Oh, and you won't have that annoying song going over and over in your head either...

    Cheers, WT

    By Charles Danforth
    From: L'ville, CO
    Sep 15, 2003

    Climbed most of this one yesterday; up to the final flatiron. It's loooooong and easy. The first pitch issolid 5th class stuff as are two pitches up the Like Heaven pinnacle. Other than that, easy 4th class stuff (though pretty exposed in places). The 5th class stuff is most enjoyable with good gear (for a flatiron) and solid rock. The traversy stuff is annoying, though. It took us long enough, we had to call the climb at the east-side walk-off below the final summit (which looks pretty nifty).

    This may be a classic climb, but the access difficulty makes it hardly worth the effort. The Skunk Canyon trail is a mess and quite a challenge to negotiate in places. Judicious use of a brush sawwould help clear some of the blow-downs. The climb is easy to find and there's a nice walk-off. Butthe scramble down the gully to the east is just horrendous.Probably some harder moves on that than on the climb itself (certainly more dangerous given the loose scree and smooth rock chutes)! Perhaps the west side is a better trail, but yikes! I've also heard it said that you can top out Heaven and scramble north to the Royal Arch trail. Perhaps this is a better option.

    The climb was enjoyable and easy, but, given the traversy nature and the access difficulty, I'm not sure I'd rate it a classic.

    By Joe Keyser
    From: Scottsdale, AZ
    Mar 8, 2004

    Not to disagree with any of the previous comments, but, this scramble is not closed for bird nesting according to the signs in the park. The closure starts at ridge 2 and extends westward through the sacred cliffs, whereas this is on ridge 1 to the east. We saw what looked to be a big golden eagle?, a woodpecker, and a couple other birds, but none of them looked too concerened with our presence. Snow on the approach and walk-off were probably the crux, but the rock was mostly dry (a/o 3/7/04).

    By Brad Schildt
    From: Boulder, CO
    Mar 31, 2004

    A very easy decent route can be found to the east of Hillbilly Rock. From the Stairway to Heaven summit, descend as described above until even with the Like Heaven pinnacle and then cut NE through the notch (which is visible in the beta photo). Then follow the faint trail down to the creek.

    By Dan Mottinger
    Jun 11, 2004

    Not a bad route at all--maybe not quite "top ten" but I'll have to do the other ridges for comparison. Great jugs for much of the route and the climbing can be made to be continuous by sticking to the ridge. If this ridge were on a high peak it would surely be a classic. As of 6-11-04 there are two new bolts on top of "Like Heaven," two beefy ones with ASCA hangars and chains. Looks like you could rap to East or west from these.

    By Tom
    May 15, 2005

    Tim Trout and I (Tom Stocker) climbed Stairway to Heaven on Friday, May 13, 2005. Comments:

    Access: From the first switchback north of Skunk Creek on Mesa Trail, go west, following the stream. Stay near the stream, the trail disappears into brush, but then reappears on talus (from an old mine). At the end of the talus, angle up the slab to a tree and belay from there. The first roof is about 100 feet up.

    Climbing: Easy, but route finding, rope drag, and finding placements for pro are challenges, especially on the lower pitches. We typically had 30 - 50 foot runouts, sometimes more. We stayed to the left, but it might be better to stay to the right. The top flatironette is the best climbing, very much like the 3rd Flatiron, but more exposed and quite narrow for the last 50 feet. A flake part way up can be used for belay, but the rock is friable.

    Including the final traverse and the two class 3 sections of about 200 feet, we had 9 pitches and almost 1,200 feet of climbing.

    Unfortunately, we missed the secondary summit, "Like Heaven," but it does appear to have two bolts and chains on it.

    Descent: Probably best not to downclimb as the description above suggests. Better to traverse an exposed arete for about 60 feet to the north from the summit to a 10 inch diameter tree and rap off the tree. The west (steep) side of the arete has good feet. The tree is solid and was graced with four pieces of webbing on 5/13 and two aluminum rings through on two of the pieces. Two were old, two newer. I added a screw link on all four and we rapped without incident.

    The return to the trail down the east side of the rock is long and tedious with much loose rock, and muddy conditions the day we were there due to recent rainfall.

    Overall, a fun day on an isolated rock.On the summit, we were treated to a beautiful Golden Eagle soaring maybe only 30 feet above us. I agree with Gerry Roach, it is a classic. "Flatiron Classics," Gerry Roach, 1987, p. 186.

    Best regards, Tom Stocker.

    By Kevin Craig
    May 23, 2005
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    Climbed this on May 21, 2005 with Meredith Lazaroff and my wife Diana . The Skunk Canyon trail does indeed suck. Watch out for poison ivy once you get closer to the ridges.

    A bit of a clarification... we were confused by the differing descriptions here (which say to go left around the overhang) and Roach (who says to go around right). The answer is that you go to the right of the HUGE overhang at the very bottom of the ridge and left around the smaller overhang higher up the ridge. Going left around the lower overhang is sheer and, um, overhung - serious hard climbing with minimal/no pro.

    As soon as you reach rock waling up the creek, start scrambling up to the highest ledge you're comfy reaching. A 60m rope took us from there around the upper overhang to some good trees for a belay. We found that this pitch took good pro for a Flatiron (but we had a pretty diverse rack with us).Next pitch is largely 4th class and you can walk to the 1st "notch" from there.

    Rather than go right onto the east face from here, go a bit west (left) to an obvious gully/break in the upper stratum. This is a great and solid 5th class pitch to a good gear belay. Another 1/3 of a pitch or so takes you up to Like Heaven. I wouldn't call the climb from the notch beyond Like Heaven to its summit a "hand traverse" - more like a VERY exposed scramble up an arete (minimal pro).

    The bolts/chains on the Like Heaven summit are new ASCA affairs.180 ft. rappel to the west will take you to the ground from these chains. Great climb!Angels Way is probably a bit better, but also harder to reach (and closed much of the climbing year)

    By Mark Oveson
    From: Louisville, Colorado
    Sep 13, 2005
    rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c

    I climbed this route again this morning (September 13, 2005) with Rick Accomazzo. Kevin is right about the start. There are two overhangs visible from Skunk Canyon. Follow obvious dihedrals up the slabby start out of the canyon heading directly toward the smaller overhang on the right. Traverse left when it is reasonable to do so. The crux move, a single 5.2 step-around, is the only 5th-class climbing on this route, except for the downclimb.

    Certain lines on this ridge seem to devolve into forested ledges that can leave you lost in the woods. Somehow this morning we found a wonderful line that kept us on solid, enjoyable rock for 99% of the route. If you are approaching trees or ledges, a good rule of thumb is to bear right (east) until you find good rock.

    By Mike McMahon
    From: Vernal, Utah
    Jun 17, 2007

    I found the summit of 'Like Heaven' to be pretty airy without a rope! Anyway, off the knife-edge leading to the rap tree, I downclimbed the east face and found it to be a bit sketchy. Given, there was quite a bit of snow, ice, and wet-moss on the face, but nevertheless, watch your step!

    By John M Brooks
    From: Niwot, CO
    Oct 21, 2007
    rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

    We did 8 pitches (4 full-length 60m, and 4 short) including belay to rap tree. Nice climbing for most of the route, with some easy 3-4 class mixed in. Our line definitely included several 5.4 moves. This route felt more difficult than Breezy (5.5) or 5th Flatiron East Face, N. side route 5.4. Last pitch up the face on rt side had long runout.

    By Tom Wilson
    May 1, 2008

    I talked to the OSMP ranger in charge of this area last night to confirm that this route is not subject to seasonal bird closures.

    This climb is on Ridge One. I suspect the confusion is because Ridge One may actually be seen as the second physical ridge, as Warren Teissier describes in his May 21, 2002 post. The next ridge to the west, Ridge Two, is home to Satan's Slab, etc, and is subject to seasonal closures.

    By Rob Nevitt
    From: Louisville, CO
    Nov 24, 2008

    While it is not a trail, the descent west of Ridge 1 is not too bad.

    By mhaupt
    Jun 4, 2010

    Just got down from a nice solo on the Stairway, great route. Make sure you stay on the Mesa Trail until you hit the dilapidated wooden fence, from there, stay near the creek, meandering uphill on a talus slope then back down to the water- it's not far. Stay right of the first roof and then out and around left the next corner/'roof' system (which you are basically in already if you went right around the first roof). This second traverse is probably the psychological crux, with the roof and long sweep to the creek beneath your feet. That section has probably more exposure than the rest of the route, aside from Heaven if you stay as close to the south ridge as possible! Took me about 2 hours at a leisurely pace (great views). With regards to the descent, I down climbed the knifeblade on the west side of the ridge (better feet as stated above), then down the corner on the east face - it's positive and the lichen doesn't become critical till lower down. When I got to the rap tree I decided I wasn't done having fun and continued north down a small fracture then back south and down another fun corner to the ground, totally doable.

    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Sep 12, 2011

    We did a nice variation on our 3rd or 4th pitch. When you are nearing "Like Heaven" up the ramp (which bypasses it on the right), cross a gully to the left and head left onto the main south ridge of "Like Heaven", reaching the summit chains from the south. Then downclimb from the summit and continue as per usual. This way "Like Heaven" is not a side trip "extra credit" summit, you go right over it.

    Heaven was an unpleasant spot yesterday inhabited by clouds of swarming gnats. At least these little flies didn't bite, but they were really annoying.

    By Ryan Watts
    From: Bishop, CA
    Jul 6, 2013
    rating: Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c

    Pretty decent route -- mostly 3rd/4th class with a low 5th class crux moving under the overlap. The downclimb is probably the sketchiest part -- took me a few times up/downclimbing before I finally found a reasonable path down. To the climber's left, there is a somewhat dicey-looking 5th class downclimb on fairly steep terrain. If you traverse right, you can find a gully type thing that you can scramble down. Watch for loose rock if you take this path.

    By Brian C.
    From: Longmont, CO
    Jun 1, 2014
    rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

    Soloed up the downclimb route after the Hobo just to see what it'd be like. Seems like it'd be pretty scary to onsight downclimb.