Type: Trad, 3 pitches
FA: unknown
Page Views: 5,324 total · 25/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Aug 26, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

38 Opinions

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Access Issue: Temporary Trail and Raptor Closures Details
Access Issue: Some crags in this area are closed 1 February to 31 July: Details


The Southwest Chimney is probably the best way off of the Third Flatiron that doesn't involve a rappel. It is NOT a walk-off, nor is it for the faint-of-heart, but if you are experienced and like to solo up Flatirons with just your rock shoes and sunglasses, this is a pretty good way to escape from the summit.

From the top of the Third, downclimb about 50 feet on the east face (the last 50 feet of the standard route) to the giant chockstone that allows easy passage between the Third Flatiron's false summit and actual summit. Traverse onto this chockstone and climb west into the alcove it creates. This leads to the ledge where the second rappel is usually made when rapping off the summit. As you're climbing through this alcove you'll notice an archway of rock to your left. Head through this arch and out to the other side. This will put you on a 10 foot wide ramp on the South side of the of the Third Flatiron that heads steeply downward and towards the East. At the bottom of this ramp, about 100 feet away, is a very large pine tree which is constantly visible. This is your goal. The ramp itself is probably 4th class scrambling. Once at the pine tree you'll see an eye bolt which marks the SW Chimney route and indicates that there is 148' of downclimbing to the ground. Head down and SW into the obvious start of the chimney. This will take you all the way to the ground.

A point of note - the climbing down the chimney is very easy, but it is VERY exposed. A fall would be very, very bad, but the holds are huge and everywhere. Unlike soloing up a Flatiron, you are doing vertical climbing here - but the climbing is indeed very easy (never exceeding 5.4) - it's just a much higher fear factor.

Once at the bottom, you can descend south of the Third Flatiron to a trail, or hike up and around the back of it to the usual descent trail. I can't imagine anyone every wanting to UP-climb this route... but I'm sure it's possible.


There is probably decent pro on this route, but I mainly am listing the description in case you are looking for a way off the Third after soloing an east face route without gear.


I think this is a very enjoyable way to ascend the Third, and I've done it several times. You have solitude, interesting climbing, and amazing scenery. It's a really cool and improbable natural passage up a big piece of rock.

Also, since climbing up is usually easier than climbing down, it makes sense to scope this route out on the way up first. I think both the bottom and top of the chimney are two cruxy sections that possibly won't be entirely obvious if doing this route for the first time as a downclimb. Aug 30, 2001
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
This route is not obvious and I agree with Mike that it is best to have climbed up it before going down. However, if you are confident scrambling down easy 5th class rock and have a good eye for keeping yourself out of trouble, you will be able to find your way down this route, even if you've not done it before.

After passing through the arch mentioned in the description, look for an eye bolt. I would call it more of a tunnel than arch, it is a tunnel under an enormous boulder. You can rappel from the eye bolt diagonally down to the "very large pine tree" in the above description. The section is slabby and smooth, and a fall would be bad. Near the start (top) it is similar in difficulty to the East Face (Standard) route.

The area around the (second) eye bolt above the SW chimney is trickier than this description indicates. Although you can climb right down into the top of the SW chimney, it is easier and less exposed to climb EAST down a slab, and then cut back west when you are below the level of the top of the chimney. A third alternative is to rappel, one 60m rope just makes it to the base.

When the regular rappel route is crowded, this makes for an alternate rappel route. Note that you must either do the first rap on the normal descent route, or else downclimb the final pitch of the East Face (Standard) route and then climb west through the above mentioned alcove. If you do the first (standard) rappel, you will still end up doing three rappels, with a bit of scrambling between each of them. With a 60m rope, the last rap ends right at the base of the route (which is not flat, so be careful you don't go off the end of the rope!). When the standard rap route is really chocked up, you can pass people this way. Since you have to coil the rope after each rappel, as well as scramble up to get to the trail down, it is definitely a bit slower than the standard rappel route.

This is actually a fun (up) route in itself. The chimney is very clean rock and filled with excellent jugs. Nov 5, 2001
Rodger Raubach  
BITD when I was young and stupid, we used to downclimb this unroped all the time. I wouldn't really recommend this for a n00b, since a fall would probably be pretty messy...if not fatal. May 23, 2013
For those looking to do this route from the ground up in order to learn it before downclimbing it, it helps to know where the actual base of the route is. Starting from the West Bench directly under the final standard E face rappel, follow the gully immediately to the right of Friday's Folly (I believe this is the same gully you'd start Pentaprance from). The second buttress you'll run into while following the gully is where the SW chimney starts. You'll find there's a coupe small ledges between the start of the chimney and the ground itself. If you're like me and try to find the start by approaching from the Royal Arch trail, you'll probably find this to be a huge pain in the ass like I did. Aug 4, 2016
Will H.  
Mr. Bell's comments are spot on. I accidentally climbed directly down to the chimney after the 2nd eyebolt, and it was not straightforward at all. Subsequently I have down climbed further EAST before rejoining the chimney, as George recommends, and it has rendered the section fairly casual.

A note on the climbing further down: I found I could descend the chimney proper (stemming/buttsliding) or, with much more ease, move left (if facing out) and descend vertical jugs/ledges to the bottom. I highly recommend the latter. Sep 13, 2017
Shay Subramanian
Denver, CO
Shay Subramanian   Denver, CO
Intended to downclimb this route but somehow ended up in 1911 Gully instead which was quite the adventure, but I would never recommend it to anyone. When you reach the big pine tree after the initial slab downclimb, DO NOT GO STRAIGHT. I guess the SW Chimney is to your right somewhere? I don't think I ever even saw it. Sep 10, 2018