Once the scene of some of the most bucolic climbing in the Front Range, The Monastery looks now more like the Tora Bora. The crags at The Monastery lie between the Galuchie and Bobcat Gulches just adjacent to the Hyatt Mine and therefore were the scene of terrific devastation by the Bobcat fire in June of 2000. The whole area comprised of Spruce Mountain, Cedar Park, and Bobcat Gulch burned in one of the worst fires of recent memory, consuming over 5,000 acres of pristine meadow and forest. However, the fires left most of the crags untouched, and restoration of the access trail is largely complete.
Climbing at The Monastery is on igneous schist and gneiss. It is steep and edgy or slabby and on great friction. Alligator skin is common on the steeper walls. Many of the dozen or so crags have excellent South faces that remain dry for a large part of the year; however, they are located at 8,000+ feet and can get cold on a cloudy day, or snowed in in mid-winter. As probably everyone in Colorado knows, most the routes were established by Mike and Tommy Caldwell, so you can expect some hard climbing. Don't be put off by the bulk of difficult routes; plenty of excellent bolt-protected 5.9s and 5.10s exist.
The routes here are documented in Bernard Gillett's Estes Park Valley guidebook.
Organization of Area
Eds. addendum: This is a complex area for which a bit of organization could help, as evidenced by folks wandering through with guidebooks trying to figure out where specific climbs are located.
Joell's excellent aerial photo does help with the general layout. Gillett's fine guidebook to the area does choose single names for the crags & landmarks here. For the purpose of clarity, we'll use these names.
The general organization of the area could be split into 3 rows/areas of crags with 2 approx NE-SW corridors (The Vestibule (southern) & The Catacomb (northern) separating these. The southern edge of the crags here is called the Outer Gates. In addition there are narrow subcorridors, with routes inside, separating some of these southern-most crags, some of which have separate names. These subcorridors are: unnamed, unnamed, The Balcony, Hallowed Hall, & Inner Sanctum. For the purposes of organization, routes within this subcorridors will be organized in the The Vestibule section. Note, routes on a formation can be located in different subareas in this database depending upon which face they lie.
The middle row of these crags are: (NE-SW) unnamed, unnamed, The Boneyard, with the obvious free-standing plate/pillar The Altar, and unnamed.
The northern-most row/collection are: (southern-most) The Sepulcher, The Nursery, Lion's Den, Wedding Rock, & Barnacle Rock. This area has likely the most room for development.
Getting to The Monastery is easy to do but complicated to describe. Going up for the first time one might want to go with someone who has been here. That said, the directions can be followed. Take US 34 West, out of Loveland. After passing through the Big Thompson Canyon, you will come to the town of Drake, set the odometer. Take a right onto County Road 43 West of Drake several hundred feet. After 0.3 miles turn right onto Colo 128 (Storm Mt Rd), this will take you to Combat Rock after 1 mile. Continue on 128 to a T-intersection at 2.5 miles - go left. At the Y-intersection go left again and stay on 128 until the odometer reads about 5.1 miles. Pull into a camping area on the left and park. Walk about  yards up the road to the switchback and the trailhead on the left. Do not park at the switchback by the trailhead; this is posted as a No Parking area.
You will be near the Hyatt mine. The trail head runs left of the road and will take 45 minutes to one hour to hike, go left at the fork in the trail. The trail has a steep downhill section at the start and a steep uphill section afterward. Be prepared for the hike out; it's as difficult as the hike in, and takes just about as long.
The first major formation you come to is The Guardian.
This is covered in the Bernard Gillett guidebook, Rocky Mountain National Park - The Climber's Guide: Estes Park Valley.
Perhaps the best single pitch of metamorphic face climbing in the country, Grand Ol' Opry ranks among the premier elite sport climbs in the United States. With flawless stone, outstanding position, and unforgetable movement on natural holds, this line has few rivals in the genre of thin face climbing. In addition to impeccable footwork, beastly crimping power, and leather fingertips, this route demands an uncommon amount of core and compression strength for a wall that is just over ve...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Bernard Gillett has published several versions of a guide to the area in a small pamphlet (1998), also the same info may (?) be included in Gillett's newest Estes Crag guide. In addition to routes by the Caldwells, Stuemke, who discovered the area, and the Thompsons have also made major route contributions to the Monastery.
Yes, there is a small guide out there. And there are PLENTY of moderate routes (5.6-5.10), almost one third of the routes are 5.9 and under, well worth the 45er on the hike. Bring plenty of h2o and second layer of skin!!
Parking Info: Do NOT park right at the trailhead. The locals hate it and I believe a sign is there that says as much. Park roughly 50 yards downhill from the trailhead at an obvious pullout/camping area. This way your car won't be on the road.
I have been to the Monastery on three different occassions (not bad for a climber that lives in Nebraska). Each time I make the approach I swear to never put myself through it again. But by the time the day is over I realize it is worth it. Great climbing, great views, and bit of different experience for the Estes area. If you are going in the summer bring plenty of water. Enjoy.
A unique approach that truly does feel uphill both ways but well worth it. Trailhead is not officially marked but is easily found if you follow the mileage markers carefully in Gillett's recent book. However be prepared to wander around a bit on your first time in. Great place to spend a day but don't make the mistake I did and just go in for an evening quick climb. (P.S. where else can you get classic bolt routes at 5.7 for 12 bolts? Good place to practice learning to lead).
By Ernie Port From: Boulder, Colorado May 23, 2003
Climbed here yesterday and must say this area is awesome and well worth the 'over hill & dale' effort to get there. Unique rock, fun, moderate routes, and spectacular views of RMNP, made for a memorable day.
If you check out the Outer Gates area and don't so much dig those slabby pebble-pinches, have no fear--sneak up through the Inner Sanctum and into the Vestibule. A whole new world awaits you. Great views of the Park from here, too. New routes are going up as we speak so try some of 'em out, like the new 8/9(?) between Crystal Staircase and Monastic Groove on the Vestry.
Some trail work would be useful in many places. Erosion will soon become a problem, I'm afraid.
In the months of May and June, Dale Haas and I added 5/16" quick links and 3/8" chain links to the cold shuts on Simplexity, the route right of Simplexity, The Hot Zone, The Steeple, Monastic Groove, Southern Hospitality, Pandora's Pebble Pinching Palace, and Gravestones. We also removed a few smash(lap) links in the process.
This work is being carried out as part of the American Safe Climbing Association's (ASCA - www.safeclimbing.org) Clean Anchor Campaign. They would appreciate your support!
I was at the Monastery yesterday. I ran into many spinner hangers. Please bring a wrench with you and tighten bolts that are loose, I will next time I head up there. Just for perspective, a few hangers were upside down and sideways, requiring to hand loosen the bolt, re-orient them, and hand tight the bolt, clip and go. Oh yea, don't over tighten either. Thanks peeps.
We climbed at the Monastery this weekend for the first time. I fell in love with the place. The climbing is so different from the rest of the climbing around the area. It takes a little time trusting the pebbles your pulling on although the possibility of a hold breaking and sending you on a meat (or tofu) grinding fall should always be in the back of your mind. Climb smart. With this said sending a new leader up on one of these climbs could end with an unhappy camper (climber). Many of the climbs are longer than half ropes so pay close attention when lowering. Mark the middle of your ropes. One last thing. Keep an eye on the weather. We got hammered on the way out by a nasty storm. Bring plenty of layers even on hot days. This is not out of your car sport climbing. This is the mountains and things can change quickly. The Monastery is amazing place and so far is not over bolted. I really hope it stays that way. What an over all great experience.
Unfortunately, camping at the Monastery seems anything but quiet and discreet lately. In general, I believe climbers respect the area and haven't observed an vandalism by them. But it seems to have become a place for weekend drinking binges for high school partiers, ATVers and other types of primordial life forms. Some people have even taken to chopping down live trees and feeding them whole into the disgusting trash loaded fire pits. There were at least 3 live trees chopped down and just left to rot on the ground within the last 2 weeks. The shear volume of discarded alcoholic beverage containers and other trash left behind by these wilderness thugs has been amazing. I've carried out several large bags full of trash myself over the last couple of months and last weekend (Sept 10,11) someone else did an incredible job of cleaning up trash in the area -- THANK YOU! There are still the spring and frame remains of at least 3 hide-a-bed type couches and enough trash to fill many more bags. Someone with a large pick up truck would do a great service by hauling out the couches (I will help).I assume that the US Forest Service had jurisdiction over this area but I am not sure. Any locals or anyone from the Access Fund know??? Any climbers in the area who see the people responsible for killing trees and trashing the place should attempt to contact the agency in charge to put a stop to it. The local residents must be disgusted by all this and one can only hope they don't think that climbers are responsible.
I find packing all your gear, H2O, food, etc. and camping near the climbing for several days makes for the best trip here. Probably my favorite place in Colorado. Plenty of routes for the amount of traffic it sees. The parking area has been cleaned up considerably, sans some broken beer bottles [here] and there. I didn't see any couches, though. I think to ban the camping would kinda throw the baby out with the bathwater.
P.S. Climb the Bear Hug at sunset and stand on top-EPIC!
There are a lot of lots for sale in this area, I suspect the camping will become more of an issue in the future. It's only a matter of time before it's no camping. So, abuse it while it lasts? Not a good idea, but historically, I think this is how it goes down. Hopefully, there will still be parking after the (new) homeowners get really pissed off.
Clarity and Logic? Please explain what is not clear or logical. If I were up there looking for property to buy, I would be worried about dirt bag camping on land adjacent to the road. I don't know too many real forest service camping areas that are like this. Typically the informal areas such as this eventually get closed down. This will be accelerated with new land owners. Climbers and should realize this and be proactive not just use it until it is taken away then whine. Keeping the area clean will prolong the closure, thanks to those that cleaned it up. A more proactive approach would turn the area into parking and stop the camping, this help to maintain our continues access, unless you enjoy walking. I am ac.
I would agree that more and or new landowners in the area will facilitate a closure to the free and primitive camping in the area. I don't think we can win the battle over free and primitive camping, but I do think we should try to fight for parking-it already is a long return to the car. Access fund to the rescue/preemptive strike?
I was at the Monastery with a group on the night of 5-10. There were at least 2 huge drinking parties that left plenty of garbage to piss off the neighbors. We picked up after them some, but this is the week of graduation for many, so I anticipate more of the same for this weekend (5-7&8). If you need sleep, camp in Estes Park and drive in for climbing. If you are camping, please help us pick up trash and delay the closure of this beautiful (free) place to camp!
If you're headed up to the Monastery, please take a garbage bag with you and pick up some trash from the parking area after you're done climbing. It's a shame that people have so little respect that they can trash such a beautiful area, but with just a little extra effort, we climbers can keep the area pristine.
A pair of Miura climbing shoes were left in the Vestibule Sunday 5-31-09. I believe the shoes belong to the climbers that had a collie with them. Email me and I will make an effort to return the shoes.
I love this area, thereís such a variety of climbing, and itís so beautiful with Longs Peak, being visible from almost every anchor. However, I forgot how ran out most of the routes are, so for beginner leaders, who are used to bolts being 5 feet apart, it might be a little sketchy, even on the easy 8ís and 9ís. If youíre planning to do a 2 day trip with overnight camping, donít forget your tape, as the rock is quite sharp, and the 2nd day your fingers might be raw, and bring lots and lots of waterÖ and beer of course :-)
I had a great time climbing at the Monastery in July, but I would not recommend camping there (particularly if you are in a small group).
Several things made me uneasy about the area when I was there for a three day period. One guy camping by himself (appearing and disappearing at odd hours) and traffic from binge drinking parties - this has been mentioned above. One of the parties got out of hand and was like nothing I have seen in 10 years of back-country camping. I will spare the details, but reported it to the police who said the whole area is a "den of inequity" and that it is best to be avoided. The police also indicated that the locals are "just south of deliverance."
I agree with Matthew about camping at the Monastery. It can be a mess. The problem stems from non-local kids from Loveland that come up and party.
I have lived up there for 7 years and every year the "Locals" clean up the entire access road and Monastery campground at our own cost,(Kent Mt Adv's/Access Fund also does a cleanup at the campground later in the year). Also keep in mind that Storm Mountain Road is a privately maintained road and any improvements/maintainance are paid for by the communities up there at an annual cost to the locals of over $40,000 with less than $2000 coming in from the county and none from the USFS, so the access road to the climbs that you enjoy is being paid for by the locals so please be respectful of them and they will be respectful of you.
Currently the locals and climbers have a good relationship and I can tell you that describing the locals as "just south of deliverance" is not in any way true and quite unjust.
The nonsense continues. Out there yesterday to find several of the live trees at the campground chopped down, leaving 4ft high stumps all around. I imagine who ever did this was too lazy to gather some of the hundreds of dead trees/logs scattered throughout the nearby area due to the fire. There was also pieces of furniture broken up, also being used in fire pits. Does any one know when another clean up day is? With out some more love, a few will spoil it for all.
Cedar Park and Cedar Springs did a road cleanup I believe at the end of April, but not sure if they covered the camping area. We usually do get to the camping area, but I couldn't make it this year. You could contact Kent Mountain Adventures in Estes and see when the Access Fund cleanup is, I didn't see it on their calendar. I used to help out on the local fire squad and was always up there putting out fires, and now I hate going up there anymore, just a shame.
We did a day trip to the Monastery, it's very cool. I thought the written directions were a bit confusing, so I made a google map that shows how to drive to the parking, and shows GPS tracks of the hike in. Here it is:
Whomever stole Metolius Logo draws off of Dreamcatcher and two Black Diamond locking biners from the anchors of Grand Ol Opry is a bad person! Stealing draws is NOT COOL. Please, redeem yourself and put them back!!!!!!!
Does anyone know the status of the roadside camping situation here? When I've been in years past, my experience has definitely matched up with those described above: pretty nasty. Is the spot still open? Clean? Any other comments or recent experiences? Thanks!
The Monastery is on USFS land, so dogs are allowed. Keep an eye on hunters though and watch out for stray arrows because archery season has started up.
We were up at the camping area last weekend, and it was pretty clean.
By Leo Paik Administrator From: Westminster, Colorado Aug 23, 2013
From Kelly Cordes:
I live in Estes Park and was thinking about my weekend plans and had forgotten about the road closures up here on Saturday for the pro bicycling race. I glanced at a few links and maps, and on the NPS RMNP page it mentioned that Lumpy Ridge and RMNP access will be shut down most of the day. Climbers will probably want to know this. in looking at the map, I think that access to the Monastery will probably be closed or limited as well. Basically, all kinds of stuff around the Estes Valley seems like it'll be a mess on Saturday.
I tuned out after looking at it a little bit, and figure I'll just stay home and work Saturday anyway -- I'm buried in deadlines. So, I don't know a lot about it, but your site's viewers might find it useful.
Figured I'd email you and let you know, in case you wanted to announce it under "climbing news" or something. Or would the forum be a better place for it? I'm swamped right now and thus kinda didn't want to hassle with posting in the forums, and then dealing with questions (and accusations and insults, ha! can't imagine it, though it is a web forum, and it seems it takes about one page before the name calling begins :) ) or anything that follows -- I don't know anything more than what I quickly perused online, just figured that people would want to know about it.
If it's best for me to just post it in the forum, though, I can do that. I'll just copy-paste this.