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Areas in Chaos Canyon Bouldering

Lower Chaos Canyon 0 / 0 / 0 / 50 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 50 / 50
Upper Chaos Canyon 1 / 0 / 0 / 31 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 32 / 32
Elevation: 10,265 ft
GPS: 40.305, -105.665 Google Map · Climbing Map
Page Views: 81,552 total, 735/month
Shared By: Peter Beal on Oct 25, 2008
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac


Chaos Canyon, situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, has gained international status and become a household name in the world bouldering scene. Located at 10,000 feet, in a spectacular alpine setting, "Chaos" as it is typically known, has something to offer every kind of boulderer. With an abundance of highly featured, steep walls and overhangs, the boulders of both Upper and Lower Chaos have produced quality problems from V0 to V15. Little wonder that boulderers willingly brave the 45 minute hike to Lake Haiyaha or the hour plus to Upper Chaos Canyon.

However this bouldering paradise has not been without problems. This is a fragile area, where plant and animal life struggles to maintain a toehold in a severe and barren environment. User impact has been hard to avoid noticing over the past six or seven years. Some climbers have been too ready to disregard the wilderness ethic in favor of a group mentality that emphasizes doing the problem at any price. Offenses include stashing pads overnight, landscaping landings, destruction of vegetation, and so on. The rangers at RMNP are watching the situation and it is up to every single visitor, regardless of climbing ability, to act as a good steward of a vital living natural resource. Otherwise painful and restrictive regulations could change forever the freedom that many have taken for granted in the mountains.

If you want to add any problems in RMNP check to make sure there is not an area or boulder already set up that it can be added to. Do not add individual problems to this site unless there is an area and boulder description in place. If there aren't any, feel free to add them but make sure the descriptions are detailed and accurate for all three, area, boulder, and problem.
Fragile Alpine Area Details
Seasonal Closures Details

Getting There

To get to Chaos Canyon, you must enter Rocky Mountain National Park, just west of Estes Park on US 36. This requires buying a $20 week pass or $40 yearly pass. Nation-wide National Parks passes work here as well. Shortly after leaving the park entrance, you must turn left on Bear Lake Road to get to Bear Lake, following this road for approximately 10 miles to Bear Lake. Be advised that the Bear Lake parking lot is very full on summer weekends and you may have to turn around, park at the shuttle parking (prominently signed) and catch the free shuttle that runs along the upper Bear Lake Road. You can even catch a shuttle from Estes Park itself. Carpooling is highly recommended. Watch your speed. Rangers will ticket you.

From the parking lot, you can head up the trail for Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. However, since you will likely be carrying a pad or two, sharing the trail with other hikers can be difficult. The trail is narrow and often filled with families and other groups. Please remember to be courteous and friendly to other hikers. If they ask what you are carrying, explain clearly and nicely and move on.

At Nymph Lake, head up another steep section for another 10-15 minutes to the junction for Dream and Emerald Lakes. For problems such as the Kine Traverse, head right to Emerald Lake. This is also the approach for Hallett Peak. For Chaos Canyon, head left and tackle a steep pair of switchbacks that lead up to beautiful views of Long's Peak before a short dip and the stream that leads to Lake Haiyaha. From the parking lot, you can expect to take between 30 and 40 minutes to get here, depending on fitness.

To access Lower Chaos Canyon, look on the right, from where the short descent ends, for an obvious trail heading right into the trees. Look under the section for Lower Chaos Canyon for specific directions from here. For Upper Chaos Canyon continue around the lake to a forested area where the trail ends. Continue heading uphill and west. Specific directions are found in the Upper Chaos Canyon section. Plan on at least an hour for the approach to Upper Chaos Canyon.

It is worth remembering that finding specific boulders in Chaos Canyon can be difficult (It is named Chaos for a reason!). The general drift of the canyon is east-west so as you look up the canyon you are looking west. To your right is north and left is south. This will be helpful on a number of descriptions.

A final point has to do with conditions. The season for Chaos Canyon runs from approximately June to October, depending on snow. Visitors to RMNP should be prepared for any kind of weather. This includes baking sun, cold drenching downpours, hail, and potentially lethal lightning strikes. The hike back down can be complicated by maneuvering across slippery talus which can lead to a twisted or broken ankle or worse. Make sure you have brought a warm waterproof jacket and plenty to eat and drink. Watch out for altitude sickness if you are coming from lower elevations.

Remember that the landings for 95% of the boulders is jagged talus, making a crashpad, preferably several, virtually mandatory. If you seriously injure yourself, you are 2.2 miles and 800' elevation from assistance. Bouldering alone here therefore can be a serious matter. Be very careful. It is worth noting that cellphone reception is generally good in Upper Chaos Canyon and spotty in Lower Chaos Canyon.

82 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Chaos Canyon Bouldering

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V1 5
Middle Warm up
Boulder, Alpine
V3 6A
Potato Chip Layback
Boulder, Alpine
V4 6B
Potato Chip Pinch
Boulder, Alpine
V5- 6C
Boulder, Alpine
V5 6C X
Boulder, Alpine
V5 6C
Deep Puddle Arete
Boulder, Alpine
V6 7A
Boulder, Alpine
V6+ 7A
Interference aka Geeks of the Industry
Boulder, Alpine
V6-7 7A+
Boulder, Alpine
V7- 7A+
Potato Chip
Boulder, Alpine
V7 7A+
Tommy's Arete
Boulder, Alpine
V8 7B
Gang Bang
Boulder, Alpine
V8 7B
Right El Jorge
Boulder, Alpine
V8 7B
Skipper D
Boulder, Alpine
V9+ 7C
Deep Puddle Dynamics
Boulder, Alpine
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Middle Warm up Lower Chaos Canyon > Potato Chip Boulder V1 5 Boulder, Alpine
Potato Chip Layback Lower Chaos Canyon > Potato Chip Boulder V3 6A Boulder, Alpine
Potato Chip Pinch Lower Chaos Canyon > Potato Chip Boulder V4 6B Boulder, Alpine
Autobot Lower Chaos Canyon > Gobot Boulder V5- 6C Boulder, Alpine
Skyscraper Lower Chaos Canyon > Skyscraper Boulder V5 6C X Boulder, Alpine
Deep Puddle Arete Lower Chaos Canyon > Deep Puddle Dynamics V5 6C Boulder, Alpine
Revenge Lower Chaos Canyon > Revenge Area V6 7A Boulder, Alpine
Interference aka Geeks of t… Lower Chaos Canyon > Geeks of the Industry Boulder V6+ 7A Boulder, Alpine
Mikala Lower Chaos Canyon > Revenge Area V6-7 7A+ Boulder, Alpine
Potato Chip Lower Chaos Canyon > Potato Chip Boulder V7- 7A+ Boulder, Alpine
Tommy's Arete Lower Chaos Canyon > Automator Boulder V7 7A+ Boulder, Alpine
Gang Bang Lower Chaos Canyon > Centaur Boulder V8 7B Boulder, Alpine
Right El Jorge Upper Chaos Canyon > El Jorge Boulder V8 7B Boulder, Alpine
Skipper D Upper Chaos Canyon > Skipper Roof V8 7B Boulder, Alpine
Deep Puddle Dynamics Lower Chaos Canyon > Deep Puddle Dynamics V9+ 7C Boulder, Alpine
More Classic Climbs in Chaos Canyon Bouldering »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season
Me and some friends found a 5.10 Dragon heading up to upper yesterday. Message me if it's yours. Sep 30, 2010
Hoez   Uganda
There are always the disrespectfuls out there - nothing we can do about it. The area is bound to get a little tore up, but I think it's cool that you guys are making an effort to bring about some kind of an awareness about the delicate environment. Cheers!

I was up in Chaos about a month ago, and one thing that I noticed is that people are using the climber trails way to much. I know the hike is long and that last uphill stretch, with gear and a crashpad, will wear your arse out, but we need to not be lazy and take that extra 5-10 minutes and just stay on the trail. I would think that when the Rangers go up there, the climber trails and how trampled they are, would be one of the first things that they notice.

Maybe a solution would be to establish those climber trails a little better. People are gonna use them regardless of access issues, so it might be a good idea to just work with it. I think it would be better to define another trail than have people dodging and weaving there way to the main areas - I would also think that the BLM or whatever would realize that as well. When your a newcomer to the area you tend to run around like a madman from boulder to boulder and when your caught up in the hype of the area and there aren't very good trail systems, it becomes very easy to forget about the delicate ecosystem that your in

I think we need to start coming up with a solution to the problem now before it's too late and we have another Hueco on our hands.

Just some thoughts, maybe I'm wrong. Oct 12, 2009
Peter Beal
Boulder Colorado
Peter Beal   Boulder Colorado
I'm not sure what that comment's about. Can you explain it? Jun 16, 2009
National Parks are here for everyone to use, not just the elite. Read the Constitution Mr. Beal. Jun 16, 2009
Peter Beal
Boulder Colorado
Peter Beal   Boulder Colorado
Good suggestions! I have taken care of it. Oct 23, 2008
Nice job Peter, I think the intro is well done. I would take out the mention of the "short cut" social trail as that is not approved by RMNP. Perhaps also you may want to bold the ethics section. Oct 23, 2008
Peter Beal
Boulder Colorado
Peter Beal   Boulder Colorado
Joshua, I think your postings are good. However Chaos is not a typical climbing area and a number of controversies have arisen from visitors' overuse and neglect. I think MP needs to recognize that and revise the descriptions, etc. accordingly. Sep 22, 2008
Joshua Merriam
Boulder, CO
Joshua Merriam   Boulder, CO
MP is a resource for its users to share info on climbing areas. I added several problems once I saw the area posted. I've recently started bouldering up in Chaos when I get the chance, and swapping beta, names, pictures, etc. Adds to my enjoyment. And I'd like to help others find and enjoy said problems.
(edit: Chaos is a sensitive environment and boulderers must tread lightly and be good stewards whilst in the park) Sep 22, 2008
Peter Beal
Boulder Colorado
Peter Beal   Boulder Colorado
I seem to remember that this site wasn't going to post Chaos. What changed? If these areas and problems are going to be publicized, the least that can be done is adding definite trail description and problem locations. Sep 20, 2008

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