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Hessie Chimney

WI4 M5, Trad, Mixed, Ice, 2 pitches, Grade II,  Avg: 3.4 from 33 votes
FA: unknown
Colorado > CO Ice & Mixed > Eldora > Hessie


I've done this route three times and enjoyed it every time.

The first pitch is normally about half rock and half ice, though this year I got exactly two ice sticks on the entire pitch. The first half is well-protected chimney climbing, one foot on rock, one on ice. At a ledge halfway up, step left to place small wire pro as high as you can reach, then step back right to the crux, a reach high to good ice (hopefully), with poor feet. This section has ledge-fall potential if, like this year, the ice is thin or poorly bonded. In good years, you quickly reach solid ice and the wire to the left is sufficient pro. Carry on up more chimney climbing, in thin years like this, or good ice when it's fat. Easier climbing leads to a big tree ledge on the left at about 175 feet, or a stance lower on the right if you have short ropes.

Two options for pitch two; I've only done the left. Move the belay up left to the base of an obvious iced-up corner system. Easier-than-it-looks rock climbing and thin ice to the top. Seemed about the same difficulty as the first pitch. The right-hand variation is steeper, supposedly harder and forms more rarely. In three visits, I've never seen it formed properly. Great climbing -- mostly very well protected, and hard enough to be interesting but easy enough to be accessible to us mortals.

Conditions vary a lot on this one -- I'd say anything from M4 to M5+. Right-hand is supposed to be M6.


Bring a full set of wires, cams from finger to hand size, a small selection of pins, and a few short ice screws. Two ropes for rappels.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Todd moving into the guts of the first pitch.
[Hide Photo] Todd moving into the guts of the first pitch.
Dick Stone. First come, first serve.
[Hide Photo] Dick Stone. First come, first serve.
A shot of the iceless chimney from the road to 4th of July trailhead.
[Hide Photo] A shot of the iceless chimney from the road to 4th of July trailhead.
Looking down the first pitch, March 24th, 2013, not a bit of ice.
[Hide Photo] Looking down the first pitch, March 24th, 2013, not a bit of ice.
Less ice, more filling.
[Hide Photo] Less ice, more filling.
Conditions on 1st pitch as of 1/26/06.  Cold, snowy, windy conditions.
[Hide Photo] Conditions on 1st pitch as of 1/26/06. Cold, snowy, windy conditions.
Edward Corder, JOEY T, workn in to the crux of the first pitch.
[Hide Photo] Edward Corder, JOEY T, workn in to the crux of the first pitch.
Hessie Chimney in lean conditions, 7/21/06.  My friend Chris and I were looking to sharpen our drytooling skills, but we didn't want to scratch up any rock routes, so we climbed this route.  As too be expected, the route was rather loose without the ice, but it still felt about M5ish.
[Hide Photo] Hessie Chimney in lean conditions, 7/21/06. My friend Chris and I were looking to sharpen our drytooling skills, but we didn't want to scratch up any rock routes, so we climbed this route. As too…
Dick Stone. P2, right finish.
[Hide Photo] Dick Stone. P2, right finish.
P2, left finish.
[Hide Photo] P2, left finish.
Paul Crowder rapping off the trees above the first pitch.  Helps put things in perspective.
[Hide Photo] Paul Crowder rapping off the trees above the first pitch. Helps put things in perspective.
Hessie Chimney under moonlight, April 14, 2019. Looked great but was delaminated and gushing water like a faucet.
[Hide Photo] Hessie Chimney under moonlight, April 14, 2019. Looked great but was delaminated and gushing water like a faucet.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Leo Paik
Westminster, Colorado
[Hide Comment] There was a manky old bolt on this first pitch about midheight, right at the crux of the rock climbing version. The wallow approach can be longer than it appears. Addendum: felt easier without ice to me. Nov 16, 2002
[Hide Comment] Early bird gets the worm, on this [moderate] mixed gem. An all star route. Small window for [opportunity]. Formed up only for three weeks in the begining of this winter, and fell apart during the warm spell we had. Edward and I sent this trad mixed climb in the first week of December 2002. Feb 21, 2003
[Hide Comment] We climbed Challenger Glacier the other day, in the Indian Peaks. Conditions were great for this time of year. Neve at the bottom, alpine where it starts to get steep, then bomber *water* ice for the cruxy parts. 6 screws are just enough pro, assuming 2 screws for belays. And 2 shorties for comfort. Up to maybe 60 degrees, not much more than that. Lots of fun to be ice climbing in late summer! We did it in 3 pitches, with the last pitch kind of short (enough to get over the short bulge above the Schrund). Cheers. Sep 15, 2005
[Hide Comment] Does anyone know if this is formed right now, looking to head up on Monday 1/16/6? Thanks Jan 10, 2006
[Hide Comment] I used your comment as an excuse to skin up 4th of July Rd. The chimney has ice but I wouldn't call it fat, it looks discontinuous in a few spots. Probably only need hiking boots for most of the approach, although maybe snow shoes to get to the base. Lots of snow on the ledges. Eager to hear how it was after you climb it. Jan 13, 2006
[Hide Comment] Did route 3 Feb--It was as fat as I've ever seen it! 1st pitch has ice all the way down, relatively fat, with all kinds of new fixed pins. The 2nd pitch (Right side) is mixed, sporty and with protection that is less than assuring in spots. Nonetheless, there is some ice on it, but finesse is paramount to keep it there. At the top, there is a fixed rap anchor on the L, but you may have to dig into the drifted snow to find it. It's 10-12' from the last ice curtain, in the chimney above. STELLAR pitch-- different that Left one- sl longer, perhaps better, although the left side is excellent also. Feb 6, 2006
[Hide Comment] Climbed this on March 11. Lots of rotten and delaminated ice on both pitches and everything was covered with snow. The right variation on P2 is very good and should not be missed. I found it equal or better than P1. The pro is there but you need to look for it, it’s not obvious.

For P2 move the belay up 20’ or so, to a safe spot or be prepared to simul-climb for about 20’. The belayer and leader will be on easy ground for this. About a third of the way up the dihedral, where the pro appears to run out, move 5' to 7’ up and out on the right face and you will find cracks for pro then move back to the left and continue up to more 1/2" to 3/4" cracks on the right face, solid cam. There was a small column of ice in the dihedral and a 10' ice cap above. Surmount this and head up a 50 degree deep and narrow chimney with a couple of short vertical steps, under some large chock stones and pop out at the top, belay here.

The rappel is a tree located between the L and R variations close to the edge, look for slings at chest height. Two 60 m ropes will put you on the middle of the first ledge. The second rappel is a tree like the upper one.

The pro recommendations are right on. Mar 17, 2006
[Hide Comment] I've seen this route many times w/out ice and wondered what it would go at all trad. Any ideas? Oct 18, 2006
Bend, Oregon
[Hide Comment] Anybody know if there is much ice in the chimney this year? Sounds like a fun, close-to-home climb. Thanks, - matt. Mar 15, 2008
Chris Plesko
Westminster, CO
  WI4 M5
[Hide Comment] Awesome route, can't wait to try the right variation on P2. Don't expect cragging style protection, but P1 is pretty safe. The crux of P2 could be called R when the ice is not good enough for screws due to rock quality, even if you're pounding pins (KBs). Best not to fall in that case. P2 is a lot longer than it looks from the snow bench, so don't be fooled.

Oh, and everyone seems to be rapping from a tree on climber's right at the top, but is that thing even alive?? And the slings are nice and high, too. We rapped the bigger tree on the left that's definitely alive and the ropes pulled fine. Climb safe. Mar 6, 2011
Steve Towne
Longmont, CO
[Hide Comment] The rap slings at the top of the 2nd pitch (right variation) were around a dead pine (think catastrophic failure). We removed the bad tat, saved the good, added a little and moved it to the healthy live tree just to the South. There were already a couple dynema slings around the live tree with a couple of rap biners. We beefed this up with the good tat and the original rap station's two rap rings.

Unfortunately we could have used Magnus Magnusson to help us pull the bloody rope! My recommendation would be to move the slings a foot or two higher on the tree to decrease the pull angle over the rock face, da. To do this, you will need to excavate the Dyneema slings from the snice around the back of the tree and scoot the rig over a lower branch, should be pretty simple. Until this is done, you will have tremendous rope drag on your pull using thin ropes. Hindsight is 20/20, should have done it ourselves when we abandoned the dead tree, but we underestimated the drag. Oh well, what a drag. Mar 25, 2011
Christian Mason
Westminster CO
[Hide Comment] Climbed the right hand variant yesterday with Captain America.
There is currently no ice on it, although there were a few frozen moss sticks to be had. Jan 4, 2013
[Hide Comment] No ice on it today. Might suggest waiting for at least a little ice...unless you're a gamblin' man! Feb 24, 2013
Christian Mason
Westminster CO
[Hide Comment] Climbed the left side yesterday. Full winter conditions, with lots of snow wallowing and cleaning off the rock to find tool hooks and gear.
Perhaps 3 sticks on good ice, but the rest of the route was dry, snow covered rock.

I've done both sides now, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on difficulty and gear.

Skinning at a relaxed pace it took us 40 minutes from the car to the turnoff to the climb.

Times from there will vary a LOT depending on snow conditions.
Yesterday we had to skirt unsafe snow slopes on either side of the gully, so it took close to another 45 minutes.

Also be aware that the slope to drop down into the gully is the right angle to slide, there was deep unconsolidated snow on it yesterday. While it's a small slope, there is a terrain trap at the base.

Pitch one:
M5 (when dry).

Reasonably good rock, but there is a big death block on the left side about 1/2-2/3 of the way up. It will hold when used as a foot. It WOULD go if you pulled out on it though, so be sure not to hook the thing, and not to place gear behind it.

Protects fairly well (I'd say PG).
1 full set of wires
0.2-3" cams. (A #3 BD protects the last overlap well.)
There are also 3-4 fixed pins, and a large slung block on this pitch.

Pitch two, right side:
M6 when dry.
Fairly good rock, but the crux move is moving off of a big, left-facing flake. This thing flexes when you pull on it, so it could easily pull. This section is a little difficult to protect. A small wire placed high works. You can also get an "OK" small cam underneath a different, downward-facing flake. The same rack as for p1 works well here, with the possible addition of a lost arrow piton, for the same flake as the cam mentioned above.

Pitch two, left side:
M5+ when fully dry.
Crap rock. Lots of loose holds. The gear would be good if the rock wasn't bad.

There is supposed to be a fixed red sling on the right side of the chimney, but I didn't see it yesterday (probably just snow covered)
The same rack as for P1 works well here, with the addition of a 4" cam.

I'd like to go back and do this when it has ice on it. Mar 5, 2013
[Hide Comment] On March 10, 2013, I was leading P2 of Hessie's Chimmney (left side)---a bad idea as it is M5+ or M6 without ice. The rock, if you want to call it that, is looose and friable rock and offers little to no protection, especially at the crux. When I pulled over the roof-crux section, one of my Fusion tools popped from a 3" patch of frozen moss and I was flying. After 40', I stopped having hit nothing and walked away with nary a scratch. My guardian angel was with me and after that excting flight without a wingsuit, I bailed leaving a #4 BD Camalot and a nut to rap off. I recovered one of my Fusions in the snow below the pitch, and I believe the other is on the route, above the crux overhang.

If anyone climbs it, I'd like my Fusion back and you can keep the #4.

By the way, there is NO ICE, and the route is more difficult both P1 and P2.

Thanks, JP
John Parsons
720-254-6165 Mar 11, 2013
Dougald MacDonald
  WI4 M5
[Hide Comment] Erik Rieger and I removed the death block (a long pointed club of stone) on the left wall of the chimney just below the midway stance/ledge on the first pitch. Probably 70 or 80 pounds. Very scary. Nov 23, 2013
erik rieger
Sheridan, WY
[Hide Comment] This route is still good when dry. I'm sure it's instantly more classic with more ice. Hopefully no more death blocks. Dec 3, 2013
Nick Fatseas
Denver, CO
  WI5 M5
[Hide Comment] Climbed P1 and P2 (left) with big bro (John) today.

If the creek is frozen, approaching from ~0.5 miles up on 4th of July Road, bushwhacking through the trees would be quickest.
If creek is not frozen, approach from the Hessie trailhead (south of Hessie where 4th of July Road splits off right from Hessie Rd), then go off-trail after ~1.0 mile to skirt east/NE around the base of Hessie.

Ice was sparse on both P1 and the left P2, and when there was ice, it was quite thin.

P1 protected well and included some nice rest spots. Stemming and chimney climbing technique. Crack along left side of chimney provides good dry pick placements. Sustained M5 work and very enjoyable climbing. (John Fatseas lead)

P2 climbing was on par with P1 in general. However, like others have stated, protection through the super-thin-ice crux (~30 feet up) was very limited. Possible that a stronger climber than myself (first true >M4 trad lead) may have been able to spot a place for some rock pro through the crux, but I would "R" rate protection for this pitch for the crux with thin ice. With fatter ice, a screw would protect. Tempting to call it M5+... (my lead).

Backed up the rap cording above P2 with some new cord.

All in all...this climb is a rare Front Range classic in my opinion. Relatively mellow approach, enjoyable, sustained mixed climbing around M5. Jan 3, 2016
Jack Barker
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] The approach trail using snowshoe trail from Hessie trailhead is to the immediate right past the wooden bridge. It will follow the creek, and eventually you'll see the buttress on your left. Expect a 20-30 minute easy approach. Oct 30, 2019
Taylor "TBro" Brown
Dumont, CO
[Hide Comment] Climbed 1/30/20. Ice is in decently on P1, but above the "crux ledge" couldn't reach a good stick from the ledge, you have to make a move or two before you can get a good purchase. Did right variation of P2 ice blob in above crux bulge, short but sweet. Also thought that P2 was harder than P1. Feb 2, 2020