Awesome Files: 3 Climbing Crags

Climbing. Colorado. It’s what puts the mountain in mountain men (and mountain women!) From alpine ascents in Rocky Mountain National Park to the multi-pitch classics of Eldorado Canyon, there are thousands of routes to shred those hands for ages; and it’s freakin’ awesome. Climbing season is in full swing in the Rocky Mountain state, although the weather west of Denver can still give you a run for your money. We’re going to stick to Front Range friendly locales for this edition of The Awesome Files.


Post Work Cragging: Clear Creek Canyon

A stones throw down Hwy 6 from Denver, Clear Creek Canyon holds over 700 routes, the bulk being sport climbing with grades to keep the newbie and rope gun happy. As you drive through the canyon you can see climbers high over the rushing water on what seems like an endless amount of crags – just over 70 to choose from. For beginners or someone wanting a few quick routes head over to Canal Zone, which is the first pull-off on the left as you enter the canyon. Once you arrive check if the classic Made in the shade is open, which is rated at 5.9- and gets you 125 ft. off the dec. Make sure you bring every draw you have for this one!

Getting way off the deck just minutes from the road.
Getting way off the deck just minutes from the road. Photo Courtesy of Phin Stubbs III

Another moderate crag with some intriguing routes is High Wire. With 34 climbs you can start off easy on some 5.7’s and work your way to the limit with 12’s and 13’s available. Sport leaders looking to get on a good multi-pitch will have a blast on People’s Choice, a solid 5.10 with 4 pitches of climbing. Finally, if you’re looking for a project pop over to Wall of the 90’s. Here you will get great warm-up 10’s like Hot Stuff and Pretty Woman. Once those arms are loosened up and your mind is in the game pick your high quality project – Reefer Madness 5.11a , Curvaceous 5.11 c/d, or Ten Digit Dialing 5.12c. Make sure to mix it up and enjoy the variety of climbing Clear Creek Canyon has to offer.


All Day Classics: Eldorado Canyon

Calling all Trad Climbers (and wannabes) – We probably don’t need to tell you that the world famous El Dorado Canyon is only 40 minutes from Denver. With the ability to top out up to 700 ft. high on walls such as Redgarden after climbing ultra classics, you will enter into a different realm of climbing appreciation. Opportunities are endless for even the competent beginner here with 5.2 -5.9’s (sometimes can feel a bit stiff) being readily available – a perfect example being the renowned Bastille Crack 5.7 and 4 pitches of gratifying moves.

The enchanting walls of Eldorado Canyon.
The enchanting walls of Eldorado Canyon. Photo Courtesy of F Delventhal

If you’re ready to jump on some solid tens the towering Redgarden wall offers one of, if not the best climbs in the canyon, Yellow Spur, 5.10a, shooting you straight up six pitches – satisfying your need to get high. Hardly a taste for what you can do here, you should probably start building your Eldo bucket list (you need a very deep bucket). Make sure to add a rain shell to your rack as weather tends to spice things up around here.


The Weekend Whipper: Shelf Road

A weekend of camping and climbing really satisfies the soul. At only two hours south in Canon City, you can even make an after work audible on Friday and not be late to the party. Once you arrive choose from two BLM campgrounds Sand Gulch or The Bank, which tends to be a bit more popular as it sits on a cliffside for amazing views of the climbing area Cactus Cliff. Within the 15 areas to choose from Cactus Cliff may be the most popular moderate crag (but still has some 12’s, 13’s and 14’s) and for good reason. A few classic warm-ups include the LaCholla Jackson and Oscar de LaCholla both 5.9’s that will put a smile on your face as you cruise through slab, cracks, and layback flakes. Dihedrus 5.10 b will push your stemming abilities on lead and give you relief once you clip the last bolt. Pushing into the 11’s, three-star Funkdemental has varied climbing with huecos and pockets and reaches over a bulge at the crux.

Canon City, Colorado  - Sharp rock and beautiful views.
Canon City, Colorado – Sharp rock and beautiful views. Photo Courtesy of Josh Bland

If you’re looking for a bit more shade and harder climbing The Gym contains great limestone and tough routes including four-star Cimmaron Lanes 5.11d, which will test your abilities on technical edges and a few pockets up 80 ft. – Add the less-traveled second pitch for a few more fun moves starting with a committing bulge. Shelf is popular and can get hot but is well worth the climbing for being so close to Denver. If you have a few days during the week you’ll most likely have some solid room between routes.

Whether you’re new to town or just looking for a few new dirtbags to spend the summer hitting the crags with keep your eye on Gociety to find some people to climb with. Exploring is why we’re here and climbing will bring you places way off the beaten path, which is what it’s all about!  Have fun and remember to say hello to your neighbors at the crag.