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Chiefshead Northeast Face
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Cowboys and Indians T 
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Cowboys and Indians 

YDS: 5.11c French: 6c+ Ewbanks: 24 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 24 British: E4 6a

Type:  Trad, Alpine, Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.11b French: 6c Ewbanks: 23 UIAA: VIII- ZA: 23 British: E3 5c [details]
FA: Winkelman and Davis 1993
Page Views: 3,701
Submitted By: slevin on Apr 1, 2001

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Justin on the 5.10 undercling section of the secon...


Cowboys and Indians is the most popular, and perhaps finest, route on the NE Face of Chiefshead. At 11 or so pitches, it is one of the longest routes in RMNP.

On the right side of the wall, and just left of obvious terraces, find a thin finger crack (5.10d) leading to 3 bolts which protect 5.10 climbing. Belay on a ledge below an imposing, left trending roof.

Undercling the roof left (strenuous) to a stance out left (optional belay) and continue up an easier left facing corner. If you skip the optional belay take care you don't stick your rope in the left edge of the roof (probably better to belay at the intermediate stance - then you get to watch your second undercling the roof). Climb a short left facing 5.9 corner leading to easier (5.8) climbing and a ledge (short pitch). (Ten Little Indians crosses the route here.)

If you belayed at the optional belay below, it may be possible to combine this pitch with the following 5.10a pitch. Head up slightly left, then straight up past an overlap and 3 bolts, 5.10a or so, to a ledge with a 2 bolt anchor.

Now climb the pretty wall above (3 bolts, soft for 5.11a) to a right facing corner, 5.8, and belay above.

Now climb a (second) bolted section (rated 5.11c on one topo I have seen, but no way) which leads to a ledge- a long 165+ foot pitch, optional belay out left and lower at a fixed wire. Move up and left across a corner roof (5.10a) to a 5.8 crack and belay ledge above.

A 5.9 crack groove leads to the large ledge and cave area which is the most prominent feature on the upper wall. It is on these two previous pitches that routefinding gets fuzzy, and you may find yourself climbing something that bears no resemblance to my description.

Walk right 140 feet to below a steep corner with a couple of fixed pins and belay.

Climb the corner (a 5.11c boulder problem), with the fixed pins a bit lower than you would like and continue to a nice, if cramped, belay ledge.

Now either head right under a roof, then up a right facing corner (5.9), or go up and left from the belay on spicy 5.9 face, belay, then climb the "hanging gardens" 5.4 pitch to the top.


RPs, wired nuts, TCUs, to 3 inch cams. 10 QDs, 6 slings.

Photos of Cowboys and Indians Slideshow Add Photo
Pitch one. Wow thats a bright rope.
Pitch one. Wow thats a bright rope.
Jason making it look easy on the crux pitch.
Jason making it look easy on the crux pitch.

Comments on Cowboys and Indians Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 18, 2012
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 1, 2002

Is this route rated "R"?
By jason seaver
From: Estes Park, CO
Jul 16, 2005
rating: 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c

There is a runout 10- section starting the second pitch,and a short, runout 5.9 section on the left hand finish of the last pitch. The crux pitch is not runout if you trust the pins (they seemed decent) although the gear is a bit tricky in the corner above the pins. The first pitch felt really stout for mid-5.10. The initial thin crack seemed quite heady, and the moves up to and past the first bolt felt like 5.11. Numb fingers and "first-pitch-of-the-day-syndrome" probably contributed to the difficulty, but be ready for REAL climbing immediately off the glacier. Conversely, both 11a sections on the middle pitches of the route felt more like mid 5.10.

This is an excellent route on a wall bigger, and more remote, than the Diamond with good variety, good rock, spectacular views, and no other people. Highly recommended.
By doak
From: boulder, co
Jul 14, 2008
rating: 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c

I would agree with Jason's comments. The climbing (except for the first pitch) felt a bit softer than the ratings would imply (or maybe I was prime that day). There are plenty of .10aR and .9R sections, but the crux pitch is not R if you trust the pin that's at your knee. There was a lot of good gear in the corner past the pins. I feel like a lot of people get scared away from this excellent route because of the 11c R rating, which is unfortunate. But, it's still a serious route due to the runouts on more moderate terrain and the fact that you're going to burn through your entire rack if you have to bail.

I did it July 12th. The weather was great and the day was long. The last 5.4 pitch was dripping and oozing, but I was able to traverse right under the overlap (5.8) to easier ground to gain the ridge.

BTW, we linked pitch 3 and 4 with a 70m rope with 10m to spare.
By Bill Briggs
Aug 23, 2009

Cowboys and Indians mystery....

The first 6 pitches of this magnificent route are fairly straightforward as far as route finding goes, and both Gillett's and Rossiter's topos are consistent and accurate. However, once above Pitch 6 (which is the pitch through the overlaps with four bolts), many parties experience getting "lost at sea," and at this point the topos *appear* to part with reality. The 5.9 and 5.10a line suggested by the topos for Pitch 7 seems extremely improbably. So, where does Pitch 7 actually go? If you had an adventure on this part of the route and you have some recollection of what you did, please let us know. Greg and Eric, do you remember anything?

By the way, like other parties, we improvised at this point and found a way to do the pitch. Because some people don't want unsolicited beta, I won't describe it here. If you want information, contact me offline (before I forget what we did).
By Kelly Cordes
Aug 25, 2009

Hi Bill, good post...indeed, "Lost at Sea" on pitch 7, as the guidebook descriptions don't help much and the topos seem super improbable -- ya look up and wonder how in the heck the two discontinuous, angling corners shown in the topos could possibly connect? Looks like blank face climbing between them.

We climbed the route yesterday, had a great time, and it's fresh in my mind. (BTW, saw some fresh chalk...maybe yours?) I trust I'm not killing anyone's adventure here, or else they wouldn't be reading this route info page. If people object, I'll delete this comment.

Pitch 7 -- indeed it more/less goes as the topos show. The shallow, angling corners are linked by a great little hidden crack-ish thing (from below it looks like a blank face). The description in Gillett's book threw us off, since it says not to end pitch 6 at the big ledge of the route Risky Business (and so we didn't, even though it's right there). But after starting up the lower angling crack at the start of pitch 7, then traversing right out of the mossy wide part (which further makes ya think you're going the wrong way), I could almost step down to that big ledge. So, sure seems like it'd be reasonable to end p6 on that big ledge (as it seems Steve suggests in his description above), and start p7 by climbing off the left end of the ledge. At any rate, it worked out as the topos show, as the blank-looking face connecting the corners does go, and is excellent.
By Bill Briggs
Aug 28, 2009

Kelly, thanks for the quick reply. Amazing that three parties did that route in two days. That's probably never happened before. How hard was pitch 7 as you did it? It looked to me like it was going to be run-out 5.11, so I found an alternative way to the left. You did a much harder pitch. But here's what's interesting....

Eric Winkelman sent a remarkably detailed message about the pitch and it appears that on the first ascent he and Greg belayed on the big Risky Business ledge and then moved up and left, placing some gear in the right-slanting arch, then stepping out of the arch and continuing up and left to a hidden crack. So, it seems that the topos in the two guidebooks do not reflect the first ascent line. Furthermore, I suspect the guidebook ratings for that pitch as you did it (5.9 to 5.10a) are much too low.
By Kelly Cordes
Sep 4, 2009

Sorry for the delay, Bill -- actually, I'd say the given 5.9/10a rating for pitch 7 is about right. No harder than 5.10, anyway, and not really runout -- though, indeed, it *looks* much worse. That's the cool thing about it, it's a pleasant surprise!
By Mark Ferguson
Nov 4, 2009

I was up there the same day as Bill and John and we went a different way on p7 than they did. It seems we did what Eric W. did on the first ascent. From the Risky Business ledge, we went up and left to the "hidden crack". The climbing was good, well protected and no harder than 9/10-. This route is amazing. I concur Bill, very strange that 3 parties climbed it within a few days and 2 parties chose the same day.
By Rob Kepley
From: Westminster,CO
Aug 23, 2010

Major props to the FA party for finding this gem. Expect a full day to climb and get off this thing as the descent is long. It was hard to get the usual alpine start, because it takes longer for the sun to hit the base of the route being so tucked back in the gorge. All the 5.11 sections seemed a bit soft, but in the end you'll feel like you've climbed something. Route finding was a bit tricky in sections but no big deal. Also, expect lots of run-out on 9+/10- climbing with little crack climbing but more face. Coupled with the solitude/remoteness and shear beauty of upper Glacier Gorge, this is one magnificent route.
By justin dubois
From: Estes Park
Aug 23, 2010

Easiest way off this wall is to traverse the summit of Chiefshead, and climb down to the Birds of Fire raps. 6 or 7 easy raps and you're done. Just stash your kit down below Spearhead..
By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
Aug 24, 2010
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c R

A faster descent is to top out on the ridge above the route and then walk east to the big scree gully. This gully isn't to bad and it will put you back near the base of the wall where you started.
By Guy H.
From: Fort Collins CO
Aug 18, 2012

There was a massive rock fall event near the start this weekend. The base may be unstable at the moment, so be careful. The descent to climber's left is straightforward and fast. Trend right in the gully and you can stay out of most of the loose stuff.
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