Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sport climbing at Shelf Road

Last weekend I had planned to head up to the 420 Boulders in Poudre Canyon for a couple days of bouldering, but 18" of snow in the canyon forced a change of plans. I suggested we head south for some sport climbing at Shelf Road (one of Colorado's warmest and sunniest climbing destinations). In short order we had a crew of four rounded up. Unfortunately that means I didn't take any climbing action shots since I was either climbing or belaying 90% of the time.

With a destination in place, we thought about heading down on Friday evening, but some strong storms in the area pushed the departure back to Saturday morning. We rolled in around 10:30am, set up camp and headed up to Cactus Cliff.

Cactus Cliff

Cactus Cliff

Despite patchy rain clouds for most of the day, we had great temperatures and only about 20 minutes of light rain. I got on 6 routes from 5.10b to 5.11b and had great day of climbing. Since the area is in the high desert, it's pretty amazing how much the temperature swings between the sun and the shade. Every time the sun went behind a cloud it felt at least a 20 degrees cooler.

Rain over the Dark Side

I think the last route we got on that day was my favorite (Funkdamental, 5.11a/b). Easy climbing on comfortable (and awesome) holds leads to long reaches on good holds and a few crimps near the top. If it wasn't for the indirect and less fun start this would be a four star line. We were one of the last groups to hike out as the sun set.

Brock climbing Funkdamental (5.11b), pic from Matt's camera phone

Campfire and the crescent moon

A few beers, a campfire and a massive amount of pasta was a perfect way to end the day. The clouds even cleared out and we were treated to an incredible view of the stars.

Sunday dawned clear and warm. With the promise of good weather, but hot temperatures we headed back to Cactus Cliff to catch the morning shade. Eventually things moved into the sun and it got too hot to climb (although the masses were still trying). The limestone may as well be a giant solar oven and I felt like I was on the menu.

The Dark Side with the Sangre de Cristo range as a backdrop.
Some tents are visible in The Bank campground which sits atop the cliff

The Sangre de Cristo range in the distance

We quickly decided to head around the corner to The Gym for some more routes and afternoon shade. It's amazing what a difference that made. I soon had a long sleeve shirt on and then my jacket over that. Probably 80-85 in the sun and around 60 in the shade. The rock quality at the gym was very good on the routes we climbed and I wish we had spent more time there. I climbed a stellar 5.9+ called "Ga-stoned Again" which was a lot of fun with easy pulls on big holds up a slightly overhanging wall.

The view as you round the bend toward The Gym, not bad

All in all, it was a great weekend and a lot of fun. There are so many quality routes there and I'd love to go back and get on some harder stuff too. I wouldn't compare this to a world class area like the Red River Gorge, but it's definitely worth a visit. The access is easy, the camping is $4/night, the views are stellar and there's a lot of good rock out there.

The final hike out

1 comment:

  1. Cool, you will miss this area if & when you leave.