Back to Colorado: Front Range Part Two and American Rockies

It’s hard to believe that it has been two months today since we left for our trip. Time seems to be going by faster and faster, and the more I am on the road, the more I want to stay on the road. Don’t get me wrong, there are some days when living out of a car gets frustrating: not having a fridge, having to shift around all of our belongings to sleep in the car, then having to shift it all back the next morning, having to do dishes with cold water out of a water bottle, or misplacing an item only to find it underneath all the climbing gear… Sometimes I miss the luxuries of living in an apartment or house, but at the same time there’s a lot to love: finding the new area and campsite, planning the next day’s adventures, and having the freedom to go anywhere and do anything. I appreciate everything about this trip, and the whole thing is precious, even the frustrations.

The last week has been spent in Colorado. We stayed a few nights at a friend’s cabin; Magoon (Megan, from the last Colorado post) kindly let us stay at her place while she was on a backpacking trip. During our stay we climbed Bastille Crack (5.7 trad multi-pitch) at Eldorado Canyon, simu-climbed the second Flat Iron (5.0 – I placed the gear for it, which ended up being every 30 feet or so), and sport climbed at Clear Creek Canyon with Anthony. We also tried out a pizza restaurant in Denver, called Hops & Pie; it was delicious and lived up to its reputation. On our last night at the cabin, Magoon’s housemate stopped by and had a few friends over for a BBQ. Unexpected things like this end up being the most memorable. Kyle was very generous and entertaining, to say the least.

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These are from Clear Creek Canyon. Find me hidden in the wall on the first picture.

The next stop was Fort Collins, where we camped in Poudre Canyon – pronounced POO-der. Tom made fun of me for how frustrated I was with the butchering of the beautiful French word for powder. We didn’t climb in Poudre, but rather switched it up a bit and went to a movie: Mad Max, which we both enjoyed.

The next stop was Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). I was curious how the Rockies here compared to the ones in Canada, and I’ll admit my bias, but Banff and Canmore are way more beautiful. The mountains here are huge, but not as majestic as in Canada, at least what I saw from the Estes Park side. Tom and I climbed a few cracks at Lumpy Ridge, and hiked Mills Lake trail inside RMNP. It is truly beautiful here, but some of the beauty is taken away by the thousands of tourists. Tom and I almost ran the first 2 miles of the trail to sneak past the many hikers. It was nice to finally hike alone after Mills Lake, but I was struck by how so many people turned around before the hike got spectacular. The streams, waterfalls, lakes, and mountainous backdrops were breathtaking, especially Black Lake. Today we plan on hopping on a 5.8 trad multi-pitch called White Whale, then we will make our way back to Wyoming. RMNP is way too busy for our liking, and it feels weird to be frustrated at tourists, when we are tourists ourselves.

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These are from our day at Lumpy Ridge.

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This lake is Mills Lake

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Living up to its name: Black Lake

Thanks for reading! Much love sent back home to Ottawa, and to friends and family all around. ❤

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Getting Freaky in the Front Range

How wonderful it was to meet and hangout with the famous Magoon, Anthony, and Athena the dog in Denver, friends of Tom’s from his previous USA climbing trip. Atlas the cutie-pup also joined us. We squeezed in a lot of climbing over five days, especially considering that we got rained out multiple times. The first day (Canada day!) we climbed a couple cracks in Boulder Canyon, then climbed the first Flat Iron with Magoon (whose name is actually Megan). I never thought I would feel lame trad climbing, as about ten free solo-ers passed us on this 5.4 milti-pitch.

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Here are the Flat Irons from a distance. We climbed the one on the right.

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Above is Tom inspecting the 1st Flat Iron up close.

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Here are some of Magoon’s photos from the day:

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Day 2, we drove to Vedauwoo, WY with Anthony and Magoon. Pronounced vay-da-voo, this mystical climbing destination is filled with sharp, grainy granite cracks that leave any climber with scrapes at the end of the trip. And, if you have ever climbed outdoors with me, you will know that I always leave any area with scrapes and bruises. We all wore long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid the scrapes, but I still managed to cut myself. We hopped on a couple nice cracks, one off-width, and a couple boulder cracks. The off-width caused us all to wiggle like a snake up a vertical crack just big enough for our thighs and torsos to squeeze into. Sadly, I did not make it to the top, but I learned a lot about the skills necessary for off-width climbing. We all struggled a lot on an off-width roof crack boulder on Day 3 that was too painful to link any moves together.

Here are Magoon’s photos from the trip:

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Can you spot the Tommy?

 

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Can you spot the Sarah?

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Day 4 was Independence Day, and in the morning we bouldered in Eldorado Canyon with Anthony and a couple of his pals, Kristie and Dan. In the evening, Anthony kindly invited us to a BBQ hosted by his boss. It was fun to see and hear the continuous stream of fireworks set off by neighbouring houses; throughout the evening we had to raise our voices to be heard over the continuous cracks, pops, and whistles overhead.

On the fifth day, Tom and I repacked our car to head out of Denver. We were truly thankful to Anthony and his roommates, Lindsay and Fred, and the two dogs, Athena and Ruby, who were so hospitable and kind to us, letting us stay at their house during our Denver stay. And, thanks to Anthony and Magoon, who were amazing tour guides, and made time to hang out with us.

We managed to meet up with another friend of Toms, Alex, who he also met during his last USA trip. We had coffee, then ate at Watercourse foods – vegan and delicious. Due to a week of forecast rain in northern Colorado, Tom and I decided we would jump ahead in our itinerary. The next stop was Ten Sleep, Wyoming – we plan on going back to Colorado when the weather is looking better.

Driving north from Denver to Ten Sleep, we passed miles and miles of flat fields and hills of nothing. Cows appeared now and then, and the occasional town had a gas station, but that was it. All of a sudden the road was covered in fog, limiting our vision to about ten metres in front of us. Then, out of nowhere, instead of flat land, huge walls of rock towered around us: yellowy, pinky, and bluey-grey walls layered between lush pine trees, appearing like a lost world. I love the first moments of entering a new area: novel and full of potential.

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Ten Sleep was a bit of a shock to my system in terms of climbing. Steep walls full of finger pockets felt so different from cracks in Colorado and the bubbly slopers and jugs in Maple. Still trying to avoid the rain, Tom and I managed to hop on some good 10s and 11s at Slavery Wall, Wall of Denial, and Circus wall. We have found a nice hangout spot at the local Ten Sleep Brewing Company, where we come for some brews and wifi. Ten Sleep is a town of around 200 people, and was named so by Native Americans, who travelled ten nights to reach the town originally. We are planning to stay here for 7 sleeps. Is that wrong?

From Desert to Mountains

Hello everyone from Colorado! Or, in comparison to Utah – Cooler-ado.

The last stop in Utah was Moab, where we visited Arches National Park. Twenty-four hours was plenty, as temperatures reached 47*C during the day. To beat the heat, we hiked at sunset and sunrise; though, to be honest, it was still really hot. At 8:00pm when we started the hike toward Delicate Arch, it was still above 30*C. When I saw the arch, I was in awe. I had seen Delicate Arch on thousands of license plates across the state, but seeing it live was incomparable. Tom also made it extra special with a surprise that he had been teasing me with for a week. He had saved a quarter from his trip to the states last year that had a picture of Delicate Arch on it. As we were sitting in awe of the arch, he pulled it out to give to me.

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The next morning we woke at 6am to start a hike called Devil’s Garden, which includes many iconic arches: Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Private Arch. It is hard to believe that they were made by nature, especially Landscape Arch, which is the longest natural arch in the world. We learned that the difference between a natural bridge and an arch is that an arch is formed by natural erosion and a natural bridge is formed by water.

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A highlight for me was swimming in a small river that afternoon – so refreshing.

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Next stop was Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado. It was way less touristy than other places we have been, yet ultra-beautiful. Standing on the edge of the canyon, looking 2250 feet down, you can see huge walls and cliffs running down to the white rapids of the Gunnison River. Streaks of lighter rock sweep across some of the cliffs, which is how Painted Wall got its name. I have much respect for the people who climbed it in the 60s.

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We did some bouldering and a little hike to see the canyon as close as possible. A permit is required to go down into the canyon, but those hikes and climbs were primitive and intimidating. Typically rock climbing involves approaching a wall and climbing up, but this area required rappelling down, meaning that you must finish your climb to get out: trad, crack climbing, off-width, and muti-pitch. We scouted out a route, but decided to move on to our next destination instead…

…Which was Independence Pass, near Aspen, CO. We laughed at the snow we saw in front of us, remembering that even Black Canyon of the Gunnison was in the 30s. Only a few hours away, Moab was probably still in the 40s, and here we were cooling off in the mountains, watching some people attempt to snowboard in the remaining patches of snow.

We spent two days exploring the area’s boulders and cliffs. We bouldered a bit and climbed a few cracks, which were all super fun. We climbed “Twin Cracks”, “Crytogenics”, and a two-pitch called “Zanzibar”; I am happy to say that I am now way more comfortable with hand jams.

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I will say bye for now. Still having lots of fun roughing it and exploring this beautiful state. I am missing my family and friends back home, especially as Canada Day approaches – also anxiously awaiting what it will be like on Independence Day this weekend. Much love to peeps back home!