Sunday, November 11, 2012

Writer's Wanderlust - A Trip to Colorado...

Climbing in Colorad
By Aubrey Wingo

Hey Crimp Chronicle readers!  I typically always write about serious issues in climbing, such as anything that involves ethics.  But every now and then, we writers do get out of the gym to experience our own adventures and get the opportunity to share them with you!  I have been a southeastern climber my entire life, only venturing so far north as Kentucky, and maybe as west as Alabama.  My psych for climbing was dying and the way plastic felt on my tips wasn’t satisfying me anymore.  So I ventured into the West, to  Colorado, searching for adventure, grand sites, and granite boulders... and to visit my best friend.  So for this article, I will be reviewing and bringing you into my adventure through word and photo so you can see how beautiful Colorado really is and hopefully get you stoked to go there too.

Outdoor Activities

Wild Basin
Activities to experience: Bouldering, Hiking, Birdwatching, Horseback Riding, Fishing

In the southeastern end of Rocky Mountain National Park, or RMNP for short, lies Wild Basin, a scenic trail entrance station and a now developing area to what will be some of the best bouldering in the West. I had the privilege of visiting this area several times, some for hiking, and some to watch some strong climbers doing work. The first day of my Colorado vacation I was first introduced to Wild Basin as a way to acclimate to the higher elevation. Let me note that I have never travelled pass the Mississippi nor have I ever been at an elevation so high (approximately 8,500 ft, my goodness...), so preparing for the rest of my trip was going to essential. People had warned me of the horrors of high elevation to us weak Florida people, telling stories of nosebleeds, nausea, and dizziness. Don’t let this ever scare you! None of this happened. Wild Basin is one of the easiest hikes that you can begin with, depending on how far you travel on the trail. If you’re looking for a quick scenic march, the trail runs along the St. Vrain Creek, which offers many different photo opportunities along the way, including Copeland Falls which is only 0.3 miles from the trailhead. On that day, we continued along the trail, building up a good workout, traveling about 2.7 miles in and stopping at Calypso Cascades, and eventually Ouzel Falls. After this, the trail will split into the Bluebird Lake Trail and the Thunder Lake Trail, where you can decide what scenic adventure that you would like to take. The trail does get a bit steeper at this point, and you’ve got about 5 more miles to go for each, but from pictures, if you are an avid hiker, it is completely worth it.

Now for those that are not interested in hiking as much as they are climbing, the bouldering here is slowly becoming more developed.  However, there are no guidebooks for this location so you must rely on word of mouth to know how to find them.  Along the trail, after you walk up the big stone staircase, on the right, you will find boulders along cut offs that have started becoming developed.  Remember, ethics lovers, stay on the trails as best as possible to prevent the unnecessary destruction of flora.  If you have been following Deadpoint’s videos, you will find tons of epic sends. that have gone up at Wild Basin this past year, including White Noise (V15) originally put up by Daniel Woods and has only been repeated twice after that by Matty Hong and Dave Graham.  One of the things that I have realized as a puny V4 climber, there is not much that I can find great success on!  It is insane to see a plethora of V8s and up everywhere, leaving me kicking rocks and being an awesome spotter.  Eventually I did get to climb this sweet (but very sharp and chossy) V1 that I haven’t found the name for.  A multiple heel hook inducing overhang protrudes over this pile of talus, meaning, you really don’t want to fall.  So, I did get a bit sketch out at the end and ended up throwing the last heel hook as a leg hook, scratching it all up, to make sure that I topped it out and didn’t have to do it again. 

All in all this is a beautiful location for anyone looking to have a nice day, climbing or not.  In the snow and in the sun, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Sweet Climbs:
White Noise - V15
Mini Dagger - V7
Macho Man - V10
Tetris - V12
Other Awesome Sends

Boulder Canyon
Activities to Experience: Bouldering, Sport Climbing, Trad Climbing, Scenic Drives

Boulder Canyon is a climbing mecca.  Pretty much anything you want to climb there, you can find... much more easily if you have a guidebook.  For most of the locations that you would need to visit, driving is a must;  all of the locations will have pull offs where you will need to hike into your climbing location.  Because Boulder Canyon is only about 15-20 minutes from Boulder, depending on how far you need to travel.  For those who are not climbers, this is a very fun and pretty drive, with winding roads and plenty of stops, including Boulder Falls.  But the rest of us climbers can be amazing with the amount of options of climbing we have.  I spent a lot of time in the Castle Rock area, where you can find roadside rope routes on the pulloff as well as prime bouldering routes such as Free Range, Caged Free, The Citadel, Replacement Killers, and more.  I do warn you, most of this bouldering will require you to hike over water (or snow/ice if its in the winter) so make sure to bring an extra pair of socks in case!  Oh and it definitely snowed.  While the big boys worked the hard stuff, I built snowmen!

Boulder Canyon is also home to a very famous problem.  Yes, that’s right, I touched The Game.  For a V15/16 (or whatever they are calling it nowadays), the holds don’t feel that bad.  Near the game is also the Hug Boulder and all its variations which I was privileged to spot some beasts on, and meet a very nice homeless man who was sleeping underneath the boulder problem that night.  Please note!  In order to get over to this area, if the creek is running high, you will need to bring a harness.  On this trip, I got to do my first Tyrolean traverse, which I learned I am not very good at.  Not to mention we only had one harness so we had to use very creative ways to get three people, three pads, and two packs, over without getting wet or falling to our doom.  In this area, I also got to get on some top roping, because I was too much of a wimp to get on lead because let me tell you!  If you have never climbed on granite, it is very difficult to get comfortable using your feet on slick, glassy rock.  I also wish we had picked a better day to climb because it was so windy and cold, I had to fight to stay on the rock!  Nonetheless, I know that I could have experienced much more climbing in the Canyon, but it’s time for this writer to get on some more rope, go back, and crush.

Sweet Climbs:
The Game - V15
The Hug - V12
Replacement Killers - V11
Free Range - V13
Caged Free - V11

Lower Chaos and Emerald Lake
Activities to Experience: Climbing, Hiking, Fishing

Probably one of the most famous areas in Rocky Mountain National Park is Upper and Lower Chaos due to its most recent developments in hard boulder problems from some of the most famous climbers in the world.  This hike in will certainly test your fitness level as to get to Lower Chaos, you must hike an unrelenting section of uphill switchbacks.  And I only went to Lower... Upper Chaos, from what I’ve heard, is another 40 minutes of the same.  This place certainly opened my eyes to Colorado bouldering...its all really hard.  If you look at Jamie Emerson’s guidebook and compare it to your Horse Pens 40 guidebook, you’d find them to almost be polar opposites.  By this I mean where HP40 would have 50 V2s, Lower Chaos has 50 V12s.  There is only one V2 at Lower Chaos called Topaz that I sent... it wasn’t very exciting and it was sketchy with the amount of talus below but at least I can say I climbed the only V2 at Lower Chaos.  Other fun routes that I did were Left (V1) and Right (V3) on the Warm-Up Boulder (yes... my notable sends were everyone else’s warm up...) and Molloy (V1).  Most of the other climbs that I could find in my range were long burly traverses, something I just was not prepared for but at least I know what to expect when I go back!  One of the most beautiful aspect of Lower and Upper Chaos is what separates it: Lake Haiyaha.  This lake is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  And you can boulder over it!  50/50 (V10) is a boulder problem that probably going to be gone soon because the elements are just wearing the holds away.  But, its a beautiful green mossy face with rounded crimps with plenty of consequences if you fall.  More just a big splash but depending on what season, it could be a cold swim.   Unfortunately, my day at Lower Chaos ended badly as during the hike back, where we had taken the wrong trail, I rolled my ankle and had to hobble and be carried 0.7 miles back to the car, along with three pads and a pack.  So it had put a damper on the day, but I did get to see a cute little bunny.

Emerald Lake also has bouldering, but when I had visited, we hadn’t brought any gear and just wanted to hike for the views.  This trail isn’t too bad, with tons of uphill but very gradual and tons of places of to stop and look around.  Upon this trail, which is only about 3.6 miles round trip, you get to see Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and and the end, Emerald Lake whose waters are from snow melts in the higher elevations.  I highly recommend to check these out and all the spotted trout in them!

Sweet Climbs:
50/50 - V10
Nuthin' But Sunshine - V13
Gobot - V11
The Kind - V5
More Boulder Problems

The Flatirons, Satellite Boulders, and Flagstaff
Activities to Experience: Trad Climbing, Bouldering, Hiking, Cycling

While driving into Boulder, the site of the Flatirons is unmistakeable.  They look like big irons (shocker, I know!).  But nestled at the base of these slabalicious trad climbs, and free solos for those that are brave (I was begged to go.  Sorry, not happening!), are a vast array of boulder problems.  Most of this area is known as Chautauqua Park, where many college students love to job and hike on cool evenings.  This hike is pretty easy in regards to the condition of the ground, but it is relentlessly steep and will definitely make your calfs burn!  There are plenty of scenic hikes, depending on what you’re looking to see, but on your way to the Flatirons, you can find the Satellite Boulders, one of the many sections of bouldering areas at Chautauqua.  Many of my proud (or now so proud because I was climbing pretty weak) would be the Girlfriend’s Backside Stand (V1), the Girlfriend Slot (V2), and my favorite, A7-V1 (V1) which you can see me send in the videos below!  But for those who are looking for a little more of a challenge, I highly recommend Zero G (V5), The Turning Point (V8), and the Girlfriend’s Backside Sit (V7).  There is so much bouldering in this area, make sure to check out the Front Range guidebook and Mountain Project to find your way around.

Flagstaff is probably one of the most easily accessible areas for climbing.  Much different from all the granite surrounding the area.  The boulders at Flagstaff are made of a conglomerate sandstone, slightly similar to what you would climb in the southeast but filled with tiny little sharp stabbing pebbles in the rock and much more red.  If you peel off, it hurts really bad.  But some boulder problems there have pretty interesting beta where you have to grab smooth larger pebbles as handholds that look like they’re just going to break off.  This area has a good amount of easy climbs, a few premiere hard problems, but it is perfect for that moderate level.  But be prepared with lots of pads, and in some case, you might want a rope.  This place is full of highballs; easy, but high!  I have to admit, after the ankle injury early in the trip at RMNP, I was not that jazzed to fall on a tall ankle-destroying boulder problem so I climbed more cautiously and spent a lot of time down climbing to refocus.  I’m sure you’re thinking “it’s a V0!  Do you really think you’re going to fall on a V0?”  Give me a break; it’s overhanging and like 18 feet in the air.  Another sweet boulder problem with a very cool history is Trice (V12), which had gone unrepeated for 32 years until Carlo Traveri and soon after Jamie Emerson sent this awesome line in 2007.  Alex Puccio also has the honors of having the only female ascent of it.  This area also has great hiking and great views as Flagstaff Mountain sits high over the city of Boulder where on a clear day, you can see for miles!

Sweet Climbs:
A1-V1 - V1
The Turning Point - V8
Fleshfest - V10
Girlfriend's Backside - V7
Trice - V12
Mongolian Cosmonaut - V8

Guanella Pass

Activities to Experience: Scenic Drives, Climbing, Hiking, Photo Opportunities
Closer to Mount Evans, which hosts a bunch of great climbing when the elements allow, Guanella Pass, a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains that runs from Georgetown (one of the cutest towns I have ever seen) and Grant and the Geneva Creek Valley.  Not only is this one of the most beautiful drives that I took, but I saw more different kinds of wildlife than anywhere!  Where can I just watch an elk take his time and just stroll across the road?!  Or like 20 mountain goats playing with a bunch of rocks?  On this drive there is a great pull off where you can hike to and take pictures of Mount Bierstadt, and other surrounding peaks and plenty of places along the road to pull off to boulder.  I never found out any of the names of the boulders that I climbed but you can check me climbing this sweet arete here! The hikes are very easy and there are tons of easy and moderate stuff to get on so if you’re looking for a nice casual climbing day, this is the place for you.  After a while, the road does become dirt so don’t keep going past the Bierstadt pull off if you want to keep it clean!

Sweet Climbs
Dark Horse - V10
Mind Matters - V12

The Spot
Activities to Experience: Bouldering

Okay, I can never understand why people go on climbing trips and end up at the gym, but as a routesetter and gym employee, I had to see what The Spot had to offer.  The Spot is nationally renowned because of its strong setters and tall prominent top out boulders.  Although many of the areas were off limits because the setters were working for Psychedelia, I got my climb on anyway, easily cruising through many of the 3+ spots and working 4 spots.  What are spots, you say?  The Spot uses a completely different rating system that no other gym uses, grading boulder problems by “spots” rather than numbers.  The hardest in the gym is a 5 spot boulder problem, but from what I climbed and saw, they weren’t so hard.  A lot of the difficulty I believe comes into the sketch factor of falling from a high point.  Where I definitely felt like an outsider, and had to battle through the inconsiderate and ethic-less to even get on the wall, I enjoyed the routes that I climbed.  But at The Spot, don’t expect a spot unless you bring your own friend.  And I got to see Obe Carrion!  *squeal!*

Food and Breweries

One of the other claims to fame that Boulder and the surrounding area provides is a vast array of delicious options.  If you are 21 and up, and enjoy beer, I highly recommend to take as many brewery tours as possible!  They are a blast and really give you a great amount of knowledge about how they produce some of the finest ales in the nation and probably the world.  If beer isn’t your fancy, get your eat on and check out some of these venues.

New Belgium Brewery

New Belgium BreweryOne of the highlights of my trip was definitely the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO, who most famously produces Fat Tire, Sunshine Wheat, and a vast array of special releases and Lips of Faith brews.  If you are interesting in the tour, which you are, make sure to plan ahead and schedule on their website.;  spots fill up very quickly!  My tour guide was Murphy, a recent transplant from Australia and was a great story teller.  There is so much history surrounding this brewery!  The original owner, Jeff Lebesch, travelled through Belgium, looking for inspiration for beer after starting his own home brewing process.  Because of his mountain bike, the European villagers called it his “Fat Tire” thus the name of the beer!  At each stop on the tour, we received a new beer and learned how to pick out the ingredients with our taste and smell.  Once finishing the tour, you can hang out in their tap room and try all sorts of different beers, mainly ones that you can only get at New Belgium.  Also, if you’re looking for a new life venture, apply for a job!  Each year after an employee give one year of service, you get your own customize fat tire bicycle!
Twisted Pine Brewery
Twisted Pine Brewery

Another great beer stop is actually right next door to The Spot.  Twisted Pine is a quaint brewery but with great appetizers and great service.  You can sit outside with your dog on the porch or watch a game inside, or just chat with the bartenders!  Vegan and vegetarian friendly food, as well as munchies for the meat eaters, you can decide on a full size pizza, or just a little bite sized stomach filler with your tasty brew.  Their Raspberry Wheat Ale was extremely refreshing and had the perfect amount of fruity taste where you weren’t completely overwhelmed.  If you’re looking for something unique, definitely make sure to try Billy’s Chilies, a beer composed of different types of peppers including habanero, jalapeño, and serrano peppers.  Best part is if you like it, you can buy in right in the brewery and take it home.  After a hard day of climbing, this hits the spot (no pun intended).

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery
At this point I must seem like an alcoholic but great beer is everywhere!  And especially at Mountain Sun.  Serving some of the best pub fare and craft beers in Boulder, Mountain Sun was a warm and friendly atmosphere that made you want to stay and try all the beers.  Expect a wait, as this location is very popular on Pearl Street but you can drink on the porch and people watch to pass the time.  Deciding on what to eat and drink was very challenging!  I mostly stuck with the imperial stouts for the night, except for trying the Colorado Kind Ale, and all was fantastic, not to mention my Speakeasy Steak Sandwich with melted mozzarella, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic mayonnaise...oh my God.  Into the quality and not the quantity? Feel free to ask for a Brewery Taster to sample up to six beers of your choice.  The other thing that I enjoyed about Mountain Sun was the social atmosphere that it provided.  The tables are in pretty close proximity, and we soon found ourselves with unexpected conversation and company, but overall it was fantastic!  Mountain Sun also has a sister company called Southern Sun, a little more off the beaten path off of South Broadway.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
Wahoo’s Fish TacosFounded by the Wahoo brothers, Wing, Ed, and Mingo, Wahoo’s offers eclectic food choices withMexican, Brazilian, and Asian vibe.  I had heard of this place several times on my journey and I was glad I finally got to swing by.  After a lazy day of bouldering and traveling down Pearl Street, I soon found myself in hand with a much needed margarita and waited patiently for my Banzai Burrito, of which I inhaled.  However, their speciality, obviously from the name, is their fish tacos and burritos.  All made with either wahoo or mahi-mahi and grilled or blackened to perfection, you can top those babies off with their Wahoo salsa and let your taste buds melt.  I’m almost sad I didn’t the fish!  You can also see all of the culture through their sticker wallpaper from climbers, surfers, skateboarders and more.  Wahoo’s also has tons of live venues, contests, and events that you can check out on their blog.  Unfortunately, there is no Wahoo’s in Florida, but maybe you can check it out while in Boulder or in their other locations across the nation.

All in all, I wish I would have climbed stronger.  I wish I would have trained harder before I went.  But I do know what I don’t have to wish for...going back.  That’s just a fact, Jack!  Keep following the Crimp Chronicles for more of our writer’s and their adventures!
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