Upper Upper Chaos Canyon

Upper Upper Chaos Canyon

Posted on 27. Aug, 2012 by in News, RMNP

Warning: Graphic content of a cut below
This weekend I made it back to Upper Upper Chaos Canyon, the place of most potential and the best rock in the Front Range for new and amazing hard problems. Jimmy Webb was psyched to get out, and he got in touch with me to go on the hunt for some more new ones. Jimmy brought with him a climber I had never heard of before, Toru Nakajima, from Japan. Although Toru was a new name and face, it was very apparent immediately that he was one of the strongest climbers I had ever seen. Perhaps because I had no expectations, his quickness, lightness and confidence caught me off-guard. Toru is here for a few weeks and I would expect him to climb just about everything he tries. Here is a link to an article regarding his background, and video of his impressive and fast ascents of Gritstone testpieces.

Toru and Jimmy were psyched to climb a project I found in 2003 while exploring this area with Angela Payne. Angela had done all of the moves on the end when we tried it, and we estimated it to be V11. The boys were gunning for a lower start I had cleaned up earlier this year and it looked like Toru was about to climb it, when Jimmy, loaded up on an undercling, broke off a flake. He unintentionally pulled the flake into his left arm and fell on his back. Within seconds he popped up, proclaiming “We have to leave, now”. Holding up his arm it was evident that we had to get Jimmy out as quickly as possible. The rock had cut a 3-inch gash in his arm, leaving the muscle exposed, as blood poured profusely from the wound. We were all shocked, but acted quickly to bandage Jimmy’s arm as best we could before he took off down the trail. He made it out ok, but the wound was fairly serious, requiring 15 stitches to sew up. Unfortunately, that was the end of Jimmy’s trip, and I wish him a speed recovery.

Jimmy’s cut, and proof that he does not have bionic forearms. Photo by Sean Morgan, who took Jimmy to the hospital.

Jimmy’s injury brings up a brief ethical question. Many of you have commented that it would be abhorrent to use a screwdriver to clean a boulder problem. A screwdriver was not used to clean this project, but had one been used, it’s possible that Jimmy would not have sustained the injury he did. Does the prospect of such an injury legitimize the use of metal implements when cleaning a new boulder?

It’s awesome that Jimmy had been so enthusiastic about making the hike and going out with us. There are still so many great projects left, and if I am in Colorado this fall and have time to boulder, it will be in Upper Upper. New problems continue to go in almost every weekend. Recently, Ryan Silven added a project I found and tried last year, The Ring of Fire V11 . This is the highest, hardest problem in Chaos Canyon. It is not far from the Pond, which is at an elevation of 11,004ft. Area A in Mt. Evans is 11,100ft. Other great new problems include Snakepit V7 FA Alex Kordick (Estivation Cave is the V9 sit, added by Jaeger), Whole Lotta Love V8 FA Collin Horvat.

A number of people have asked for directions to all of the great new problems and I put together this map of a few of the key ones to get you in the right place. If you have other questions about specific problems I would be happy to share information.

31 Responses to “Upper Upper Chaos Canyon”

  1. Crafty

    27. Aug, 2012

    If a flake is obviously flexing and very likely to break, I’d say definitely use a screwdriver to clean it off. I think those that suggest otherwise haven’t cleaned many problems on Rocky Mountain granite.

  2. big poppa chosscrush

    28. Aug, 2012

    that injury picture is photoshopped. jimmy’s arms ARE bionic. this accident is a coverup.

    (i wish him a speedy recovery)

  3. aron

    28. Aug, 2012

    ”A screwdriver was not used to clean this project, but had one been used, it’s possible that Jimmy would not have sustained the injury he did.”

  4. aron

    28. Aug, 2012

    Is this serious?

  5. Dan

    28. Aug, 2012

    Tough break for jimmy, hopefully he recovers without any issues.

    As far as the screwdriver question goes, I suppose the conservative view would be that no one should permanently alter a hold with metal tools, and everyone gets to make up their own mind whether or not they want to climb on a hold that may break.

    A more practical viewpoint might be that if a majority of reasonable people would choose to climb on a hold, it should be left as is. If a majority of reasonable people would think it too risky, it should be broken off. Obviously it might be difficult to draw this line in reality, but that seems like a pretty logical way to look at the issue.

  6. Tim

    28. Aug, 2012

    “Does the prospect of such an injury legitimize the use of metal implements when cleaning a new boulder?”


  7. matt

    28. Aug, 2012

    holds break even on climbs that seem like they never will. enough time and weather goes by and climbers pulling on them can cause them to come loose.
    a good appropriate brushing and chalk is all new problems need.
    a good inspection of the holds sometimes will reveal a hold could break as well

  8. joeyjoejoe

    28. Aug, 2012

    “Does the prospect of such an injury legitimize the use of metal implements when cleaning a new boulder?”


  9. Jabroni

    28. Aug, 2012

    Anyone who says an implement is not justified when cleaning a boulder has not dropped a big flake on themselves. Or seen the results firsthand, in terms of big cuts, broken bones, and potentially worse.

    There is some rock that it would be dangerous and stupid not to clean. How can it possibly be unethical to clean off something that’s going to break, particularly when the alternative situation is that you’re leaving something that may well injure someone and change the climb anyway?

    In summary, Tim, I disagree strongly. From memory the discussion around using a screwdriver on an existing climb was based on the (possibly wrong?) presumption that the climb was pretty solid and the screwdriver was mostly about making things easier.

  10. JamesO

    28. Aug, 2012

    The safety concern definetly adds to the arguement. But somewhat regardless . . .

    “If a flake is obviously flexing and very likely to break, I’d say definitely use a screwdriver to clean it off. I think those that suggest otherwise haven’t cleaned many problems on Rocky Mountain granite.”


  11. Dan

    28. Aug, 2012

    @ Jabroni

    Sure, loose flakes can be dangerous. But you always have the option of not climbing on it. You don’t need to be looking out for the safety of future climbers, because they should be doing that themselves. Bouldering can be dangerous. Decision making and risk management are part of the game. We’re not talking about sport climbing anchors here; suspect holds are something that every outdoor boulderer should capable of recognizing and dealing with.

    Anyway, it seems like it really should depend on whether or not a problem has been climbed before. In my opinion, if a problem has yet to see an ascent, metal tools can be warranted for cleaning. Once the cleaning/FA process is over, there should really be no reason for taking a screwdriver to a climb. Obviously this puts some responsibility on the FAist to use good judgement and do the job right.

  12. Paul N

    28. Aug, 2012

    It’s not about what you use to clean boulders, it’s about your intention while doing it. If you want to chip a boulder you can do it with a rock, piece of wood, or your foot. I almost always use my hands, mainly because I don’t like to put heavy and or sharp objects in my climbing pack. I usually end up with bloody knuckles…

    When I clean a new boulder I try and remove everything that is friable or seems likely to break. I try to separate this process as much as possible from thinking about the sequence of the problem. If you clean the boulder before starting to work out a sequence it’s much easier to prevent yourself from letting a hold remain because it might not go otherwise; or put more effort into removing a hold since its not part of the sequence you envisioned.

    If someone wants to chip something I don’t think a rule of not using metal will prevent that. Nor are such people likely to follow rules anyways. Perhaps the opposite might happen. “Its cool, I didn’t use any metal to remove that hold”.

    The only reason I see not to use metal is due to the ease of removing holds with something like a crowbar. You may accidently remove a hold that would otherwise not have come off. Conversely, Jimmy could break a hold that I might think is solid after yarding on it with just my hands.

    It goes without saying that “aggressive cleaning” should only happen before a boulder has been climbed. No one should be taking a screwdriver, car key, or foot, to any established problem except in perhaps, some very rare circumstances.

  13. Aron

    28. Aug, 2012

    @ Jabronie and Jamie
    What about a problem that already have been established but from wich some holds are seriously flexing and might break?
    Why would your (Jamie) argument about safety be any different in that case?
    From what I understand of what you wrote Jabronie, it’s not ok to use a screwdriver on an already established climb if it’s solid (I strongly agree!), but it could be ok if the climb is potentially dangerous? What is your opinion on that Jamie? Should safety only be a concern for the first ascentionist?
    Take the example your discussing in your post. Let say that Toru or Jimmy would have climbed it without breaking the flake (I guess that was their goal…). Should anyone be allowed to use a screwdriver to remove the flake since the climb would clearly be as dangerous for repeaters as it was for Jimmy?
    I hope most people would think it’s not ok to do that. Neither the repeaters nor the first ascentionist have the obligation to climb this piece of rock. They evaluate the risks (flexing holds, highball, bad landing etc…) and make a decision based on that. My opinion is that neither should the repeaters nor the first ascentionist make use of a metal tool to break flexing holds. Our goal when cleaning should be to make the least alterations possible to the rock and its environnement. From my perspective, using a screwdriver is hardy consiliable with this goal.

  14. Jabroni

    29. Aug, 2012

    I think you’ve pretty much covered my perspective, yes. There’s a lot of ‘it depends’ about this, but let’s say the key hold for a V10 wasn’t properly tested by the FA (perhaps they flashed it) and is likely to break and make the problem much harder. Not much point getting the FA of a V10 that will be climbed 3 times before it turns into a V14 is there? It’s very nice that Chris Sharma climbed Witness the Fitness, and we all wish it didn’t break, but it did and I’d bet in 10 years only us oldtimers will know about that problem.

    Of course, there’s some situations where you might decide to leave a climb uncleaned. If you’re going to leave something hanging half off, I’d suggest you make the supreme sacrifice and don’t claim the FA at all. Let someone else claim it, know in your heart of hearts you’ve done the problem, but leave that other person the opportunity to clean it properly as well.

    The argument that ‘you don’t have to climb this bit of rock’ is just the same as telling trad climbers ‘just don’t clip those bolts’. It’s tantamount to taunting to publicise a climb and leave it in a shabby state. ‘come on, try this, you’d better hope you don’t crack that hold and have to be carried out’. (again, a lot of it depends – a bad hold for a sit start is unlikely to leave someone messy, but you never know when it might leave you Jimmied – yes, I just coined a new term for getting cut)

    There’s a guy I know who’s happy climbing on anything that is likely to break or is mossy (for the ‘head game’). He doesn’t publicise his FAs because he understands that 99.9% of climbers don’t enjoy that and will clean up his climbs if given the chance.

    There’s also a prosaic consideration that comes into play when deciding how to clean up a climb. If you’re trying to climb 50 problems that day, trying to tear holds off each one with your hands guarantees you’ll be finishing your day early, one way or another. And if you’ve ever removed moss from a granite boulder (with a wire brush, good luck removing moss with anything else but either way it’s an implement) then complaining about the use of implements makes no sense. But bringing a screwdriver to a sandstone crag is a very different thing. Again, it depends.

  15. Aaron S

    29. Aug, 2012

    We should make plastic “screwdrivers” that have notches different distances from the end so you can find one where the notch is just on the edge of the flake when you pry. They should be graded at around 200 lbs of force and would snap if that force is exceeded. O.o

  16. Jabroni

    29. Aug, 2012

    Hey, let’s flip this around and ask another interesting question.

    If the best problem in the universe (7 stars out of 3) was about to break and nevermore be climbable, would you put a few dabs of epoxy on it to ensure its longevity?

  17. matt

    29. Aug, 2012

    Climbing is inherently dangerous. Sucks for the guy who cut his arm but he could have easily done the same thing slapping against a jagged rock after missing a pad.
    Safety is always in question when dealing with nature.
    Some climbs will have broken holds if not now in the future. Please don’t bring your dry tools to Texas if that’s the way you intend on cleaning a problem.

  18. James

    29. Aug, 2012

    1) It’s up to the first ascentionist to clean or not to clean.

    2)Motivation matters. Are you cleaning it because it’s a big flake you think will injure someone, or because you hope to uncover a better hold?

    3) I’ve broken lots of small holds doing FAs, it’s no big deal. Bloody knuckles or an awkward fall are all you’re going to end up with. A big block that’s going to injure you or your spotter(s) is a different story. It’s always going to be situational.

    Summation: Clean things with others in mind. Get other opinions if possible. Don’t do anything a reasonable boulderer wouldn’t do.

  19. climbhighco

    30. Aug, 2012

    the dynamic force of a climber pulling on a hold is far more than 200lbs.

    in my mind its seems obvious that screwdrivers are acceptable when removing a hold before a first ascent for safety reasons. the problem lies in where each person draws the line.

    In the geologic life span of a boulder, the impact of us climbing on it will be a mere speck of dust in its seemingly endless existence. The force exerted by a screwdriver on a loose hold is equally insignificant when compared to the forces of nature on the same loose hold

  20. B3

    30. Aug, 2012

    I am surprised no one has commented on Toru. Watching him dyno 25 ft off the ground without a rope and possibly no pads is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a while.

  21. Jabroni

    30. Aug, 2012

    Definitely Jamie. But is he dynoing onto potentially suss holds? Every project out on grit has got to have had many suitors! No doubt they’re clean and chalked 😉

    Sorry, but ‘it’s inherently dangerous’ doesn’t cut it for me. There are some flakes where I live (on routes) that would top 20 tons and that are dangerously creaky. The climber might live; the belayer, unlikely. There are some flakes that would be more than 300 kgs on boulders I’ve played on. It’s not just a matter of a cut sometimes. You could have a collapsed lung or worse. Everyone’s brave until they shatter their first ankle (or both) or have a bunch of broken ribs… Etc.

    I promise not to bring a screwdriver to Texas. But as everything’s bigger in texas, it would have to be a prybar!

  22. Zack

    30. Aug, 2012

    I think sometimes it’s very important to use a stick or whatever if it looks like somebody could get seriously hurt if climbed. I think these guys were not expecting to see such a big bloke of rock falling off.


    The part I am talking about happens at the very end on the 2.27 minute marker.

  23. jacob

    30. Aug, 2012

    i was just thinking the same thing, jamie. that little video was very impressive. the kid has quite head on him and his style is flawless, but the thing i liked most was his psyche…every time that he topped something out, the smile on his face was priceless. and that fa that he did looked amazing and scary…i agree, that dyno at the end was amazing. total confidence. i can’t wait to hear more about what this kid crushed while here. i hope that you keep us informed.

  24. Screw you

    30. Aug, 2012

    This is one of many examples where it shows how taking off a QUESTIONABLE and potentially dangerous hold is fine . Why wouldn’t it be fine? The worst part about scraping off a hold is putting more time into a lesser quality problem. Though one could argue that the problem was before its time, meaning that more years of erosion would eventually make the hold change forms or disappear altogether.

    Another important question to ask yourself when deciding to lessen a hold for safety purposes is, does this hold need to be used to execute the problem, or is there different beta that will avoid the hold? This question can only be useful for easy or non world-class boulder problem, or for those who are eco-friendly.

    Regardless…its a fact that Jimmy Webb got fucked up from a boulder problem. It is also a fact that boulder problems that brake when the conditions are fine probably mean that it is a low star problem due to the shitty stone quality

    @ Jabroni – Lets flip this question for you. If a problem is 7 out of 3 stars, how the fuck does it have any chance of breaking? DUH

    @ James- Its NOT up to the first ascentionist to decide if he/she should brake a hold. It depends on an obvious situation and the rules/regulations of the place your climbing at.

  25. Aron

    31. Aug, 2012

    I agree that it’s not a black or white issue. I have cleaned a lot of boulder problems on granite using wire brush. I just think a screwdriver is to much. I guess it’ a personal call. Maybe I would think differently if I was surrouned by chossy boulders, but I dont think so. The wire brush is where I draw the line. I know some people would draw it further (in order : cleaning with screedrivers and crowbar, reenforcing holds with glue, gluing a hold back, creating new holds, etc…)

    One good comparaison would be the landing improvement issue. We all do some but we draw the line at different level.

    @ jamie, I also think the dyno is pretty damn awesomely insane. It is also really dangerous, but again, no one have to it. Some would say it would be ok to built a nice and flat landing for this problem, I dont (take the improved landing of Haroun and the sea, It’s now more accessible but I think it use to be prouder).

    @ Jabroni
    About your 7 stars problem on chossy rock. I would not reenforce it. If it broke, I would not glue it back. Again, I know some would act differently…

    Interesting question anyway.

  26. Claudio

    31. Aug, 2012

    I think it all comes down to the overall rock quality of the area, then decide upon local community consensus/ethics. You seem to have very good/solid stone up there. In other areas where the majority of boulders are chossy I don´t see a problem to utilize tools to make sure a new line is safe for everyone, as there won´t be any solid lines nearby. Bouldering is usually about strengh, technique, movement, etc., not about taking risks on obvious loose holds, right? Perhaps big walls are more appropriate for one who seeks that kind of terrain…

    Thanks for the nice topic-discussion and hope Jimmy recovers well!

  27. beezlebub

    01. Sep, 2012

    i use crowbars and powerwashers, nitro-glycerin and plastique.
    and yes, i’ll do that at least once a week.
    i use paint scrapers and laser beams, snukes and sneezes.
    and yes, i’ll keep doing it any time i pleases.

    i’ll throw a twinky at a hollow hold to frighten the lichen
    or a hoho at a flake in hopes that it might break.
    hard strares can chase away the moss,
    and i’ll blow smofe and smang to show the rock who is boss.

    but i’ll never use a pubic hair toothbrush
    that was dipped in a bottle of orange crush
    to clean off a hold that was too harsh.

  28. Andre DiFelice

    01. Sep, 2012

    I can’t believe the use of screwdrivers and crowbars is even in question. Of course you should be able to use them.

  29. Whateva whateva

    01. Sep, 2012

    What is the deal with all the talk about how ‘high’ (in regards to elevation) things like boulder problems are? 11,000ft? Sure, hiking around at that elevation is annoying, but it really isn’t that big of a deal while bouldering. I have done sport climbs around that altitude too and that really wasn’t a big deal either, maybe a little longer between burns, but whatever. All I’m saying is that climbing at 11,000ft, while pretty neat, is not nearly as ‘gnar’ as it is being made out to be.

  30. Michael Rathke

    04. Sep, 2012

    I woul use Lavender oil for faster cell generation

    (yes, it actually makes your skin grow faster) Much
    faster than hoof maker

  31. hayden

    04. Sep, 2012

    @ whateva whateva,

    the altitude is always discussed because it matters. less oxygen makes you get both physically and mentally tired. when you are trying your hardest, everything matters, including the elevation.

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