Colorado National Monument - Otto's Route

Colorado National Monument - Otto's Route

Page Type Page Type: Album
Additional Information Image Type(s): Rock Climbing, Hiking, Scenery


Colorado National Monument sits just outside Grand Junction, western Colorado, near the border with Utah. I was amazed with its scenery during my first visit. What a beautiful place to visit!
Below are some of the images from the most famous climb in the park - The Independence Monument via Otto's route. 
I came back later many times, and still admire its beauty. Otto's route created a lot of controversial discussions among climbers. Yes, Mr. Otto chopped nice hand and foot holds into the sandstone. Thanks to his hard work the route is much easier. Still hard to believe that per reports the speed record in climbing it is less than 10 min.

Independence Monument 
Independence Monument - profile 

A little bit history about John Otto.
John Otto could be described as Colorado's version of John Muir, he was a visionary, a writer, and a campaigner for many causes, including the protection of wild places long before this was fashionable. His eccentric ways were not always welcome - he found himself locked up once or twice in mental hospitals due to an obstinate eccentricity in his dealings with people.
By 1903 Otto was in Cripple Creek, in Colorado, and embroiled in campaigning on behalf of an eight-hour working day for miners. Things became ugly, with riots, deaths, and shootings. Otto left for Denver, where he was arrested for attempting to attack the governor of Colorado. By 1906, he was living and working in Fruita in a beautiful desert canyon studded with dramatic rock formations. Otto stayed on after his construction job ended. He had found happiness, surrounded by the desert's natural beauty. As he wrote in one of his many letters to the local paper, "I live in a tent and pay no rent."
And, finally, Otto had found a worthy and popular campaign that he could pursue with his customary zeal. He persuaded the locals of Fruita that if the poor ranchland where he lived was turn into a park, everyone would benefit from tourism. When, in 1911, after a long campaign, Colorado National Monument was founded, the grateful locals appointed Otto as the first superintendent.
He busied himself with building new roads and trails, the better to attract visitors to the new park. One of his projects was a vertical one - forcing its way to the top of largest monolith in the canyon, the 550-foot tall Independence Monument. His ascent was dangerous, but he was always one to trust his own judgement, and utterly ignore what others said. He reached the summit in June 1911. Otto hand drilled large holes into the rock, then hammered pieces of pipe into the holes. These projected from the rock 3 feet or more on the vertical sections. He'd sit on one piece of pipe, then drill the hole for the next. On less steep sections he would chisel steps.
The pipes Otto places were removed by the Park Service, some in the late 1950s, the rest in the 1970s. But his route remains.

Approach Hike and Climbing images from Otto's route

Yellow Collared LizardYellow Collared Lizard
Desert PrimroseDesert Primrose
Don't eat me!Don't eat me!
Independence MonumentIndependence Monument
getting ready....Start of the climb
1 st pitch1st pitch
Pitch 2Pitch 1 - higher up
Pitch 3Pitch 2
close upLittle tricky section on pitch 2
Pitch 4Pitch 3
Time TunnelTime Tunnel
Otto's route 3 pitchOtto's route 3 pitch
piton inside anAn interesting piton
almost there...Last pitch
Independence Monument Independence Monument - the last pitch
Climber on Otto's steps Climber on Otto's steps
Lunch Ledge Lunch Ledge - between 2nd and 3rd pitch
Summit of Independence Monument Summit of Independence Monument
Otto s steps...Otto's steps
Looking down, last pitchView down - last pitch
sign in...Summit Log
The last rappelLong Rappel down

External Links

National Park info


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