Best of Boulder, Colorado
|The famous Flatirons|
Eldorado Canyon State Park, home to some of the world's best--and most difficult--technical rock climbing, lies just eight miles southwest of Boulder off CO 170. Known for sheer, fountain-formation sandstone faces that rise 700–800 feet above South Boulder Creek, the mile-long Eldorado Canyon offers a surprising variety of routes--from easy 4th-class climbing (exposed scrambling) to 5.13 routes requiring top-notch rock skills. Eldo holds about 500 technical climbs, including such renowned rocks as the Bastille and Redgarden Wall.
Redgarden is the biggest cliff in the canyon, with 100-plus routes on its 700-plus-foot height, but Eldo's most difficult climb is the Web, one of seven routes on Supremacy Rock. With its 30-degree overhang, this 25-foot 5.13 climb went unconquered until the late 80s. The slippery quartzite taunts rockhounds with a steep face, tiny edges, and greasy slopers (sloping holes). On the Web's opposite face (road side) is Supremacy Slab, a more novice-friendly 5.6-5.9 route that allows you to affix a top rope.
Across the road from Supremacy Rock, you'll see two formations high above the canyon floor--Shirttail Peak and the Potato Chip; the latter includes routes ranging from Sour Cream (5.8) to French Fry (5.12b). Access both rocks via a 25–45 minute hike (depending on your pace) up West Ridge to the base, plus a bit of technical climbing.
*Contact information: Eldorado Canyon State Park, 303-494-3943
Another classic climbing destination, the Flatirons possess more of that solid sedimentary sandstone--not the softer, flaky rock typical of the Desert Southwest. The west faces offer overhangs and verticals that are best suited to the permanent bolts of sport climbing (although the placement of any new fixed hardware has been prohibited by Boulder since 1991). Traditional climbing is popular on the east faces, which tilt around 50 degrees--Fandango, a 5.5 climb on the First Flatiron formation, is a classic trad route.
Bring a crash pad and a spotter to the Second Flatiron for some excellent bouldering opportunities. At a good 145 feet, the Compound (V7 or 5.12d/13a) is the longest traverse in the Boulder area. Located high on the east face of the Second, the Compound gets a lot of sun, so pick a cooler day to solve this problem. If you're ready for more (or a slightly shorter alternative), take on the nearby Koyannislotsqi (V3/4), or "Slot Out of Balance"--a 25-foot route that's a classic in the making.
Tagged with a 100-foot-high "CU" (first painted by students back in the early '80s), the Third Flatiron is yet another climbing hotspot, with avid climber and guidebook guru Richard Rossiter describing its Standard East Face (5.4 s) as "probably the best beginner climb in the solar system." There's just one problem, which is that the Third is closed six months out of the year (February through July) out of concern for the raptors (eagles and falcons) during nesting season.
You'll find trails leading up to the three main Flatiron formations from the Chautauqua Park parking lot.
*Contact information: Chautauqua Park, 900 Baseline Road, 303-442-3282, www.chautauqua.com
*Guided trips/equipment rentals: Colorado Mountain School/Boulder Rock Club, 2829 Mapleton Avenue, 800-836-4008, www.boulderrock.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication