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|Winter climbing/hiking/mountaneering requires a permit|
The Armadillo has just about everything you could hope for in an alpine climb: Chimney climbing, face climbing, crack climbing, ridge climbing, big time exposure, solitude on the route mixed with gawking, awed filled hikers at the top.
This route climbs at least 6 pitches of the huge pyramid and ridge in the middle of the south basin to the rim of the mountain, 10 minutes from Baxter Peak. Expect to get an early start and plan for a long day. The rangers will inspect your gear and require you to bring a #4 camelot, or equivalent cam. You will need to fill out an itinerary form and leave the camp by 8 am.
The approach is long, and somewhat sketchy. Rock hop around the right side of Chimney pond until you come to the stream bed on the south side (back.) Follow the stream bed (which will have a lot of water after rain) south to the headwall of the basin, at the waterfall which makes up the start of the Ciley Barber route in winter. Skirt the waterfall on the left (in the trees without a rope or via some easy but technical climbing through the rock band.) Cross the stream at another headwall and follow loose wet slabs and vegitation up and to the right until you can access a narrow vegitated ledge which will lead left to the start of the climb. There is a chock stone blocking convenient access on this ledge, which can easily be passed, however it is very exposed and ropping up before this point is safe and convenient. Build an anchor below and to the right of the small flake with a pin. Plan for at least 2 hours on the approach but it may take you 3.
Pitch 1, the chimney: From the vegitated ledge clip an old pin on your left and boulder up to the next ledge system, move left to the base of the huge detached flake. Stem, jam and wedge you way up the chimney behind the flake to the second comfortable ledge, about 2/3 of the way up the hige flake. (5.5)
Pitch 2, the face: Climb on the fat arete of the flake for about 20 feet (protection can easily be found in the hand crack on the right.) Move left just below an old pin (when you run out of comfortable feet) onto the face of the flake for some very exposed face climbing to the top of the flake. (5.7 PG)
Pitch 3, the bad ass crack: Climb straight up the splitter crack. It starts as big hands and is easily protected with a #3 cam (keep sliding it up with you if you only have one.) Quickly pass a chock stone (red TCU) and climb up to the Bong. Dump the #3 as the crack turns into fist and more and start to protect with a #4 cam (again, slide it up with you if you only have one.) 30 feet or so above the bong the crack widens to 6 inches for a few feet. Soon the climbing eases up and protection can be had with a #9 and #10 nut as well as a #2 cam a little higher. At the top of the crack belay with gear in the 1.5 in range behind a solid flake at a comfortable ledge. Be careful of the loose rock at the top of this pitch. (5.7) WooHoo!
Pitch 4, the corners: From here the quality of climbing changes character. Access a ledge 15 feet above the crack and make progress through a few short diheadrals to the left seperated easy climbing and rest ledges. Belay just beflow the crest of the ridge, or the spine of the Armadillo. Again, be careful of the loose rock(5.5)
Pitches 5 and 6, the ridge: Climb the ridge to the top, which is basically 4th class hiking with a few 5th class moves. Be careful as most of the rocks are pretty loose. Many people simulclimb the last two pitches.
From the junction of the Armadillo with the knife edge trail you can hike to the summit (Baxter Peak) if you go right (northwest) and then down the Cathedral or Saddle trail. The Saddle trail is much nicer to hike down with your rack and rope in your pack. You can also go left and cross the knife edge and Pamola four/Chimney Peak and then down the Dudley trail.
The middle of the south basin, directly south from Chimney pond. The route starts about 2/3 of the way up the wall on a giant flake which leads to a crack and then the ridge up to the rim.
A standard rack, light on the small gear, plus a #4 cam. 1 blue and 1 black tri-cam are very useful.
|By Matt Swartz|
From: Nederland, CO
Apr 21, 2009
An amazing climb. Make sure to take a break on the nice little aerie at the conclusion of the technical climbing and take in the views of cirque. Make sure you get to the ranger station at Chimney Pond no later than 8am or the rangers there will not let you climb.
|By Matt Swartz|
From: Nederland, CO
Sep 21, 2009
From what I remember it's about 300ft of technical climbing followed by something like 400-600ft of 4th class.
From: Keene Valley, NY
Dec 8, 2009
awesome route. left my climbing shoes in the car by accident, lead the first pitch and a half in my sneakers. rangers didnt check our bags for helmets or a four inch piece despite what we were told. that being said, a helmet and a four inch piece are recommended regardless.
|By Anna C.|
Aug 4, 2010
Thanks for the excellent route description, Brian. The rangers at Chimney were very helpful in terms of beta for the approach, which is a true thrash. As for the climb, with a 60m rope it was easy to run pitch 1 and 2 together and belay on top of the Armadillo, and then do pitch 3 and 4 together and belay on top of the dihedral to split the leads nicely for equally matched climbers. Also be sure to imagine doing the entire climb in mountain boots with hemp rope, and should you be leading the crack, having only the bong for pro. Yee-haw!
|By Peter Beal|
From: Boulder Colorado
Aug 4, 2010
This is a great climb. Definitely more alpine than the Whitney-Gilman.
Aug 5, 2010
I have a question about the climb - it says you have to leave the camp by 8am. Does it mean that you need to stay overnight there? Is it not possible to do the climb in a day car to car? Thanks!
|By Anna C.|
Aug 20, 2010
You can do the climb in a day. Leaving from Roaring Brook, the trailhead for Chimney, you add 3.3 miles and 1500 ft up to the approach. If you get an early start, the 8 am cutoff is no problem (and keeps you out of the dark at the end of the day).
|By John Husky|
Aug 5, 2011
Apologies to the sandbaggers out there, but this is harder than 5.7. The offwidth is solid 5.8 and you're a fool to not bring big cams. Or else you climb real hard and have forgotten what being scared is like.
|By Emily Guerin|
From: Paonia, CO
Oct 5, 2011
How late in the season can you do this climb? Is Oct 10 too late?
Oct 28, 2011
What they really MAKE you bring a #4 and helmet? I thought this was 'merica where you are free to do what you want?
From: Westerly, RI
Feb 24, 2013
One of the best route descriptions for the Armadillo I've seen on the internet. Thanks.
|By Avi Katz|
Apr 30, 2013
how would a #5 Tricam work in lieu of a #4 camalot?
|By stephen arsenault|
Aug 30, 2013
We left from the parking lot, and considering the trail conditions,
I thought the approach was the crux of the climb-- I had climbed the Grand Teton a week earlier, car to car, and in many ways, I thought this approach was tougher.
Since the upper hand/fist crack, varies in size, I don't think a #4 cam is needed, but I would take a 3.5. We did all the technical climbing in 2 pitches.
Near the top,we got slammed by a storm, with much lightning and heavy rain, which made the climb more alpine and memorable.
To give some perspective, my partner and I had a combined age of 139, I at 67 and my partner at 72.
Sep 22, 2013
Hey im planning on climbing this on october 12 this year. Will it be very cold this time of year in the south basin? And we are staying at the roaring brook campground the night before the climb because chimney pond is booked solid. Any ideas as to how long the approach will take from roaring brook campground to the base of the route? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Oct 14, 2013
Tried climbing this last weekend and got shutdown by weather. Don't underestimate the seriousness of the hike from roaring brook campground to the climb. The ranger told us you dont need a #4, tricky nut/cam placements can get the job done but a #4 is nice.
|By Ryan Nevius|
From: The Range of Light
Apr 3, 2014
The rangers inspect your gear...what a joke.