|Mary's Bust - main buttress
The Brown Palace runs up the entire length of the southeast face of Mary's Bust, beginning on the left corner at Proud Mary, and traversing right to the base of a gorgeous, 4-ft wide brown dike. The dike continues up much of the wall, receding into the fabric of the cliff at times, but prominent at other locations -- the route strives to follow the dike.
Denver denizens know the Brown Palace as the hotel in downtown Denver built by Henry Cordes Brown (construction began in 1888; the hotel opened in 1892). Of course, you don't need to live in Denver to know about The Brown Palace, as it's a famous four-star resort. It seems fitting to also award four stars to the route, though we'll let the critics weigh in on the matter to get a definitive answer. You can't beat it for sport climbing of this variety: SIX pitches of bolt clipping with very nice rock, excellent position, and flat-out fun the entire way. I like calling it the Naked Edge of sport climbing -- a big stretch given the stature of the Naked Edge, but it's a fine route nonetheless.
First Ascent: as noted above, a route of this magnitude required a lot of man-hours and team work, and several people contributed. Bernard Gillett, Paul Bodnar, and Jim Bailey did the FA of the first pitch. The last pitch was done by Mark Ronca and Gillett as part of There's Something About Mary. Gillett, Paul Foster, and Ronca worked out the details on the middle pitches; these were first led on the FFA of the entire route by Gillett and Foster.
Pitch 1: 5.9-, 70 feet, 6 bolts. Begin at the left edge of the main wall next to a big pine tree. Clip the first bolt on Proud Mary, and then make a rising traverse right to gain a ledge. Walk right to a bolt on Deceiver, and continue up and right past two more bolts and a tricky move before a two-bolt belay on the right side of the brown dike.
Pitch 2: 5.10c, 9 bolts, 85 feet. Follow the brown dike (the most aesthetic climbing stays on the dike itself; it's a little easier on the right) to its top, then step right to a flake. A #2 Camalot can be placed here, or do two more moves to the next bolt. Steep climbing lies ahead (5.10c): stem through a corner, bump left, and finish with a thank-god jug to a good stance at the base of a prominent rib (bolts and chains).
Pitch 3: 5.11a, 9 bolts, 85 feet. Waltz up the bolted rib (the continuation of the brown dike) to a chimney. Bridge up for a ways (take care with a big, hollow flake at the base of the chimney), and then move left onto overhanging rock. Several tricky sequences lead left and up around a bulge (5.11a) to a small ledge with two bolts. The belay is a short distance right of the last pitch on Proud Mary.
Pitch 4: 5.11a?, 4 bolts, 40 feet. This short pitch goes straight up a discontinuous column (I think also part of the brown dike formation) to a small overhang. A weird crux follows, maybe only 5.10+ for the long-limbed folk. Belay at two bolts in a solution pocket above the overhang. A bit of poor rock must be endured at the crux; it's the only funky rock on the entire route (and it should clean up some as the route gets repeat ascents).
Pitch 5: 5.10, 12 bolts, 120 feet. Angle right off the belay to access a nice slab with mellow climbing. Half way up the slab you will encounter two lovely chicken heads that appear to be made in the mold of the brown dike. Continue up to an overhang, and yard through with a long reach (height-dependent crux, I'm thinking, somewhere between 5.10a and 5.10d). Easy climbing goes past a rappel station (long sling) and one more bolt; the pitch ends at a good ledge with two bolts at the base of the upper headwall.
Pitch 6: 5.10d, 9 bolts, 70 feet. The final pitch is shared with There's Something About Mary. Follow the bolts to the top of the wall (crux near the end), avoiding the loose flakes on the left at the bottom of the pitch. It's best not to grab the blocks resting on the belay ledge, either -- they look reasonably solid, but if they came off, they might reach the road.
Per Liz S.: beware of a toaster-sized, unattached rock on the left that looks like the resolution hold. This is about 3 feet below the anchors.
How cool was that??? Enjoy the view and rappel the route.
Start at the left edge of the southeast face of Mary's Bust, beneath the first bolt of Proud Mary.
Rappel the route to descend (95', 90', 40', 85', 85', 70'). If you brought a 70 m rope, the 3rd and 4th rappels can be combined. The first rappel goes past the last belay ledge to a station that you used as pro on the 5th lead. I recommend tying knots in your rope for at least this first rappel.
Because I suspect this may become a popular route, here are some other options to avoid rappelling over other parties.
1. You've done the first 3 rappels and are atop the 3rd pitch, with the bolts of Proud Mary to your left. Swing left on your next rappel to find the rappel station for Proud Mary (it is not on the route; read its description). Then rappel straight down to the anchor on top of Deceiver, and then to the ground.
2. Scramble off the back side to the rappels on The Devil's Backbone. Begin by roping off to the NE (40 ft of 4th class) and then head for an obvious pine tree. Go through a notch to its left, and carefully down climb the 3rd class slabs on the back side of Mary's Bust. These lead to a saddle between Mary's Bust and a short gold wall behind it. Turn left, traverse beneath the gold wall, shimmy down the far side of a big boulder, and switchback left to the edge of the cliff that sits immediately west of Mary's Bust. Rappel The Devil's Backbone (3 rappels, 60 m rope required).
15 quickdraws will do it. Bring a few long slings for rope drag. A #2 Camalot comes in handy on pitch 2, and it could be placed on pitch 3 to decrease the distance between bolts (unclip it afterward to reduce drag). Bring a little more gear if you want to eliminate a few more bolts: I think the route has 62 bolts (belays included), and we could have done it with perhaps 4-5 fewer bolts, but I didn't see the point with a route this big.
You'll certainly have enough rope left over to combine pitches, but rope drag argues against it. If you want to try anyway, #4 and 5 could be combined with 17 QDs. But the belayer won't be able to see the leader at the 5th pitch crux.
|By Carly K.|
May 4, 2014
Looking to climb this route by the end of the summer. Has anyone encountered difficulties or know this route's status post flood?
|By Bernard Gillett|
Jul 31, 2009
I'll post a photo/topo when I get the chance, but you really don't need it. Once you complete the first pitch, just follow the bolts straight up the wall.
EDIT: I posted a photo on the main Mary's Bust page.
Aug 1, 2009
This sounds great, Bernard- I saw those 1st couple new bolts the other day and was wondering...? Keep the new routes coming! -tim
|By Scott Matz|
From: Loveland, CO
Aug 5, 2009
I tried B.G.'s Brown Palace, and got a little mixed up, I didn't traverse far enough right on P1, and ended up on Deceiver. There are so many bolts up here, it is confusing, but B.G. just put a topo that will help us bag this route. Thanks.
|By Lew Strong|
From: Loveland/Vail, CO
Sep 19, 2009
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
The aesthetic quality of this route must rival that of any other in the foothills. It really is beautiful up there, 600 feet above the river. The climbing is 4 star. It is well protected, and finely conceived. I suggest starting the climb with Deceiver, and cutting right at the 4th bolt, or so. (since some starting holds have broken off, Deceiver now seems 10a/b right off the ground, and it is actually in a natural line with the rest of the climb) The crux for me was the top of P3, but the cruxes of 2&4 are not far behind. P6 is the perfect end to the climb. P6 is sustained and steep, but the feet are positive. I think that a gibon-like physique comes in handy in a few spots on each pitch. Thank you Mr. Gillett & associates.
|By Jake Carroll|
From: Fort Collins
Oct 4, 2010
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
We did this in a party of 3 with two 50m ropes. It took about 6 hours. Super fun climbing that will leave your fingertips feeling... used. Double rope rappelling with the two fifties, we were able to combine the rappels in the order of: 6-5, 5-4, 4-2, 2-ground. Hope this assists people in the future!
Btw, did the start of Deceiver (agreed on the 10a rating) as suggested by Lew, and it was definitely worth it. Cut right after the 4th or 5th bolt.
|By David Menzies|
May 21, 2011
rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
I found it pretty easy to combine pitches #4 and #5 without any rope drag. The key was to skip the first bolt after the intermediate belay. The climbing is very easy, so I thought it felt safe. The downfall to this option was that there was extra rope out for the crux of pitch #5, and the fall looks like it could be a little rough.
|By Stephen Nance|
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Freakin' amazing. The only problem I can think of about this route is once word gets out, it will be packed...
- short approach
- 6 pitches
- super well-protected
- amazing views
Doesn't get better.
From: Fort Collins, CO
Aug 19, 2012
Super fun climb! Watch out for the loose boulder just before getting to the anchors on the last (6th) pitch. I almost pulled it right onto myself when pulling the last small roof. Other than that. this is an awesome route that utilizes laybacks, big roof moves, stemming, and ends with a crimpy, exposed, face climb.
Sep 2, 2012
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
We brought a #2 cam but never used it. This route is extremely well protected on bolts alone. Do this climb.
|By Brody Hatch|
Nov 4, 2012
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Excellent route! Did the first two pitches with numb fingers and toes (turns out mornings are cold in early November), but when the sun came out, the temp was perfect. The crux pitch is still pretty chossy, but it's only about 2 bolts worth, the rest of the climb is nice and clean. We also took a #2 and never used it. The last pitch was by far my favorite. Do yourself a favor and and do this route!
|By Liz S.|
May 24, 2013
WARNING - at the top of the 6th pitch - the very last move of the climb - there is a toaster-sized, unattached rock on the left that looks like the resolution hold. This is about 3 feet below the anchors. For this reason, don't belay at the anchors at the base of the wall. Use the anchors at the top of pitch 5. It doesn't seem safe to trundle the rock, because you cannot see the base of the climb.
|By Moritz B.|
Jun 2, 2013
You definitely donīt need a #2 on this route. We met another party and they were also carrying a #2 and didnīt find a useful placement for it. Bring draws only, not a single cam or nut needed.
|By Eric Thomas|
May 4, 2014
Climbed this today on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The toaster size block at the top is still there, but otherwise the climb is pretty clean.
Very well protected (almost too much). As said in the description, you could bring a #2 for the second pitch for a transition onto a flake, but there's a bomber ledge that if committed will get you to the next bolt easily.
Overall, despite sometimes not having a lot of good friction, a lot of thought was put into this climb, and it is pretty varied.