July 14, 2010

Getting High in Boulder. ~ John Spina

The Best Spots to Climb in Boulder.

Situated at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is a town full of young, active, and outdoorsy people.  The mountains surrounding Boulder, along with the town’s culture create incredible environment for climbing.  Not only are there dozens of areas in which to climb, indoors and out, but there is also a huge and very welcoming climbing community.  Though there are several gyms around Boulder, such as The Spot, Movement Climbing, and the Boulder Rock Club, here is a list of the five best sites in and around Boulder to climb outdoors.  For more information on specific climbing routes check out rockclimbing.com or

Without a doubt, Eldorado Canyon (pictured above) is the biggest and best place to climb around Boulder.  The park attracts thousands of people from around the world each year for its famous multi-pitch trad climbing.  The massive sandstone cliffs of the canyon offer over 500 routes, ranging from beginner (5.7) to expert (5.12c) in picturesque surroundings. Once atop the summit, soaring hundreds of feet off the ground, the views down the canyon and into the valley will knock you off your feet (hopefully not literally).

Located right outside of Boulder, following the South Boulder Creek, it is an easy area to access, and provides world renown climbing in Boulder’s backyard.  The only downside to the park is the huge crowds that it attracts on a daily basis.  Nonetheless, it is hardly a price to pay to be able to climb at such a remarkable site.

Boulder Canyon is the other massive area to climb around Boulder.  However, instead of the “golden” sandstone walls of Eldo, Boulder Canyon is made up of miles of granite cliffs, offering hundreds of prime sport climbs.  With the Boulder Creek raging right below, the Canyon also adds an aspect of high exposure and excitement to the climbs.  Again, like Eldo, the area is so big it offers countless possibilities for routes, allowing every level of climber to find enjoyable and challenging climbs.  Though the canyon is known mostly for its sport climbing, the granite canyon allows for top rope as well as fantastic bouldering.

The most widely used, and easiest spot to start climbing, is the sport park.  About 12 miles up the canyon, the area basically an outdoor gym. Despite the fact it receives quite a bit of criticism by the hard-core climbing community for routes being over bolted, over-graded, and just over used, it’s a great place to learn to climb with easily defined routes and amazing views from the top.

Immediately upon driving into Boulder, one spots the Flatiorns, not only the summit of Chautauqua Park, but also an icon of the town of Boulder.  Though the Flatiorns present much easier climbing and don’t nearly have the number of routes that Eldo and the Boulder Canyon do, this dramatic rock feature beckons in all sorts of climbers, both beginners looking to learn (especially with trad climbing), and experts looking for some fun and relaxed climbing. There have been dozens of creative accents: free solos, moonlight assents, nude climbs, and even snow-covered summits.  In addition, the ridiculous speed records posted for various lines always provide a challenge, and the 200-foot repel, down the backside from the summit, consitantly gets your blood pumping.

However, even without the Flatiorns, one could climb in Chautauqua Park for weeks without ever having to rope up due to the limitless amounts of bouldering in the area.  The Ghetto, located near the 3rd Flatiorn, and the Satellite boulders near the second Flatiorn, are both sites that offer dozens of climbs from short fun power climbs around V1, to technical routes reaching as high as V10’s.

Though all of these previously mentioned sites also offer great bouldering, Flagstaff Mountain, adjacent to the Flatiorns, is one area almost exclusively centered on it.  The mountain is one of the biggest and most established bouldering sites in Colorado, offering a wide range of climbs, the most popular of which are the Monkey Traverse (v4), Pratt’s Mantle (v3) and Aerial Burial (v3).

It’s a very popular spot with countless routes, many of which were set in the 60’s and 70’s.  Though there is not a lot of top rope or multi-pitch climbing, its a great place to go for a couple hours, get outside, meet climbers, and take a shot at solving some problems.  Its proximity to the town makes it easy to access whether only for a quick hour or two stop, or for the whole day.  It’s a beautiful spot with a lot of fun climbs and a great way to spend some time.

Skunk Canyon is yet another place to find great rock climbing around Boulder, and is certainly the spot to go in order to avoid crowds.  Due to the lack of traffic, routes are not as tracked out and, with some exploration you can even find some first accents no matter your climbing experience.

There are four main ridges on the north side where most of the established climbs are located, and scattered crags on either side of the canyon with endless potential.  Overall, the climbing here is a little more difficult than the other massive sites, and a little harder to access, however there are still opportunities for less experienced climbers to enjoy the quiet and serene area.

John Spina currently attends the University of Vermont in Burlington where he will graduate with a double major in history and political science in 2011.  He writes sports for the school paper, the Vermont Cynic, as well as publishes weekly articles in the Mountain Ear, a local Nederland paper, and works as an Intern for the Elephant Journal. He loves spending time outdoors with his dog, McKinley, and being home in Colorado working for the summer.

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