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West Chimney 

YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 150'
Original:  YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b [details]
FA: Layton Kor and Ben Childlaw, 1958
Page Views: 5,808
Submitted By: Ron Olsen on May 8, 2006

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Jonas Abdo on the route.

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  • Description 

    The climbing on this pitch is surprisingly good. It can be used as an alternate start to Rewritten, Great Zot, Swanson Arete, Dirty Deed, or Icarus. It's a good way to get to the Red Ledge if the first pitches of Great Zot and Rewritten are busy.

    Start at the deep chimney about 10' right of Great Zot. Climb the chimney, passing some fixed pins and an intermediate bolted rappel station, to a belay at a tree just below the Red Ledge (160 ft) or a tree at the base of Swanson Arete on the Red Ledge (205ft).

    The upper pitches continue up the chimney/gully to the notch north of Lumpe Tower, but these are seldom climbed. If you do go to the top, descend back to Red Ledge by rappelling from trees; be careful of loose rock.

    The first pitch of this route is commonly used to descend from the Red Ledge. There is a two-bolt anchor on the left wall of the chimney just below the Red Ledge (about 130' up), and a second two-bolt anchor about 70' up. Two rappels with a 50m or 60m rope get you down. It's possible to get down with one rappel with a 70m rope with a little bit of downclimbing at the end.

    It's best to avoid climbing this route when parties are rappelling, unless you want to get brained by a tossed rope.


    Standard rack.

    Photos of West Chimney Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: On the route.
    On the route.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up the [Great Zot] from the base.
    Looking up the [Great Zot] from the base.
    Rock Climbing Photo: From the base.
    From the base.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Wes Price, rebalancing to enter the next chimney s...
    Wes Price, rebalancing to enter the next chimney s...

    Comments on West Chimney Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By Buff Johnson
    May 8, 2006
    rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

    Agree w/ Ron in the route description. There is a variety of climbing offered on this (first long) pitch providing good practice in shifting balance as you stem. The finish chimney section (best part of the first pitch) offers a large nut placement then to a friendly foot ledge & fun chimney to bolts. I would offer that this is a hard technical mountaineering-type pitch. It is quite fun but generally underrated in relation of being a good climb because of its neighbors.

    Difficult to climb this with a pack or camelback, this (first) pitch is fairly cleaned of loose rock, but be mindful that a rock will fall on everyone staging for the other climbs (& also where your belayer is standing). I generally get an early start to try and avoid any mishaps when climbing this feature.
    By Jo Holloway
    Sep 6, 2006

    As per Mark Nelson's comment, this route lost a grade of difficulty for me from the time I climbed it with a camelback (what was I thinking?!)
    By Kevin Craig
    Mar 26, 2007

    A much better pitch than it's generally given credit for. As noted, more like a technical mountaineering pitch, and there's some real-by-god chimney climbing at the top that's thoughtful and fun. Also as noted, the gear is not plentiful, but I've never felt too badly run out. I think Rossiter's guide gives this a 5.5, but maybe a bit harder.
    By Julius Beres
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jul 24, 2008
    rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a

    I actually thought this was a fun chimney. I lead it today as the first pitch of Swanson's Arete and I would say is was no harder than the rest of the route which goes at 5.5. There is some loose rock, but not too much and it does take pro well (there are also two solid looking pitons along the way and 2 sets of bolts for rappels along with plenty of cracks).

    That being said I only gave it one star because of the risk factor. DO NOT climb this route if anyone is rappelling from above. The chimney continues all the way to the top and doubles as the rappel route to get off the top (as an alternative to the walk down). There was no one below us or in the vicinity so we rapped down. On the second rap, pulling the ropes dislodges one of the many loose rocks in the upper chimney and it went crashing all the way down. I was trying to be really careful and there was no one below us, but seeing the rock shatter in after dropping 50 feet into the chimney made me decide never to climb that route if there was any chance of anyone rappelling above.
    By Robin
    From: Albuquerque, NM
    Jul 22, 2011

    I climbed this as the "approach" to Swanson's arête and found it a good way to approach at a grade similar to that of Swanson's. Good climbing, good enough pro and a fun but too short section of chimneying. Leading it with a pack isn't too bad as you can just clip it to your harness for the 5 feet of chimneying. I made it all the way to the Red Ledge right below Swanson's Arête in one pitch with double 60m ropes. I think my belayer climbed up a few feet to accomodate this....

    I can see why people are calling it 5.5. I feel like it might be an unsustained 5.6, but you can decide for yourself.

    I gave it two stars as it is not sustained and there is minimal actual chimneying on it.

    By Mark Roth
    From: Boulder
    Aug 29, 2011

    Found some gear by the little tree at the top of the chimney. Anyone lose something?
    By Scott McMahon
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jul 30, 2012

    There is also a TV-sized block at the east end of Red Ledge. Probably just a matter of time before it goes down the West Chimney.
    By Jim Fox
    From: Westminster, CO
    Jun 19, 2017
    rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

    Climbed this with my son for Father's Day 2017.

    I'm not a great fan of chimneys, but still an OK climb. If you do like chimneying, you will like this route.

    Rewritten and Great Zot had climbers lined up and competing for belay space, so we climbed pitch 1 of West Chimney to get to the Red Ledge (to climb Swanson's Arete).

    My son did a great job leading this & I found the route harder (and a bit sketchy in spots) than I expected, but this is probably because we rarely climb big chimneys. I traversed over and climbed about 20 feet of Great Zot & felt it was much easier.

    Swanson's was pretty mellow after the approach. I had knee replacement surgery 3 months ago and haven't climbed in ages, so I wanted to climb something easy but long, & it was a fun outing overall.
    By Mike Deitchman
    From: Boulder, CO
    Jul 13, 2017
    rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b PG13

    This pitch was great....

    I led it this morning, as my first trad lead in far too long. I'm not sure if it was the rope drag speaking, but I think 5.6 is a fair rating for this. The moves exiting the chimney feel stout, especially when you aren't totally confident in your ability to place pro.

    I like that the crack swallows pro for the most part: I encountered two fixed pins and two "fixed" nuts. The climbing had good variety, and altogether, this was a great intro to leading at Eldo.

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