Type: Trad, Alpine, 900 ft (273 m), 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: J & P Stettner, 1927
Page Views: 20,910 total · 87/month
Shared By: Leo Paik on Jul 26, 2004
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

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Description Suggest change

This fun route is amazing from a historical perspective. It was climbed back in the days of primitive climbing equipment by a pair of visionary brothers. Its difficulty was certainly near cutting-edge for the day. Today, it has been reduced to a moderate outing with the advent of modern equipment & technique. Nonetheless, it has become a classic, mountaineering-style climb for RMNP. It can be linked with the Window Route or Kiener's Route for a full day's mountaineering outing, weather permitting. Route finding skills are a requirement, since there are many subtle variations to decipher with plenty of hardware and slings to obfuscate the original line. Any topo for the route would be difficult to follow precisely. S. Kimball's topo (p. 140 of Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park Rock Climbs) may be the most accurate with all the extra squiggles. He noted that the legendary Fritz Wiessner could not find the route when he tried to repeat it. Loose rock is certainly part of the experience for this climb, so those in search of ultra-clean granite should seek other climbs. Also, note much of the line remains in the shadows (facing North), so bring warm clothes (2 layers recommended, hat for the less-insulated). It has been written up in Rock&Ice under classic routes. Perhaps, those who have climbed this route may feel that a different line is the 'original line' than the one described here. Nonetheless, here is one variation that does work. Warning: the following may be soporific.

Find this climb on the left side of the lower East face of Long's Peak about 5 miles in & 3000 feet up (2.5-3 hours for most). Enter RMNP at the trailhead for the Long's Area off CO Hwy 7, just South of Estes Park, North of the Wild Basin entrance. Hike up the trail for Keyhole (standard hiking) approach to the Chasm Lake cutoff, continue past Chasm Lake (skirting the North side), approach the firm snow of Mill's Glacier. Kick steps to the rock. If you get soft snow, have good enough footwear, have crampons, or have an ice axe, you may just continue directly up to the start at the highest tongue of snow right of Lamb's Slide. You can skip the ice axe, crampons, and take the shortest bit of lowest angle snow to the left of the start to the rock, traverse up the moat to as far as you can go in tennies. Then you can add a short 5.7-5.8s mostly traversing pitch up to a red sling & then traverse right. This line of right-facing dihedrals & flakes lies just left of the two dark, wet streaks that drain the Notch Couloir and form the wonderful line, Smear of Fear.

Find a 2 pin belay stance a short distance above the snow.

P1. Head up & gently left, choosing a line among the many cracks/flakes with loose rock in spots. A few scattered pins may help to direct you but beware, they are not always leading you to the promised land. At approximately 60 feet up, there is a large flake to the right with nice footholds to lieback, do not go this way or you will be forced to take a 5.8+ downclimbing traverse left to regain the line. Continue to angle left. ~130-140 feet up you may find an old pin at a ledge to belay. However, there are many options for a belay.

P2. Continue up moderate ground (5.4 or 5.5) with at least 4 pins to reassure you that you are on route. You can belay at a very comfortable ledge about 100 feet up with a right-facing large flake/dihedral (old chopped bolt & hangerless bolt on the left) or you can seek the historic alcove belay up & left with pins on its back wall.

P3. Wander up moderate but loose terrain with a long horizontal crack for pro. Find a series of 4-5 pins that mark the famous 'piton ladder' (sometimes wet) free-climbed by Paul Stettner in 1927. These pins trend slightly left on somewhat-delicate face climbing. Beware of rope drag here. Above the last pin, you can traverse left around an arĂȘte (harder) or traverse a few feet right to a moderate series of flakes & cracks to the belay ledge on Lunch Ledge. ~150 feet. There is another variation to the right of the 'piton ladder' that looked wetter than the piton ladder.

P4. Move the belay left on Lunch ledge to its far left end where the terrain goes up steeper dihedrals. ~100 feet.

P5. You are about 400 feet from Broadway here. You will be faced with a choice on this pitch to finish as the 'original line' traversed left partway up this pitch to the finish on Alexander's Chimney or to continue Hornsby Direct or variation up to Broadway. Start up a line left of the larger, wet dihedral sporting a couple pins. Well-worn edges suggest you move back right to the larger, wet-in-places, right-facing, dihedral. Alternatively, you can stay a dihedral to the left with somewhat harder entry moves. Continue up. Somewhere here (allegedly the Dog's Ear of Alexander's Chimney) you can traverse left to the Alexander's Chimney's leftward traverse. It is less than obvious. You can continue up a full ~195 feet to a ledge with less than optimal pro (fair #2 Camalot, iffy #3.5 Camalot, looped horn, & itty bitty wire) or find a better belay below.

P6. From here, there seem to be at least 4 dihedrals to choose from. The right most is wet, wider, and less appealing and the apparent original Hornsby Direct finish. The next one L to the route sports some fixed pro & a sling. The next dihedral to the left is small but clean (fun, 5.8). The next one left is harder to see but also sports something fixed in it. From below, it is not obvious which dihedral has the 'many pins' described by various guidebooks. You can move about 60 feet up before you must choose. We chose the small dihedral, two dihedrals left of the large, wet dihedral. It is clean, fun, & dry. From the marginal belay described on P5, it is a full ~195 feet to Broadway. You top out just left of the exposed '5.1' move at Broadway. Nice cracks above a boulder take fingers- to hand-sized pro.

Descent: This can be potentially the crux. 1) you can ascend the Notch Couloir if you lugged up snow/ice gear. 2) You can ascend Kiener's (right on Broadway past the Notch Couloir) to the top of the Diamond, then down climb/scramble the North face of Long's to the Cable Route rappel. 3) You can traverse off left to Lamb's Slide and kick steps, self-arrest, or downclimb if you have the right equipment. 4) You can certainly rappel off the first 3 pitches worth on in situ rap anchors (best to have 2 ropes). For any of the following descents, I recommend staying roped up to access the raps. We did not see obvious established rap stations above P3 via Hornsby Direct. 5) You can rappel off the top of Alexander's Chimney (Direct) approximately 300 feet left of the Hornsby Direct finish at a pile of snow just below Broadway. You start with a pin & nut rap above a boulder. There are many variations to the rappels here. 2x60m ropes are recommended. You can go about 100 feet to a large slung spike backed up with a nut. It starts to get wet here. You can rappel approximately 110 feet to below & right of the chockstone, very wet from here down. You can rap approx 100 feet to another anchor (less recommended) or 190 feet to a double spike slung (back-up-able with a #2 Friend), right of the chimney. You can reach the snow with another 190 feet rappel. There were no other obvious established rap points here & down and the terrain is still steep & definitely loose. You still must descend lower Lamb's Slide from here. 6) you can rap off the original finish on Alexander's Chimney route approximately 60 feet below Broadway & then into Alexander's Chimney (see 5) above). 2x60m ropes are recommended.

3 stars for fun, 2 for rock, 1.5 for abundant loose rock, 3 for history buffs, 2.5 for the setting, 2.4 overall.

Protection Suggest change

Set of wires, 1 set of cams blue Alien to #3.5 Camalot or #4 Friend, a few hexes can be nice, a dozen slings (24 in) with some extra slings. Ice axe optional. Helmet essential. Warm clothes.

Special Warning Suggest change

It is best to climb this on a weekday. Consider other routes if you are unfortunate enough to be climbing under other parties above on Kiener's or on Broadway above the route!