OverviewChimney Rock, located in the Selkirk range of north Idaho's panhandle, and visible from Priest Lake, is a dramatic tower of high-quality granite. Carved out by converging glaciers, it was left to stand alone as a solitary "lightning rod". Even the easiest route (West Face, II 5.3) requires technical climbing to access the summit. There is no "walk-up" route. Descent is by rappel.
The tower is triangular: the east and west faces meet on the south edge, forming a thin prow. The spectacular summit is flat and exposed, and strewn with granite boulders.
The west face was the first to be climbed (1934); it offers the easiest and most popular route to the summit. This face is approximately 350 feet high with numerous vertical crack and flake systems. The granite is more shattered and blocky compared to the east face. Many people experience their first multi-pitch climb, or their first multi-pitch lead, on the West Face (II, 5.3).
The east face is 450 feet high, with overhangs of about 15 feet at the top. The granite is extremely hard and crystalline on this side and offers excellent free climbing. Major rockfall occurred ~7/2/2012 resulting in the destruction of multiple routes. See ROUTE OVERVIEWS, below.
The north face is rough, dark, and highly lichenified.
The prow of the South Nose forms a thin, frightening knife edge. Daylight comes through several "windows" perforating the prow.
"Climber's Guide to North Idaho & the Cabinet Wilderness" by Thaddeus Laird is a worthy successor to Randall Green's excellent 1987 "Idaho Rock". Laird's guide, published in 2007 and available through Keokee Books, is the most complete resource and contains significantly updated information.
Beta may be obtained at local climbing shops such as Mountain Gear, Mountain Goat Outfitters, and REI in Spokane, as well as other outdoor shops in Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho.
Chimney is a trad area. The rock is quite sound and protects well with a standard rack of chocks and nuts. Cams are highly recommended for the many parallel-sided cracks. The bolts at the standard rap descent (the Chimney Rappel) were replaced for safety reasons in 2001; this met with general approval. However, other recent bolting has been met with near-universal vehement condemnation, judging from the summit register. Please respect the trad wilderness ethic.
The summit register is maintained by the Spokane Mountaineers
Old registers (and register box memorabilia) are preserved in the library of the Spokane Mountaineers. The author of this page (Sharon) can also be contacted for further information.
technical assistance courtesy of The Amazing Fred Spicker.
Getting ThereMAP: USGS Mt. Roothan Quad (7.5 minute series)
HUNT CREEK/HORTON RIDGE ROAD
The primary access road. Formerly open only during weekends due to logging, you may now be able to travel it at all times. Log onto the Forest Service's website for current information.
From the paved East Priest Lake road, turn onto the graveled Hunt Creek road. At the 4.0 mile point, take the fork to the left. This road takes you to the old Horton Ridge road. This road is rough and steep; large water-bars are frequent. A medium-clearance vehicle such as a Subaru or a 4WD vehicle is necessary.
As of July 2004, most of the road was not as bad compared to previous years but the last mile or so is very, very rough -- large boulders and water bars.
At the end of the road is a fairly large parking area near the site of the now-demolished Horton Ridge lookout tower. Camping may be done here; an old outhouse is nearby. As of July 2004, the outhouse is in even more despicable condition compared to earlier years, and the "needy" climber is cautioned to avoid it at all costs.
Avoid parking on the east side of the parking area near the location of the old lookout. This area is termed "Nail Flats" because of the many punctured tires from the nails left behind when the structure was demolished.
An obvious, well-traveled trail leads into the forest, going east up Horton Ridge toward Mt. Roothan. After 2 miles of moderate hiking, a notch is reached in the northwest ridge that leads to Mt. Roothaan. Descend the rough climber's path down the steep broken north face into the basin formed by the Roothan Cirque and ending on the west side of Chimney Rock -- the way is fairly obvious. There are a number of "ducks" to help keep you on route through the talus field. Once through the talus field, stay high and trend upwards towards the grassy notch and you will end up at Chimney's base.
This approach takes 1-2 hours from the Horton Ridge trailhead parking lot. Round trip hiking distance: approx. 4 miles.
EAST PRIEST LAKE ROAD / INDIAN CREEK STATE PARK:
Chimney Rock Access Beta (July 2003, courtesy Steve Reynolds & Kevin Klim, plus helpful additional corrections/comments from pu & Bodhi Densmore):
--Beware-- as of 8-28-03 mileages below still were not quite right. Please be patient while the details of this new approach are worked out & confirmed.--
1. Drive on the East Priest Lake Road approx. 4 miles beyond the Hunt Creek Road, when you will see signs denoting the entrance to Indian Creek State Park.
2. From the Indian Creek State Park entrance, continue north on the paved East Priest Lk Rd another 0.8 miles, and turn right/east on the gravel Indian Creek/Bear Creek Road.
3. 0.1 miles--take the quick right on road, signed #2/#27
4. 0.3 miles--here is a large group campsite on the right next to Indian Creek and a gated road at a bridge, continue driving.
5. 1.5 miles--for Junction 2 to Hunt Creek (if taken, this will take you to within 1/2 mile of the commonly used Horton Ridge trailhead...just turn left at the next major road, quite a few miles up the hill)
6. 1.3 miles--turn right on Road #278. (3.2 total miles from pavement)
7. Go another 2.4 miles to an intersection where you take the left road, continuing 5.3 miles following switchbacks uphill to the road's end (10.8 miles from pavement)
Total driving time was about 50 minutes, which is about 10 minutes faster than the Hunt Creek/Horton Ridge route (a 10-mile route but on much rougher roads). It would certainly be faster than the Idaho Dept of Public Lands' weekday detour to get to the same old Horton Ridge Lookout trailhead that we camped at in July 2003.
There is a fire ring at the road's end, which is large enough for several cars and tents. While there are many waterbars, the road is not as rough as the Horton Ridge Road. A Subaru would easily make it, as would any car with medium or higher ground clearance. This route can cut close to an hour off the 4-hour one-way time it takes to get from downtown Spokane to the base of the west face of Chimney Rock.
Kevin additionally remarks:
Steve and I flagged a route out of the road's end that was a slightly rising traverse. We ran out of tape just short of a clearing that allowed access to boulder fields and easy passage up to chimney. Next time I go up, I think a steeper line up to the ridge from the road end and then following the ridge to the rock, would be a better route to scout....in any case, there may be a climber's trail that we just didn't see. We ran into some Sandpoint climbers down in Priest River who told of friends using this road and claiming a 45 minute hike!!
Good luck and let me know if you use this....I think in time, we could get a nice easy climber's trail established there.
Steve also remarks:
Hike in is about 45 minutes according to Sandpoint locals and follows a "climber's trail". Do not follow orange and green flagging through the forest that goes straight toward Chimney; instead access the ridge above (by going straight up or at an angle toward Chimney) making sure you keep above the afore-mentioned flagging and steep slopes below it. Once on the ridge, I believe you will traverse over (south) into the basin below the west face of Chimney. There will be some talus-scrambling once you have emerged from the forest.
pu adds on Aug 10, 2003:
I approached Chimney from this new west side route this weekend. The driving instructions are quite accurate. However, on the approach in we took Steve's advice and made an ascending traverse which gained the ridge that leads to Chimney Rock. This was a mistake. Once on the ridge the crest is impassible and is very steep on it's flanks. Making a slightly ascending traverse above the flagging is a good choice. However, I would recommend gaining about 500 vertical feet on your traverse in a hiking time period of 30-40 minutes. This will put you at an optimal elevation to begin ascending into the hanging valley that heads up to the west face of Chimney. This is an enjoyable approach option if you like adventure and a bushwack. When a path develops it will be much easier than the Roothaan approach. Also, I am a fairly fast hiker and ok bushwacker and it took me approximately 1 to 1.5 hours to gain the basin below Chimney.
Bodhi Densmore very helpfully clarifies on Aug 30, 2003:
At point 5, in Steve's directions, the Junction 2 to Hunt Creek, stay left for this Indian Creek route. Right goes to Hunt Creek.
Steve’s point 7 is 5.5 mi from the paved road. Some miles later, there is a fork with a switchback up and an alternate straight and level to slightly down. Take the left up.
About 4.5 miles from point 7, that is about 0.8 miles from the trailhead, there is a second left fork up a dusty, much used but terrible road. Don’t go up there. Instead continue straight and level on the better road.
The road has water bars that were too high for my Subaru Legacy. I think perhaps a Subaru Outback would be OK. The water bars are less noxious in the last 5 miles. You need a high-clearance vehicle! Thanks to my Subaru, the water bars are now not as high as they were.
Walking directions from the trailhead:
Don't go for the ridge; go up the valley.
I recommend that you follow the taped route laid out by Steve and Kevin. (NOTE: as of 2006, flagging no longer remains). It’s not a trail but an easy bushwhack that roughly follows a contour line going east. After the last tape marker, continue on the contour, about 80 yards, until you arrive at an open grassy area cleared by an old slide. This open area is about 90 yards wide and extends far up and down. About 100 feet up the clearing you may see a small fir with blue tape. Don’t go that high. Go gently down the open area SSE to the valley floor. If you go up or continue on the contour, you will get into some terrible bushwhacking through steep wild raspberries. The Indian Creek watershed is like most glacier-carved valleys; steep sided and flat bottomed. The easiest walking is along the valley bottom near the creek. This part of the route is much easier and more open than the taped-marked section near the trail head. You will do some talus rock-hopping. Arc around point 6386 (on Roothaan topo). Avoid the valley sides until you are almost directly West of Chimney Rock. I was happy along the Southwest side until about 100 yards from Horton climber’s trail. Go southeast up intermitent slabs then head directly east up the talus until you reach the West face rope-up. My time from car to rope-up was 2.5 hours, including many rests. Return time was 90 minutes. I think 2 hours up would be easy if you follow the right route. On the return, don't leave the valley floor until you are below the clearing.
PACK RIVER (east) SIDE:
1. From Sandpoint, ID, drive US highway 2/95 north for approximately 10 miles, then turn west onto Pack River Rd (Rd 231).
2. Stay on Pack River Road 17 miles, then turn west (left) onto Forest Rd 2653. It ends at the trailhead at the West Fork (a primitive campsite is also here).
3. Drive across the Pack River bridge (11 miles from the highway; washed out in 2006, and restored in 2008) and turn left onto an old logging road. The trail follows the slope for 2 miles then trends right on another old logging road (#256). The trailhead (Chimney Rock Trailhead #256) may also be accessed by ATV or mountain bike.
4. This trail is an old logging road for ~2 miles. It trends left and turns into a trail (may be overgrown) near Chimney Creek, and crosses another bridge (Chimney Creek).
5. Cross the bridge and hike up a steep timbered hillside; the route is flagged & also has rock "ducks". Cross small meadows and go across granite slabs; carefully watch for the "ducks".
6. After crossing a large bench, then a smaller one, you will arrive at the head of the canyon. (The benches are suitable for camping, and the best sites on the east side route.) The east face of Chimney Rock is then visible and is unmistakable.
one-way hiking distance: approx. 6 miles; 2.5-3.5 hours.
Red TapeNo permits. No fees. No seasonal closures. No parking passes. No hassle. Nothing but fun.
When To ClimbWhile Chimney Rock has been climbed in all months, the vast majority of ascents are done from late June into mid-September. Most weekends during summer average 1-3 parties/day on the most popular routes, West Face & Cooper-Hiser. Crowds are not a problem!
Beware of thunder storms! Chimney Rock is not titled a "lightning rod" capriciously.
CURRENT CONDITIONS UPDATE 8 JULY 2007:
"...The (Horton) road is open with no downed trees. It is in good shape except the rough last 1/2 mile (normal conditions).
Some snow on the approach and was glad to have an ice axe (not mandatory with the warm weather and softening snow). In another week or two with this warm weather the snow will not be an issue and you can leave the ice axes home..." ~Paul J.
CampingMost ascents are done car-to-car in a full day. However, a treat awaits those willing to pack in camping gear. Camping is occassionally done in the basins that surround Chimney, particularly below the west face. Streams from snowmelt provide fresh running water on the west side well into August, at the minimum.
In late summer, no water is available at the base of the east face. Chimney Creek may be the last water source when approaching from the east side. The best campsites on the east side are on the 2 benches, noted above under "Getting There".
Camping may also be done at the various trailheads, some of which also have fire rings. See "Getting There".
No huts. No fees.
For those desiring, there are also several car campgrounds located along the shoreline of Priest Lake. Indian Creek is the closest campground to the Horton Creek Road turn-off.
Route OverviewsMajor & selected routes include:
West Face /Standard Route II, 5.3:
The most popular route, and the first multi-pitch attempted by many regional climbers. 3 pitches.
Rappel Chimney II, 5.6:
Same name as the descent route, but it does not follow the line that the rappel ropes do. 3 pitches.
Sancho's II, 5.9:
3 pitches on the left side of the west face. Joins the West Face/Standard Route at the second rappel station.
It Ain't Hay II, 5.9:
Several lie-backs plus an easy roof. Exit via South Nose Route.
Fun Roof I, 5.10b:
Strenuous & acrobatic, but protects well with SLCDs.
Wish He Were She 5.10+ - 5.11-:
Put up in 1987 by P. Mahoney & K. Berkenkamp; not in Green's guidebook. Starts to right of West Face.
Joe Lind from CdA posted the following description of major East Face rockfall and route destruction on July 5 2012. Dane Burns added commentary on the routes.
"Went to Chimney today. As we arrived at the base I noticed a ton, probably hundreds of tons, of rock on the snowfield that seemed out of place. Looking up at the East Face I was shocked.
The following routes no longer exist!
Pitch 2 of Cooper Hiser
The following partial routes or routes still exist.
East Face Direct
Cooper Hiser pitch 1
Illusion/Eye of the Tiger
No surprise really. New routes to do now!!! ...but likely you don't want to be there until things settle down some. ;-)
Cooper-Hiser III, 5.9-:
A classic climb, & by far the most popular route on the east face. Excellent cracks; protects well. 3 pitches. SEE 7/5/2012 UPDATE ABOVE. PITCH 2 DESTROYED.
Canary Legs I, 5.10b:
Lie-back or jam crack for 75 feet to a thin traverse (crux). Links to Cooper-Hiser partway up the first pitch.
Canary Legs var. left 5.10b:
Established in 1987 by Randall Green & Theresa Green; not in Green's guidebook.
Illusions I, 5.11a:
Can be climbed alone, or link to Free Friends to the summit.
Free Friends III, 5.10c:
Variety of steep cracks; sustained. 4 pitches. The first ascensionists lost pro on this route...and it still happens...
hence, "free Friends".
Yahoody II, 5.11b-
Requires full range of skills: hands, thin fingers, fists, off-widths. After 3 pitches, it joins the second belay ledge for Cooper-Hiser. SEE 7/5/2012 UPDATE, ABOVE. ROUTE DESTROYED.
Via rappel near the West Face / Standard route: 2 raps / pitches. The 2nd rappel utilizes the bolted anchors near the block at the top of the West Face's 2nd pitch. 2 full-length ropes are generally utilized.
HistoryThe first known ascent was done by four Seattle climbers in 1934: John Carey, Mart Chamberlain, Fred Theime, and Byron Ward. They climbed the route of least resistence, the West Face (II, 5.3).
John Boothe soloed the West Face in 1935. Randall Green notes in "Idaho Rock" (1987) that this was a "remarkable achievement for the time." Green also comments that Boothe was "worried not about the climb, but whether or not his tennis shoes would hold together long enough for the rough descent."
Ed Cooper and Don Bergman put up the next new route, the Northeast Face (5.8, A2) in 1959; aid was required. The route was freed (5.10d) in 1980 by Dane Burns & M. Colby.
The 450-foot vertical east face was first climbed in 1961 by Ed Cooper and Dave Hiser. Some aid was needed on the upper sections of the route. The route was freed in 1967 (not 1972 as stated in "Idaho Rock") by John Roskelley and Chris Kopczynski from Spokane. Theirs was also the first free ascent of the east face. Cooper-Hiser (III 5.9-) remains "the" route to do on the east face. It is also the easiest route on the east side.
The indefatigable Fred Beckey and Jerry Fuller climbed the next new route, in 1968. Beckey noted the prow of their South Nose route (5.7, A2 or 5.9) was "so thin it shakes."
Chris Kopczynski and John Roskelley from Spokane put up many major lines during the early 1970s, and dominated that era's Chimney Rock scene. Chris Kopczynski and Will Parks did the first winter ascent, in 1973. The 1980s saw new route development plus many lines freed by climbers including Dane Burns, Thom Nephew, Tim Ray, Randall Green, Ron Bergner, and Jay Koopsen.
Major rockfall occurred ~July 4, 2012, destroying multiple routes on the east face.
The Spokane Mountaineers have archived some summit registers in the club library. Other registers have been lost over the decades, prior to the Spokane Mountaineers stepping forward to preserve them.
Miscellaneous InfoPRIEST LAKE STATE PARK
PRIEST LAKE RANGER DISTRICT
32203 Highway 57
Priest River, ID 83856
IDAHO DEPT. OF PARKS & RECREATION
If you have information about this peak that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
Further ReadingThe predecessor to Thaddeus Laird's Climber's Guide to North Idaho & the Cabinet Wilderness (2007) is Randall Green's "Idaho Rock: A guide to the Selkirk Crest and Sandpoint Areas". Published in 1987, it is now long out of print. Chessler Books in Colorado may occasionally have copies available. However, as of September 2007 Chessler did not have any in stock (new or used). Amazon.com had several in stock: used, ranging from $30.00 to a whopping $110.00.
"Stories Off the Wall" (1993), a book by John Roskelley, devotes a chapter to his first free ascent of Cooper-Hiser in 1967. In the chapter titled "The East Face", John humorously describes his climb with Chris Kopczynski, noting "it would be the only time in my life my crotch did something other than get me in trouble."
"100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest", 2nd ed. (Landers, 2003) details approach info. No climbing routes are included, but there is a photo of Chimney plus several schematics of the approaches. The 1st edition approach info from the Pack River / east (Sandpoint ID) side is obsolete.