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Chimney Pass

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Chimney Pass

Postby alpinemike » Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:07 pm

TITLE: Chimney Pass

GENERAL OVERVIEW: This pass leads from Lake 11,676 of Glacier Creek to the next Northeastern cirque from Cirque Pass.


LOCATION: Kings Canyon National Park Southeast of Lake 11,676 and above the Palisade Lakes to the East of Cirque Pass along the same ridge line. HST Map


USGS TOPO MAP (7.5'): Split Mountain

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: WARNING: I can not personally recommend anyone using this route as it involved very high level technical Class 3 down-climbing on the Southern side of the pass. There was one move in particular that we rated as a Class 4 face. Cirque Pass is far easier and much more direct.

Given my warning about this pass here goes the description. The North side of this pass starts out fairly tame with a system of granite shelves and boulders until you reach the entrance chute for the final push up to the top. Rogue Photonic & I decided to take a more Westerly approach (Right side from the North) which entailed lots of annoying loose rocks and a small snowfield to cross. From there the going got steeper and less obvious since there was a large system of cracks and shelves to choose from. We fortunately found a challenging Class 3 route up to the top of the pass. At the top you truly are at a notch in the ridge where there appears to be nowhere to go except straight down through very technical Class 3 terrain.

The South Side starts with an extremely challenging down-climb. After going through the first down-climb you face a large slab that we rated as Class 4 because of the lack of hand & footholds. It was mostly a friction climb that was very hairy with a full pack. Once this area is crossed the going gets easier through large and unstable boulder fields until you finally reach the bottom which is marshy flat area. Several Class 3 moves are encountered through the easier boulder fields nonetheless.

Photos by Rogue Photonic since my camera lost all the photos from this section.






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Re: Chimney Pass

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:35 am

I don't believe I would give the warning that people shouldn't use the pass because I never had the feeling of peril while doing it. I do however say that it's extremely tedious and technical and it's not a pass I would plan again when easy crossover can be made from Cirque Pass.

I also do not believe the first photo with Mike listed as class 4 actually is. certainly class 3 for sure. The second photo I would consider 4. It's certainly deceiving from the photo but the route your forced to take Is very limited in foot holds especially. Much of it I recall holding onto rock and using friction to lower my body down while my feet hung in the air.
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Re: Chimney Pass

Postby acvdmlac » Sat Jul 09, 2016 4:25 pm

Hmm, our experience was so different...I'm with Secor in calling Chimney mostly Class 2 and would choose it again over Cirque for its straightforward route (even though we got off course as I describe below).

We may have found it easier as we were just day-hiking and trading off a 20-lb. day-pack. We ascended the south side of Chimney Pass from Lower Palisade Lake, starting from the west and heading diagonally up to the east until we reached the creek that tumbles down to Lower Palisade Lake from the basin above. We found it steep but easy Class 1 with no route-finding problems until we got to the flat marshy area indicated on the Harrison Map. We realized at that point that we had passed the correct route which ascends the western tributary of the main creek; it was so completely dry we had not even noticed passing it...September 2014 was at the end of the 3rd summer of California’s worst drought in recorded history...some creeks shown on Harrison maps were nearly-unrecognizable as water courses, and some tarns shown on maps were completely dried up as well.

One option would have been to descend and look for the secondary creek gully and re-ascend along it. However we choose to stay to high and east, nearer the Palisades Crest, and ascend the talus and scree slope marked on the Harrison map, to settle for ourselves a controversy as to which low point over the western spur was the best route for Chimney Pass.

The scree and talus slope proved steeper and less stable Class 2 than it looked from below. After a good 200’ of climbing, we were able to see that the spur was a 200’ + cliff, class 5+, that the “low points” visible in the map were simply notches in its jagged top, and that the only route of less than Class 4 difficulty over the ridge was clearly the lower and broader U-shaped col to the west, at the top of the gully which we had missed earlier. We chose to traverse across a talus-choked gully, and slab-walk over an intermediate ridge to arrive at the correct route to Chimney Pass, some 150’ or so below its summit. Looking above and below, we could see more steep talus with occasional patches of scree, which proved to be mostly stable and Class 2 as we ascended to the summit.

Just below the summit, the route narrowed to a couple of choke points where a couple of brief, dynamic moves involving both hands and back-bracing were necessary. Combined with slight overhangs and 10’ drops, this crux could be called Class 3, but the exposure and difficulty were too low for Class 4, but perhaps it was more difficult as a down-climb heading north-to-south. We assume these were the chimneys for which the pass was named. We found it easiest to hand each other our trekking poles and the day-pack, but this crux could also probably be negotiated solo with either a short rope for pack-hauling, or some bouldering skills.

The north side route, after a short jog to the left and then descent through a couple of similar chimneys, was more straight-forward if even steeper Class 2, with the destination of Lake 11,676 clearly visible the entire time. It started with semi-stable talus, size ranging from soccer ball to SUV, tiring, but not technical or exposed, with the stability increasing as we approached the gentler slope at the lake-shore.

Perhaps we were just lucky on the south side ascent in getting off course and missing some of the class 3-4 terrain described above. I can't really recommend our route as it involved a lot of scrambling around talus, but even as a relative acrophobe I didn't find Chimney nearly as exposed and spooky as Cirque. Perhaps it boils down to micro-route finding.

For fun and comparison, we returned to Lower Palisades Lake via Cirque Pass, heading north-to-south. You can see my comments on Cirque Pass for why I would choose Chimney if I were to do it again. I would post some photos but Alpine Mike's are better and more representative than any in my collection.
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