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South Platte Climbing: The Northern Volume—A Review
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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Apr 26, 2012
Artist Tears P3

On day 100, or maybe it was 200, or 250, or 300—hell, who’s counting?—Jason Haas’ dog refused to get into the car for another guidebook-researching trip to the South Platte, a vast, wild, forested region dotted with granite domes and crags southwest of Denver, Colorado. Haas’ beater Saturn, which could barely power anymore up the region’s steep dirt roads, was so trashed it was leaking exhaust into the backseat. The dog couldn’t breathe, and wasn’t getting in the car again. Not this time, no way. By the time it was all said and done, Haas had climbed 1,487 of the nearly 1,600 routes described in his, Ben Schneider, and Craig Weinhold’s new guidebook South Platte Climbing: The Northern Volume, 38.95, on sale early May 2012, which offers 432 big, beautiful, glossy, full-color pages for an area, often cloaked in secrecy, that’s not seen a comprehensive new guide in years. To complete the book, Haas wrote off 15,000 miles of driving and spent 430 days on the stone, 100 of those with his wife; he also established first ascents that included a 5.14a and a 5.13c crack, and a few off-route death climbs he strayed onto trying to find existing lines. Haas’ partners logged a total of 300 days combined, and the crew often climbed in small packs, descending “brushfire style” on a cliff to check out as many routes as possible and snap photos. Their endeavor took 4.5 years. In a destination where the approaches, history, beta, and first-ascent provenance are often cloaked in deliberate and provincial obscurity, theirs was a massive undertaking. The Southern Volume, with hundreds more climbs, is still to come and will offer similar challenges.

The Platte is most known for the Cathedral Spires, a beetling of wild pinnacles up a grueling gravel hill above the South Platte River, and their centerpiece Cynical Pinnacle, with the four-pitch Wunsch’s Dihedral, often called the best 5.11 in Colorado. Then there’s the famously manmade (but now closed) Sphinx Crack, one of America’s early 5.13s, cragging destinations like Turkey Rocks and Thunder Ridge, epic-big multi-pitch domes like Big Rock Candy Mountain, and so much more. An infinity of granite, really. The catch is, “the Platte” isn’t one single set of cliffs, but instead a region so vast and with its rocks so spread out, often way into the woods or up some axle-snapping dirt road, that you pick one as your destination and go only there. I had a typical “Platte day” lost in the trees, pissed off and overheating, two years ago. It was a day that this book, with its crag GPS coordinates, approach photographs, detailed road and cliff maps, and full-color photo-topos, will beautifully and finally obviate. Navigating off some terse, crappy, four-line Web description that listed only a handful of climbs, four of us tried to find our way to Asshole Rock, up off Forest Road 550 in the Buffalo Creek area. One hour passed, two, as we made circles in the woods, scrambling onto boulders to look for something—anything—resembling a cliff. Finally, we found the climber’s trail, but by then the dogs had drank all the water, the sun burned high and bright in a clear June sky, and it was time to go back to camp and drink. Well, page 231 of South Platte Climbing: The Northern Volume would have rendered a much different “Platte day”: as an example, it features photos of the parking lot, forks labeled in the approach trail, both facets of the rock with route lines drawn and numbered on, and detailed beta for the crag and its sixteen climbs, including pitch lengths, sun/shade aspect, a grade breakdown, star ratings, and a checkbox for ticking off routes. All of the amenities of the modern, full-color, full-service guidebook are presented in a logical, clear, easy-to-use format. With essays from Platte pioneers and tons of juicy action and historical shots, this book is a true treasure. It is a labor of love that climbers will love.

The Platte tends toward slab and crack climbing, and is thus not for everybody. If you don’t like long approaches, raw elements (lots of sun and wind), sometimes grainy or crystalline rock, runouts, mankous old bolts, and a general atmosphere of funk, the Platte won’t appeal to you on the whole, though the true classics should speak to everybody. The book does, however, also include the sport climbing of Devil’s Head up on the Rampart Range road, with steep fins of red-brown and orange granite equipped with hundreds of modern sport climbs from 5.7 to 5.13. (Devil’s Head is also wonderfully detailed in Rampart Range Rocks by Tod Anderson, one of the area’s prime developers and its main motivating force. By Haas’ account, there are as many prospective climbs left in the Platte as there are ones that have been completed. Now, with Fixed Pin’s stellar guidebook in play, perhaps more climbers will be encouraged to get out and explore.

—Matt Samet




Baron's Estate
Baron's Estate


Devils Head
Devils Head


Ragnarok
Ragnarok



Q & A with Jason Haas
The Platte history (chopping, secretiveness, old-school crust) must have made research tough. How did you get the saltier locals to help out?

That was a real bitch. It was like hierarchy—no one would talk to me at first. Slowly I would get through to someone on the fringe, sort of low on the totem pole and then go from there. Crusher, Steve Bartlett, author of Desert Towers was a huge help as he wasn’t really a Platte climber but was friends with a bunch of them. He “vouched” for me, and then Noel Childs talked to me. After that, a bunch more guys talked to me. It was like that with everyone, from Peter Hubbel [author of the 1998 Platte guide] on down to the most obscure first ascentionist. The Platte is a weird place and attracts really weird people. Think of it this way: climbing used to be a fringe activity back in the 1950s, sort of counterculture. Then it became more mainstream from the 1970s onward. Well, all those fringe people with the 1950s mentality climb in the Platte. All of them!


I didn’t quite realize how vast the area was and how much potential it had,
even though I’ve climbed there a fair handful of times. Is it as endless as
it seems? 

Yep. The first time I went to Thunder Ridge, I looked at it from the parking lot, which is a mile and change away, and just said, “Crap.” It looks like a pile of choss from far away. Actually, even up close a lot of it looks like it might break off when you touch it. Then you touch it and realize that it’s bomber and amazing to climb on. The problem is that that heap looks like every other granite blob scattered throughout the Platte. Some pan out, some don’t, but they are everywhere and you can’t tell if they are any good until you touch them. If you were into bolting slabs, there’s another thousand routes on unclimbed formations that I am personally aware of waiting to be done. That’s not even talking about adding routes to existing/documented formations. It’s ridiculous. But... slab climbing went out with the 1980s, so it’ll be a trickle for a while. I personally haven’t seen another true Thunder Ridge, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. For the book, we started with a “brushfire” mentality, trying to climb everything whether it was documented or not. After awhile it felt like we were never getting closer to the end as the book just kept getting bigger and bigger, so I just started drawing “undone” or “unclimbed” in description photos to encourage others to get some FAs in.
 


Will the Southern Volume be just as big, and are you guys off and running
 already? When will it come out?
Here’s why we didn’t include everything in one volume: The Hubbel book shows 300 routes in the southern area not listed in our northern volume, most of which is at Turkey Rock. No big deal right? Here’s the kicker— Hubbel gave me three overstuffed three-ring binders and about 50 CDs documenting over 700 more FAs of his that are not in any book. Most were in an area he wasn’t done developing when his book came out so he kept it a secret. Plus I know a few hundred other routes people haven’t put online or in a book. And then there’s Thunder Ridge. Yeah, it’s a big volume. We are off and running with big chunks of Turkey, Thunder, and Big Rock Candy Mountain documented. We’re hoping to be done writing it in two years.

Anything else you want to add?

I’ll also say this—I personally climbed 1,487 of the routes (the other guys climbed about 100 more that I didn’t, but I couldn’t say how many routes each one did; they aren’t as OCD about keeping track as I am). The two scariest climbs I did were actually first ascents due to misreading topos in Hubbel’s book. Check out page 103, the route “Being Thorough Will Get You Killed.” I honestly thought this was an established line, and both Ben and our friend Dan Hickstein, who just completed The Mountain Biker’s Guide to Colorado wouldn’t even follow me on it. Never thought I’d seriously get hurt or killed while doing a hand crack until then. Oh well—hopefully it’s beta like that that will keep others from potentially getting hurt. There were of course plenty of other diamonds in the rough, both with new routes and established lines people hadn’t heard about. I hope this book helps people find more classics and really get to experience how wild the Platte is.


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By Steve Williams
From Denver, CO
Apr 26, 2012

Really, really WANT!!!!!


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 26, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

So glad a new, comprehensive South Platte guide is coming out.


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By Derek Lawrence
From Bailey
Apr 26, 2012
Cocaine Corner

Good job Jason, et al on gathering in all the obscure information!

As noted above, the Devils Head crags are covered extensively in Tod's book Rampart Range Rocks which is available in almost all outdoor retailers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico and online at www.bentgate.com/rararobytoda.html

All proceeds that Tod receives go back to the climbing community in the form of new routes and the maintenance of existing ones.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Apr 27, 2012
Stabby

I'd also like to point out that Tod replaces hardware and maintains routes all over the place (CCC for one example) on a regular basis without bravado. He does this out of pocket regardless of guide book sales, they just help. If you clip bolts anywhere on the Front Range, you are likely benefiting greatly from Tod's continual work.
I'll leave it at that.


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By Wally
From Denver
Apr 27, 2012

Looks like a huge improvement over the current guide. I am certainly looking forward to more Platte climbing and less Platte wandering. Thanks Jason and partners for putting together what appears to be an awesome guide.

Jason, if you make a larger profit by sales of your book through your website - perhaps post up, once the book is available. I would rather give my money directly to you, instead of going through REI.

Also great to hear kudos for Tod. Thanks for all of your hard work, Tod!

Wally


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By Jason Haas
From Broomfield, CO
Apr 30, 2012

Wally, yes we do make more money off the book if you order directly off our website, thanks for caring about that. While Fixed Pin is a business, we use a lot of additional income from website sales for bolt/anchor replacements in a lot of different climbing areas.

As Derek said, Tod's book is a great resource if you want to climb just at Devil's Head and people should check it out. Tod has also done a lot of great things for the community including replacing old hardware - he's a good guy all around. And not to take anything away from that, but the information on Devil's Head in our book is quite different in regards to grades, quality ratings, bolt counts, trad rack suggestions, pitch lengths, where routes go, etc, as well as a few additional routes, so I encourage people to look at both.


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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Apr 30, 2012
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!

Thanks for the tip Wally. I ordered one of these myself direct from the website.

From a few brief run ins with Jason I can say he seems like a great guy and based on the quality of his Flatirons book I have high expectations for this one. With two small children I do not get a lot of time to climb so getting lost in the South Platte maze of forrest roads and trails is not an option for me, I need to make it count.


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
May 19, 2012
Bocan

The book is amazing. I can only imagine the amount of work that was put into it. Although I haven't had a chance to test it; the descriptions and pictures are well done, and the historical info is a plus. It's the type of guidebook you can sit there and actually read as well as plan your next climb.

Thanks for all the effort!


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By Chris Cavallaro
May 29, 2012

So, why did this book get a review and not the new Rampart Range book?

I guess it is all who you know? Why not review all guidebooks I guess is what I am saying as these are very crucial to climbers (not the climber types who print mp.com beta)


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
May 29, 2012
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

Chris Cavallaro wrote:
So, why did this book get a review and not the new Rampart Range book? I guess it is all who you know? Why not review all guidebooks I guess is what I am saying as these are very crucial to climbers (not the climber types who print mp.com beta)


Anyone can write a review, so feel free to do so. Otherewise you can send a copy of the book to someome else and ask them to review it.


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By S.Stelli
From Colorado Springs, CO
May 29, 2012

Monomaniac wrote:
Otherewise you can send a copy of the book to someome else and ask them to review it.


HA!

I'll volunteer to review Tod's book. I'd be happy to have another in the book arsenal. I'm assuming Chris meant Tod's book in the first place...


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
May 29, 2012
Bocan

Chris Cavallaro wrote:
So, why did this book get a review and not the new Rampart Range book? I guess it is all who you know? Why not review all guidebooks I guess is what I am saying as these are very crucial to climbers (not the climber types who print mp.com beta)


It's not Amazon.com. If one person decides to review a book, regardless of being an admin or knowing Jason...well they can review the book. Just like you can review all the guide books and just be an MP user that doesn't know anyone.

Anyone can write a review. And what does printing out MP beta have to do with the price of tea in China?


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By Chris Cavallaro
May 29, 2012

I did mean Tod Anderson's book! So, I can do a review and ask Tod questions and post my questions/answers as if I were a moderator and I can therefore assume that I will get near the views that they would? I doubt it.


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
May 29, 2012
Bocan

Chris Cavallaro wrote:
I did mean Tod Anderson's book! So, I can do a review and ask Tod questions and post my questions/answers as if I were a moderator and I can therefore assume that I will get near the views that they would? I doubt it.


I'd read your review and even bump it. :o)


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
May 29, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

Like I or anyone else here cares that an Admin wrote the review? Just write up Tod's book, Chris. I have already seen the guide book and think it's great.


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By S.Stelli
From Colorado Springs, CO
May 29, 2012

Stich wrote:
Like I or anyone else here cares that an Admin wrote the review? Just write up Tod's book, Chris. I have already seen the guide book and think it's great.


Where can I find Tod's book? I live in C. Springs CO


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By Chris Cavallaro
May 29, 2012

AWESOME responses dudes. Thanks. I was just curious about publicity/marketing power or whatever, but maybe I'm overreacting. Stay tuned! My review will coin this guidebook as being pretty much the bible/definitive of guidebooks (or so many would think!)


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
May 29, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

S.Stelli wrote:
Where can I find Tod's book? I live in C. Springs CO


Try REI or Mountain Chalet. Chalet just got a new stock of the Elevenmile Canyon book, incidentally.


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By Dave Meyers
From Golden, CO
May 29, 2012

Not sure about the whole guidebook review process and all. But a new Splatte book was a long over-due project that needed to be done; cudos.
It's just too bad Devil's Head had to be included after everything that's happened and has been said. www.mountainproject.com/v/devils-head-guidebook-poaching-/10>>>


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By Steve Williams
From Denver, CO
May 29, 2012

Jason, Ben. . .

When will the southern volume be out?????

The north volume is . . . AWESOME!!!!!!!!


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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
May 29, 2012
Artist Tears P3

To answer to question why this book was reviewed and not Tod's book?

Very simple. No one has done it and sent it to me to put up on the site or added it themselves. In the South Platte case, Matt Samet emailed me, (my email address is published on this site) and asked me to put the word out that the book was coming out and whether I would be willing to publish a review he is doing for it. I treated Matt's request like anyone else that emails me. If it is newsworthy and of interest to the site, I'll put it up.

I didn't get anything out of it. I paid full retail for my own copy of the guidebook. I also brought a couple copies of the new colorado mountain bike guidebook at full price directly from them to support fixedpin. By the way it is totally awesome.

There is no conspiracy going on here folks.

If someone wants to review Tod's book, I'm willing to help put the word out and publish it. To do that someone needs to write it and then I need permission from the author to use images from the book, etc.

So who is going to do it?


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
May 30, 2012
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Chris Cavallaro wrote:
So, why did this book get a review and not the new Rampart Range book? I guess it is all who you know? Why not review all guidebooks I guess is what I am saying as these are very crucial to climbers (not the climber types who print mp.com beta)


Chris Cavallaro wrote:
So, I can do a review and ask Tod questions and post my questions/answers as if I were a moderator and I can therefore assume that I will get near the views that they would? I doubt it.


You are kinda proving yourself a cynic, and also tilting at windmills here. Sadly, I think it's reflective of the overall tone of how this has been handled.
If it is all about who you know, then the answer is Jason knows someone who reviewed his book, and Todd knows people that are willing to make a lot of insinuations, baseless accusations, and go to war for their love of him... but not sit down and write a book review.

Is someone out there motivated enough to do something nice for Todd, or is attacking Jason and anyone who speaks with or of him considered a satisfactory fiat for that in your social circle?

That's screwball stuff. You can be a nice guy Chris, so don't have an aneurism over something that isn't even happening.

If I were a sport climber, hell, I'd write a review of the book for you. But I'm not, so I'm not likely to use it enough to give it a fair shake. You should do it, or have someone else do it. I bet that for the price of a gifted guidebook there are a dozen guys who would, but frankly, I'd suspect anyone who can give it a decent review would be the type that already bout it the day it came out - the true locals. I know better, I'm not one. I'm an Eldo/Flatirons guy.


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By Ike Rushmoore
Jun 6, 2012

Tony B wrote:
Is someone out there motivated enough to do something nice for Todd, or is attacking Jason and anyone who speaks with or of him considered a satisfactory fiat for that in your social circle? I bet that for the price of a gifted guidebook there are a dozen guys who would, but frankly, I'd suspect anyone who can give it a decent review would be the type that already bout it the day it came out - the true locals. I know better, I'm not one. I'm an Eldo/Flatirons guy.

DH Guide Book Review can be found here:

www.mountainproject.com/v/devils-head-guidebook-poaching-/10>>>

Nice work Matt!
Tony, you're wrong again.


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By LeeAB
Administrator
From ABQ, NM
Jun 6, 2012
Once we landed we headed to Font to find a place to stay for the night before doing a day of wine tasting and heading to Buoux.

Stich wrote:
Like I or anyone else here cares that an Admin wrote the review? Just write up Tod's book, Chris. I have already seen the guide book and think it's great.


Not written by an admin but posted by one. The review was written by Matt Samet. Here is the direct link to the review of Tod's book...

Pinklebear wrote:
A review also of Tod Anderson's fine DH book can be found here: www.climbingterms.com/post/24541113162/rampart-range-rocks-a>>>


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By Top Rope Hero
From Was Estes Park, now homeless
Jun 12, 2012
WHAT THE HELL IS HE BELAYING WITH!?!

How 'bout just a review of the review?

Jesusfish. Can a man get a paragraph break now and then? PLEASE!?!

(But good beta, nontheless...)


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