Chief's Head, Flight of the Kiwi
United States, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park
Two pitches up the classic route Birds of Fire, I looked 400' left to a series of inviting cracks and corners. One more route appeared on my ever-growing to-do list. When the RMNP guidebook and other founts of local knowledge came up short regarding the line, it bumped to the top of my list. Graham Zimmerman and I began climbing on a cold and misty day in July, “Washington conditions” to us two Northwest natives. And despite our best efforts to find moss and wet cracks, an array of clean edges and dry stone abounded. The route’s crux came early on pitch two, with a tenuous rightward slab leading to the clean cracks that had drawn us here. After six pitches of well-protected climbing, we topped out amid active storms. A week later, I returned with Joe Sambataro, another Washington native, who, like Graham and me, had spent formative climbing time in New Zealand. We repeated the route to the top of the face, with a better variation, on clean cracks to the right for pitches three and four, then climbed five more pitches (with a 3rd-class section in the middle) to the summit. The final pitches, along Chief’s Heads north ridge, had likely been climbed before. In all, Flight of the Kiwi (IV 5.10+) provides a boltless alternative to Birds of Fire at a similar grade. We climbed the route clean and onsight, and the final five pitches can be reached from any route on the northwest face for those not seeking an “end of the technical difficulties” 500' below the summit.