Located West of Lyons, the South Saint Vrain Canyon offers a considerable amount of climbing close to Boulder or to Longmont. As a granite canyon, many of the known routes in the SSV follow excellent crack systems on trad gear. Many of the newer lines have gone in as sport routes, on good faces or where the cracks are very short and intermittent. Routes can vary in length from half rope pitches to several rope length pitches. Granite quality is variable in the SSV. The best rock is well consolidated and featured with edges and flakes, while the worst is chossy and crystalline. Slab to vertical climbing is rather common on the older trad lines. However, many of the newer sport lines run through some big roof systems with steep the rule. Development of SSV sport climbing started many years ago with the Monkey Skull and The Fang, where Mark Rolofson and his associates have put up some very difficult climbs. Rock in the SSV seems to face in just about all directions, so it has been possible to climb here throughout the year. The best climbing is to be had in the summer and fall when temperatures are less comfortable further East or South.
The South Saint Vrain Canyon can be approached from Boulder North along US 36. This will take you to the intersection with CO 66 one mile East of Lyons. From Longmont, simply take CO 66 West to the town of Lyons. At the intersection of CO 66 US 36, head West into Lyons and to the main intersection that forks North to Estes Park on US 36 or South to Estes Park via the SSV canyon and CO 7. Set the odometer from this intersection; climbing in the SSV begins at The Scout Rock 3.1 miles upstream on CO 7.
The Temptation Arete is an amazing line with a bit of agonizing history. It has been called, "perhaps the best line in the South Saint Vrain Canyon". The climbing moves were originally freed by rope solo (RW) on jugs and the bolts placed accordingly. My own first lead was very scary. Subsequent attempts by Greg Purnell, Alan Nelson, and Mark Rolofson (all very strong climbers and much better climbers than myself) led to the consensus demand for re-bolting, with new placements described in detail...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Local Information for South Fork of St. Vrain Canyon
By John Marsella From: Berthoud, CO Apr 12, 2014 CONDITION REPORT
Note that the approaches for some crags across the creek as described in B.G.'s guide and here on MP may have changed significantly since the 2013 floods.
While some low-water season crossings may be easier to do with the wider, shallower channel, the character of the waterway has changed such that some of the previously described crossings don't go with higher flows.
Also note: Rattlesnakes, Ticks, Mountain Lions, Bighorn Sheep, Loose Rock, Ton's of Lichen, Sketchy Gear, Lightning, Flash Floods, Hail, Blizzards, Steep Hillsides with tons of weeds, Cactus, Fast Water, Thin Ice, and Hunters who'll shoot anything that isn't wearing orange (you may be a target!). Wear a helmet and be careful out there! -email@example.com
The routes are difficult to find and the rock is poor. Got the worst-ever case of poison ivy and my partner broke his ankle on the approach; rattle snakes near the trail. The locals all seem to be gun-toating rednecks. Definately not worth the drive; Boulder Canyon and Eldo are far better bets.
My name is Sergio Poyares and I am from Brazil. I used to live and climbing in Boulder for two years (1998/1999).I climbed in South Saint Vrain Canyon a couples of weeks a go(yes 2002) in a place called Lost Buttress. I did four greats news routes. Two bolteds (5.10b and 5.8+)two pitches and two trads 2 pitches (5.8 and 5.10a). Probabily the 5.10a trad was the FA on lead. The SSVC is an excelent climb area and no chalk prints there, yet!
Sergio, If you'd like assistence to photo document your FA I'd be happy to join up with you and get you proper credit. One of my climbing partners spent time in Brazil and speaks Portuguese. I see that Lost Buttress is not listed at this site and it would be neat to chisel your name, so to speak, on your FA and add it to this signficant database documenting climbs of the Front Range. If you are still in the USA we should get record your FA and name it, maybe something to do with Brazil, it always kicks butt in worlds soccer, or something like that.
wow, when I went there they had restrooms, a fee lemonade stand, cleared paths directly to the base of the walls and little signs for the routes at the base! I never saw any rattle snakes, though I did see a friendly little groundhog eat a garter snake and crawl back into a hole below a plaque honoring his committment to defending climbers from the oh-so-wild SSV. Oh yeah, and don't forget, they even give you a bazooka at the lemonade stand to fend off those mountain lions, which turned out to be the neighborhood cat lady's only family. I do appreciate the bazooka, however, due to the fact that those cats do get kinda ornery sometimes, come looking for a leg to rub ass on. I'd rather blow 'em up than have 'em rub ass on my shins!
Wanna know what I've heard? Rumor has it that the new guide won't list established routes (other than the author's new creations). It's main focus will be to describe _new route potential_ for those who don't seem to have enough time to go look around on their own.........Hmmm, an idea .........WAKE UP!!
Subj: South St. Vrain bolting epidemic II Date: 5/6/2003 2:47:06 PM Mountain Daylight Time From: Tbliffel To: firstname.lastname@example.org CC: Tbliffel
To whoever added bolts to:
The SSV routes Full Nelson Riley (Dire spire) and Where's My Toothpick ( the small technical turret across the highway from Sentinal rock ): I will be removing the first bolt on your 'new' bolted line on Dire Spire to the right of Full Nelson Riley, as it is placed on the initial moves of my route. Furthermore, how can you possibly justify pounding (3) pitons as FIXED GEAR into cracks and seams which accept gear easily on your "new" line? Some of us don't need a clip every eight feet on 5.8 slab- if you can't lead it on the perfectly good natural gear placements, top rope it. You just bolted a line which can be and has been lead on gear.I will also be removing the bolt at the crux of the aforementioned turret's SW face, as it was led (by me) without fixed pro before your bolt was placed, and can be protected easily with a small cam or tri-cam. . I have lately noticed bolted road-cut in the SSV. This is truly pathetic. I have climbed some of these new childproof bolt-ladders now popping up in the canyon. Many are on what can only be described as piss-poor rock. Who put in the bolts on the pile left of bullshit rock? Friends of mine tried it and pulled off a block the size of a microwave low on the "route". Are you even leading these routes, whoever you are? Do you realize that many of these lines you are bolting were passed over long ago as being too chossy or friable to be worthwhile? Much of the rock in the Vrain is marginal quality, and you really have to look around for the good stuff. You are bolting lines which are awfully hard to be proud of. Just remember that we are in Boulder County and should always bear in mind that ANY suspected FFA (or FA or whatever it is you do) is very likely to have been climbed before. If you're in the Vrain, it has likely been climbed by people who do not rely on fixed pro. Placing pro is a skill which is integral to our sport, and eliminating potential clean gear placements by bashing pins into them is incredibly selfish and shows contempt for the skills of trad leaders. Keep your silly bolts off of my routes.
Hi Bernard- Thanks for your input. I would distinguish "gashuffer" from the other crap being bolted along the road in several ways. Have you climbed it? The rock is very good, first of all, and only three bolts were needed over 85' of climbing. Most of the route accepts gear. If you consider this route to be road cut, then eveything else in the Narrows is as well. The route would clearly be x-rated without the fixed pro. The route is alone on its own part of the wall, and follows a natural line. I think it is a stretch to lump this line among the true road cut routes which Alvino is apparently bolting. Guided by Voices is on high-quality, [absolutely] natural rock as you know, Bernard, and has no bolts. I am not shocked to learn of Alvino's manufacturing in the Vrain, but I am of course appalled. Where is the outrage here, folks? Do you think this would go unnoticed/unprotested in other major Boulder areas? Choss is being bolted, pins are being left in place where good gear placements exist, bolts are being ADDED to lines which have been led repeatedly on gear, and holds are being MANUFACTURED. I will probably not remove the fixed pro which has popped up on my lines, but if any more goes in, it will be removed. (Got your attention, though, didn't I?) No, a bolt war probably would not be good, but the threat of one might slow the frenzied bolting down. I have always regretted placing the first bolt on the route "bullshit detector" after the fact because it is kind of close to a gear placement. I have often thought of removing it, and I just may. I, too, bolt in the Vrain, but only as a LAST [RESORT], when neither I nor anyone I know can lead the route without risking serious injury or death. The latest batch of closely bolted Vrain lines are in a whole different league, as anyone who has climbed them knows. No respect for bold leaders, lots of bad rock, no taste, and no sense of history. We of course need a complete guidebook such that we all know what is what. Perhaps those of us who are compulsive drillers could wait until the book comes out or check with Bernard before they drill. Is anyone climbing in the Vrain? (I know you are, Bernard- your new routes on Acrophile are cool) Has anyone tried ground-upping some of these easier lines? It is one of our sport's great adventures; placing pro is a lot easier than placing bolts. Keep your drills off of the south narrows massif.(home of GBV and a couple of Bernard's lines). The naturally protectable 5.11 project there has been climbed free but remains to be led. It is run-out, desperate and hard to protect. May it stay [that] way forever.
Howdy Bernard- You are correct that there are bolted anchors on Guided by Voices- what I meant is that there is no fixed pro for the leader. The anchor on the face is to avoid the really bad rope drag involved in doing our line in one pitch; the one at the top is to acccess the route during high water. As far as I know it is only reachable via a rap during spring runoff (although Mark Howe established a variation after we put up GBV which maybe would work during high water). I think that your comparison of GBV and Gashuffer and "Turd World" is invalid, but I respect your opinion. The former are nice lines, and the latter is simply embarrassing, in my opinion. Alvino has put up great lines- why is he doing this? I wasn't entirely disappointed with Scout rock until I saw the epoxy and led some of the ball-bearing rock there. Some folks probably love it there, and that's cool.
Has anyone climbed those upper routes on the Piz Badille? From the ground, I can't tell if they are total piles or beautiful routes. I'm going to head up there this month, but it would be nice to know what I am getting into!
thanks jack, couldn't agree more. the vrain is a special place and we should try to keep it that way. if anyone is really interested in chipping/ bolting with roadside access, i can recommend several pristine bridges and overpasses right here in longmont. (very close to many pubs). -chuckphlegm-
Bernard: I did a fair amount of bolting in SSV. However I did not bolt any routes. I bolted the anchors for top roping and rappelling. I put many of the upper anchors in at Scout Rock and was doing so at least 7-8 years ago. I used this area for instructing my scout troop and also for teaching several people how to aid climb and learn pitoncraft (Most of the aid lines were right of the road and there are some bolts at the top of these) I did other similar anchors at Lower Infirmary (Here it was to add to single bolt top anchors), The Spire, and Roadside Rock.If you need any other info let me know.
In June 2004 Ron Olsen and I performed the following anchor upgrades.
-added quick links to top of first pitch of Comanche Warrior on Scout Rock-removed smash link and added quick links to anchor on Alley Cat Street-replaced first bolt (in original hole) of Cornered on Scout Rock-removed smash link and added quick links to the anchor of Upside the Cranium on the Monkey Skull-added quick links to anchor of the arete route left of Sunshine Dihedral on the Monkey Skulk
This work was supported by the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA). Visit their website at www.safeclimbing.org. They appreciate your support.
Reading above: it's clear that there are some folk out there that care deeply about the SSV. They care so deeply that a few people have take ownership of some of the rocks and several of the routes. They should, it's a great place. I've been enjoying the SSV since the early 90's. As long as we can continue to play well with others I'm sure we can enjoy it for a few more decades to come.
Where should a bolt go? Why wasn't a bolt put somewhere else? Is it really 5.9+? How hard is a 5.9+? Why are people still using plated steel hardware? Haven't these plated steel users ever been on a climb that was established more than 20 years ago?
Yep, I own a drill and yes I have bolted in the SSV. There is little published information about the SSV. Who had what first accent, when, and with whom? With the exception of the FEW climbs mentioned in a few guidebooks, nobody knows who's done what where. Maybe I had the first accent and not Mr. Highorse. Is Mr. Highorse certain he had the first accent.? Why did Mr. Highorse run out such a long unprotected section? Was he climbing with Mr. Dumass that day?
I don't think I've bolted over anyone else's lines. I have added alternate finishes. I don't bolt cracks or choss. If someone wants to waste their dollar by bolting choss, have at it. For those that don't like climbing chossy or rotten rock, don't climb the chossy bolted routes. It would be a good idea to stay away from the desert, too.
One of the things that draws me to the SSV is it's proximity to Boulder Canyon and the City of Boulder. It's just far enough away that most of the malignant attitudes of the battling rock gods haven't made it that far north. That is until I read the string above.
I understand that if you become controversial in Boulder Canyon it can result in getting beat with an ice axe. Let's not let this attitude spread to the SSV. If you want to climb in an area where every bolt has to be approved by a committee, there are places on the Front Range. Look south! If you want to cry because someone made "your" climb safer, look west. If you want to appreciate the time, money and effort that fellow climbers have invested, and not worry about the minutia found at "other" climbing areas, I'll see you in the SSV.
A friend and I [received] an email from Bernard a couple weeks ago saying the guidebook was going well. His only problem is that he and his partners keep finding more cool routes! Let's hope it can come out sooner than later.... we're itchin' to lift the lid on the new treasure trove.... Thanks for all your work, Bernard! Keep it up!
SSV has some great routes for the FR. Is there some poison ivy? Sure, but if you don't know how to identify poison ivy, well. . . . Heya Bernard, I'm looking forward to that guide! There are many routes that are not shown in my Hubbel guide!
I am up in the Allenspark, CO area and looking for some good local bouldering.... A V6/7 boulder project would be awesome.... I have found some marked up projects in the Ironclads/Ironsides area, but if there is more out there, I would be desperate to know.... If any info please email me back at email@example.com...Thanks!
Has anyone visited Journeyman Crag? It's described in the new guidebook to the canyon. We wandered around for a few hours today looking for it but to no avail. If you've found it, can you suggest a definitive way to know when to leave the old roadbed and start heading up the hill towards the crag? Can the crag be seen at all from the roadbed? Would the snow up there be covering up a trail or key features on the approach?
Dave, when Sarah and I were up at "The Shadows", which is pretty high up on the south side of SSV Canyon, I looked across to the north trying to see if the Journeyman was visible. I totally couldn't see it. Judging by that, and Bernard's comment in the guidebook about getting lost going to it after being there several times, I think it might be kind of hidden. Definitely itching to go find that crag!
I wish I could help you out with some good hints on how to find Journeyman Crag; as noted in my guide, it is a bit difficult to locate the first time. It's been a while since I last visited, so I'm not even sure I could find the "trail" I used to approach it when I was writing the guide (though I'm confident I could find it eventually just because I have a general sense of where it is). Old maps show the old roadbed traveling up from the creek to the pass behind Coffintop, but I doubt those would help much. The roadbed is overgrown in a lot of spots, and in the winter under the cover of snow, I doubt it would look much different than a lot of the landscape back in there (it is obvious in some places). You DO get brief glimpses of the crag through the trees once in a while from the correct path AFTER you leave the creek, but there are a number of rocks up there, and some of them look pretty similar to the others. I left a few small cairns along my preferred path when I was doing new routes on the cliff, but those are likely under snow right now (and may not be there at all; I don't know who else uses that old path). Head up and right from the creek after about a mile from the road, and keep searching (I know, it's hard to judge how far a mile is in that uneven rough terrain, but maps indicate that's about the right distance).
If you've got some extra time on your hands, here's something that may help a lot. Read about Rodent Ravine (p.266 of my guide) and take a hike to The Gopher (that rock's not particularly easy to find either on your first trip, but follow the ravine or the terrain just to its right, and you will reach it eventually; it's totally obvious when you find it). Once you get to The Gopher, just keep going to the top of the ravine, maybe heading up and right out of the ravine to avoid choked terrain in the ravine itself. Soon you will reach the western portion of Tombstone Ridge, and from there, I'm almost certain you will have a clear and unobstructed view of Journeyman Crag (I think I even took some pictures of the crag from there, though I don't think the picture in the guide was taken from that far away). Bring a pair of binoculars and my guidebook so that you can compare what you see with the picture in my guide; that way you'll know for sure which rock is Journeyman. You definitely do not want to approach the cliff from Rodent Ravine (it'd take another 45-60 minutes to drop into Coffintop Gulch and then back out again to the base of the crag), though at least you'll see it and know that it does indeed exist!
I hope you find the damn thing; Journeyman (the route) is a fantastic hand crack, one of the best in the canyon. There's also some new routes to do in that area, on the cliff itself and on some rocks to its left (out of frame in my guidebook picture). They've been on my to-do list for a while, but it's a long way back in there, so I've not gone back to pick the obvious plums (I think I got the best lines in the first round of development). Some of them would probably require bolts for a reasonably protected lead.
"St Vrain Canyons" would be a better heading for this page. Coulson Gulch is above the North St Vrain, and the Piz Badille is above the Middle fork. Gillett named his guide likewise for the same reason.