"Not all those who wander are lost"

Rockin the Rockies

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

-John Muir


With no idea where to go in Estes I made my way to the library to check mountainproject.com to find some info and decided to head to Lumpy Ridge.  Nobody was around the parking lot in the early afternoon so I headed out to boulder alone.  Many of the boulders I was looking for remained hidden to me but I found enough to entertain me for the afternoon.  I lazily climbed and lay on my crash pad watch the clouds float over Long’s Peak.  One especially cool boulder, Jaws, looked just like a shark’s head leaping out of the water.

Thursday morning (7/21) I was back a Lumpy to find someone to climb with but didn’t have any luck find partners.  I went back to the library to get some bouldering info and found my car twin sitting in the parking lot: a 91 red Honda Civic hatchback with an old road bike on the back.  Unable to pass up the coincidence I introduced myself.  Sarah was also living out of her car and even a climber too, but had to work for the next several days and couldn’t climb.  No dice.  I looked it up bouldering info and hoped I could remember it as I headed off toward Gem Lake.  It was a nice hike through alpine pines, but I made it all the way to the “lake” (really just a small pond) without finding any bouldering.  I did receive dozens of questions about my crash pad though.  “Is that your bed?”  Yes, I like to hike with my bed on my back because I have severe narcolepsy.  There really wasn’t any bouldering but since I carried the pad all the way up I climbed a couple of dirty, easy things just so I used it.  The more fun problem was bouldering across over the crystal surface of Gem Lake.  I thought it would be a perfect little deepwater solo, but once I had traversed out to the middle I looked down to see the rocky bottom only 2 feet under the surface.  I didn’t have a crash pad, didn’t have shoes or chalk, and was 10ft over the water.  I had no choice but to continue and not let myself fall, so that’s exactly what I did.  In reality I’m sure it wasn’t very hard, but it seemed very intense at the time.  When I made it back to the car I decided it wasn’t a great day: I didn’t find any good climbing, I stepped on and broke my sunglasses trying to boulder, and I had twisted my ankle walking back from Gem Lake.  Defeated I retreated to the library for the rest of the day.

((The spot I bouldered over Gem Lake)

(My home at the Lumpy Ridge parking lot)

Friday I had plans to climb with Ryan, a guy from Golden who cycled up to Estes.  Despite being a climber he had none of his own stuff and only even had his bike shoes.  With borrowed climbing shoes, a makeshift plastic bag for chalk, and using all my gear we headed off to climb.  It had been a while since I did much trad climbing so we started off on Batman and Robin, a classic 5.6, so I could test my new partner and myself.  We blazed through the four pitch climb in only two pitches and decided to get on another climb.  This time the 5.9 hand crack presented more of a challenge, but we made it to the top in another two pitches (on a three pitch climb).  Having spent the sunniest part of the day in the full sun of 10000ft elevation without remembering any sunscreen we were fried to a crisp by the time we had reached the bottom of the last climb.  Feeling like my skin was crispy we headed to the brewpub to cool down.

(Looking up the route at the Batman Pinnacle)

Saturday I was up at 5am to climb with Corey and Justine, a couple from nearby that I met in the Lumpy parking lot a few days before.  We headed up into Lumpy for a couple pitches, but didn’t get a full day in since they had to be back to work in Fort Collins in the early afternoon.  I whiled away the afternoon cleaning out the disaster zone, otherwise known as my car, and enjoying the great mountain weather.

Sunday I meet up with a guy I met around town named Jared and we headed off to climb.  We decided on Loose Ends, a 5 pitch 5.9 at Lumpy.  I started out on a tough section of crack too small for most of my fingers.  I surprised myself to make it through without falling and continued up some easier climbing to the scorching hot metal anchor.  The next pitch was another challenge laybacking a diagonal crack.  While the climbing itself wasn’t terribly hard, it was made much more difficult and insecure by trying to place gear at my feet without seeing it.  Again, somehow I made it through and cruised up the next two pitches of easy climbing.  The last pitch lead out from a cave through an overhanging crack.  I climbed up and down a few times uncertain of how to approach it, but on the third try found a good shelf I could step high and make it onto.  I pulled out from the overhang and felt drops on my head.  Great, the perfect clear sunny day had quickly built clouds and began to rain.  Eager to finish before the crack got too wet I rushed through the last section of crack, slung a boulder to belay Jared, and brought him up.  He made it to the top as it started to change from rain to hail and our great view of the rockies turned into staring at the ground to avoid losing an eye to the hail.  We began to search for the walk-off decent, but before we could get too lost we found a pair of people who knew where to go and followed them.  After we made it off the sketchy wet rocks at the top of the climb we lost them since they had shoes and we were both barefoot.  For the next hour, or maybe more, we descended the rocky, pine cone filled gulley.  With each step I regretted not bringing some shoes.  Eventually we made it back to the trail a mile away from the base of the cliff where our backpacks were waiting.  The trail wasn’t as bad, but tiring to walk all the way back up to the base of the cliff.  In total we estimated we hiked 2-3 miles barefoot.  The worst part is we found out there was a spot we could have cut across and made our trip much shorter.

(Looking up the thin first pitch of Loose Ends)

I woke at 3am from my normal spot in the Lumpy Ridge parking lot and headed to the library to meet Todd.  I had never met him before, but he had responded to my mountainproject post looking for partners for a long multi-pitch.  As I arranged my gear in the parking lot a semi truck pulled up in the road nearby to make an early morning delivery.  He began to blast music, but to my surprise instead of classic rock or country it was classical music.  Todd rolled in just after 4 and we headed into the park.  We headed off in the dark hiking at almost a jog toward the base of Hallet’s peak.  Predawn light illuminated the sky through the alpine forest and reflected off the glassy ponds that the trail wound around.  By the time we reached the end of the trail at Emerald lake it was full light.  We stated up the talus field and as we crested the first mound saw two pairs of people not too far ahead of us.  Our objective on Hallet’s was the Culp-Bossier route, a 9 pitch 5.8 up the center of the thousand foot cliff.  The problem was that it is the most popular on the peak and we guessed that both other groups shared our objective.  We picked up the pace even more, jogging across the loose rocks, and running up the slopes.  We caught up to them at the base of the first snow field.  They began carefully kicking one foot in, then the other, making steady progress.  I launched myself at the steep snow, running up it using my hands to dig in as well.  I looked down a few minutes later when I reached the base of the climb at the top of the second snow field.  Todd was 50ft back and both other groups were another 100ft behind him.  Success!  We would not be starting behind anyone.  I thought about our pass and wondered if it was a rude thing to do, but they could have picked up the pace if they wanted to get on first and I would have backed off.  They didn’t.  I did.  Their loss.  We started off at 6:30, planning on leaving some stuff at the base and hike up to get it at the end, but once we had our stuff ready to go I realized how little we were leaving and decided to just take it all.  Starting from a narrow 6ft deep gap between cliff and snow we climbed up a crack and some rock faces.  It was an interesting style of climbing for me doing so much face climbing on trad gear, alternating between crack systems.  We alternated leading but I was happy when somehow it worked out so I got the two hardest pitches.  I was prepared to have some route finding difficulty since the peak and especially the route are notorious for having false lines that abruptly end.  Thanks to Todd printing out the topo and my route finding we managed to stay on route and didn’t add any more bail gear to the dozens of spots of the cliff where parties got off route.  On the last pitch it began to rain.  I feared the afternoon storm predicted had come a little early and we were going to get stuck in another downpour.  Luckily it only sprinkled for a minute before blue skies took over again as I topped out at 1pm.  We headed off to the side and began the journey back to the car, happy we didn’t have to hike back to the base of the climb after 1000 feet of a decent gulley.  Good timing, good partner, good weather, and stayed on route.  The day was a great success.  I headed off to Steven, a couch surfing host who’s place I was going to crash at.

(Hallet’s Peak with the Culp-Bossier route marked in red)

(Can you find the waterfall? It’s actually really tall, but mostly hidden)

(Columbine near Hallet’s Peak)

Tired from my early morning the day before I decided to sleep in Tuesday since I didn’t have to be up early to avoid getting ticketed for illegal camping.  I rolled out of late and borrowing Steven’s park pass headed into the park to hike around, take some pictures, and drive up the continental divide.  The hike was good, the views were spectacular, and the divide was filled with clouds whipping across the mountain tops and hiding views of the jagged peaks.  A few elk wandered the mountain side grazing.


Monday I decided to get up early and head into the park for sunrise.  I didn’t make it all the way up to the top before the sun peaked over the horizon, but found a good lookout and hung out there while I made breakfast.  I continued up the mountain and was stunned to see a herd of hundreds of elk at the top.  The cold morning mountain air was a great change from the beastly hot days at lower elevation.  Eventually I meandered back down the road and stopped to boulder along the way.  The boulders just off the side of the road were filled with deer who wandered away as I walked past them.  A few even walked over to my car to check it out as they left.  When I had my fill of bouldering I headed out of Rocky Mountain National Park and made my way to Boulder to drop off my climbing shoes to be resoled before making my way up to Loveland to hang out with Corey and Justine.


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