I had spent the first week of August climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, and was now headed back north for a second trip to the Cirque of the Towers to climb some routes I had not climbed on my first trip that summer. I had a few extra days between trips, so I decided to stop by Eldorado Canyon. Just south of Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is one of the world's finest and most famous climbing areas. It consists of steep, beautiful conglomerate sandstone walls of up to 700 feet high, in brilliant shades of gold and red. The rock quality is reminiscent of granite rather than the soft sandstone found throughout much of Utah and Arizona.
I climbed for three days in Eldorado Canyon, the first two days with climbers from Boulder (Stuart and Patrik) and the third day with Eric. I really loved the technical nature of the climbing, plus the variety of cracks, face, corners, jugs, roofs, etc. The rock is quite grippy and for the most part solid. I had told my partners to "show me the best" so many of the routes we did were 3- or 4-star Canyon classics.
DAY 1 : The first day, a 40% thundershower day, Stuart and I climbed several 1-2 pitch 5.8-5.11b routes.
DAY 2 : The second day, under a more stable forecast, Patrik and I climbed a couple of longer (4-5 pitch) routes. Eric also joined us for the morning.
DAY 3 : The third day, with the most stable (and hotter) forecast of the trip, Eric and I climbed the spectacular arete of The Naked Edge (5.11b, 6 pitches). Although all the routes I climbed in Eldorado Canyon were great, this was probably the prize of the trip.
a. The entrance to Eldorado Canyon. Ahh...warm sunny rock ahead!
b. Stuart leading the second pitch of C'est La Vie, which goes up a huge dihedral. The 5.11c crux is only about 10 feet above the belay.
c. Taken at the top of the second pitch of C'est La Vie.
d. The towering Bastille. We wanted to climb the NW Corner route but had to bail when there were too many parties ahead. Eldorado Canyon is is a popular weekend destination, and The Bastille is perhaps the most popular crag in the Canyon.
e. Fun 10c climbing on the crux left-leaning crack near the top of March of Dimes. We tacked this short pitch onto the last pitch of Werk Supp.
f. Looking up the Naked Edge on Redgarden Wall, perhaps THE route of the Canyon. Eric and I climbed this route a couple of days later.
g. Looking down at the parking lot at the entrance of Eldorado Canyon. It's a popular place, and rightly so.
a. Looking up Bastille Crack, perhaps the most popular climb in the Canyon. It is really fun 5.6-5.8 climbing. When we saw no other parties on it we decided it would make a great warm-up and allow us to get up to the two-pitch Outer Space route (10b), another Canyon classic I'd had my eye on.
b. The 10b corner on the first pitch of Outer Space. You know a route is popular/great when you can see the chalk marks from the ground.
c. Eric leading the second pitch of Outer Space. This starts with a wonderfully-exposed 10b traverse.
d. Looking over at the Naked Edge on Redgarden Wall.
e. Another photo of the Naked Edge. Eric and I were psyched to climb it the next day. It would be a challenge for sure.
f. There are some cables on top of the Bastille. These cables were actually installed in 1907, when high wire daredevil Ivy Baldwin strung a cable across the mouth of the canyon, stabilizing it with 32 ropes. It was 582 feet in height and 632 feet across. On June 7, 1907, he made his first walk across the canyon. He thrilled the crowds with his high-wire walks 88 times. He also walked the cable backwards on several occasions. His last trip across the canyon was on his 82nd birthday, July 31, 1948. (Reference)
g. When nature calls, keep nature clean!
h. Looking up the 5.9 crux pitch of Green Spur. The climbing on this pitch is sustained and technical.
i. Looking up Darkness 'Til Dawn. Despite the hot sun on the route, we ended the day by climbing this 4-star route. The climbing was sustained 10a and interesting the whole way up. Great route.
j. Another photo of the Naked Edge as we passed it on the way back to the parking lot. Tomorrow....
3. The Naked Edge, Redgarden Tower 2, 5.11b (6 pitches) ****
a. The usual way to get to the base of Naked Edge is to climb Touch and Go up to the Lower Ramp and then from the Lower Ramp climb the Cave Pitch, an interesting 5.8 overhang, and reach a three-bolt belay at the base of the first pitch. This photo is taken looking up Touch and Go, which I led as one long pitch instead of two (just use slings wisely to avoid rope drag).
b. Looking up at Naked Edge from the top of Touch and Go. There are climbers "cragging" on the first pitch. Soon after I took this photo, a couple of climbers ran by us on the Lower Ramp, and proceeded to run up the Naked Edge. By the time Eric got to the base of the Naked Edge via the Cave Pitch, the guys were at the top. Apparently they were on their second lap. Amazing.
c. To get to the start of the route from the Lower Ramp, climb the Cave Pitch, an interesting 5.8 overhang, and reach a three-bolt belay at the base of the first pitch.
d. Eric starting up Pitch 1: "Climb the finger crack, with a crux up high, to a two-bolt anchor at a stance on a slab. (5.11a, 70')" This is a really cool pitch as you are just right of the sharp arete.
e. Eric starting up Pitch 2: "Climb the elegant slab right of the exposed arete (5.8), turn a corner to the left, then make thin moves up a short wall to a two-bolt anchor at a stance. (5.10b, 90')" Great exposure and a cool step around the Edge.
f. Another photo of Eric higher on Pitch 2, just before stepping left around the Edge.
g. Looking up Pitch 3: "Follow the arete to a small alcove, step right, then mantel and continue to a sloping ramp at the base of a flared, overhanging chimney. (5.8+, 110')" The climbing on this pitch was slightly less than spectacular but still interesting and a bit spicy.
h. A loose rock on Pitch 3.
i. A piton on Pitch 3. There are a fair number of pitons on the route..
j. Eric starting up Pitch 4: "Climb a short corner, then pull past a flake (fixed pin) and make difficult moves into the chimney. At its top, work out right along a small roof to a dramatically exposed semi-sling belay at bolts. (5.11b, 60')" As Eric exited the chimney and went over the roof (the crux of the pitch we thought), the carabiner on the sling from his last piece caught in his figure-eight knot and pulled him off. Frustrating, since he had pulled the crux move at this point!
k. Looking up the start of Pitch 5: "Layback an awkward steep corner, then step right around the corner and jam an overhanging hand-fist crack. At the top of the crack, step left and belay. (5.11b, 90')" This pith has the most crack-climbing feel of any pitch on the route. I need to get better at fist jams. Even though this was a strenuous crux pitch late in the route, Eric flew up and finished before I finished my PowerBar.
l. On Pitch 6: "Follow easier rock to the top. (5.6, 50')"
m. The standard descent is via the East Slabs (3rd/4th). We somehow could not find the East Slabs descent, so we just made our way down and left (where we knew the descent went), making a couple of rappels along the way.
n. The second rappel. We found a path down soon after.
o. Eric enjoying some shade by his truck after the climb. It had been a tad hot on the route, but we had a nice breeze that made it tolerable. Great climb!