Chockstone Couloir

Page Type
Idaho, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Trad Climbing
Time Required:
Most of a day
Steep Snow/Ice
Rock Difficulty:
5.5 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Chockstone Couloir
Created On: Apr 1, 2006
Last Edited On: Apr 1, 2006


This is one of the most looked at routes in the Sawtooth Mountains, tourists from around the world stand on the shores of Redfish Lake or take 100's of pictures of it as they ride the shuttle boat across the lake.

It is also an excellent moderate snow/couloir climb.

***If climbing early in the season, or during the winter, be sure the snow pack is stable; as this couloir is VERY prone to huge avalanches during unstable conditions***

And yes, this couloir has been skied MANY times!!!

Getting There

From shuttle boat dock, follow trail through Inlet transfer camp to the south and cross Redfish Lake Creek on way to Lilly Lake. Keep following trail to Lilly Lake until about 200 yards from lake then leave trail and head S/SE cross country towards the mountain. After about 1/2 mile the trees begin thinning and you enter into a boulder field. Continue up boulder field to snow at base of couloir.

If you run into cliff faces, you have missed the boulder field and need to backtrack or contour away from cliffs to find boulder field in approximately the center of the mountain.

The bottom of the couloir is very flat and it looks like the snow dead ends into the cliff face, but the route will open up as you climb into the couloir.

Route Description

Once in the couloir, the route gets progressively steeper (up to about 45 degrees) for 3-4 pitches and ends abruptly at a bus sized chockstone wedged into the couloir.
The chockstone is the crux of the route, and depending on conditions and time of year determines the difficulties of getting past the chockstone.

1.) If you are climbing early season (May-June), there is generally a short steep snow/ice section and a couple of 3-4 ft rock steps to the right of the chockstone (50-55 degrees,5.5 rock) for one pitch. There are 2 bolts and a belay station on the right hand wall, but are often missed by most climbers as they are either under the snow, or the climbers go past them as they climb over the chockstone.

2.) If you are climbing during Mid-season (July), be prepared to climb almost a full pitch of rock to the Right of the chockstone, or there are several "mixed" options both on the right and left side of the wall if you are able to climb under the chockstone.

3.) If you are climbing late season (August), be prepared for a "grovel" (5.4-5.9) on whichever route you choose over the chockstone.

If you miss the belay station, be prepared to set up snow anchors, as the rock is generally rotten, or the cracks are flaring and hard to protect.

Once above the chockstone, the couloir continues for 6-8 pitches on moderate (45 degree) snow slopes, with one steeper pitch as you exit the couloir.

From the couloir it is another 250-300 vertical feet to the summit, with some tricky route finding at times.
Either scramble up and to the south (4th class)until the route seems to cliff out on very exposed steep rock, then look for a route "THROUGH" the ridge. (The boulders form natural tunnels which lead to the East side of the ridge) and then continue scrambling to the summit.
The second option is to scramble up and then cross over the main ridge to the North onto exposed, but very high quality rock slabs (5.3) and continue around to the East until you are able to scramble to the summit.

Scramble down and to the East until the slope eases in the trees and then continue cross country through the trees (AKA bushwhacking)back to the lake and the Inlet Camp boat dock.

Essential Gear

Helmet, rope, crampons, ice axe (second tool can be helpful--depending on experience), 1-2 pickets, various slings/cordelette, various carabiners, small rock rack (4-5 nuts, 2-3 small/med cams).
Some people have taken rock shoes, but we have always found it easier to just climb any rock sections in our boots/crampons.

Lunch and a camera.


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Chockstone Couloir

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