Colorado climbing At Its Best – Eldorado Springs

Eldorado Springs is in Boulder County, Colorado and the Eldorado Canyon State Park (20 minutes from downtown Boulder) is famous for the many classic North-American climbing routes that are found here. It has some of the best trad. climbing in Colorado.

It is a town that once lay claim to the largest swimming pool in the country, but now boasts the best-tasting water in North America – as judged at the 1996 International Festival of the Water’s, Toast to the Tap Contest.

Eldorado Canyon has been a magnet for adrenaline junkies for decades – dare-devil Ivy Baldwin demonstrated his heroics by crossing Eldorado Canyon on a tight-rope suspended high above the canyon floor. Guest lists included such famous names as Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, actor Douglas Fairbanks and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey.

However, it’s the wide variety of spectacular rock climbing that we are here to talk about…

Eldo is made up of steep, beautiful conglomerate sandstone walls of up to 700 feet high, in brilliant shades of red and gold. The rock quality, although sandstone, is more similar to granite than to the soft sandstone found throughout much of Utah and Arizona.

The largest cliff, Redgarden Wall, is a few thousand feet wide; it boasts several spectacular summits and an incredible collection of classic climbs.

I know many places claim to have the “finest rock climbing in the country”, but this is something pretty special – with names like Freight Train, Iron Monkey, The Naked Edge (5.11), Grandmother’s Challenge (5.10c), Anthill Direct (5.9), Over the Hill (5.10.b), Bastille 5.7/5.8),  Scary Canary (5.12), Eldorado Canyon has over 500 established routes to offer. 5.13s are fairly rare, due to bolt restrictions, but some historic classics such as Desdichado and Rainbow Wall do exist. It has something to offer every standard of climber…

This is truly amazing for a canyon this small; indeed the entire park covers an area of only a half square mile.

Eldo has long attracted the best climbers worldwide who come to defy gravity on cutting-edge face climbs, steep cracks, and exposed, gutsy roof routes. The mere mention of such classic climbs as Rosy Crucifixion (10a) and The Naked Edge (5.11) inspire respect and anticipation in the hearts of rock climbers everywhere.

Top ropes and exclusively bolted leads are rare in Eldorado. The Eldorado sport routes start at 5.11.

Bolts, pitons, and other fixed gear are not maintained by the park. While technical climbs do not require registration, it is your responsibility to make sure someone reports your absence if you happen to be overdue.

“Eldorado is one of the most intensely used rock climbing places in the U.S.,” said Tim Metzger, the Park Manager. “It’s a very historic sight. People have been climbing here since the ’50s. We now attract over 70,000 technical climbers each year.”

Just look at this face – Bastille Crack (5.7/5.8) with climbers on pitch 2:

What better way could you possibly pass a weekend? Hmm, having said that, weekends are of course free for everyone and it can be a bit of a bun-fight there – to avoid crowds it might be better to try going in the middle of the week sometime – this will not ensure solitude but will at least give you a better chance of finding it.

Ideally, a traditional climber’s road trip to Boulder should include a day at Eldo followed by a day at Lumpy Ridge (45 minutes from Boulder). Both offer fantastic climbing, but it is hard to imagine two more different styles. Lumpy Ridge is mainly highly technical granite that requires solid footwork compared to Eldo’s sandstone.

One can climb in Eldo at any time of year, though summer is piping hot, while winter is inconsistent. It is always always popular, and 20 minutes from downtown Boulder, ‘far from the madding crowd’ it is not…

Because Eldo is such a small area with such a wealth of climbs it can be a little confusing. The best guidebook for the region is  Richard Rossiter’s comprehensive “Rock Climbing Eldorado Canyon”. However, Fred Knapp’s “Classic Boulder Climbs” is about a third of the cost, and still has most of the best routes as well as other great routes around Boulder.

On an environmental note, please remember that the walls at Eldorado Canyon are also crucial breeding areas for birds of prey which are extremely sensitive to human disturbance during their nesting and roosting cycle.To protect nesting and roosting sites of falcons, seasonal raptor closures are in effect from February 1 – July 31, 2006. Routes include: The Naked Edge (last 3 pitches only), the Diving Board, Centaur, Redguard (last 3 pitches), Red Ant, Semi-Wild, Anthill Direct (last 3 pitches), and the Sidetrack…. However, please contact City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks at (303) 441-3440 to make sure you are able to climb where you want to, when you intend to…

My thanks for the use of these wonderful photographs.