Boulder’s Flatirons
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Monday April 28, 2008 at 8:57 am)


Top of pitch one

A few weeks ago, Amanda and I decided to climb the Flatirons. The Third was closed due to raptors, and she’d recently climbed the First, which left the Second. As we read the route descriptions, we realized why we’d previously chosen the First or Third Flatirons. The description of the Second Flatiron as “the large, irregular mass situated between the First and Third Flatirons” proved less than inspiring.

We decided to try the Southeast Ridge route, rated 5.6 in Rossiter’s Boulder Climbs North (1988). Ok, so my guidebook is 20 years old, but Layton Kor climbed this route in 1959 and the only thing that’s changed is the approach: instead of following a shallow draw, a trail now leads almost to the base.


Top of pitch three

Looking up from the base, I wasn’t sure how to surmount the “tier of roofs”. Luckily I got the first pitch, so that was Amanda’s problem. Though the description said 5.6, the topo had 5.7 for the roof, which seems innocuous until you realize that Whistle Stop and The Flakes in Eldorado Canyon, now both rated 5.9-, were once each rated 5.7.

From the end of pitch one, Amanda threaded her way through flakes, overlaps, and corners to the base of the roof. The length of time she spent trying to figure out how to surmount the roof, and the care to which she went trying to place gear, did not bode well. Sure enough, when my turn came, I struggled. We decided that it was the hardest 5.7 we’d done—a lot harder than many 5.8s we’d climbed.

We enjoyed our ramble up the remaining easy, but very unprotected, climb in warm Colorado sunshine and only a little loose rock. This route will not be in my Fun Climbs Colorado, second edition, not only due to the one-hour approach hike and difficult descent.

Please leave a comment if you’ve climbed this route and have any beta (like, were we totally off route? Or totally out of shape!) Click the red number right of the title to comment.

More on the South Platte
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Saturday April 26, 2008 at 9:53 am)


Sallie on top of the Sphinx Rock slabs

I wrote Fun Climbs Colorado because after I started taking my son climbing around the world (at age three), many people asked me where would be a good place to take their kids climbing; where could they safely teach their kids to rappel; where could they take their mom (or dad) who was visiting from Iowa.

As I sit and write, I can look out the window and see the Flatirons. Sure, there are rocks right outside my door, but they’re not all suitable for beginners. Getting to the 1st or 3rd Flatiron takes a solid hour of hiking uphill and the descent off the 3rd involves three rappels. Plus, the climb is 1,300 feet long. Though Rossiter, in his guidebook Boulder Climbs North, describes the 3rd as “one of the best beginner climbs in North America”, he probably did not have in mind four-year-old beginners.

In Fun Climbs, I try to, if possible, describe routes with a short enough approach that even grandma can make it to the base, an easy descent (lowering from fixed anchors on sport routes; walk-offs for gear climbs), and solid rock with recent bolts or good gear placements.

And the South Platte offers lots of these types of climbs: Turkey Perch abounds with moderate cracks that are about 80 feet long and one can top-rope them after setting an anchor. The 20-minute approach leads to a spacious, flat base area with nice, flat rocks good for sunbathing. Kids can play in the caves under the large, house-sized boulders near the base and you can let your dog off leash without getting a ticket. Plus, there’s awesome, dispersed camping in the woods near the end of the road.

Please comment if you have climbed here and recommend specific routes. Click the red numeral to the right of the title to comment.


Turkey Perch

Sphinx Rock—Now Closed
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Wednesday April 23, 2008 at 10:51 am)


Sallie Greenwood climbing on Sphinx Rock

The wonderful slab route above, to which I took several beginners, small children, and older climbers, is now off limits to all climbing because of private property rights.

While the South Platte has other slab climbs, most have longer approaches. This climb, and Sphinx Rock, enjoyed great popularity due to the proximity to Denver, great nearby camping, and a very short approach hike.

The climb involved one pitch of slightly run-out 5.7, followed by a short pitch to the top. Walking off the back completed the descent from a very enjoyable outing. I’ll post a more photos of the climb as its memorial, until we or the Access Fund can resolve the problem with the landowner.

Please comment if you have any suggestions for access or to share your feelings about losing our climbing resources to closures. To comment, click the red number to the right of the title.

Sphinx Rock is closed!
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Sunday April 20, 2008 at 7:26 pm)


South Platte, Sphinx Rock

On Friday I went to the South Platte with a friend who’d never climbed there. After climbing Classic Dihedral on Bucksnort Slab, we wanted to climb a slab route on Sphinx Rock. We parked in a pullout, shouldered our packs, and walked along the road to see where we could drop down to cross the river to get to Sphinx Rock.

Within minutes, a large black truck pulled up alongside me and a man leaned out to ask. “Were you planning to climb there? That rock’s on private property.”

His comment surprised me, as I believed that Sphinx Rock was on Forest Service land and I expressed my surprise. The man explained that he owned 100 acres, which he had bought in three parcels of 40, 40, and 20 acres, about four years ago.

We spoke for quite a while as I asked the owner whether he would let climbers on Sphinx Rock under any conditions, or if would talk to the Access Fund about liability issues. Our discussions got nowhere: he remained adamant that Sphinx Rock was on his land and he wanted no one on his land.

I tried telling him that it was a national treasure that held one of the most famous cracks not only in North America, but also in the world, to no avail. Perhaps someone else will succeed where I failed, but for now Sphinx Rock remains lost to climbers.

Please comment if you have any ideas, or tell us how you feel about losing this wonderful rock. Click the red numeral to the right of the title to comment.

Turkey Rocks, South Platte
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Thursday April 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm)


Tristan leading one of many fine cracks at Turkey Rocks

The South Platte ranges from Pine Junction in the north, along Highway 67 to Deckers and Westcreek on the southeast, to Elevenmile Canyon, south of Lake George on Highway 24 at the south end. The granite forms smooth Yosemite-like cracks and slabs reminiscent of Tuolomne Meadows. One can climb easy cracks in Elevenmile Canyon, at Bucksnort Slab, Sphinx Rock and Turkey Rocks.

Approaches to the climbs vary. Some are short, such as the approach to Bucksnort Slab or Sphinx Rock. Both cliffs have excellent beginner routes. The Bucksnort Slab approach takes less than five minutes.

Turkey Perch and Turkey Rock

Some of the best crack climbing in Colorado is at Turkey Rock. Practice on Yosemite-style straight in hand cracks on quality rock.

Reefer Madness 5.8 **

Start left of a metal memorial plaque and stem and jam up two cracks. Move into the left-leaning hand and finger crack and climb up to a horizontal break. Traverse left below the lip, using large stoppers or a #2 Camalot to protect the traverse for the second. Belay at the top of the crack (gear) or at the large tree. Reefer Madness requires good jamming technique or tape! Descend by walking off the back.

Fun Climbs Colorado
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Tuesday April 15, 2008 at 8:57 pm)


Sunny belay at Eldorado Canyon

Below I list the climbing areas I’ve written about in my upcoming book, Fun Climbs Colorado: Best Family Climbing Vacations.

1. Vedauwoo, Wyoming (yes, it’s in Wyoming, but right across the border)

2. Rocky Mountain National Park: Lumpy Ridge and Jurassic Park

3. Boulder: Eldorado Canyon and Boulder Canyon

4. Castlewood Canyon

5. Shelf Road

6. Penitente

7. Elevenmile Canyon

8. The South Platte

9. Unaweep

10. Independence Pass

I’ll post a few pictures and one climb from each of the above areas during the next few weeks.

Climbing Near Rocky Mountain National Park
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Sunday April 13, 2008 at 9:20 am)


Jaclyn Paik on Gina’s Surprise, 5.4, the Pear

Getting to Rocky Mountain National Park

From Denver, take US 36 to Lyons and continue 19 miles past Lyons to Estes Park. To reach Jurassic Park, drive 6 miles south from Estes Park on Hwy 7 and park at the Lily Lake Visitor Center or across the road (just past mile marker 6).

Jurassic Park and Lumpy Ridge, Colorado

Jurassic Park offers easy sport climbs on granite with unbeatable views of the Diamond. Lumpy Ridge has easy multi-pitch gear climbs on granite. This area’s hard climbs will satisfy anyone, since local Tommy Caldwell has put up difficult new routes. Nearby Estes Park is a tourist’s mecca with amusement parks, horseback riding, and numerous dining and lodging options.

Guided Climbing near RMNP

If you’re uncertain about finding a specific rock climb, or don’t feel ready to climb on your own, the Colorado Mountain School teaches climbing at Jurassic Park, Lumpy Ridge, and other crags.

Guide Schools

Colorado Mountain School

351 Moraine Ave.
Estes Park, Co.


The Best in Tent Camping Colorado: A Guide for Car Campers who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos, Johnny Molloy, 2001.

Longs Peak

Molloy includes Longs Peak campground among his selection of 50 best tent camping places in the state. Set among pines in a scenic setting, this campground permits only tents. Near the trailhead to Longs Peak, the 26 sites are first come/first served. During summer camping costs $20. In fall through spring, when no water is available, the fee is $14. There is a seven night limit in summer; fourteen nights in winter.

Information: 970-586-1206

Rocky Mountain Park—Jurassic Park
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Saturday April 12, 2008 at 7:52 am)


Tristan Hechtel leading Coloradoddity, 5.5, Jurassic Park,

Rocky Mountain National Park is Accessible to Beginning Climbers

People visit Rocky Mountain National Park for its beautiful scenery and gorgeous views. Snow-capped peaks surround alpine lakes, flowers paint the meadows purple and yellow, and golden aspen decorate the hills in fall. Accessible hikes allow easy access to waterfalls and creeks where marmots play and elk graze.

The Climbs

For specific cliffs and routes, see Jurassic Park, a sport climbing area with many easy sport routes, or see Lumpy Ridge, an area with many easy, multi-pitch gear climbs.
Jurassic Park

The crags at Jurassic Park offer well-protected sport routes that are 100 feet or less. Jurassic Park climbs overlook great views of the Diamond on Long’s Peak with Lily Lake below.

Jurassic Park has medium length approaches—30 to 45 minutes. The granite cliffs provide mostly sport climbs with a few climbs where you need camming units. It’s best in summer as you’re climbing above 8,000 feet, but spring and fall can be nice.


Walk up a hiker’s trail that starts at the southeast end of Lily Lake, beside the footbridge, for about 15 minutes. Continue uphill on the trail until it flattens and tends slightly downhill. At a large cairn, turn right and head up a steep, scree-filled climbers’ trail for another 10 – 15 minutes until you see the cliffs.

The first cliff with climbs that you come to on your left, aptly named Left Hand Rock, features two gear climbs. On the next dome on the left you’ll see several bolted climbs.

Big Ass Slab

This is the second dome on the west side of the gully (between Left Hand Rock and Dinosaur’s Foot) and features high quality rock. The base of the climbs lies directly next to the trail.

Coloradoddity 5.5

Rick Thompson calls this one of the best 5.5 routes in Colorado, combining great rock and solid bolts, with a spectacular view of the Diamond. This is the first bolted route you pass as you hike up the main gully. Begin climbing at the left edge of the face, and follow the line of bolts up the rounded low-angled prow and slab above to anchors. I’ve seen ratings for this climb ranging from 5.4 to 5.6. The crux is passing the second bolt, and after this the angle decreases making the climb much easier. Nine clips. 85 feet.


Rappel from an anchor with rappel rings. The climb is 85 feet, so a 180 or 200-foot rope will get you to the ground in one rappel. If you have 165-foot (50 meter) ropes, you’ll need two ropes.

Gear Needed
Bring a 60-meter rope, quick-draws, nuts, and some camming units in addition to personal gear.

To comment, click the red numeral to the right of the title.

Fun Climbs Colorado
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography (Monday April 7, 2008 at 8:53 pm)


My book, Fun Climbs Colorado: Best Family Climbing Vacations published by Sharp End, is ready for the printers! It should be hot off the press in May. I’ll keep everyone updates as to the progress at the printers and also show previews of coming attractions.

Please tell me what you think of the cover photos or the idea of a climbing vacation guide. To comment, click the red number to the right of the blog’s title.

Colorado skier deaths
Posted by sibylle in skiing (Saturday April 5, 2008 at 11:12 am)

You probably won’t see this information in Ski magazine: 16 skiers or boarders died this winter, skiing inbounds at Colorado ski areas. They ranged in age from 11 to 68 and include two women and 14 men. Three children died, aged 11, 13, and 15; from the Midwest, east coast, and one from abroad. Three of the deaths were locals —Bob Guthrie, the oldest, and two others.

Of the sixteen snow riders who died, six hit a tree and another four died of head injuries. Three men died after skiing into a tree well or from suffocation.

What can we learn from these statistics? I think that many of these accidents were avoidable, and even if they fall, wearing a good helmet might have resulted in injury, not death. I’ve strongly advocated always wearing a helmet when skiing even before my son hit his head while training with Team Summit and was knocked unconscious, and more so since spending three hours In Yosemite watching my climbing partner die of a head injury (no helmet).

What else could help? The man who hit a tree on Frenchman, a (usually) groomed blue run was most likely going to fast and out of control. Same with the boy who hit a tree at Wolf Creek. Learning to turn, and, even more crucial, learning to finish a turn to control speed, can literally save lives.


Left: good turn

Right: turn many intermediates make. The solid line is where they go; the dash shows the line they should ski for speed control.

Below is a more complete list of ski/boarder deaths from the Denver Post.

Michael Howe, 43, died after hitting a tree on Frenchman at Keystone.
Jennifer Ash, 28, died after a snowboarding fall on March 16 at Keystone.
Gabrielle Hutter, 39, died after hitting a tree at Winter Park.

John Bosman, 46, died from head injuries at Eldora.
Kenneth Joyce, 13, died after hitting a tree on Diamondback trail at Keystone.
Bob Guthrie, 68, died after hitting his head at Arapahoe Basin.
Brian Irvin, 33, hit some trees and died at Telluride.
John Dobbie, 67, died from a head injury suffered at Crested Butte.
John McWethy, 61, retired ABC newsman, died skiing at Keystone.

Michael Gruber, 40, died from a head injury suffered at Arapahoe Basin.
Jared Daniel, 22, a snowboarder, suffocated after falling head first into a tree well at Steamboat.
James McLean, 33, died in a snowboard accident at Breckenridge.
Mark Stout, 45, died after falling into a tree well at Steamboat.
Logan Jameson, 19, hit his head and suffocated after skiing off a headwall at Durango Mountain.
Benjamin Trichler, 11, died after skiing into a tree at Breckenridge.

Mitchell Maltsberger, 15, died after hitting a tree on an intermediate trail at Wolf Creek.

Please comment to let everyone know what you think of this information. Should the ski industry inform people more about accidents? Do most people realize that skiing can be dangerous? To comment, click the red number to the right of the blog’s title.

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