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Posts Tagged ‘Eldorado Canyon’

The Eldorado Canyon route “Anthill Direct” has been on my to-do list for a while, but with a spooky run-out pitch I didn’t see myself leading it all anytime really soon. So when Tara’s climbing partner Brad suggested we tackle the route and was willing to lead whatever pitches I didn’t want I was psyched to go. As per the division of labor we agreed on in the parking lot, Brad strung together the first two pitches of “Touch and Go” while I belayed on his brand new double ropes.

Tara and I followed then I took the sharp end for one of my few turns leading on double routes for the pretty-straight-forward next pitch. Some easy crack and face climbing lead to a small roof and a tiny-for-3 belay stance. Brad linked the next two pitches of wandering and run-out 5.7. The last pitch was mine again, and a classic 5.9- roof to finish up on flatirons-like slab.

Brad then showed us the east slabs descent from the Redgarden Wall.

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Winds were rocking the car in the parking lot while a light rain was hitting the windshield. It was enough to convince Tara and I to scuttle plans to go rock climbing in Eldo for a hike around Walker Ranch.

Conditions improved by Saturday morning when I met Jonathan to carpool into the canyon with the idea of climbing the classic Bastille Crack. It’s cold, north-facing location has kept me off it during the non-summer months the base almost always has a line of climbers queued up. Today we saw one party’s leader just at the end of the second pitch with the second following and no line. Racking up at the car we hurried to the base to start up. I linked the first two pitches and found the radios very helpful to communicate with Jonathan down by the river.

Jonathan re-racked and set off up the steep crack above the ledge I was on with the goal of linking the next two pitches.

As he disappeared over the next ledge and the rope slowly crawled upwards, I watched climbers hiking in and ascending Whale’s Tail and Redgarden Walls.

Demonstrating perfect spacing, another group started up the first two pitches of the Bastille Crack and setup a belay just below me right about when Jonathan was anchoring himself below our last pitch. I followed his wandering route and then chose a 5.8- finish for the final pitch to the top of the Bastille.

Coiling the rope we scrambled to the south and then around the west side and back to the parking lot.

It was only noon, so we tanked up on water and returned to the Bastille where Jonathan decided to tackle Blind Faith (5.10a).

The crux hand crack proved difficult and he backed off to setup a belay just below those moves. I cleaned the lower part of the route, then took on the crack. The hand jams weren’t as secure as I’d have liked, and a rest while thinking through the sequence got me up with maybe just a tad bit of french-freeing (I palmed the top of a cam that was blocking a good jam). For the second pitch, I should have traversed left to join an easier route, however Jonathan proved persuasive in convincing me to lead the 5.9 second pitch. Already tired from fighting through the lower pitch, I only made the crux move with another french-free move. Jonathan was similarly tired as he actually broke out his prussiks to get by this second when he followed the pitch.

Having a bit of time, but no energy for any more routes, we mocked up a couple self-rescue scenarios without leaving the ground before calling it a day.

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Tara had asked to climb Rewritten (5.7) in Eldorado Canyon and since it’s both a great route and has a few pitches I hadn’t yet led I was more than willing. A reasonable start had us the first on the this popular classic on a Friday morning. For the third time, I found myself leading the Great Zot’s first pitch (5.8) to start off the ground at the Redgarden Wall. Tara pretty quickly followed, taking a different line through the small crux roof before reaching the belay stance.


The second pitch is easier and leads to a nice belay ledge, abet one already occupied by a Colorado Mountain School guide who was bringing a client up the Green Spur to this point. Given that we were on an easier route, Tara reached the belay first of the two followers and the guide graciously let me start up the third pitch ahead of them.

The third pitch is pretty easy, but also a chossy gully of loose rock. Careful climbing is required, especially when there are climbers below which is pretty much always. Tara tried to turn the dihedral climbing into some face moves, but soon found the route and joined me atop the pitch. By now a third party was climbing up from below and catching all of us.

After re-racking I quickly started the classic 4th pitch with its famous hand traverse followed by the steep finger crack. I wished I’d had my camera accessible for the shot looking back down at the crowds on pitch 3. By the time I’d reached the dead tree belay, the CMS guide decided to let the last group (climbing in aggressive “Euro-style”) pass and Tara was anxious about having them hot on her heels. So she let their leader start up, then followed some distance behind.

With two ropes on the pitch and two sets of gear she was going to have a more complex time following this pitch. Thankfully, the speedster’s leader kept out some penalty slack to keep his aggro partner from breathing down her neck. At least this belay ledge was pretty comfy and made a nice waiting spot while we let the hurried pair climb to the top.

To speed our own ascent a bit, I linked the last two pitches, continuing up from the exposed and fun Rebuffat’s Arete to the summit. Tara (who says she doesn’t like aretes [or dihedrals, slabs or cracks]) actually found this pitch enjoyable.

Below, I was surprised to see the CMS guide had taken the original finish to Rewritten, but Tara and I did our best to keep him entertained with our witty banter as she neared the summit.

On top we coiled the rope and started the scramble and walk north, getting lost (er, getting some extra hiking in) only briefly before finding the correct route down and back to the base.

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With all the well-fed chipmunks running around Eldorado Canyon, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I’d eventually see a snake. Still, the good-sized bull snake (I think) temporarily stopped my approach to the Wind Tower.

Teresa was ready to try her first 5.7 since returning to rock climbing so we warmed up with the first pitch of The Bomb (5.4).

Then we continued up West Overhang (5.7).

That pitch went really well and Teresa felt some real improvements in her climbing. I hadn’t led the second pitch of Boulder Direct (5.5), so we rappelled then I led a short traverse and up that route to its natural bridge finish.

Our 5.7 pitch had gone well and the neighboring route Reggae (5.8) was free so I talked Teresa into trying that. Another rappel and a short traverse to the base of Reggae’s right-facing corner system and I was ready to climb this route that had long been on my to-do list. The bottom section went well with several good rest stances as I worked up to the steeper finger crack. I found that section to be a little strenuous (especially hanging out to place gear) and was relieved to pull into the cool shade of the giant boulder for a rest before traversing to the same stance atop Boulder Direct. Plus, I had a perfect window to watch Teresa climb the pitch.

With just a little resting on the rope she managed the route and two final rappels brought us back to snake territory.

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Wind Ridge

Pitch one: I leave the ground without my camera and luckily have remembered the radios today. There’s no rope-tug communication for “root around in my pack and find my camera, bring it up with you”.

Pitch two: Tara is still screaming at me for making her wake up early, and gives me penalty rope-drag.

She arrives at the second belay clearly recalling that she hates this Eldo classic.

Pitch three: I haven’t done this pitch in a while, but pull up the crazy horn to the seated rest while Tara ponders why she’s awake at this hour.

Descent: I talk her through the scramble off the summit of the Wind Tower while she accuses me of enjoying scrambling.

It’s not yet noon, but we decide to bail after an interpretive dance with cam and get some coffee.

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Nine months ago Teresa suffered a broken leg in a backcountry accident in Wyoming. It may have slowed her down, but it hasn’t stopped her. Case in point: it’s not even 5 months into the year and she’s already climbed over 100 peaks.

She’s been out rock climbing a few times in the last couple months, but this was the first time our schedules aligned for me to lead her up a couple pitches in Eldorado Canyon.

We started on the mega-classic Wind Ridge (5.6) which was the hardest climb Teresa had done since the accident. She handled it fine.

The walk/scramble off was almost more of a concern, but she took that in stride and we arrived back at the base with no one else around. So we started up the parallel route of Breezy (5.5). From the top of the second pitch, I watched a soloist tackle Redgarden Wall’s The Bulge.

No surprise by now, but she handled Breezy with no problems, and in typical Teresa-fashion, she’s wondering how a couple 5.7 pitches might go.

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If the Rapture was coming on Saturday, I figured I’d rather meet it out in the woods. With that thought in mind, I drove out 285 after work on Friday and connected with the Colorado Trail a little south of Bailey. A short hike through falling snow and I found a nice spot off the trail to settle in and relax for the evening while awaiting the end times.

By some miracle the world hadn’t ended with dawn came with a brief flash of alpine glow in the clouds. I brewed some coffee and hiked back to my car for the drive home and a stop at my local coffee shop (might as well load up on java if the life as we know it is about to end). Piper and I had briefly discussed climbing in the Flatirons for the better view of souls ascending to heaven, but of course, the best vantage spot would have probably been Garden of the Gods, it being so close to Colorado Springs and all. Instead we ended up at Rincon wall in Eldorado Canyon to work on a few routes and pretend nothing eventful was going to happen today.

I took the first lead on Five Eight Crack (rated 5.8, wouldn’t have guessed that, would you?) and found it’s runout reputation to be overstated. A .5 tricam and micronuts let me sew the pitch up. After lowering and cleaning the gear, Piper led the route as well.

Traversing up and left of the anchor bolts we put a trad anchor above Five Ten Crack (rated 5.10, but you got the hint already). Neither of us were feeling up to leading this pitch, so this way we could try it out on top-rope first. I was amazed to pull through the crux and reach the anchors without a fall or take. Piper went up, mock-leading (placing gear) along the way and looked solid but had some difficulties at the roof.

Piper then traversed further left and placed a directional piece somewhat above the first pitch of Rincon (5.9+). I started up and found this pitch more continuously difficult than Five Ten Crack and came off with a safe but long pendulum swing. That might be as close to ascending to heaven as I got today. After getting back on route, I ended up leap-frogging gear above me to keep the swing potential down. Fingers and forearms burnt out, I finally lowered off below the top and let Piper follow and clean the pitch.

Piper took another turn on Five Ten Crack, but felt she’d climbed it better the first time around when she was pretending to lead it. That, or she was now distracted by the imminent arrival of the apocalypse. Feeling a bit rested, I talked myself into one more lap on Five Ten Crack and was surprised to again climb it cleanly. Maybe when I’m feeling stronger (ie, climbing 5.8-9 trad regularly), I’ll have to come back and give the lead a try.

Before heading home I swung by Liquor Mart and picked up a few new Colorado beers I haven’t yet tried. I can’t drink them all tonight, so the world had better keep circling the sun for at least another week.

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