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Chaos Canyon Bouldering

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Lower Chaos Canyon 
Upper Chaos Canyon 
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Chaos Canyon Bouldering  

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Location: 40.30491, -105.66457 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 146,925
Administrators: Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Peter Beal on Oct 25, 2008
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Another awesome Tommy problem at Chaos Canyon.

Fragile Alpine Area MORE INFO >>>


Chaos Canyon, situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, has gained international status and become a household name in the world bouldering scene. Located at 10,000 feet, in a spectacular alpine setting, "Chaos" as it is typically known, has something to offer every kind of boulderer. With an abundance of highly featured, steep walls and overhangs, the boulders of both Upper and Lower Chaos have produced quality problems from V0 to V15. Little wonder that boulderers willingly brave the 45 minute hike to Lake Haiyaha or the hour plus to Upper Chaos Canyon.

However this bouldering paradise has not been without problems. This is a fragile area, where plant and animal life struggles to maintain a toehold in a severe and barren environment. User impact has been hard to avoid noticing over the past six or seven years. Some climbers have been too ready to disregard the wilderness ethic in favor of a group mentality that emphasizes doing the problem at any price. Offenses include stashing pads overnight, landscaping landings, destruction of vegetation, and so on. The rangers at RMNP are watching the situation and it is up to every single visitor, regardless of climbing ability, to act as a good steward of a vital living natural resource. Otherwise painful and restrictive regulations could change forever the freedom that many have taken for granted in the mountains.

If you want to add any problems in RMNP check to make sure there is not an area or boulder already set up that it can be added to. Do not add individual problems to this site unless there is an area and boulder description in place. If there aren't any, feel free to add them but make sure the descriptions are detailed and accurate for all three, area, boulder, and problem.

Getting There 

To get to Chaos Canyon, you must enter Rocky Mountain National Park, just west of Estes Park on US 36. This requires buying a $20 week pass or $40 yearly pass. Nation-wide National Parks passes work here as well. Shortly after leaving the park entrance, you must turn left on Bear Lake Road to get to Bear Lake, following this road for approximately 10 miles to Bear Lake. Be advised that the Bear Lake parking lot is very full on summer weekends and you may have to turn around, park at the shuttle parking (prominently signed) and catch the free shuttle that runs along the upper Bear Lake Road. You can even catch a shuttle from Estes Park itself. Carpooling is highly recommended. Watch your speed. Rangers will ticket you.

From the parking lot, you can head up the trail for Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. However, since you will likely be carrying a pad or two, sharing the trail with other hikers can be difficult. The trail is narrow and often filled with families and other groups. Please remember to be courteous and friendly to other hikers. If they ask what you are carrying, explain clearly and nicely and move on.

At Nymph Lake, head up another steep section for another 10-15 minutes to the junction for Dream and Emerald Lakes. For problems such as the Kine Traverse, head right to Emerald Lake. This is also the approach for Hallett Peak. For Chaos Canyon, head left and tackle a steep pair of switchbacks that lead up to beautiful views of Long's Peak before a short dip and the stream that leads to Lake Haiyaha. From the parking lot, you can expect to take between 30 and 40 minutes to get here, depending on fitness.

To access Lower Chaos Canyon, look on the right, from where the short descent ends, for an obvious trail heading right into the trees. Look under the section for Lower Chaos Canyon for specific directions from here. For Upper Chaos Canyon continue around the lake to a forested area where the trail ends. Continue heading uphill and west. Specific directions are found in the Upper Chaos Canyon section. Plan on at least an hour for the approach to Upper Chaos Canyon.

It is worth remembering that finding specific boulders in Chaos Canyon can be difficult (It is named Chaos for a reason!). The general drift of the canyon is east-west so as you look up the canyon you are looking west. To your right is north and left is south. This will be helpful on a number of descriptions.

A final point has to do with conditions. The season for Chaos Canyon runs from approximately June to October, depending on snow. Visitors to RMNP should be prepared for any kind of weather. This includes baking sun, cold drenching downpours, hail, and potentially lethal lightning strikes. The hike back down can be complicated by maneuvering across slippery talus which can lead to a twisted or broken ankle or worse. Make sure you have brought a warm waterproof jacket and plenty to eat and drink. Watch out for altitude sickness if you are coming from lower elevations.

Remember that the landings for 95% of the boulders is jagged talus, making a crashpad, preferably several, virtually mandatory. If you seriously injure yourself, you are 2.2 miles and 800' elevation from assistance. Bouldering alone here therefore can be a serious matter. Be very careful. It is worth noting that cellphone reception is generally good in Upper Chaos Canyon and spotty in Lower Chaos Canyon.

Climbing Season

Weather station 9.3 miles from here

73 Total Routes

['4 Stars',13],['3 Stars',34],['2 Stars',20],['1 Star',6],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Chaos Canyon Bouldering:
Middle Warm up   V1 5     Boulder, Alpine, 12'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Potato Chip Boulder
Malice *   V2 5+     Boulder, Alpine   Lower Chaos Canyon : Revenge Area
East Face   V2 5+     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Warm-Up Boulder
Potato Chip Layback   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Potato Chip Boulder
Northwest Corner   V3 6A     Boulder, Alpine, 12'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Warm-Up Boulder
Potato Chip Pinch   V5 6C     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Potato Chip Boulder
Autobot   V5 6C     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Gobot Boulder
Counter Attack *   V5+ 6C+     Boulder, Alpine   Lower Chaos Canyon : Revenge Area
Revenge   V6- 7A     Boulder, Alpine   Lower Chaos Canyon : Revenge Area
Potato Chip   V7- 7A+     Boulder, Alpine, 15'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Potato Chip Boulder
Interference aka Geeks of the Industry   V7 7A+     Boulder, Alpine, 9'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Geeks of the Industry Bould...
Tommy's Arete   V7 7A+     Boulder, Alpine   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Automator Boulder
Skipper D   V8 7B     Boulder, Alpine   Upper Chaos Canyon : Skipper Roof
Gang Bang   V8 7B     Boulder, Alpine, 10'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Centaur Boulder
Potato Chip Sit Start   V9 7C PG13     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   Lower Chaos Canyon : The Potato Chip Boulder
Right El Jorge   V9 7C     Boulder, Alpine   Upper Chaos Canyon : El Jorge Boulder
Handicapps   V9 7C     Boulder, Alpine, 11'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Centaur Boulder
Deep Puddle Dynamics   V9+ 7C     Boulder, Alpine, 20'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Deep Puddle Dynamics
Marble   V10- 7C+     Boulder, Alpine, 10'   Lower Chaos Canyon : Centaur Boulder
Green 45 Stand    V10-11 8A     Boulder, Alpine   Green 45 Area : Green 45 Boulder
Browse More Classics in Chaos Canyon Bouldering

Featured Route For Chaos Canyon Bouldering
Dillon low on the route.

Tommy's Arete V7 7A+  CO : Alpine Rock : ... : The Automator Boulder
This is the amazing arete on the right side of the boulder can't miss it.Sit start low and go right hand to a small crimp, from there follow good holds to a shelf, then bust out the crux and top 'er. Watch out for the rock behind you....[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Chaos Canyon Bouldering Slideshow Add Photo
Danny Baker: V6+ Boulder across from Gang Bang on ...
Danny Baker: V6+ Boulder across from Gang Bang on ...
Gobot Pit, Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
Gobot Pit, Chaos Canyon, RMNP.
The Automator Boulder, June, 2010.
The Automator Boulder, June, 2010.
Chris Bowen on Autobot.
Chris Bowen on Autobot.
Chaos Canyon.
Chaos Canyon.

Comments on Chaos Canyon Bouldering Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 30, 2010
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Sep 20, 2008
I seem to remember that this site wasn't going to post Chaos. What changed? If these areas and problems are going to be publicized, the least that can be done is adding definite trail description and problem locations.
By Joshua Merriam
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 22, 2008
MP is a resource for its users to share info on climbing areas. I added several problems once I saw the area posted. I've recently started bouldering up in Chaos when I get the chance, and swapping beta, names, pictures, etc. Adds to my enjoyment. And I'd like to help others find and enjoy said problems.
(edit: Chaos is a sensitive environment and boulderers must tread lightly and be good stewards whilst in the park)
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Sep 22, 2008
Joshua, I think your postings are good. However Chaos is not a typical climbing area and a number of controversies have arisen from visitors' overuse and neglect. I think MP needs to recognize that and revise the descriptions, etc. accordingly.
By Flash Gordon
Oct 23, 2008
Nice job Peter, I think the intro is well done. I would take out the mention of the "short cut" social trail as that is not approved by RMNP. Perhaps also you may want to bold the ethics section.
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Oct 23, 2008
Good suggestions! I have taken care of it.
By Anar-Christ
Jun 16, 2009
National Parks are here for everyone to use, not just the elite. Read the Constitution Mr. Beal.
By Peter Beal
From: Boulder Colorado
Jun 16, 2009
I'm not sure what that comment's about. Can you explain it?
By Hoez
From: Uganda
Oct 12, 2009
There are always the disrespectfuls out there - nothing we can do about it. The area is bound to get a little tore up, but I think it's cool that you guys are making an effort to bring about some kind of an awareness about the delicate environment. Cheers!

I was up in Chaos about a month ago, and one thing that I noticed is that people are using the climber trails way to much. I know the hike is long and that last uphill stretch, with gear and a crashpad, will wear your arse out, but we need to not be lazy and take that extra 5-10 minutes and just stay on the trail. I would think that when the Rangers go up there, the climber trails and how trampled they are, would be one of the first things that they notice.

Maybe a solution would be to establish those climber trails a little better. People are gonna use them regardless of access issues, so it might be a good idea to just work with it. I think it would be better to define another trail than have people dodging and weaving there way to the main areas - I would also think that the BLM or whatever would realize that as well. When your a newcomer to the area you tend to run around like a madman from boulder to boulder and when your caught up in the hype of the area and there aren't very good trail systems, it becomes very easy to forget about the delicate ecosystem that your in

I think we need to start coming up with a solution to the problem now before it's too late and we have another Hueco on our hands.

Just some thoughts, maybe I'm wrong.
By JasonT
Sep 30, 2010
Me and some friends found a 5.10 Dragon heading up to upper yesterday. Message me if it's yours.
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