|Lower East Face
This fun route is amazing from a historical perspective. It was climbed back in the days of primitive climbing equipment by a pair of visionary brothers. Its difficulty was certainly near cutting-edge for the day. Today, it has been reduced to a moderate outing with the advent of modern equipment & technique. Nonetheless, it has become a classic, mountaineering-style climb for RMNP. It can be linked with the Window Route or Kiener's Route for a full day's mountaineering outing, weather permitting. Route finding skills are a requirement, since there are many subtle variations to decipher with plenty of hardware and slings to obfuscate the original line. Any topo for the route would be difficult to follow precisely. S. Kimball's topo (p. 140 of Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park Rock Climbs) may be the most accurate with all the extra squiggles. He noted that the legendary Fritz Wiessner could not find the route when he tried to repeat it. Loose rock is certainly part of the experience for this climb, so those in search of ultra-clean granite should seek other climbs. Also, note much of the line remains in the shadows (facing North), so bring warm clothes (2 layers recommended, hat for the less-insulated). It has been written up in Rock&Ice under classic routes. Perhaps, those who have climbed this route may feel that a different line is the 'original line' than the one described here. Nonetheless, here is one variation that does work. Warning: the following may be soporific.
Find this climb on the left side of the lower East face of Long's Peak about 5 miles in & 3000 feet up (2.5-3 hours for most). Enter RMNP at the trailhead for the Long's Area off CO Hwy 7, just South of Estes Park, North of the Wild Basin entrance. Hike up the trail for Keyhole (standard hiking) approach to the Chasm Lake cutoff, continue past Chasm Lake (skirting the North side), approach the firm snow of Mill's Glacier. Kick steps to the rock. If you get soft snow, have good enough footwear, have crampons, or have an ice axe, you may just continue directly up to the start at the highest tongue of snow right of Lamb's Slide. You can skip the ice axe, crampons, and take the shortest bit of lowest angle snow to the left of the start to the rock, traverse up the moat to as far as you can go in tennies. Then you can add a short 5.7-5.8s mostly traversing pitch up to a red sling & then traverse right. This line of right-facing dihedrals & flakes lies just left of the two dark, wet streaks that drain the Notch Couloir and form the wonderful line, Smear of Fear.
Find a 2 pin belay stance a short distance above the snow.
P1. Head up & gently left, choosing a line among the many cracks/flakes with loose rock in spots. A few scattered pins may help to direct you but beware, they are not always leading you to the promised land. At approximately 60 feet up, there is a large flake to the right with nice footholds to lieback, do not go this way or you will be forced to take a 5.8+ downclimbing traverse left to regain the line. Continue to angle left. ~130-140 feet up you may find an old pin at a ledge to belay. However, there are many options for a belay.
P2. Continue up moderate ground (5.4 or 5.5) with at least 4 pins to reassure you that you are on route. You can belay at a very comfortable ledge about 100 feet up with a right-facing large flake/dihedral (old chopped bolt & hangerless bolt on the left) or you can seek the historic alcove belay up & left with pins on its back wall.
P3. Wander up moderate but loose terrain with a long horizontal crack for pro. Find a series of 4-5 pins that mark the famous 'piton ladder' (sometimes wet) free-climbed by Paul Stettner in 1927. These pins trend slightly left on somewhat-delicate face climbing. Beware of rope drag here. Above the last pin, you can traverse left around an arÍte (harder) or traverse a few feet right to a moderate series of flakes & cracks to the belay ledge on Lunch Ledge. ~150 feet. There is another variation to the right of the 'piton ladder' that looked wetter than the piton ladder.
P4. Move the belay left on Lunch ledge to its far left end where the terrain goes up steeper dihedrals. ~100 feet.
P5. You are about 400 feet from Broadway here. You will be faced with a choice on this pitch to finish as the 'original line' traversed left partway up this pitch to the finish on Alexander's Chimney or to continue Hornsby Direct or variation up to Broadway. Start up a line left of the larger, wet dihedral sporting a couple pins. Well-worn edges suggest you move back right to the larger, wet-in-places, right-facing, dihedral. Alternatively, you can stay a dihedral to the left with somewhat harder entry moves. Continue up. Somewhere here (allegedly the Dog's Ear of Alexander's Chimney) you can traverse left to the Alexander's Chimney's leftward traverse. It is less than obvious. You can continue up a full ~195 feet to a ledge with less than optimal pro (fair #2 Camalot, iffy #3.5 Camalot, looped horn, & itty bitty wire) or find a better belay below.
P6. From here, there seem to be at least 4 dihedrals to choose from. The right most is wet, wider, and less appealing and the apparent original Hornsby Direct finish. The next one L to the route sports some fixed pro & a sling. The next dihedral to the left is small but clean (fun, 5.8). The next one left is harder to see but also sports something fixed in it. From below, it is not obvious which dihedral has the 'many pins' described by various guidebooks. You can move about 60 feet up before you must choose. We chose the small dihedral, two dihedrals left of the large, wet dihedral. It is clean, fun, & dry. From the marginal belay described on P5, it is a full ~195 feet to Broadway. You top out just left of the exposed '5.1' move at Broadway. Nice cracks above a boulder take fingers- to hand-sized pro.
Descent: This can be potentially the crux. 1) you can ascend the Notch Couloir if you lugged up snow/ice gear. 2) You can ascend Kiener's (right on Broadway past the Notch Couloir) to the top of the Diamond, then down climb/scramble the North face of Long's to the Cable Route rappel. 3) You can traverse off left to Lamb's Slide and kick steps, self-arrest, or downclimb if you have the right equipment. 4) You can certainly rappel off the first 3 pitches worth on in situ rap anchors (best to have 2 ropes). For any of the following descents, I recommend staying roped up to access the raps. We did not see obvious established rap stations above P3 via Hornsby Direct. 5) You can rappel off the top of Alexander's Chimney (Direct) approximately 300 feet left of the Hornsby Direct finish at a pile of snow just below Broadway. You start with a pin & nut rap above a boulder. There are many variations to the rappels here. 2x60m ropes are recommended. You can go about 100 feet to a large slung spike backed up with a nut. It starts to get wet here. You can rappel approximately 110 feet to below & right of the chockstone, very wet from here down. You can rap approx 100 feet to another anchor (less recommended) or 190 feet to a double spike slung (back-up-able with a #2 Friend), right of the chimney. You can reach the snow with another 190 feet rappel. There were no other obvious established rap points here & down and the terrain is still steep & definitely loose. You still must descend lower Lamb's Slide from here. 6) you can rap off the original finish on Alexander's Chimney route approximately 60 feet below Broadway & then into Alexander's Chimney (see 5) above). 2x60m ropes are recommended.
3 stars for fun, 2 for rock, 1.5 for abundant loose rock, 3 for history buffs, 2.5 for the setting, 2.4 overall.
Set of wires, 1 set of cams blue Alien to #3.5 Camalot or #4 Friend, a few hexes can be nice, a dozen slings (24 in) with some extra slings. Ice axe optional. Helmet essential. Warm clothes.
It is best to climb this on a weekday. Consider other routes if you are unfortunate enough to be climbing under other parties above on Kiener's or on Broadway above the route!
Had to put the pack down for the crux...Last pitch... Nils Albert on the extra approach pitch, pretty sc... Photo by Nils Albert. LP on var of last pitch of ...
Low on Stettner's Ledges; "Big Bob" lead... BETA PHOTO: Stettner's Ledges (hi res - 900KB) High on Stettner's Ledges.
Another party below ours on Stettner's. Pitch 3, in the crux area. Nils Albert climbing.
Chasm Lake from high on Stettner's ledges, June, 1...
I'm posting up this photo in memory of one of my a...
Traversing Broadway to Alexander's Direct rap. Ni...
Nearing the end of the route on the Hornsby's Dire...
P1, don't go R here. Nils Albert climbing.
Pitch 5, 5.8 variation, nice. Belay is on top of ...
BETA PHOTO: Stettner's, in the shady corners, photo center.
Pitch 4, approaching the mediocre belay. Nils Alb...
Pitch 2, further L than you might guess from below...
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 2, 2004
This was a remarkable achievement in 1927 and worth doing to imagine yourself leading in wool knickers with a few pitons and a hemp rope. A helmet is highly recommended - unfortunately debris, knocked off Broadway by the clumsy Kiener's-bound, seems to get funneled down this route, especially by the diagonal ramp around Lunch ledge.
One trick on the approach is to carry a pair of instep crampons or other similar light weight gadgets. The day we climbed it a number of parties were having epics just trying to get to the rock without ice axes or crampons; I'm sure the difficulty varies from year to year. We had only a single pair of instep crampons, but it was easy to climb up to the rock using these and belay the other guy up.
The location of the crux pitch was not entirely obvious to us as there are a number of pitons around in various cracks. I highly recommend romping on to the summit via upper Kiener's, this is easy and goes quickly, you only need to rope up for 2 more pitches or so.
|By Theo Barker|
From: Loveland, CO
Aug 23, 2004
Attempted this route on the 8/21/04. Got hit by rain, sleet and snow above P5 and had to rap back down the route, leaving slings and biners. The alcove with the 4-piton ladder directly above it is shown in the Gillett "High-Peaks" book and is noted as the crux. It is very sheltered and contains rap slings and rings. The photo that Leo Paik posted as being in the crux area of P3 does not appear to be taken from the alcove. When we climbed, rain and sleet had fallen the two previous days and there were water streaks all over the east face. When we got on the crux it was very slippery. There is considerable lichen and moss. The delicate moves required were very difficult for us due to the lack of friction caused by the wet lichen, probably closer to 5.10+ in the condition it was in. Won't attempt it again unless there are no water streaks going down into it. There quite a few pitons to the left of the RF dihedral above and left of the piton ladder.
|By Craig Blankenship|
Sep 13, 2004
Finally, someone has submitted beta on Stettner's! We climbed Stettner's and finished up with Kiener's in August 2000, but I could not remember all the pitches in detail. Great history and very good mountaineering route. History buffs will enjoy this climb as they visualize what the Stettner boys encountered on the climb. I climbed this route with John Bicknell and Dan Nifond in August 2000. After a few pitches, cold rain and hail nailed us down. After a spirited discussion, we decided to continue and finish the climb. The weather made it tough but it was FUN. In our case, the weather got so bad we got off route on Kiener's, which is hard to do! We climbed in heavy rain into a 5.12 box canyon. At that point, we really knew we were off route so we rapped down and found the correct route and finished up. Combining Stettner's with Kiener's makes for a very enjoyable alpine climb.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Jul 31, 2005
Just did this yesterday, finishing with Kiener's, for a highly enjoyable, long day. The one bad thing was the tremendous amount of rock fall generated by parties doing Kiener's above us.
We started Stettner's at around 6:30 or so, and at that time several groups were in various portions of the Lamb's Slide to do [Kiener's]. As we were climbing the middle pitches those parties were traversing Broadway towards the Notch. The size and amount of rockfall we were exposed to because of them was physically sickening at times. Again, the route and the day were fantastic, but I honestly might not do it again if I saw several groups starting up the Lamb's Slide, especially if some of them looked a little inexperienced. The most difficult thing about upper Kiener's was being constantly aware of where we were stepping and where the rope was dragging (we stayed short-roped traversing across the Notch and the first few hundred feet). I do not believe we knocked anything off, but it took a lot of concentration (and some alpine experience) not to.
So, a word to the wise: the objective dangers of climbing Stettner's are greatly magnified if parties are headed up the Lamb's Slide as you start. ~JGH
Aug 1, 2005
ac (from previous comment): I had the exact same experience re: rockfall from Broadway on Stettner's over 10 years ago. It made the climb very scary, with rocks singing by us the whole way...
|By Jeff Barnow|
From: Boulder Co
Aug 30, 2005
rating: 5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
Climbed it last weekend, and the rock fall was petrifying. The sound of the jerks knocking rocks off of Broadway on [Kiener's] was perhaps the scariest thing I have ever endured. One that was a good foot and a half in diameter nailed the rock two feet from me, luckly we positioned our belays in protected areas, otherwise I think that would have been my last climb.
The book referred the climb as 5.6 mostly with a couple of 5.8 [pitches]. Climbing it in my mountaineering boot I'm sure didn't help but it seemed much harder, perhaps from the fear of the rock fall. Nonetheless, a beautiful setting and good climb.
We used hexes, nuts and cams varying in all sizes. I would highly recommend not doing this climb if people are going up the [couloir]. I do a lot of dangerous things, and I was just about pissing my pants...also we did it in one shot, not recommendable. We left the parking lot at 12:45AM returned at 11:15PM and never stopped for more than 5 minutes, not even having time to eat.
|By Mic Fairchild|
Sep 2, 2008
Hot damn, we (I soloed above a roped team of two) must've gotten lucky in '03. No loose rock, pretty obvious route-finding, and great weather. The first ascent was quite the accomplishment back in the day. My friends and I used descent #9: laborious traverse across Broadway to the base of D1, then rap down 'Crack of Delight' to Mills. This definitely added a bit of alpine adventure to the climb, although not necessarily recommended.
|By Rodger Raubach|
Jul 25, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
This was my very first "Alpine" climb back in 1961. I climbed it with Bob LaGrange and he took a huge 30 foot whipper on the 4th pitch. He weighed 245 pounds and I made the catch with a hip belay. I still recommend this climb, but the single most important gear item is a hard hat. There were very few other climbers on the mountain; melting snow/ice was continualy sending down rock showers. We used only existing fixed pitons and slings around horns. A very primitive ascent! Yeah, we were wearing wool knickers, too!
This is a remarkable climb, but I wouldn't care to ever go back and repeat it. The objective hazards from rockfall are too high considering all the traffic on the mountain now.
Aug 16, 2013
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
The Stettner bros were total bad asses. This route must have been insane in 1927 or whenever they did.
We found this route challenging for the grade. We were bombarded by rockfall for the first 2 pitches. Sounded like gunfire whizzing by my head, which was the scariest experience of my life. The rockfall was all natural, as there was no one above us. The route moves to climber's left, which helped to alleviate the rockfall for the upper 4 pitches.
We encountered lots of wet rock, snowy ledges, icy cracks, verglas on the slabs, and wind chills in the 30s in the middle of August. Despite all of that, it was a cool route in a remarkable setting. Finished up on Kiener's.