Chimney 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 250 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. GUIDEBOOK:
"Climber's Guide to North Idaho & the Cabinet Wilderness" by Thaddeus Laird is not a worthy successor to Randall Green's excellent 1987 "Idaho Rock" when detailing Chimney Rock. 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 on all three faces. 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.
MAP: 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.
No permits. No fees. No seasonal closures. No parking passes. No hassle. Nothing but fun.
While 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.
Most 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.
Major & 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.
Joe Lind from CdA posted the following description of major East Face rockfall and route destruction on July 5 2012. "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!
The following routes still exist.
East Face Direct
Cooper-Hiser pitch 1
Illusion/Eye of the Tiger
Chimney Rock is a unique three sided granite tower that sits atop the Selkirk range in north Idaho's panhandle. It has been called the "lightning rod" of North Idaho. The West face is the shortest and the climbing on the East face the longest. The North face sits nicely between the two for length. The West Face was climbed in 1934 by John Carey, Mart Chamberlain, Fred Theime, and Byron Ward. It was soloed in 1935 by John Boothe walking in from the lake and back out. Impressive physical feat of climbing and endurance even today. At 5.3 the Standard route is without a doubt the most repeated route on Chimney. Jack Miller and Bill Fix of the Spokane Mtneers climbed the Northeast Face in 1959 (5.6, A2). It was finally freed in 1980 by D.Burns & M. Colby @ 5.10c. The east face was then climbed on a second attempt in 1961 by Ed Cooper and Dave Hiser @ 5.9 and A2. The Cooper-Hiser Route was seldom repeated and not freed until 1972 by John Roskelley and Chris Kopczynski. (Cooper-Hiser 5.9) Fred Beckey and Jerry Fuller in 1968 found the summit by way of the South Nose route 5.7 A2 that eventually went free in 1977 at 5.10b by J Roskelley and Tim Ray of Spokane. Publication is always a big draw for aspiring climbers. Both West Face Direct (1968 5. 7 A2 ) on the West Face (freed @ 5.8 ), originally done with some aid and the Cooper- Hiser (1961) (freed @ 5.9)done in a like manner were both eventually free climbed in the summer of 1972 just prior to the first published records of Chimney Rock in "Off Belay" Dec., 1972. Technical rock climbing skills and equipment were changing quickly in the early '70s. By the summer 1974 both the Cooper-Hiser and West Face Direct had already been done or were on the "to do" list of most every aspiring rock climber in the Inland Northwest. 5.9 was just the entry exam. R. Bergner and T. Nephew had already set a new standard of hard 5.10 in 1974 with Berg's Breeze @ 5.10c in 1974. Berg's Breeze didn't get climbed again until 1979. Ron Berger and Thom Nephew were originally Seattle climbers well schooled at Index and Yosemite rock. This pair also added East Face Direct and Canary Legs both @ 5.10b in 1974. Both significant East Face crack lines. Berg's Breeze sits on the southern edge of West Face. It was actually the other side of the Becky's South Nose route as that crack split the South Nose east to west. It would be another six years before that standard of climbing was repeated on Chimney Rock. The reason in part? Ray Jardine's "friends" that allowed the cleanly fractured, smooth sided parallel crack systems to be protected more easily. Hard to imagine now the insecurity of climbing FFs and Eye of the Tiger (or Magnum Force) on big Chouinard hexs and tube chocks. Modern SLCDs were invented by Ray Jardine in 1978. The majority of the new cracks climbed in 1979 and 1980 were a direct result of 6 cams (in 3 sizes) purchased from Jardine in Yosemite Spring of 1979. The small Metolius TCU cams again made protection on the smaller thin cracks possible by 1986. And the new crop of thin cracks became much easier. TCUs in Illusions made a bad pin at the crux obsolete and much safer. Dane Burns, joined by any number of partners, in 1980, added Fun Roof, NE Face, NE Arete (Eye of the Tiger), Free Friends, Illusions, Yahoody, and Grey Matter (the first 5.11 on Chimney). Climbers involved in those routes were Tim Ray, Gary Silver, Chris Kopczynski, Mark Colby, Dave Fulton, Gwain Oka, Hilary Bates, Darcy Droste, Jim Langdon, Will Parks, Kim Momb, Chuck Hartshorn. Those routes were seldom repeated and the grades stayed at that level until 1985 when Burns and a few other locals added another group of clean crack climbs on all three sides of Chimney Rock. The best written historical record of those Chimney Rock climbs are the past summit registers (housed @ the Spokane Mountaineer's Library) or Randall Green's "Idaho Rock". 1985 saw another jump in grades at Chimney. Most of it done in traditional style, ground up free climbing with few or no falls. Other new climbs were done with preplaced protection, eventually bolts, aid and top roping. It became the joke (and not in a good way) between a few "Chimney locals"; one could find a crack, name it, rate it, place the pro in any manner you were capable of and then try to climb it. Then get it written into the newest guide book, free or not. The flip side to that was Jay Koopsen from Spokane and Burns as a rope team. They climbed their lines on site, no pre inspections and few if any falls. They climbed Youranalysis on the West face and then Kimmie and Tsunami and with Karl Birkinkamp on Stained Window all climbed in the same manner. Burns and Dave Fulton returned to do 2nd ascents of many of the 1980 routes together as well, along with the few new routes others were putting up. Of the 35 current routes on Chimney Rock, Burns did 14-1st ascents and almost as many 2nds. The standouts climbs were Burns and Koopsen's ascent of Tsunami in 1986, Fulton and Burns on the 2nd of Eye Of the Tiger and a 25 minute solo of Illusions-Free Friends in Oct of 1987 by Burns. Chimney's first 5.12, UNI, was in 1988 by J. Mattern and Burns. Since then unnecessary bolts have been added in odd places, and then soundly condemned by the community. In 2012 a major rock fall on the South East face dropped the entire South East face onto the talus below. Grey Stoke, Uni, Magnum Force, and a few others right up to the Cooper-Hiser fault line are now a part of the rubble field at the base of the East Face. It wasn't long before the Cooper-Hiser was climbed again with a much newer 2nd pitch...still climbable at the same 5.9 standard. The other climbs on the rock both on the NE Face and the West face seem to still be "semi solid" and intact for another generation of climbers to enjoy.
PRIEST LAKE STATE PARK
PRIEST LAKE RANGER DISTRICT
32203 Highway 57
Priest River, ID 83856
IDAHO DEPT. OF PARKS & RECREATION
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