Boulder, Colorado Climbing Trip

  • Thursday, October 06, 2016 1:09 AM
    Message # 4292992

    I am posting this to help other climbers considering or planning a climbing trip to Boulder, Colorado.  Besides Yosemite and the Gunks, I consider the Boulder area to be one of the major cornerstones of climbing in the United States.  This year I planned and went on a climbing trip to Boulder area.


    First off, finding decent climbing, i.e., dirtbag, lodging in the Boulder area is near impossible, but there are good to fantastic alternatives which I found out.  If you happen to know a climber who will let you crash on their house or sofa, take them up on this.  I understand that there is some camping, even free camping, available, but the camping is generally a long distance from the climbing areas.  Furthermore, I was advised if I considered the free camping areas to not leave anything there during the day, which meant you have to pack up each day.


    I did end up staying for several days at the Super 8 Hotel in Longmont.  This is much cheaper than hotels in Boulder and is only about a 15 minute drive from Boulder.  Plus, if you are going to Rocky Mountain National Park, Longmont is slightly closer to RMNP than Boulder.  There is a Super 8 Hotel in Estes Park if you are going to RMNP, but it is probably more expensive than the hotel in Longmont.


    However, I stayed in the fantastic Boulder A-Lodge for a week.  This outdoor-person-friendly lodge is located in Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, but is only about a 5 minute drive from Boulder.  They have rooms ranging from single bed and double bed with mini kitchens to hostel-style bunk rooms.  The price was very reasonable and the people who run the lodge are climbers and mountain bike riders.  There is an outdoor BBQ area, a hot tub, and many slack lines.


    The Boulder area has a many fantastic breweries and brewpubs.  If you want to try some very unusual beers, go the Avery Brewing Company which is in northeast Boulder.  The most upscale place I went to was Fate Brewing Company, which has fantastic food and beers.  The most reasonably priced brewpub is Mountain Sun located right next to Neptune Mountaineering.  If you want pizza, Under The Sun is located just under Mountain Sun and has nearly all the same beers since the same company runs both.  Both locations operate on a cash only basis.


    The first day I climbed "Batman And Robin" (II, 5.6, ****) on Batman Pinnacle in Lumpy Ridge (RMNP) with former club member Eric Massof who recently moved from Maryland to the Denver area.  This was a fantastic climb, but the "Classic Front Range Trad Climbs" guidebook incorrectly tells you to make a 150' rappel from the top down into a gully.  We did just that with two ropes tied together and got my ropes hopelessly stuck due to the knot getting stuck in groves.  I had to cut a nearly new rope as well as my tag line.  The correct way to get down as described correctly on MountainProject is to make a single rope rap and then walk down to the east and then back to the base rather than try to go down the gully, which requires much down climbing and multiple raps.  This put an end to the climbing for the day and I had to go to Neptune Mountaineering to buy two new ropes.


    The second day Eric and I climbed "North Ridge" (III, 5.6 ****) of Spearhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We started the 7 mile approach at around 5 am.  Despite the 7 mile approach, this alpine climb is very popular (for good reason) and there were two parties ahead of us.  Higher on the climb we followed the party ahead of us, but did not realize that they were doing a much harder variation up what looked from the bottom to be a splitter crack, but actually turned out to be a very thin fingers variation.  Eric took a fall on this pitch and then had to pull through on gear.  I also had to pull through.  We later realized that the actual normal pitch was to the left of where we went.  It started sprinkling while Eric was on the crux pitch and we were worried about the storm clouds and distant thunder.  When we got to near the top (an optional 4th class pitch to the very top was possible), we met a party of climbers who were formerly PATC-MS members, but also recently moved to Colorado.  We wanted to get off to avoid possible lightning strikes, so we followed them down the 4th and 3rd class descent rather than doing the last optional pitch.  The descent to the base was long and it started pouring down rain.  We did not get back to the trailhead until 8:45 pm.


    I intentionally took a rest day the next day since I had to move from the Super 8 Hotel to the A-Lodge and I had to pick up a California climbing partner from the Denver Airport in the evening.  I visited the American Alpine Club Museum and Library as well as Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden.


    On the fourth day, my California partner Dave Allen and I did the all time classic "Standard East Face" of the Third Flatiron (III, 5.4,  *****).  This climb should be on every climber's bucket list as it was on mine - check.  I led every pitch and it really helped to have a climber in a party ahead of me who had done it before let me know where the belay eyebolts were.  I realized that I had way too much gear for this route as you really only need a few longer quickdraws, several slings and carabiners, and a cam set from smallest to about 3-3.5, plus belay anchor materials.  The view of Boulder and the surrounding area from the top is fantastic.  The descent is nearly as technical as the climbing, requiring three partially overhanging rappels on single ropes (as we did) or two single rope rappels plus a double rope rappel.


    On the fifth day Dave and I did the "East Face, North Side" (II, 5.2 ***) of the First Flatiron.  I led all pitches.  I never found the old bolt mentioned in the guidebook.  We also then did "South Ridge" (5.2, ***) of the First Flatironette.


    On the sixth day, Dave and I went to Eldorado Canyon State Park to do "The Bomb" (II, 5,4, ***) on Wind Tower.  This was a very fun climb, which we did to the very top although you can rappel down from the top of the second pitch.  We did the entire climb as five pitches although the guidebook describes it as four pitches.  It was interesting descending past the remains of the huge, old tightrope cable.  The guidebook describes wide cams as being optional, but I was glad I had an old-style 4.0 and 4.5 cam.  I also led the short routes "Simple Simon Slab" (5.6 R/X, *) and "Pyramid Left Side" (5.8+, R/X, *) on Supremacy Rock.  These two routes are listed as R, but your last placement is only 15 feet above the ground on a 40 ft. rock.  That night we drove up to Fort Collins to go to the New Belgium Brewery, which does not serve food, and had a fantastic dinner at the nearby Fort Collins Brewery.


    On the seventh day it was sprinkling and raining in the morning, so Dave and I went to the AAC Museum and Library.  I wanted to go to the library again to do some research of European climbing areas for future trip.  After a fantastic Nepalese buffet at the Sherpa House in Golden, we decided to go sport climbing in the Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden since it cleared up.  We went to the East Colfax climbing area near Tunnel 6.  I led various 5.2, 5.6, and 5.7 bolted climbs.


    On the eight day, which was a Saturday, Dave had to fly back to California in the evening.  So we climbed at Dome Rock in Boulder Canyon, which was very close to the A-Lodge.  We did the super-classic "East Slab (5.6, ****).  After that we went to the Avery Brewery for lunch, where I had a fantastic 16.5% ABV English ale.  I would have liked to try many more unique beers there, including a beer/wine mixture, but alas I had to drive Dave to the airport.  After getting back from the airport, I free soloed "Freeway" (II, 4th Class, ***) on the Second Flatiron above Boulder.


    On the ninth day, Sunday, considered climbing on Castle Rock, but my foot hurt too much from a climbing injury earlier this summer.  So I drove down from Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon to the Flatirons in Boulder.  I did a rope solo of "East Face" (5.2, ***) on the First Flatironette.  I had to place lots of equalized gear to create an anchor at the top of the first pitch.  The cracks and flakes require awkward placements and I could see that some flakes had broken off, so I had to choose the flakes and gear carefully.  I was exhausted at this point, so finished early for the day.


    On the tenth day I had to return to California in the evening, so I did not want to do a long or complicated route.  I ended up doing two of the best easy free solos in the Flatirons.  I did "El Camino Royal" (3rd-4th Class, II, ***) on The Regency and then combined this with "East Face" (4th Class, ***) on Royal Arch.  It was interesting that I was right above all of the tourists below as they passed through the Royal Arch, one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Flatirons, yet they could not see me.


    If you go to Boulder, definitely visit the many great breweries, brewpubs, American Alpine Climb, and Neptune Mountaineering.  Neptune's museum was not open when I visited last month, but they said it should be open again in their store by the end of October.



  • Friday, October 07, 2016 5:43 PM
    Reply # 4296072 on 4292992

    Sounded like a great trip. A friend and I want to go to boulder in the near future. This was great info.

     

    Joe

  • Sunday, October 09, 2016 1:01 PM
    Reply # 4297890 on 4292992

    If you do stay at Boulder A-Lodge and want to get a start before 7:30 am, you will need to get your own breakfast other than coffee (rooms have coffee maker with real coffee and a refrigerator).  One climbing location that we did not visit that is close to Boulder is North Table Mountain above Coors in Golden.

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