Trad, 400 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II,
Avg: 2.1 from 12
FA: D. Sherman, H. Higgins, T. Hornbein, early 1950s
> Estes Park Valley
> Lumpy Ridge
> Twin Owls
This is an impressive route considering when it was first ascended. However, given the amazing Tom Hornbein was involved, it is a bit less surprising. This line ascends an obvious chimney that is one of the biggest features on the South face of Twin Owls. For those unused to squeeze chimneys, this will feel like a sandbag. Just recall when this was first done & with what equipment they had then. It will give you great respect for those who climbed before you.
Hike up the main Twin Owls trail as for the South & East faces of Twins Owls & Hens & Chickens. Before you reach Hen & Chickens you follow a fainter fork in the trail to the left towards the obvious ramp, Roosting Ramp. Pass the ominous Crack of Fear
and continue left or West. This chimney is just past a large boulder lodged near its base.
For lots of beta:
P1. Pull into the chimney past some large flakes. Move to the deep edge of the large block in the chimney. You can place a mediocre medium hex for mental protection. Highstep on the short, slippery, pigeoned arête without pro until you reach the obvious top of the flake where you can put #1, 2, and/or 3 Camalots. Hand traverse left, step up/flop onto the top of this flat-topped block. Belay. There is a pin at head height left, you can thread a sling through a constriction on the right, and you can clip a fixed wire in a crack to the far right on Autumn Mist
. Stiff 5.2 (one guidebook) that feels 5.6s, 50 feet. Not belaying here will likely add excessive rope drag. At one point this belay had 2 pins, not any more.
P2. This is the heart of the route. Pull up into the slippery chimney facing left in, gain the top of the flake, then turn right into the chimney. This will be tight for folks of larger girth, like me. Slither, fight, wedge, grunt, and extrude yourself upward. Use decent right foot jams that at times are your only solid holds. Clip a pin. Fight onwards. At one point, this fissure is tight enough that you won't be able to turn a helmeted head, so face inward so you can see your pro. Grab a more-or-less squared off edge near the top of the offending fissure, and flop your feet out left. Freedom! You can create an optional belay below the next pin if you are pooped. Note, you may be able to reach a chained anchor and Fixe rap ring anchor off to the left of the top of the squeeze chimney, if you need to bail (no more fixed rap anchors above). Continue up, clip an upward-driven pin, lieback, pass another pin, and get a good rest above. Interesting climbing with a mix of awkward lieback, face climbing, chimney, and crack gets you to a tunnel under a chockstone. Find a pin that looks like it is driven in rubble and birth yourself into a slightly sloping alcove. There is an ancient bolt on the right wall without a hanger just above the chockstone. Above, possibly a #10 & #11 hex and a large cam can be used for the belay although there are other alternatives. It's a stiff 5.7+ and is approximately 160 feet. Oddly, the lower half of this pitch is reminiscent of the squeeze chimney section on the Casual Route
, minus the altitude and moisture.
P3. This is the nice pitch. Move down & jump onto the left wall of the widening chimney and follow a crack upward. Find pleasant, steeper climbing with smaller pro (#3 Camalot or smaller) with great rests. At the top of the crack, move left, pass an ancient bolt with a rusty smash-link, and finish on low angled slabs to the top, 5.7, 195 feet. You can go up the chimney above and pass the chockstone on the left or right but this looks much, much less inviting.
Descend right down the first gully, 4th class, to the Bowels of the Owls
Rack up to #5 Camalot, with single set of cams, although this can be done with a rack to #4 Friend and hexes (the way my partner first did it). Knee pads may be useful. Long sleeve shirt may be helpful, as well. RPs not required.