Denver and Red Rocks part 1

I’d long wanted to go climbing in Red Rocks, ever since Colin and Sarah went and I’d had a chance to be as tourist there several years ago and I was finally on my way. My original plan had been to find some people to drive from Kansas with and to stop in Denver on the way back. However as I’d not managed to find anyone to drive with I had decided to fly instead. Still wanting to see friends in Denver I decided to stop of there on my way to Red Rocks.

I got to Denver quite late on the Friday evening and after some faffing I managed to get picked up by Kim. I’d hoped to be able to climb in Denver but I decided it would be a bad idea on the Saturday as my ankle was still quite bad. Instead, after a very lazy start, we went shopping. After a rather long, and to me rather boring time, in the prAna shop we made it to REI which was rather more exciting – I ended up buying a new climbing sack. That evening we went and watch “How to train your dragon” at a friends of Kyrie and it was strangely enjoyable.

Sunday the plan was to go climbing as my ankle was feeling a little better but the weather didn’t play ball as it was rather cold and it tried to snow. We headed out with the intent to climb but that soon changed to going for a hike instead. Have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the waterfall on the hike but it was still very enjoyable and it was nice to go for a proper walk again for the first time since I’d done my ankle. Photos from Denver are here.

After the hike we got dinner before I got dropped of at the airport. My flight got delayed for a couple of hours while they found a working plane so this obviously ended up with me having a couple of drinks in the bar – after all what else is there to do at an airport? The flight was really quite empty which meant I had a row to myself so could put my ankle up and rest it. I ordered a wine and surprisingly didn’t have to pay for it – I can only assume this was because of the delay. Despite scare stories about Simon’s inability to turn left he did manage to pick me up from the airport and I was soon at our motel – my friends had decided to stay in a motel rather than camp as by the time extra bag fees were taken into account the difference in cost was minimal.

Three English friends had cone out to Red Rocks – Si, Claire and Colin. As the first two are a couple this left me both sharing a room, and mostly climbing with Colin. They’d arrived Saturday and had spent Sunday doing some shorter stuff nearer the road. Monday morning found us all heading in for something rather longer. Unfortunately this also meant further from the road and given the state of my ankle this meant slow progress from me.

Eventually we all made it to the bottom of Birdland (5.7+) and thankfully there was no one else on it. Climbing as two parties we quickly dispatched the first the pitches before Colin and I waited around for Si and Claire to finish the fourth and fifth pitches as the belay ledges got smaller and would have been exciting with lots of us on them. Having heard the sixth pitch was a bit shit we were all repelling/abseiling off after the fifth pitch so after So and Claire were out of our way we finished the route. Si and Claire didn’t wait for us in an attempt to make sure we at least had people back at the car before the 7 pm parking lot / car park closing time. Once Colin and I were done he took rather more than his fair share of gear and this enabled us to make it back to the car by only a few minutes after 7. All in all a good introduction to Red Rocks – a very nice, but not hard climb, with a really good fifth, and for us, last, pitch.

Next day we headed into somewhere with some shorter routes. Colin and I stated up a two pitch 5.8. I was leading the first pitch but within sight of the belay I decided I couldn’t do some moves up a crack. The next move involve twisting my right foot into the crack and it looked like I’d have to do it at least once more before reaching the belay. As my ankle was complaining a lot about the first move I really didn’t want to lead the rest. So I set up a hanging belay and brought Colin up who led the rest of the pitch before leading the next pitch. A nice climb although my ankle meant I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.

After repelling off and eating lunch we went and did the route Si and Claire had done. Again a nice route, this time a two pitch 5.7+ where I led my pitch with no problems. As Si and Claire had had some issues with stuck ropes we were finished some time before they finished the route we’d started on so Colin led up a really quite nice single pitch 5.9 which, given my ankle I was pleased to get clean on second. If I’m ever back in the area I’d definitely lead it. If everyone cares the routes we did that day were Fold Out, Hop Route and Sensuous Mortician.

The next day I took as a rest day to give my ankle a day off. Didn’t really get up to too much other than sorting out trying to sell some bits on eBay and Craig’s List before I left Kansas.

Thursday Si and Claire had a rest day so we got Si to drop us of the walk in to Frogland. We hadn’t made the earliest start so by the time we made it to the start of the route there were several parties ahead of us but we didn’t have to wait too long before Colin was heading up the first pitch. The first few pitches involved quite a lot of waiting around before I headed off up the first 5.8 crutch pitch. Well I say up but there was rather a lot of sideways involved as well – the crux section. I was rather pleased to dispatch the pitch quickly despite the relative lack of gear around the crux. As the pitches had got shorter the people ahead of us the people ahead of us had got a but further away so Colin and I were now relatively alone,

Colin led the next pitch, the other crux pitch, and brought me up. The end of the pitch involved some squeezing under a big chock stone that provided Colin with some amusement as I went through it. The last pitch was a long easy pitch which was made more interesting by me running out of rope just before the end. I didn’t know that at the time as Colin had stated climbing. I’m glad I didn’t know as I was rather run out. Still we finished and got down safely just before it got dark.

Si and Claire were back climbing the next day and we headed off to do Black Magic and Lotta Balls. Colin and I started on Back Magic while Si and Claire started on Lotta Balls. Due to the state of my ankle Colin led to two crux pitches but overall it was nice climbing with no real problems – I was especially pleased with how easy I found the first pitch and it proved to me that my climbing has definitely improved while I’ve been in the US. The climb was nice but the descent was a bitch for my ankle and it was quite painful by the time we were down.

Although we decided we didn’t have time to do all of Lotta Balls we both really wanted to do it’s second pitch so I headed up the first pitch. I was really glad Colin was leading the second pitch as it involved a few metres of climbing on small “balls” protruding from the work. An absolutely cool feature but definitely not much fun for my ankle. It was a little run out and I suspect I’d have struggled to hold it together on lead. As we didn’t do the final third pitch we rappelled off thankfully saving my ankle from the horrible descent.

Next day I, wrongly, thought I’d be good for another day of easy climbing. We decided that a short, relatively easy route might be our best bet so we headed in to do Black Dagger. However we’d misjudged how long the approach would take, especially with a very slow me in tow – as I said I should have taken the day off. After a couple of hours approach the others decided we weren’t going to make it to the climb and get back out in time – we hadn’t got a late exit permit – so we changed our goal and went and did Geronimo, a four pitch 5.6, instead. It was rather busy but we got on it and our ascent of it was helped by the party ahead of us going terribly off route allowing us to overtake them on the proper route. In general they had a bit of a mare with everything – turns out it was the second’s first multipitch and first trad climb! We caught up with them on repel and had to wait around while the second sorted out all sorts of rope mess when she was rappelling – something she clearly wasn’t used to. Turned out to be a pretty damn good climb and a nice alternative to our original plan – especially as it was a easier climb and so wasn’t too bad on my ankle.

Next day was a rest day so this seems a sensible place to split the Red Rocks posts. More overly detailed climbing stories in the next post!

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