Hot in Denver? Tired of the scene? Looking for some alpine rock in a terrific setting? Bring the trad rack and bring the sport rack, there is a lot of stone here, and development has just been started. Recent climbing at Empire was kicked off by a man near and dear to my heart, Joe Desimone. The hardest training man in the rock business, Joe has been a huge friend and a dynamite climber for too long to remember. In poking around Cone Hill, where most of the stone can be found, I have stumbled upon old, rusty, fixed pins, so history must date back some distance before Joe's arrival in 1995. Ra is the huge distinct fin-like buttress 3.2 miles from the light in Empire and at 9000 ft elevation. Some development has taken place up the road from Ra as well (just have to wait...). The stone is big here, with close to 600 or more feet of rock in some places. The setting is alpine (ALPINE ... Get It??) so not everything you see will be super clean, there can be significant loose rock here. Don't even think about climbing this without some experience in alpine setting, and a helmet is nearly a requirement for those with any sense. That said, some really great granite lines are starting to emerge from the confusion of stone, and terrific potential exists for much more development. The climbing season at Empire can be much longer than may be imagined from from its alpine setting. We have often climbed through December, and have found gorgeous, sixty degree weather in mid November.
Take I-70 West from Denver to the turn off for Empire. This is exit 232 which is the point where US 40 departs from I-70 and heads to Granby and Grand Lakes. From the light at the North edge of the town of Empire and at the Post Office, proceed North for 3.2 miles. Parking can be had on both sides of the road from here and for the next 0.5 miles. Look right, crane your necks, this is a lot of stone. Empire itself is at 8602 foot elevation and is a small town with gas, post office, eats (Jenny's), limited groceries, and a decent liquor store.
Higher Calling is a 300', 3 pitch sport route that starts in an arching, left-facing dihedral about 60' up and left of EOA. At present, it is the fourth bolted route you'll encounter coming up the boulderfield. A relatively easy first pitch is followed by two fairly long, outlandish pitches on great stone. It's possible to rap/retreat from each pitch. I think the endurance demands take the overall onsight rating up a notch.Pitch 1: 5.10b, 70', 8 bolts + anchor. Stem into the b...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Climbed a sport/trad route on Ra (I think). It's on the right of the scree gully as you lok up from the parking pull-off where the Jerky guy usually parks. (Also, two hundred yards closer to Empire there's decent bouldering down off the road, below where they sell the wooden bears. Some of it fairly high-ball-- might wanna take a buddy or let someone know cause if you take a fall there you may go unnoticed for a few months.)
The hike up is 20-40 minutes, depending on what shape you're in. There's a faint trail and cairns, I think, in places. Look for the bolts to find the climb; some are a reddish hue. First two ppitches can be linked into one nice long one that goes at 5.10. The second/third pitch is 11a, slabby and balancy just above the two bolt anchor, then a bit overhanging and pumpy. The last pitch is trad and offers a few jagged cracks for pro. A full rack is worth lugging up there, or else you'll be stuck downclimbing, pulling and resetting your gear higher as I was. Medium to large cams are good, wires as well. The climb goes up under a big roof; you can cam in your body there and take a rest. Then pop out up and over to the left, there are good placements to protect the move, and your through it. Trad pitch probably goes around 10b(?)-- hell, I don't know-- but it was fun. Not sure how much vert is involved, 350 ft maybe. Might see or hear bighorn up top, which is another good reason to bring your helmet.
I agree that a helmet is a must; there's some loose shit up there. I was comfy in my; my partner was dodging shrapnel without his. The rock tends to be sharp and nasty in places; I left a bit of blood my first time up. There's also the distinct possibility that you'll ppull something larger off; be wary! Bolt placements are sufficient, weird in places, though.
You can walk off to the northeast. Keep your eye out for the top of another climb-- there are two bolts just above a tree. That climb may be a bit steeper and doesn't have bolts lower down.
Lots of potential in the area; be good stewards and practice minimal trace ethics!
Christmas day my bother pointed out an ice-flow coming down the north side of Hwy 40 a few miles west of Empire. I've not noticed it prior. It is a couple hundred feet up off the road just east of the Goat Rock sport crag. I returned today and was pleasantly surprised. Soloed aprox 75 ft to top. Inital thin vertical ice, then lower angle to ~12ft curtain, then some high angle bulges. Tree at the top with slings and rings. No signs of recent climbing. Who has the FA? Does this ice-flow come in consistantly? Does anyone who is familiar with this area have any beta?
That flow comes in every year. Last year it was extremely fat for a few months, and then melted off Feb'ish. I climbed it a few years ago in WI3 ish conditions, but I've seen people leading it when it looked 5 or harder. I drove by it every day and saw maybe a dozen ascents last winter.
The key is get on it soon! This warm spell may have already erased it. It also tends to sublimate fast when it's too cold. Hit or miss...
There are also a couple flows that hang around on the big rock above. In the gully you can get on a couple short hard pillars when conditions are right.
Thank you, Matt. You are right. I returned during the warm spell and found vertical slush. It was very nice on 12/29. I am looking for any ice/mixed climbing on Berthoud Pass or in Fraser Valley. Any other good stuff?
By Leo Paik Administrator From: Westminster, Colorado Jan 19, 2006
Word out there is that there are climbs towards Jones Pass. Problem up there is there is avalanche-prone terrain. Be careful out there.
There is a crag near Tabernash and I don't know the name of it. I'm writing here because I think this is the closest area to the crag in question. From 40 you take a right onto 84/83, then spilt left onto 84 and a few miles down 84 you take the first left the rock outcropping just off the road on the east side and have 5 TR anchors. The routes are all moderate/easy but it is a pleasant sunny little crag. Does anybody know who put up these anchors or what the area is called?
Jim Shaw put the routes up. He has a paperback guidebook out for the area. I climbed there yesterday on the Lower Wall. Great sport routes in a nice setting with great views of Byers Peak. There are also some trad lines up there as well at the Trail Creek Crag.
It is true. Their is a great little crag tucked up in the hills between Tabernash and Fraser. I've been told it's called Hurd Creek. I climbed with my brother last August (2007) and we did 3-4 nice sport routes. We plan to head back again this August. Some pics of our climb are posted on this page above. I got my information and map from here:
It seemed like their was one wrong turn given in his directions that got us off to the left at a fork instead of the right and sent us up into a private driveway. We backed up a mile or so, took the other fork and everything else was right.
I have climbed on Goat Rock three times. It's worth the drive, varied climbing some overhanging fun. It has three or four very nice routes at the bottom, but it is very confusing as to which route is which. If someone who knows the area could identify the routes, by relating them to the numbers in the photos here, this would be very helpful.
The bolted route with 6 clips, facing the main trail as it meets the cliff up from the highway has two bulges and a bottom crack, , it is short, but really fun, I'd say 5.10b/c.
To the left is an overhanging dihedral with two anchor rings, toughest move is clipping the anchors. I guess 5.10d or 5.11a
To the left again, one more bolted, five clip route, has two mini hand ledges with a bulge crux. 5.10b. It has an upper section, but the rock was so bad, after my third clip I bailed and lowered. A large piece of rock came off and almost got my belayer. Upper part is 5.11 material.
Further to the left again on the face, this climb has a big bush and a nest to the right just below the crux, 12 clips, pull the crimps on the face above the bulge crux. 5.10d . Fun!
The lower Goat Rock area has interesting climbing, (Ra and the Halidome have numerous multi-pitch climbs). Sorry Richard. this was confusing I agree.
Down by the Highway I-70 below Empire just right of the on-ramp toward Georgetown (almost directly across from the bridge over I-70) a nice 5-11: with a flake, crack, at the bottom, the overhanging crux comes while transitioning to the east-facing wall to the top. The rock at the bottom is a little dirty, crumbly, but if climbed more often, the crag it would clean up nicely. Almost stepped on a Lion there last summer, be careful, make lots of noise.
I'm not sure what Harald means by: "The Empire area has interesting climbing, but no major multi climb and route locations except for the Goat Rock area." Look at Ra and the Halidome at least, although there are several other crags and boulders listed on this site as well.
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