Fun Climbs Colorado and Where to Camp
Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized, books, films, photography, Colorado (Saturday May 31, 2008 at 7:51 am)

My book, Fun Climbs Colorado, will soon be on the shelves at the Boulder Bookstore, Neptune Mountaineering, and REI.

I addition to reviewing climbs, I describe nearby campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and fun stuff to do on rest days.

Below, I’ll describe some favorite Colorado campgrounds.



Free primitive camping abounds on BLM land in Piñon-Juniper forests along Divide Road.

Turn east on Divide road about 14 miles past Whitewater, drive 2.1 - 2.2 miles up Divide Road and cross a cattle guard. The state provides no winter maintenance from October 15 to June 1. Just past the cattle guard several sites nestle in the trees to the right of the road. These primitive campsites provide great views and nice flat spots among the trees but no water, toilets, tables or trashcans. Dogs permitted. Across the road, the BLM permits firewood collection.


Kelsey Campground

South Platte

About 7.1 miles past Pine turn right on FS 550 at a sign for Wellington Lake and Buffalo Creek Recreation area. Pass the Little Scraggy Trailhead for the Colorado Trail. After about one half mile, look for roadside pulloffs that allow free camping. These primitive sites lack water, and toilets. However, the camping here is peaceful, in beautiful ponderosa pines, and free.

A few miles south on Highway 126, about 10 – 11 miles south of Pine, reach a USFS campground, Kelsey Campground. Pine trees surround large well-spaced sites with picnic tables, fire grates, with the vault toilets and trash removal. The 17 sites have a 14-day limit and cost $12.00 per night. When we visited one Saturday in August, it was empty except for one site.

For Turkey Rock, it’s possible to camp in the forest beside the road in unimproved sites with no amenities but it’s peaceful and free.

Elevenmile Canyon

Elevenmile Canyon meanders along the South Platte River and offers some of the nicest camping in the state. In fall, golden aspen surround white cliffs and climbers can enjoy warm sunny days into October.

Stay in one of six USFS campgrounds along the South Platte River. The Forest Service supplies flat campsites, picnic tables, fire grates, water, pit toilets, and garbage cans. Walk to the climbs from Spillway or Cove campground. Beside Spillway campground, a trail winds up the hillside to good views of the river valley. When I hiked it one October morning, rabbits grazed along the trail. Campsites are by reservation and over Memorial Day every site was reserved.

Open May 1 through October 5.
Elevation: 8,200 ft
For reservations:
To reserve a site:
For more information:

Fun Climbs Colorado—Castlewood Canyon
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Colorado (Saturday May 24, 2008 at 12:30 pm)


Banana Peel (5.8), on Banana Tower, Castlewood Canyon

Rock: conglomerate sandstone and quartzite

Castlewood Canyon

Castlewood Canyon provides easy climbs close to Denver (one-half hour to 45 minutes), has short approaches (about five minutes) and most routes are toproped. Fred Knapp calls it possibly the best toproping area in the Front Range.

Banana Tower

Banana Tower sits in front of the main wall. To reach the bottom of Banana Tower, walk right along a climber’s trail for several hundred feet to an obvious detached tower in front of the main wall.

Reaching the top of Banana Tower can be tricky. Walk along the cliff top to a detached pillar. Step across the gap (about three feet) to reach the top of the tower. Three bolts provide anchors for several climbs. The bolts lack rappel rings so after toproping, someone gets to retrieve the quickdraws.


Banana Peel 5.8 **

Follow face holds and discontinuous cracks up the left side of the east face of Banana Tower.

Walk and scramble down the right side of the cliff, about five minutes.


Unaweep’s Granite Cracks
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Wednesday May 21, 2008 at 7:42 am)


Tristan Hechtel on Don Juan, 5.6

At Unaweep, it’s possible to climb clean granite cracks without hiking to Spearhead or Lumpy Ridge. As an added bonus, Unaweep enjoys  milder, drier weather than Front Range climbing areas and excellent bouldering. Free primitive camping abounds in the nearby Piñon-Juniper forests. The Sunday Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress provide short approaches coupled with easy routes, many of which have bolted anchors for toproping.

Sunday Wall

From the junction of Divide Road and Highway 141, drive 2.2 miles west towards Gateway. Park at a pulloff below the Sunday Wall and climb over the fence on stairs and follow a trail to the cliff.

Don Juan 5.6 **
GPS: Elevation – 7,839 ft

Follow the trail directly to Don Juan. Of two cracks, the left one is easier and a harder one is on the right. Don Juan follows easier-looking finger and hand cracks in a corner to a large ledge. The start requires hand jams and stemming helps higher up. From a ledge, move right and climb to a second ledge. Rappel from a 2-bolt anchor with rings.

Please leave comment to share your favorite climbs at Unaweep. Click the red number to the right of the title to comment.

Even the dog climbed the stairs over the fence

Colorado Climbs—Elevenmile Canyon
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Colorado (Tuesday May 20, 2008 at 7:50 am)


Tristan Hechtel on Moby Grape 5.7, Elevenmile Dome

In my book, Fun Climbs Colorado, I describe climbs at Vedauwoo, Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldorado Canyon and Boulder Canyon, Shelf Road, Penitente Canyon, Independence Pass, South Platte and Elevenmile Canyon, Unaweep, and Castlewood Canyon. In the past few posts, I’ve described routes at the first eight areas. I’ll post climbs at Elevenmile Canyon next.

Elevenmile Dome

Park at a pulloff near the south end of the dome. A faint trail heads in toward the cliff and parallels the cliff base.

Moby Grape 5.7***

Moby Grape is fun and not very strenuous, maybe easier than Hollow Flake, a 5.6 on Arch Rock. And it’s hard to beat the approach!
From the pulloff, walk back north along the road until below a large right-facing corner. Hike about 200 ft uphill through some talus to the base of the corner.
Climb up the prominent corner, using nuts and small cams for the crack. Belay at a two-bolt anchor with rappel rings just right of the crack. From here, rappel or toprope with two ropes.

Caution! A 60-meter rope does not reach the ground; bring a second rope.
Please leave a comment to share your favorite climbs at Elevenmile. Click the red number to the right of the title to comment.

Camping in Europe
Posted by sibylle in Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland (Monday May 19, 2008 at 6:48 am)


Matt, at 1,235 meters

Several people asked about camping in Europe. We’ve camped in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France. We found the best camping in Spain- pretty sites, great views, and the most amenities for the price (hot showers!). A difference between the US and Europe: on the continent, in many places, no one minds if you camp in a farmer’s field for the night. I traveled to six climbing areas in three countries with a group of German climbers, and we’d climb all day, drive ‘til late to the next climbing area, and pull up to the nearest empty field and pitch a tent.
No one ever bothered us, and they told me they do it all the time.

View from Matt toward Brüggler

Here’s our (admittedly limited) experience:
Switzerland: We camped at a mountain hut named “Matt”, near the base of the Brüggler.
Fees were:
Parking, per day: Euro 3.50
Tent, per night: Euro 7.50
Sleeping in hut: Euro 3.00
Tent, per person: Euro 1.50
Which amounted to Euro 14.00 per night for the two of us in one tent. This was a private campground, run by the Alpkorporation Vorderschwändi, basically the town / village owners. The owners of the land up the road from the hut had working dairy farms and grazed their cows in the meadows across the street. At night hundreds of cowbells, from large, deep ones to smaller higher-pitched bells, lulled us to sleep.


View across valley from Matt

The hut had toilets, an outdoor sink with cold running water, and a small room indoors with tables and chairs. We cooked inside on the rainy days and ate outside on sunny days. It’s the best campsite we found near here (the Schwändital, near the town of Näfels). We headed east from Zürich on 3 toward Sargans and the south on 17 toward Glarus. This isn’t a major tourist area, but a small climbing area where my father enjoyed climbing. An English couple stayed here to climb and said it was also the best camping they’d found in the nearby mountains.

Please comment if you’d like to share favorite camping areas in Europe. Click the red number right of the title to comment.

Independence Pass—Monitor Rock, the Nose
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Colorado (Sunday May 18, 2008 at 10:26 am)


Tristan Hechtel on The Nose, Monitor Rock (5.6)

Now that it’s getting hot in the Valleys, it’s time to head for the high country. While temperatures near Boulder remain in the tolerable 80s this week, soon they’ll reach 90s or more, and Independence Pass has some of the best summer climbing and camping in Colorado. Monitor Rock has the longest routes at Independence Pass.

The Nose, a five to six-pitch route, is especially fun, with straightforward climbing, a great view and an easy descent. The climbing gets easier as one climbs further up the route and belay ledges are spacious.

Parking and Approach

Park at the second pullout on the left, across from the trailhead. Hike toward Monitor Rock, passing a sign, until a faint climber’s trail branches right. Follow this trail, which involves some scrambling, toward the southeast side of Monitor Rock.

Approach: 7 - 10 minutes

The Nose 5.6 ***

Scramble to the right side of the Butt Wall. The Nose is 30 feet to the right of Matillda, in a corner with a small tree (5 - 10 ft) about 30 feet up. Follow the groove to a larger tree on the skyline. The first pitch, on polished rock, is the hardest pitch on the climb. Continue up easier cracks and grooves for four or five pitches to the top.


Walk along the top to the north end of the rock. Scramble down through trees and shrub to the west side of Monitor Rock.

Please comment if you’ve climbed at Monitor and have any beta about your favorite climbs. Click the red number right of the title to comment.

Penitente Canyon
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Colorado (Wednesday May 14, 2008 at 8:28 pm)


Tristan Hechtel leading Not My Cross To Bear, 5.11b, Penitente

For a great climbing vacation, try Penitente Canyon in the San Luis Valley. With one of the shortest and flattest approaches anywhere, great campsites and a 5.2 climb, Penitente scores high in friendliness.

From the kiosk and gazebo at the parking area, walk east for five minutes to a large alcove with slabby rocks. On the right is an excellent 5.2 climb.

Mr. Breeze 5.2 ***

The direct start– straight up to the bolt from the ground - is difficult. Instead chimney up between Mr. Breeze and the rock to the right for a few feet then traverse left onto easy face holds. The rest of the climb is very easy and pleasant friction climbing on a low angle slab.

Please leave a  comment to share your favorite climbs at Penitente. Click the red number to the right of the title to comment.

View from the campground at sunset

Switzerland—camping at Matt
Posted by sibylle in Switzerland, Europe (Tuesday May 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm)


A typical Swiss “Brunnen”

A friend asked me where we’d go this summer. Tristan graduates from high school on May 24 and we’re going on a long road trip. This summer we’ll head to Tuolomne Meadows and the Sierra Nevada and then up to Squamish Chief, Canada.
We climbed at Squamish last year and Tristan declared it to be one of his two favorite places in North America, along with the Indian Creek / Moab area. When it gets too cold in Squamish, we’ll head down to the desert, and then maybe to Portrero Chico, Mexico.
We’ll winter in Summit County and work in ski school and then in March we head to Australia, Nepal in April, Turkey in May (Chad talked us into checking out his favorite places in Turkey, which he says has as good, if not better climbing than Greece but cheaper eats and sleeps).
Then in late May we head to Spain, then Germany to visit family and a side trip to Switzerland, only 2 hours or so from my cousin’s place in Waiblingen, Germany.
Two summers ago we camped at Matt and climbed nearby at the Brüggler and the Gallerie. We used the Brunnen, or spring, as our refrigerator. The water coming from deep underground stayed quite cold and we’d put our fresh pasta, mozzarella, and yogurt containers in the Brunnen for the day while climbing. Sleeping on top of that long grass provided some of the softest camping we had anywhere. Weekdays we had the campsite to ourselves; Swiss and German climbers headed up for the weekend.

A Mother’s Day Climb
Posted by sibylle in Colorado (Monday May 12, 2008 at 6:05 pm)


Tristan on Funkdemental, Shelf Road

Years ago, when my son Tristan was very little, my family would ask me, “What would you like to do for Mother’s Day?” Nowadays, Tristan just asks me, “Where do you want to climb?”

Sunday, when Tristan asked me where I wanted to go, I chose Eldorado Canyon which is very close with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s (for a change. Tonight it’s meant to snow).

Everyone had the same idea: go to Eldo for a Mother’s Day picnic. We waited in a line of cars, while I swore to leave earlier next time. The rangers weren’t sure there would be any parking spaces left. Luckily, a car was leaving, so we quickly nabbed their space.

The Bastille and lower walls were all festooned with multiple ropes and climbers, so we headed for the upper Redgarden wall. We figured there’d be a plethora of routes to choose from to both sides of the Green Spur. As we stopped to watch a climber on Darkness ‘Til Dawn, a rock thundered down the narrow defile from above, missing the climber, but nearly hitting his belayer. This confirmed our decision to not climb below anyone, a goal that was proving harder to achieve as we progressed uphill from one climb to the next.

We finally settled on ‘Lost in Space’ next to ‘Sunstar’, a climb we chose mainly for its lack of other parties above us and which had the other attraction of being a route I’d never done. It proved to be an enjoyable route with a bit of route finding, some loose rock, and what we condensed down to three long (200’) pitches. After we downclimbed from the top, had a brief lunch and a quick nap in the sun, we went back down to the lower Redgarden Wall in time for everyone to have left and we now had a choice of routes to ourselves. We quickly romped up Whistle Stop, at the top of which Tristan wished me a happy Mother’s Day.
When I replied it had been great, and that I’d like about 30 more, he responded,
“Forty more. No, fifty more Mother’s Day climbs.”
Let’s hope I last that long!

Shelf Road limestone
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Colorado (Saturday May 10, 2008 at 12:28 pm)


Ada Urist at the base of LaCholla Jackson

Shelf Road features limestone sport climbs, mostly ranging from 5.9 to 5.12, with a few easier routes. Most climbs have small edges and crimps on near-vertical rock.
Several cliffs comprise the Shelf Road area: the Dark Side, the Bank, the Contest Wall, and Shelf Road’s newest area, Cactus Cliffs. Cactus Cliffs face south with sunny alcoves that shelter climbers from occasionally bitter winds. Even on a cool day, routes in the sun can feel blistering hot.

Alexi’s Climb 5.5 ***
One of the easiest routes at Shelf Road, Alexi’s Climb is at Cactus Cliffs. Once you reach the old parking lot, follow the trail east for about 5 minutes until you see a S/SE facing alcove on the left. Stone steps lead up to a flat area in front of an easy slab. Alexi’s Climb follows the bolts along the left.
From the spacious ledge atop Alexi’s Climb, I taught my son how to rappel and how to feed the rope through the anchors. Tristan led the climb and then belayed me up to the ledge. While I watched, he fed the rope through the anchor and set up the rappel.


Ada playing in the natural sandbox at Shelf Road

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