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The Armadillo 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Herbert Towle, 1935
Page Views: 24,896
Submitted By: BrianWinslow on Sep 4, 2007

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BETA PHOTO: The technical portion of the Armadillo (5.7) Trav...

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.

Photos of The Armadillo Slideshow Add Photo
Climber on Hand crack above flake. Belayer on gras...
Climber on Hand crack above flake. Belayer on gras...
Me just about topping out on the Armadillo.  Photo...
Me just about topping out on the Armadillo. Photo...
The LONG approach to the Armadillo. This photo is ...
The LONG approach to the Armadillo. This photo is ...
A close up of the Armadillo, start on the grassy l...
A close up of the Armadillo, start on the grassy l...
The Armadillo
BETA PHOTO: The Armadillo
From just under Le Armadillo
From just under Le Armadillo
From the approach
From the approach
the first pitch of the Armadillo.
the first pitch of the Armadillo.
First pitch
BETA PHOTO: First pitch
Mike Garrity on the approach to the Armadillo.
Mike Garrity on the approach to the Armadillo.
Geoff Wilson on the the left hand variation, Wind ...
Geoff Wilson on the the left hand variation, Wind ...
Chimney Pond ranger station approach beta
BETA PHOTO: Chimney Pond ranger station approach beta
Looking back down the stellar Hand Crack pitch at ...
Looking back down the stellar Hand Crack pitch at ...

Comments on The Armadillo Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 8, 2015
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 Mike Thompson
From: Manchester NH
Aug 16, 2009

how tall is it?
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.
By afh
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.
From: VT
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.
By doligo
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.
From: VT
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?
By dorseyec
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?
By RhodeIslandJeff
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.
By will jones
From: N.B.
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
By climber57
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.
By Avi Katz
Sep 9, 2014

Climbed this yesterday, car to car from Roaring Brook. Placed Camalots #4-.4, tricams, a few nuts. Used a 60m and did this in 3 pitches up the Armadillo and 2 long pitches up the ridgeline through scarily loose rock.

Roaring Brook-Chimney Pond took us 1.5 hrs, Approach took us 2 hrs. Descended via Saddle Trail

The forecast was 60s and sunny. It was 36 degrees at the base, 65 at the top.

No gear inspection
By Auto-X Fil
From: NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Sep 14, 2014

Since my lead limit is about 5.8 at the crag, I figured 5.7 would test my limits on a wall like this, and I was right. It's quite serious, but being a solid 5.9/5.10 climber would make it much more of a romp than an adventure. If you are a stout climber and want to cast off into the unknown, stop reading now - detailed beta follows.

We banged out the approach to Chimney pond in a brisk 1:15, and stopped in to see the ranger. You could easily slip by if you wanted, but stopping in was no trouble. There's no longer an 8am cutoff, at least not with the rangers we found. I would not want to start any later, though! We got some great beta on the approach, filled out a checklist ourselves (no inspection) and then headed up. Recent rain made sections of the approach tricky, but if you're ok with typical steep Eastern bushwhacks, you'll make it. The ranger said most parties don't find the route, and turn back... I could see that, if the potential suitors are expecting an alpine cragging experience, and not a mountain route that demands some attention to routefinding. Reversing that approach would have been really miserable.

If the grass was dry, ledge-walking to the flake would be trivial, if very exposed. As it was wet, roping up was extremely prudent for the walk to the base of the route from the high point of the approach drainage.

The flake is much less awkward if you're pack-free and used to throwing in a mix of jams, stems, and laybacks. For a brute-force second wearing a pack (like my partner), it's a grunt. The second pitch face has good pro, and the moves are certainly no harder than 5.7, but there's a ton of air under your feet. Hard alpine climbers will cast off and march up slopers and small flakes; punters like me, used to 4th class ridges, will quake and slot every wire on their rack as they inch up to the top of the flake.

I love big cracks, so the wide was awesome. A 3 and 4 let you climb most of it on top-rope, while leaving behind nuts and small cams in various features. I was as happy with that pitch as I was terrified of the face below, but I freaking hate face climbing. And I A0'd it, with my foot on the bong for a nice rest and photo-op. I'd say it's a 5.7 Daks crack, or 5.10 at Squamish. 5.8 seems about right on average. I don't have huge hands, and found nice fists and smaller jams all the way up. Chicks might need a little off-width technique.

From there, it was easy climbing to the top, with rock getting looser as the climbing got easier. I wouldn't call it exceptionally loose for an alpine route, as normal hold-testing caution prevented us from pulling a single rock free. I'd grade the dihedrals and widely-spaced moves on the ridge as modern 5.5, old-school East Coast 5.4, or Cascades Fred Beckey 4th class. In many places you get to choose between easy, exposed moves, or harder moves with limited exposure. I suspect most parties that aren't shaken after the crux pitches will be very happy to shorten the rope and carefully simul to the top, or even drop the rope, slip on approach shoes, and just solo up. Loose rock and slippery grass spots are the hazards here, not the moves.

I sewed this whole climb up very tight, and felt that 10 nuts, 4 tricams, and a single set of cams (TCU 1-4, Camalots 0.75-4) was plenty. In general, the rock on this route is the sort where you could toss a handful of nuts at it, and half would stick. For the BA climber going light, I'd bring Camalots 0.75, 1, and 2, plus a set of nuts (skip the small ones) and a set of offset nuts. And a bunch of slings; singles and doubles. You can sling all sorts of stuff up there.
By M Bageant
From: Cambridge, MA
Oct 1, 2014

My party bailed on this route on 9/21 due to rain and mist moving in from over the ridge. Unable to get a camping pass, we were waiting outside the gate at 6am and made the Chimney Pond ranger station by 8:30am. The ranger on duty was totally awesome and helpful.

We were climbing the ~5.5 headwall section (just before accessing the long 4th class ramp up to the grassy ledge) when the weather turned foul, and we bailed off a tiny fixed nut there.

We also had to leave a nut (with quick link attached to it) further down---if you choose to climb this particular start, the nut is off to the right in harder territory (which had water running down it when we bailed), so don't be led astray.

Another observation: the roughly two pitches were climbed were just COVERED with huge loose blocks---definitely death blocks. And we could hear invisible rockfall toppling down the face in the mist. Climb VERY carefully here!

Cool route with an awesome feeling of alpine adventure, I'd love to finish it one day.
By M Bageant
From: Cambridge, MA
Jul 8, 2015

And now I'm back to say I've finished the route. It was quite an excellent alpine adventure, and if you would like to keep it that way for yourself, feel free to not read the beta below!

---Beta spoilers below---

We were strong climbers and above-average hikers, and though I knew the approach path, I had not done most of it before. Here is how long each stage took us:

Roaring Brook parking to Chimney Pond ranger station: ~1.5 hours
Chimney Pond ranger station to base of the Ciley Barber waterfall: ~1.5 hours
4th class approach ramps to the base of the technical climbing: ~2.5 hours
300 feet of pitched out climbing plus ~700 feet of simulclimbing: ~3.5 hours
Descent to Roaring Brook via the Knife's Edge and Helon Taylor: ~3 hours

It took us ~9 hours from Chimney Pond to the top of the route. Add in a lunch break, the Chimney Pond check in, etc. and it was 13 hours car to car.

More details on the approach:
From Chimney Pond, we plunged straight up the wet stream created by the Ciley Barber waterfall until a dry one branched off to the right slightly; mainly just keep walking up toward the Ciley Barber waterfall. At the waterfall we went right up the vegetated slabs and roped up for about 15 feet of technical climbing to break through the first rock band; there were a few promising weaknesses, we chose the left one. From there we unroped and traversed back left along the first horizontal ledge to beside the waterfall, and then angled up and right following the apparent ramp beside the stream. Until about 500 feet below the flake it was possible to refill water from the waterfall (we carried 4L capacity and a purifier). Eventually we moved right away from the stream below a band of wet slabs and picked up an obvious climber's trail, where steps had been cut into the dirt, which led us very easily to the base of the technical climbing. This part was solidly 4th class and in places pretty exposed.

The technical climbing was actually quite good; we did it in 2 pitches: one to the top of the flake (a bit less than 200 feet), and the second to the top of the hand crack and then up and left to a spacious belay ledge (about 100 feet). From the ledge, we simul'ed up the technical corner (25 feet of ~5.7 or so) and then broke left, following the path of least resistance up the left side of the ridge, and then up and right and onto the spine of the ridge (SUPER cool and exposed!), and then finally straight up to intersect with the Knife's Edge. This was at least 600 feet and probably more like 700.

My fists are roughly a #3 and the crack was perfect fists for me. There were also plenty of (fragile) face holds, and the "offwidth" section had tons of holds inside and around it...I felt that it was reasonable at 5.7.

Once we got up high in the basin we could see folks up on the Knife's Edge looking out at us. Our friends did say they were able to spot us (I was wearing bright colors) but that we were TINY!

All in all it felt good to tick this objective and get my fill of alpine climbing for the year... :)
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