Type: Trad, TR, 60 ft
FA: First Lead: Jim Erickson
Page Views: 4,135 total · 20/month
Shared By: chris tregge on Dec 31, 2001 with updates from Zach Ciaglia
Admins: Burton Lindquist, Doug Hemken, James Schroeder, chris tregge

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Chicago is an old school bold lead that has been tamed significantly by the advent of spring loaded cams and better small gear. Start up the crack system with good gear options on the beautiful vertical face. Essentially the same start as Berkely, although perhaps a touch left. At around 20 feet you come to a perfect triangular niche. The crux of the climb is exiting this niche. Once you commit to the moves to take you above the niche, a few more insecure moves deposit you high up on the wall where you can breathe a sigh of relief and take in the scenery.


The Book calls this route a "Hero Climb", and you know I do belive they are right. The Pro on this route is bad.

A #1 tri Cam fits up in the triangular nitch, which protects the harder section at the top

I left this section untouched from the original contributor, as I thought it was kind of funny. That, and there is a lot of gear beta found below in the comments. I also left the safety rating as "R" as originally submitted but I feel that PG-13 would be more appropriate. Leader beware.


This is a great climb. It's rated F9 in the old book, 5.8 in the newer older guidebook and 5.8+ in the Falcon guide. At 5.8 it's probably a sandbag.

The crux for me was getting to a rest with your feet just above the triagle alcove 30ft up.

Near the top there is a roof thing that provides awesome jams and great position.

All in all, a great climb. Aug 31, 2004
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
  5.9 PG13
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
  5.9 PG13
HB offsets work very well, and may take some of the sting out of the climb. I got an average-looking #1 Camalot in the niche. It may have held a fall, though I was fortunate enough not to test it. Jun 14, 2006
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
Small cams help a lot - aliens or tcus. Jul 3, 2006
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
  5.9 PG13
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
  5.9 PG13
From "The Climbers and Hikers Guide to Devils Lake" (1970): "If you see a leader on this route, he will not fall, that is, he must not fall. The quality of the protection is unspeakably poor." Oct 12, 2006
Paul Huebner
Portage, WI
  5.9 R
Paul Huebner   Portage, WI
  5.9 R
I've only climbed Chicago once and on TR, but I watched a 57-year old Professor from UW-Madison lead it back in about 1988, while his student/girl friend looked on with me at the base in awe. It was kind of like when I watched Pete Cleveland in 97 or 98 go up the End (5.10?) barefoot with amazing grace and wearing a swami-belt for a harness. Aug 18, 2007
Boulder, CO
EricB   Boulder, CO
I'm glad you guys are rating this 5.9 because it was kicking my ass! Oct 22, 2007
Isaac Therneau
Rochester, MN
Isaac Therneau   Rochester, MN
With offset aliens you can sew this route up very well. Great movement, and an enjoyable lead with modern gear. Oct 30, 2008
Just thinking back, but in '69 as we were rappelling down this route we passed a very old man with no rope, climbing up beside us. He told me "Why don't you try climbing up instead of rapping down" and out of this, resulted my lifelong passion. The old man was Dave Slinger, my "mentor" and probably one of the greatest climbers of the "Golden Age". He kind of adopted us as his grand kids and took us around showing his favorites and in the process teaching me how to climb. I can still remember how proud he was to send "Thoroughfare" on his 70'th birthday ! I really think this humble, unassuming man was probably when of the greatest climbers of the time; if not in all time considering his age.

This is all in relation to a chance encounter with a young kid at my local gym here in CO a few years ago. The owner had told him that I used to climb at "The Lake" and he asked me "How long ago" and I told him. He asked me "Did you ever know of a man named Dave Slinger". I said yes, and how he taught me to climb; and that's when he told me that Dave was his grandfather and he'd heard stories about him that his father had told him but never actually had any memories of him ! I was very proud to tell him how great his grandfather really was. (Tears in my eyes) ! Nov 30, 2008
I vaguely remember a nice #5 Metolius Cam (The black one) in a small niche right before the triangle alcove that keep this safe. It was a "Power Cam" then but the new, more flexible, "Master Cam" would make it even better.
Classic DL. Aug 29, 2009
Andy Hansen
Longmont, CO
  5.9 PG13
Andy Hansen   Longmont, CO
  5.9 PG13
Oh, how I wished I had my brass offsets! That would have made this not such a heady lead for sure... But nonetheless this is an awesome route that protects decently well. The moves are pretty damn good. Didn't feel as hard as Upper D but still... 5.9 is right on. May 3, 2011
I over-heard a story about this today from some nearby climbers. They said they were up here last fall and there was a couple of guys wearing suits that were hiking along the base and one asked if he could try Chicago, then proceed to tie a swami and cruise it barefoot. I thought, I bet it was Steve at Rich's memorial, true? May 6, 2011
Steve Sangdahl
eldo sprngs,co
Steve Sangdahl   eldo sprngs,co
Nick,I wish the weather had been nice enough to climb bare foot.It was 25 degrees the first day and we did manage to tr easy stuff on Leaning tower. It snowed 5 inches that nite!
It would be cool to know who those guys were climbing it in swamis and barefoot. In suits????.Chicago is a great route and I seem to remember leading it once barefoot. May 10, 2011
Ryan Strong
Golden, CO
  5.9 R
Ryan Strong   Golden, CO
  5.9 R
I was able to fish a #3 bd nut in below the crux which was super good. After pulling the crux the next piece was marginal.(.3 camalot) It def would have held body weight, but I wouldnt want to fall on such a shallow cam placement that is not in the correct direction. Jun 18, 2011
Josh Knapp
East Troy, Wisconsin
  5.9 PG13
Josh Knapp   East Troy, Wisconsin
  5.9 PG13
I'd hesitate to give it a R rating. With a few small cams this thing sews up pretty well. Its R rating is a historic rating before the advent of microcams. PG 13 with microcams. Really good route! True Classic! Jun 19, 2011
Ted Bjorklund
  5.9 PG13
Ted Bjorklund  
  5.9 PG13
I'd have to agree with Josh; without micro cams this would be much scarier. I used both the purple and green C3 in a couple critical spots and it really reduced the sketch factor! The unlikely black master cam / red C4 around the crux also helped, although I didn't want to test it :) Apr 30, 2012
Chicago, IL
  5.8+ R
CCas   Chicago, IL
  5.8+ R
I climbed this yesterday 8/23/14. There is a wasps nest right above the large vertical crack near the top where u can sink a bomber hand jam (about 80% of the way up). It is directly in the line of the climb and they were quick to let me know to retreat. Just FYI to anyone else who wants to get on the line... Aug 24, 2014
Mike Robinson
Boulder, CO
  5.9 PG13
Mike Robinson   Boulder, CO
  5.9 PG13
Plenty of gear beta on here on already but I'll add my 2 cents.

I was not able to find a placement I liked in the niche, so I relied on a bomber green alien a body length below the niche and a pink tricam just above. Would've been a ride if a blew the moves exiting the niche but likely not a ground fall... Nov 16, 2015