Front Range Days
Here I am sitting in the coffee shop in Moab, Utah and trying to gather my thoughts through the fog of head cold about my month-long stint in Colorado. It’s only been five days since I left there and arrived in Utah desert, but the explosion of visual, sound, smell and social stimuli of Indian Creek have trampled my Colorado memories into the distance. A few fragmented recollections of my stay in the Front Range of Colorado are as follows.
My first impression of the Front Range Colorado as we first crossed the stateline from Wyoming on I-25 was an immediate sense of an increased density of population. Traffic on the highway swelled out of nowhere and endless plains gave way to uniform subdivisions, railroad tracks and industrial buildings. It was akin to driving from hilly desolated Vermont into industrialized Massachusetts. The population density is not necessarily a bad thing as we enjoyed a month of catching up with friends, checking out night spots and brewpubs and getting our ethnic food fix.
First stop was Denver, where my friends former New Yorkers Gavin and Tiffany have been living since January. Gavin’s mother, sister Celine and Celine’s boyfriend were in town, visiting from New Jersey. In between gorging on delicious Gavin’s Mom’s Canton homecooking and dim sum outing (my first one ever up until now), we got to play the Rock Band (I sucked at it, btw) and go for a hike in the Flatirons in Boulder.
After Denver, we headed to a little town called Nederland. The irony is that the town is at near 9,000 feet of elevation but is called Nederland. Nederland, CO is all I wanted Boulder, CO to be – a quirky little mountain town with an eclectic mix of lumberjacks and hippies, not overrun by Priuses and posh coffeehouses yet. For a small town it has a great supermarket, a microbrewery with excellent barbecue, a coffee shop with fast wi-fi and at least two vet offices. While staying couple of days in Nederland, we climbed in Boulder Canyon, both days at Castle Rock. A traditional crag in Boulder canyon known for stiff grades and a super easy approach (you could literally belay from the car). On our second night in Nederland, we got hailed and snowed on and when the next day we got to know strange fishy characters at our camp, it was clear that it was time to leave the lovely town of Nederland.
Next couple of weeks we spent between Golden and Boulder. Climbed on gear in Eldorado Canyon and Flatirons and bolts in Clear Creek and Boulder Canyons. We also took a side trip to South Platte and climbed at Turkey Rocks – amazing crack climbing on coarse granite in a spectacular setting. Since I already wrote about climbing at Lumpy Ridge, I’m only posting photos of the above mentioned areas. Some of the climbing and non-climbing highlights of the trip:
1. Maiden in Flatirons – the most bizarre climb I’ve ever done. The climb starts at the top of the hill, then rises up an unprottected slab to downclimb a jagged ridge, traverses on the side of the cliff, climbs up a slabby face to the summit, from which you make a wild rappel (by wild I mean a 100 foot free-hanging rappel that you need to land onto a two-foot wide tiny platform in crazy winds), then traverses the knifeblade ridge back to finish at the top of the hill where the climb had started.
2. Eldorado Canyon Classics. I have heard not from just one climber that Eldorado was their favorite crag, and that it was super friendly to Gunkies. While I enjoyed climbing in Eldo, I found that slippery rock, slanting edges and scary loose rock on the ledges were not up for my taste. I got to lead classic pitches of Bastille Crack (5.7+), Rewritten (5.8 via Great Zot start) and swing leads on Yellow Spur (5.9). The highlight of my climbing in Eldo was that I got to lead my first 5.10 (with hang at the crux) – Five Ten Crack (5.10a). Marat thought it was within my capability – not very hard and well protected. I found out that “Not very hard” meant sustained 5.9 climbing leading to a 5.10 crux move and “well protected” meant micro wires and offsets. You can imagine what was going on in my head after having had a bad fall earlier this summer on a directionally pulled nut, not to mention that I’d never placed offset nuts while balancing on tiny edges and never had to trust a blindly placed gear that happened to be a tiny wire! Luckily, I motored through the moves on wires and fell on the first more bomber (in my opinion) gear which was a .4 camalot. After hangdogging trying to figure out the roof move (I still have a serious mental block climbing above especially small gear with bad feet), I finally pulled the move and in 15 feet was at the chain anchors. Not in a good style, but nevertheless my first 5.10 lead. I have yet to lead any 5.9s.
3. Turkey Rocks and Turkey Perch in Southe Platte. The South Platte river valley is strewn with numerous crags varying in style from granite domes to spires and splitter cracks. We chose to check out Turkey Rocks for it is known for excellent crack climbing. The style of climbing and the rock were a bit similar to ones of Vedauwoo, but climbing is a bit easier and the granite is not as coarse. We climbed varying cracks from 5.7 to 5.10. I got to lead a 5.8- crack Reefer Madness, a 5.8 hand crack with a roof traverse (Eastern Fiend) and top roped a couple of 5.11s and a 5.12.
4. Extracurricular Activities. Outside of climbing, staying in towns put me in touch with the civilization and spruced up my social life. We checked out Reel Rock Tour in Boulder, a ski movie at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden and the sport climbing World Cup in Boulder. Watching amazingly strong athletes performing acrobatics on plastic was entertaining, plus I got to meet Lynn Hill and have my American Alpine Club coffee mug autographed. In addition, got to check out watering holes around Golden/Boulder and even a night club. Turns out all “normal” by average American standards citizens of Boulder whose body fat percentage is higher than 10% and who don’t look like they send 5.13s on their lunch breaks, come out of their hiding holes after midnight and congregate at the spot called “Around Midnight”. Boulder is also a huge adult playground that draws middle-aged divorcees and bachelor/bachelorettes. The town gave me a feeling of a college campus where everyone is way past their college age. Good news is that that the male to female ratio is on females side. If it was closer to ski and ice climbing and didn’t resemble goddarn New York with its type A personalities, I’d move here in a heartbeat. Like someone said “The Odds are good, but the goods are odd”. Another great thing about Colorado is that I get ID-d all the time – puts a smile on my face every time!