I recently spent a couple of weeks climbing in and around Boulder Colorado this fall, specifically in an area called Boulder Canyon and Lumpy Ridge. Boulder Canyon is an area that runs about 18 miles along Canyon Blvd. out of Boulder that connects to the town of Nederland with climbing throughout. This is my sixth trip to Boulder Canyon and it’s also the area I trained and practiced in when I completed my AMGA SPI certification.
The Canyon is a great place to spend a few days climbing, but there are about 1,500 routes throughout the Canyon and if you want to get to know the Canyon it requires spending some time here in the different areas learning their locations within the canyon, the approaches, the descents and the best resource to assist with that is one of the guide books for Boulder Canyon specifically.
I rolled out of Dallas heading towards Boulder with no agenda, no tick list and no plans other than to climb, I prefer to travel without plans because it leaves everything open and allows for the greatest flexibility. So as I start driving I decide to head towards a sport climbing area in Colorado called Shelf Road, I have never been, it’s on the way sorta and I can camp there for a day or two and see what happens.
Shelf Road is located just outside of Canon City, Colorado west of Pueblo. If visiting Shelf Road this would be the closest town for supplies or gear. The town does have most of the amenities you would expect, a Walmart, gas stations, food and fun. I wish I could write more about the climbing at Shelf Road but when I get there the place is completely empty except for an RV or two.
I posted on Mountain Project to seek a climbing partner and I get a few responses but no one can make it out until the weekend which is two days away. I hang out for another day then head toward Denver to pick up one of my climbing partners. On this particular trip a few friends from Dallas will join me for a few days of climbing.
First up is one of my good friends Colton, we have climbed together in Boulder, Red Rock and Yosemite. After picking him up from the airport Colton begins to talk about burgers so we decided to check out a place called Crave Real Burgers in Downtown Denver.
Now, normally I try to live the climbing life when I am out traveling and climbing and that means different things to different people, for me it means we’re not on vacation, we spend as little as possible unless its on climbing gear, meaning we don’t eat meals out in restaurants, I packed provisions and I plan on eating them! I bought a new coleman stove I want to test it out! No hotels, I stay in my van! Pay for a campsite? With all this forest around! Bathrooms? I brought a trowel! You get my point. Colton likes to say “dirtbagging is dead”.
Well we leave Crave Burgers and not five minutes later we find ourselves changing someones tire, normally this is not something I would write but this is the first of three tires we will change during my trip, and none would be mine. Strange. One funny part, see the guy with his sleeves rolled up, he was changing the tire when we walked up but Colton decided he needed to step in.
I have been visiting the Boulder area for years and as I stated I prefer to stay in my van or camp and in Boulder for most that can be tough as there is no real camping in Boulder or around Boulder that is both close to most climbing and amenities. When I come here to climb I have always stayed in Nederland, Nederland is a typical small Colorado mountain town and has all the amenties you would expect, if you want you could rent one of the vacation homes or cabins in the area as well. The town has restaurants, coffee shops, book store, gas station and on this trip I found out there is a laundromat as well which is a plus on extended trips.
Five minutes north is Roosevelt National Forest land that has dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no services; such as trash removal, and little or no facilities; such as tables and fire pits, are provided. Not the Hilton, but free is good.
A little about this spot, see those tents and things in the background, those are not other climbers, I have yet to see any other climbers camping here over the years even though the climbing in the canyon is just down the road. This area has a reputation as being a bit rough around the edges and is known for the transient population that stay and set up camp this area, transients that are traveling through moving east to west chasing warmer temps and such with a whole cast of characters, even rumors of a stabbing or two over resources according to the locals. You never know what its gonna be like, Ive come and there was barely anyone here and I have come and there is like a small tribe thing going on, you just never know. What I can say is that I have spent allot of time here and each and everytime I felt welcomed, I meet knew people, had new experiences and never felt threatened or in danger.
On to the climbing. After meeting up with a few other local friends we all went to an area known as the Sport Park, its located in the canyon and is the first climbing area you get to when entering the canyon from Nederland. The Sport Park has a short 10 minute approach and includes several different walls with a variety of routes each route is equipped with anchors at the top for cleaning.
The Sport Park is a very climber freindly crag with routes set up one after the other so it is fairly easy to lead a route and then set up the rope for a harder route right next to it. There was four of us and we all climbed about six or seven routes this day.
I also climbed in a few other areas in Boulder Canyon before heading to Lumpy Ridge.
Five minutes after snapping this pic at the first belay we get hit with pouring rain and hail so we had to bail.
After Cobb Rock we decide to head to Estes Park to visit the climbing area known as Lumpy Ridge, an area I have been wanting to visit. Estes Park, Colorado is a great mountain town to visit and is very popular among the tourists.
Campng is not as convenient as in Nederland nor is it free, we camped in Hermit Park which was convenient but expensive, around $30.00 but we did see and film a bear so I guess it was worth it.
Lumpy Ridge is located in Rock Mountain National Park and is known as a true trad climbers area since some of the routes are one to five pitches and were put up in the 50’s and 60′. There is little to no fixed gear or bolts on the routes so when you leave the ground you pretty much commit to toping out the climb since there will be no rappelling without leaving behind gear.
I originally set out to climb two routes out here, one Osiris a 5.7 five pitch classic to warm up for the Kors Flake a 5.7 five pitch mega-classic. Lumpy Ridge is seperated into different areas based on their formation, our climbs were located on the Pages Wall and on Sundance Buttress. The first day was a scouting mission to figure out the approach which is about 1.5 hours and to get to the base of the route Osiris. We get to the base scope things out and decide to hit it in the morning.
Back at camp I read up on the route, look at pictures of the climb, read the comments and got as much beta on the route that I can find. Climbing this route was a lesson in off widths and wide cracks.
Continuing up to the top of the third pitch I was surprised at the steepness on the fourth pitch, it was pretty steep and the cracks were wide.
After tackling the fourth pitch we knocked out the fifth pitch to top out the route.
Some climbers say that Lumpy Ridge is very stiff as far as grades are, I found this route to be 5.7 but the style of climbing is not like your typical face climbing, here was wide cracks and off widths which for me was not fun until I reflected back on the climb the next day and felt as though we came and once again conquered the unkown, which is what climbing is about. As for Kors Flake, it will have to wait.
Christopher Gibson is an outdoor climbing mentor at the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center and has been climbing, guiding and mentoring for over a decade, has completed the American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Certification and has ascents across the country and interntionally.