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Chimney Pond ("South") Basin - Summer Rock Routes
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The Armadillo 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Herbert Towle, 1935
Page Views: 35,949
Submitted By: BrianWinslow on Sep 4, 2007

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Climber on Hand crack above flake. Belayer on gras...

Winter climbing/hiking/mountaneering requires a permit


The Armadillo has just about everything you could hope for in an alpine climb: Chimney climbing, face climbing, crack climbing, ridge climbing, big time exposure, solitude on the route mixed with gawking, awed filled hikers at the top.

This route climbs at least 6 pitches of the huge pyramid and ridge in the middle of the south basin to the rim of the mountain, 10 minutes from Baxter Peak. Expect to get an early start and plan for a long day. The rangers will inspect your gear and require you to bring a #4 camelot, or equivalent cam. You will need to fill out an itinerary form and leave the camp by 8 am.

The approach is long, and somewhat sketchy. Rock hop around the right side of Chimney pond until you come to the stream bed on the south side (back.) Follow the stream bed (which will have a lot of water after rain) south to the headwall of the basin, at the waterfall which makes up the start of the Ciley Barber route in winter. Skirt the waterfall on the left (in the trees without a rope or via some easy but technical climbing through the rock band.) Cross the stream at another headwall and follow loose wet slabs and vegitation up and to the right until you can access a narrow vegitated ledge which will lead left to the start of the climb. There is a chock stone blocking convenient access on this ledge, which can easily be passed, however it is very exposed and ropping up before this point is safe and convenient. Build an anchor below and to the right of the small flake with a pin. Plan for at least 2 hours on the approach but it may take you 3.

Pitch 1, the chimney: From the vegitated ledge clip an old pin on your left and boulder up to the next ledge system, move left to the base of the huge detached flake. Stem, jam and wedge you way up the chimney behind the flake to the second comfortable ledge, about 2/3 of the way up the hige flake. (5.5)

Pitch 2, the face: Climb on the fat arete of the flake for about 20 feet (protection can easily be found in the hand crack on the right.) Move left just below an old pin (when you run out of comfortable feet) onto the face of the flake for some very exposed face climbing to the top of the flake. (5.7 PG)

Pitch 3, the bad ass crack: Climb straight up the splitter crack. It starts as big hands and is easily protected with a #3 cam (keep sliding it up with you if you only have one.) Quickly pass a chock stone (red TCU) and climb up to the Bong. Dump the #3 as the crack turns into fist and more and start to protect with a #4 cam (again, slide it up with you if you only have one.) 30 feet or so above the bong the crack widens to 6 inches for a few feet. Soon the climbing eases up and protection can be had with a #9 and #10 nut as well as a #2 cam a little higher. At the top of the crack belay with gear in the 1.5 in range behind a solid flake at a comfortable ledge. Be careful of the loose rock at the top of this pitch. (5.7) WooHoo!

Pitch 4, the corners: From here the quality of climbing changes character. Access a ledge 15 feet above the crack and make progress through a few short diheadrals to the left seperated easy climbing and rest ledges. Belay just beflow the crest of the ridge, or the spine of the Armadillo. Again, be careful of the loose rock(5.5)

Pitches 5 and 6, the ridge: Climb the ridge to the top, which is basically 4th class hiking with a few 5th class moves. Be careful as most of the rocks are pretty loose. Many people simulclimb the last two pitches.

From the junction of the Armadillo with the knife edge trail you can hike to the summit (Baxter Peak) if you go right (northwest) and then down the Cathedral or Saddle trail. The Saddle trail is much nicer to hike down with your rack and rope in your pack. You can also go left and cross the knife edge and Pamola four/Chimney Peak and then down the Dudley trail.


The middle of the south basin, directly south from Chimney pond. The route starts about 2/3 of the way up the wall on a giant flake which leads to a crack and then the ridge up to the rim.


A standard rack, light on the small gear, plus a #4 cam. 1 blue and 1 black tri-cam are very useful.

Photos of The Armadillo Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Me just about topping out on the Armadillo.  Photo...
Me just about topping out on the Armadillo. Photo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Armadillo (Left) and rib to summit ridge, the Flat...
BETA PHOTO: Armadillo (Left) and rib to summit ridge, the Flat...
Rock Climbing Photo: The technical portion of the Armadillo (5.7)  Trav...
BETA PHOTO: The technical portion of the Armadillo (5.7) Trav...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Armadillo
BETA PHOTO: The Armadillo
Rock Climbing Photo: First pitch
BETA PHOTO: First pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: From just under Le Armadillo
From just under Le Armadillo
Rock Climbing Photo: From the approach
From the approach
Rock Climbing Photo: The LONG approach to the Armadillo. This photo is ...
The LONG approach to the Armadillo. This photo is ...
Rock Climbing Photo: A close up of the Armadillo, start on the grassy l...
A close up of the Armadillo, start on the grassy l...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Armadillo
BETA PHOTO: The Armadillo
Rock Climbing Photo: the first pitch of the Armadillo.
the first pitch of the Armadillo.
Rock Climbing Photo: Mike Garrity on the approach to the Armadillo.
Mike Garrity on the approach to the Armadillo.
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing the 3rd pitch.
Climbing the 3rd pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking back down the stellar Hand Crack pitch at ...
Looking back down the stellar Hand Crack pitch at ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Geoff Wilson on the the left hand variation, Wind ...
Geoff Wilson on the the left hand variation, Wind ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Seconding the crack pitch with the belay ledge vis...
Seconding the crack pitch with the belay ledge vis...
Rock Climbing Photo: Chimney Pond ranger station approach beta
BETA PHOTO: Chimney Pond ranger station approach beta

Comments on The Armadillo Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 3, 2015
By Matt Swartz
From: Los Angeles, CA
Apr 21, 2009

An amazing climb. Make sure to take a break on the nice little aerie at the conclusion of the technical climbing and take in the views of cirque. Make sure you get to the ranger station at Chimney Pond no later than 8am or the rangers there will not let you climb.
By Mike Thompson
From: Manchester NH
Aug 16, 2009

how tall is it?
By Matt Swartz
From: Los Angeles, CA
Sep 21, 2009

From what I remember it's about 300ft of technical climbing followed by something like 400-600ft of 4th class.
By afh
From: Portland, OR
Dec 8, 2009

awesome route. left my climbing shoes in the car by accident, lead the first pitch and a half in my sneakers. rangers didnt check our bags for helmets or a four inch piece despite what we were told. that being said, a helmet and a four inch piece are recommended regardless.
By Annaconda
From: Seattle, WA
Aug 4, 2010

Thanks for the excellent route description, Brian. The rangers at Chimney were very helpful in terms of beta for the approach, which is a true thrash. As for the climb, with a 60m rope it was easy to run pitch 1 and 2 together and belay on top of the Armadillo, and then do pitch 3 and 4 together and belay on top of the dihedral to split the leads nicely for equally matched climbers. Also be sure to imagine doing the entire climb in mountain boots with hemp rope, and should you be leading the crack, having only the bong for pro. Yee-haw!
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Aug 4, 2010

This is a great climb. Definitely more alpine than the Whitney-Gilman.
By doligo
Aug 5, 2010

I have a question about the climb - it says you have to leave the camp by 8am. Does it mean that you need to stay overnight there? Is it not possible to do the climb in a day car to car? Thanks!
By Annaconda
From: Seattle, WA
Aug 20, 2010

You can do the climb in a day. Leaving from Roaring Brook, the trailhead for Chimney, you add 3.3 miles and 1500 ft up to the approach. If you get an early start, the 8 am cutoff is no problem (and keeps you out of the dark at the end of the day).
By John Husky
Aug 5, 2011

Apologies to the sandbaggers out there, but this is harder than 5.7. The offwidth is solid 5.8 and you're a fool to not bring big cams. Or else you climb real hard and have forgotten what being scared is like.
By Emily Guerin
From: Paonia, CO
Oct 5, 2011

How late in the season can you do this climb? Is Oct 10 too late?
By dorseyec
Oct 28, 2011

What they really MAKE you bring a #4 and helmet? I thought this was 'merica where you are free to do what you want?
By RhodeIslandJeff
From: Westerly, RI
Feb 24, 2013

One of the best route descriptions for the Armadillo I've seen on the internet. Thanks.
By Avi Katz
Apr 30, 2013

how would a #5 Tricam work in lieu of a #4 camalot?
By stephen arsenault
Aug 30, 2013

We left from the parking lot, and considering the trail conditions,
I thought the approach was the crux of the climb-- I had climbed the Grand Teton a week earlier, car to car, and in many ways, I thought this approach was tougher.
Since the upper hand/fist crack, varies in size, I don't think a #4 cam is needed, but I would take a 3.5. We did all the technical climbing in 2 pitches.
Near the top,we got slammed by a storm, with much lightning and heavy rain, which made the climb more alpine and memorable.

To give some perspective, my partner and I had a combined age of 139, I at 67 and my partner at 72.
By will jones
From: N.B.
Sep 22, 2013

Hey im planning on climbing this on october 12 this year. Will it be very cold this time of year in the south basin? And we are staying at the roaring brook campground the night before the climb because chimney pond is booked solid. Any ideas as to how long the approach will take from roaring brook campground to the base of the route? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
By climber57
Oct 14, 2013

Tried climbing this last weekend and got shutdown by weather. Don't underestimate the seriousness of the hike from roaring brook campground to the climb. The ranger told us you dont need a #4, tricky nut/cam placements can get the job done but a #4 is nice.
By Ryan Nevius
From: Estes Park, Colorado
Apr 3, 2014

The rangers inspect your gear...what a joke.
By Avi Katz
Sep 9, 2014

Climbed this yesterday, car to car from Roaring Brook. Placed Camalots #4-.4, tricams, a few nuts. Used a 60m and did this in 3 pitches up the Armadillo and 2 long pitches up the ridgeline through scarily loose rock.

Roaring Brook-Chimney Pond took us 1.5 hrs, Approach took us 2 hrs. Descended via Saddle Trail

The forecast was 60s and sunny. It was 36 degrees at the base, 65 at the top.

No gear inspection
By Auto-X Fil
From: NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Sep 14, 2014

Since my lead limit is about 5.8 at the crag, I figured 5.7 would test my limits on a wall like this, and I was right. It's quite serious, but being a solid 5.9/5.10 climber would make it much more of a romp than an adventure. If you are a stout climber and want to cast off into the unknown, stop reading now - detailed beta follows.

We banged out the approach to Chimney pond in a brisk 1:15, and stopped in to see the ranger. You could easily slip by if you wanted, but stopping in was no trouble. There's no longer an 8am cutoff, at least not with the rangers we found. I would not want to start any later, though! We got some great beta on the approach, filled out a checklist ourselves (no inspection) and then headed up. Recent rain made sections of the approach tricky, but if you're ok with typical steep Eastern bushwhacks, you'll make it. The ranger said most parties don't find the route, and turn back... I could see that, if the potential suitors are expecting an alpine cragging experience, and not a mountain route that demands some attention to routefinding. Reversing that approach would have been really miserable.

If the grass was dry, ledge-walking to the flake would be trivial, if very exposed. As it was wet, roping up was extremely prudent for the walk to the base of the route from the high point of the approach drainage.

The flake is much less awkward if you're pack-free and used to throwing in a mix of jams, stems, and laybacks. For a brute-force second wearing a pack (like my partner), it's a grunt. The second pitch face has good pro, and the moves are certainly no harder than 5.7, but there's a ton of air under your feet. Hard alpine climbers will cast off and march up slopers and small flakes; punters like me, used to 4th class ridges, will quake and slot every wire on their rack as they inch up to the top of the flake.

I love big cracks, so the wide was awesome. A 3 and 4 let you climb most of it on top-rope, while leaving behind nuts and small cams in various features. I was as happy with that pitch as I was terrified of the face below, but I freaking hate face climbing. And I A0'd it, with my foot on the bong for a nice rest and photo-op. I'd say it's a 5.7 Daks crack, or 5.10 at Squamish. 5.8 seems about right on average. I don't have huge hands, and found nice fists and smaller jams all the way up. Chicks might need a little off-width technique.

From there, it was easy climbing to the top, with rock getting looser as the climbing got easier. I wouldn't call it exceptionally loose for an alpine route, as normal hold-testing caution prevented us from pulling a single rock free. I'd grade the dihedrals and widely-spaced moves on the ridge as modern 5.5, old-school East Coast 5.4, or Cascades Fred Beckey 4th class. In many places you get to choose between easy, exposed moves, or harder moves with limited exposure. I suspect most parties that aren't shaken after the crux pitches will be very happy to shorten the rope and carefully simul to the top, or even drop the rope, slip on approach shoes, and just solo up. Loose rock and slippery grass spots are the hazards here, not the moves.

I sewed this whole climb up very tight, and felt that 10 nuts, 4 tricams, and a single set of cams (TCU 1-4, Camalots 0.75-4) was plenty. In general, the rock on this route is the sort where you could toss a handful of nuts at it, and half would stick. For the BA climber going light, I'd bring Camalots 0.75, 1, and 2, plus a set of nuts (skip the small ones) and a set of offset nuts. And a bunch of slings; singles and doubles. You can sling all sorts of stuff up there.
By M Bageant
From: Cambridge, MA
Oct 1, 2014

My party bailed on this route on 9/21 due to rain and mist moving in from over the ridge. Unable to get a camping pass, we were waiting outside the gate at 6am and made the Chimney Pond ranger station by 8:30am. The ranger on duty was totally awesome and helpful.

We were climbing the ~5.5 headwall section (just before accessing the long 4th class ramp up to the grassy ledge) when the weather turned foul, and we bailed off a tiny fixed nut there.

We also had to leave a nut (with quick link attached to it) further down---if you choose to climb this particular start, the nut is off to the right in harder territory (which had water running down it when we bailed), so don't be led astray.

Another observation: the roughly two pitches were climbed were just COVERED with huge loose blocks---definitely death blocks. And we could hear invisible rockfall toppling down the face in the mist. Climb VERY carefully here!

Cool route with an awesome feeling of alpine adventure, I'd love to finish it one day.
By M Bageant
From: Cambridge, MA
Jul 8, 2015

And now I'm back to say I've finished the route. It was quite an excellent alpine adventure, and if you would like to keep it that way for yourself, feel free to not read the beta below!

---Beta spoilers below---

We were strong climbers and above-average hikers, and though I knew the approach path, I had not done most of it before. Here is how long each stage took us:

Roaring Brook parking to Chimney Pond ranger station: ~1.5 hours
Chimney Pond ranger station to base of the Ciley Barber waterfall: ~1.5 hours
4th class approach ramps to the base of the technical climbing: ~2.5 hours
300 feet of pitched out climbing plus ~700 feet of simulclimbing: ~3.5 hours
Descent to Roaring Brook via the Knife's Edge and Helon Taylor: ~3 hours

It took us ~9 hours from Chimney Pond to the top of the route. Add in a lunch break, the Chimney Pond check in, etc. and it was 13 hours car to car.

More details on the approach:
From Chimney Pond, we plunged straight up the wet stream created by the Ciley Barber waterfall until a dry one branched off to the right slightly; mainly just keep walking up toward the Ciley Barber waterfall. At the waterfall we went right up the vegetated slabs and roped up for about 15 feet of technical climbing to break through the first rock band; there were a few promising weaknesses, we chose the left one. From there we unroped and traversed back left along the first horizontal ledge to beside the waterfall, and then angled up and right following the apparent ramp beside the stream. Until about 500 feet below the flake it was possible to refill water from the waterfall (we carried 4L capacity and a purifier). Eventually we moved right away from the stream below a band of wet slabs and picked up an obvious climber's trail, where steps had been cut into the dirt, which led us very easily to the base of the technical climbing. This part was solidly 4th class and in places pretty exposed.

The technical climbing was actually quite good; we did it in 2 pitches: one to the top of the flake (a bit less than 200 feet), and the second to the top of the hand crack and then up and left to a spacious belay ledge (about 100 feet). From the ledge, we simul'ed up the technical corner (25 feet of ~5.7 or so) and then broke left, following the path of least resistance up the left side of the ridge, and then up and right and onto the spine of the ridge (SUPER cool and exposed!), and then finally straight up to intersect with the Knife's Edge. This was at least 600 feet and probably more like 700.

My fists are roughly a #3 and the crack was perfect fists for me. There were also plenty of (fragile) face holds, and the "offwidth" section had tons of holds inside and around it...I felt that it was reasonable at 5.7.

Once we got up high in the basin we could see folks up on the Knife's Edge looking out at us. Our friends did say they were able to spot us (I was wearing bright colors) but that we were TINY!

All in all it felt good to tick this objective and get my fill of alpine climbing for the year... :)
By roxclamantis
Sep 20, 2015

In my opinion, the best quality alpine route in New England.
Left variation splitter face crack (Wind in the Willows-5.9) is highly recommended; starts in the left-facing left-hand corner of the Armadillo buttress -- be sure to move up left into crack on the face and not climb the corner itself.
Climb is easily done car-to-car from Roaring Brook in a day. First time my friend and I did it we left our car at 5:30 a.m. and were back to the car by 12:30 p.m. Second time (just a few days ago) we left car at 6 a.m. and, crossing the Knife Edge at a leisurely pace, were back in parking lot by ~2:30 p.m.
For those not experienced in alpine route-finding the hardest part might be the approach. You need to scout out the 'best' route from below. If you stay on the right bushwhack there is a fairly good primitive trail to follow.
Best approach beta:
1) skirt Chimney Pond to right, then up main drainage OR dry braided drainages immediately to right.
2) work up right below steep slabs to point where you can traverse horizontally back left across good ledge system underneath steep slab headwall -- traverse to far left end of this ledge system and look for steep handcrack you can 'bust through' back right to gain next ledge system above (short 5.6-7 move; easily soloed, but I always rope it). There may be a way to avoid this short crack, but we always choose this way.
3) continue up and right following right-hand edge of slide material and then follow the base of slabs more steeply up and right right through scrubby growth; avoid cutting back left too soon, instead keeping up and right to nearly the height of the base of the route and then traverse perfectly horizontally across ledge system. This last part of approach is quite exposed in places and care should be taken.
4) one can walk to base of the right-hand corner of Armadillo; to gain left hand side continue along very exposed short traverse (great holds, 5.0) after navigating a large block (you can tunnel behind/through this). Superb safe ledge is found at start of Wind in the Willows variation.
Contrary to original beta I had from years ago, you CAN get to the Wind of the Willows variation by traversing the ledge coming in high on the right side of the Armadillo ledge. There are two exposed parts of the traverse (5.0), but we did these unroped without issue -- great protection if you wished to rope this.
Not sure exactly where all the 'loose rock' is. Rock quality is exceptional and only a few rocks here and there might be called loose.
By Dave Burny
From: buffalo, ny
Oct 3, 2015

Have I got a story for you...Pain. Will. Exhaustion. Cold weather complications, and climbing without feeling in my hands or feet. Judgement calls. Cramping. Clouds. Snow and frost. Consistent wind chills in the negatives...Screaming at yourself, asking why you do this, then finding the answer at the summit...The Armadillo 5.7/8 YDS, alpine rock climb.

On Friday, October 2nd, 2015 we began our approach as a recreational pursuit, after the 3rd pitch of our alpine class 5.7/8 climbing I found myself climbing for survival. I won’t ever know if I was better to turn back and accept that conditions were not welcoming to our goal, but I know that after 3 hours of bushwhacking through dense vegetation and high water levels that kept us from simply taking the creek bed, I was not turning back.

When a friend from out of town was coming in to visit I began to look into what we might do. The weather outlook was grim, it looked like bad climbing conditions and wet crags throughout most of Maine. The highest temps, most potential for sun dry out, lesser winds and potential clearing was north. I began my idea with a hiking summit of Mount Katahdin, this quickly transitioned into making Jonathan's first multi-pitch experience an alpine one.

I am usually not a fan of long approaches, so alpine is not usually my jam. I would rather push myself on the wall, not the approach; by climbing smarter, not harder. I got an idea in my head though, usually once they are in, thats it...We made our 3.3 mile hike upto Chimney Pond with 1,425’ of elevation gain. We then added an elevation gain and loss of 1,988’ and 2.6 miles to our day to explore the Dudley Trail. When we arrived back to camp we checked in with the Ranger (very chill, no attempts to turn us from our goal, as previous posts may indicate). She was very helpful and informative, though mountain conditions put a damper on most of the valuable information she shared.

After a chilly night we awoke and began our departure (0755). After being forced to boulder scramble the left side of the pond (vs the recommended right side rock hop that was under water) we forged our way through dense vegetation to yet another overflowing creek (due to the 7 inches of precipitation over the last 48 hours). We made our approach and as we got closer chose a zig zag scramble through loose rock and 4th/5th class climbing. and further realized our (Black Gully) approach to the 2nd vegetation ledge was iced and slick. So, instead, we turned our 6 pitch climb to an 8 pitch.

The real climbing began in our first chimney, below and to the left of The Armadillos start. We were past our turn around time (1300) just before we began our first very exposed pitch up to our 5,200’ top out. At this point I had watched the summit and top 4 or 5 pitches move in and out of the clouds as high winds moved about. By the time I topped our first pitch (1415) I realized I needed to climb to keep warm. The core layers kept me alive, but the extremities and legs were suffering, especially since my pants had 3 new vent holes from our approach, haha!

Being the sole leader put me in the position that I was to keep focused and determined, there was no other way out, and I was not leaving gear to rap. Though the hardest and most exposed climbing was only through the first 4 pitches (3 of which were the actual route) it was pretty difficult since exposure and a few gnarly fall lines, mixed in with cold weather cramping and numbness made for a interesting head game.

We suffered through the worst of it and took on the two cruxes, in high winds that both scattered flurries and surrounded us with frosting vegetation (both not in the “mostly sunny and 57 degrees” forecast). Never have I been so excited to embark upon 2.5 pitches of 4th/5th class scramble up the spine of The Armadillo. A true shout of excitement and accomplishment after both mine and Jonathan's top out (1803).

We shed gear just before the sun was no longer able to provide any visual assurance (1815) and made our way to Mt. Katahdin’s Baxter Peak at 5267’. I wasn't over, the sun was down and winds picked up. We had 5.5 miles and almost 4000’ of elevation loss before we were back to the car, and we were still in the clouds. At least now our bodies could keep moving. The will to kicked back in once we left Chimney Pond, physically and emotionally exhausted we had 3.3 more miles of decent and made it to the car just before midnight. We did it, we made, we suffered, we gained, none of which was tangible, all of which is ours forever. Carpe diem.

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