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Highway to Hell 


Type:  Ice, 3 pitches, 800', Grade III
Original: WI4+ [details]
FA: Unknown
Season: Fall or Winter
Page Views: 2,709
Submitted By: Julian Smith on Nov 28, 2009

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (14)
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Only ice visible January 2017. In obvious avy path...


Highway to Hell (AKA Highway 66 and Highway 666) is located about 500 feet to the right of Stairway to Heaven. It is a great line that is a little steeper than Stairway to Heaven but not quite as sustained. This is because there is more snow to wallow through between the various steps of ice. However, it is a great outing, and is about the same length as Stairway to Heaven (260 meters or so).

Begin by approaching as for Stairway to Heaven, which for me is best accomplished by continuing up the road (San Juan Co 2) past the end of where it is normally plowed in mid-winter until you are at a point that is slightly upstream or past Stairway to Heaven. This would also be a good ways past the Outward Bound facility, which will be downhill on your right as you pass it. Find a place where you can hike just a short ways downhill to cross the stream bed and then start hiking uphill while trending back down the valley, towards Stairway to Heaven. Pass beneath Stairway to Heaven and continue for about 500 feet or just shy of 200 meters until you are at the base of a large gully system. Hike up the gully until you reach the beginning of the ice. Highway to Hell can easily be spotted from the road as you are hiking in.

The first part of climb consists of climbing discontinuous ice steps, which are pretty short and may even be covered by snow depending on how much there is. Upon reaching the point where the gully splits, go to the right. The ice to the left is a route called Road to Nowhere. To the right is the first big pitch for Highway to Hell.

The first pitch is about 50 meters in length. If you want to split it into 2 pitches, a perch can be found about halfway up on the right side. This will keep the belayer from getting bombed while the leader finishes out the pitch.

Continue to slog up the snow for just a short ways until you reach another piece of steep ice. The second pitch is about 30 meters in length. At the top will be a short piece of ice which can be continued up to a small tree on your left. Or you can just start rapping from here. Above this point, there is more ice to be climbed, but it is lowered angled and rolling in nature, involving more snow groveling.

Rappel the route for a descent. Two ropes will be handy, but it can be rappelled with a single 60 meter rope if you make an intermediate anchor in the first pitch. Plan on a little down climbing for the ice steps at the bottom of the climb.


A rack of screws should be all you will need.

Photos of Highway to Hell Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The only pitch visible center frame. Taken January...
The only pitch visible center frame. Taken January...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 1 center frame in the larger gully.
Pitch 1 center frame in the larger gully.
Rock Climbing Photo: Topping out first pitch, right side-Route 66.
Topping out first pitch, right side-Route 66.
Rock Climbing Photo: A little more of a close-up of the route, showing ...
BETA PHOTO: A little more of a close-up of the route, showing ...
Rock Climbing Photo: From the road, just below where you would hike dow...
BETA PHOTO: From the road, just below where you would hike dow...

Comments on Highway to Hell Add Comment
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By Jaaron Mankins
From: Durango, CO
Nov 29, 2009
rating: WI4

Thanks for the V-threads, they were everywhere! Great route in great shape. We always call this Route 66, but maybe H2H is a better alternative. Two 60m ropes make rapping each long pitch a breeze.
By James2 Jones
Nov 26, 2014

You fail to mention that this route is under extreme avalanche hazard with frequent slides coming down and burying the lower ice steps.

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