As one of the world's finest and most famous climbing areas, Eldorado Canyon needs little introduction. It consists of steep, beautiful conglomerate sandstone walls of up to 700 feet high, in brilliant shades of gold and red. The rock quality is reminiscent of granite rather than the soft sandstone found throughout much of Utah and Arizona.
The largest cliff, Redgarden Wall
, is a few thousand feet wide; it boasts several spectacular summits and an incredible collection of classic climbs. Many of the classic routes were put up in the 1960s by Layton Kor, along with climbers such as Pat Ament and Larry Dalke. The 1970s were primarily a time of first free ascents, spearheaded by climbers such as Steve Wunsch, Roger Briggs, Jim Erickson, and Duncan Ferguson. New activity tailed off a bit in the 1980s, though some very good routes were established.
Climbing in Eldorado Canyon can be odd and it requires some getting used to. It is primarily a traditional area, yet there is relatively little crack climbing. Friends of mine who are used to Lumpy Ridge
think everything in Eldo is a sandbag, but once I got used to Eldo I started to feel more secure there than at Lumpy Ridge
. Individual pitches will often require delicate face climbing and some kind of funky, inobvious traverse. Highly technical moves separated by decent rests are quite common. Old fixed gear is an Eldo staple, and can either add or subtract spice from your route depending on its quality and the availability of other pro. It enables routes such as the The Yellow Spur
and the West Buttress
of the Bastille (both 5.9) to offer pro-at-your-waist cruxes. On the other hand, you just know that those pins at the cruxes of climbs like Tagger
(5.10) and the The Naked Edge
(5.11) are not going to hold too many more 10 foot falls. One should really back up most pins whenever possible. Ultimately, skill in placing pro is very important; cracks tend to be discontinuous and incipient, and nearly all the "sport" routes require some gear as well.
Must-do beginner routes include Wind Ridge
(both 5.6) on Wind Tower
. They are both a bit awkward in spots. In the 5.8 range, Ruper
on Redgarden Wall
and The Bastille Crack
top the list. The Bulge
(5.7+) on Redgarden is quite runout, but also excellent. Many people feel that The Yellow Spur
(5.9) on Redgarden Wall
is the best route in the Canyon. Other great routes at that grade include the West Buttress
and Hair City
(Bastille), Anthill Direct
and The Green Spur
), and the The Unsaid
(The West Ridge
). 5.10 classics are everywhere; my personal favorites are Rosy Crucifixion
(10a) and Outer Space
(10c). Over the Hill
(10b), Super Slab
, Grandmother's Challenge
, and Tagger
(all 10c) are also great, as are many, many other routes at the grade. 5.11 offers some world-renowned classics like the The Naked Edge
(11b), and the Northwest Corner
of the Bastille (11a). 5.12 (which I have no experience with personally) seems to offer either very scary climbs such as Scary Canary
(12b) or very safe climbs such as Your Mother
. (12d). 5.13s are fairly rare, due to bolt restrictions, but some historic classics such as Desdichado
and Rainbow Wall
do exist. Addendum:
A trad 5.14, Iron Monkey
(freeding Lycra-Clad Donkeys), has been established.
The aforementioned Redgarden Wall
holds the longest routes, but also offers great one-pitch climbs, [particularly] a little ways up the trail at a long slanting roof. The Bastille
is a 350 foot high vertical cliff which rises right out of the road and offers very steep climbing. The The Wind Tower
is the place to go for great beginner climbs as well as scary 5.10 routes, and the The West Ridge
offers the best concentration of one pitch routes of all grades -- usually very aesthetic crack and corner climbs. Obscure outlying areas such as Cadillac Crag
, Shirt Tail Peak
, and the Peanuts Walls
have excellent climbing, but also involve longer approaches.
Eldo can be a very confusing place and it is helpful to at least look at a guidebook, such as Steve Levin's newest guidebook, Eldorado Canyon, A Climber's Guidebook
, or Richard Rossiter's out of print, comprehensive Rock Climbing Eldorado Canyon
. Fred Knapp's Classic Boulder Climbs
is about a third the cost, and still has most of the best routes as well as other great routes around Boulder.
Ideally, a traditional climber's road trip to Boulder should include a day at Eldo followed by a day at Lumpy Ridge
(45 minutes from Boulder)-- both offer fantastic climbing, but it is hard to imagine two more different styles. Of course, if experience permits, the alpine rock climbs in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park
are not to be missed, either. One can climb in Eldo at any time of year, though summer is piping hot and slick while winter is inconsistent.
From Denver, head N on I-25 to US 36, go to the CO Hwy 170 exit. Follow it as it curves around a new shopping complex, and go past CO Hwy 93 to the town of Eldorado Springs and to the state park.
From Boulder, take CO Hwy 93 (Broadway) South until you get to the first stop light after leaving Boulder. This is Eldorado Springs Dr. Take this West until you hit the town. The park entrance is at the end of the dirt road into town. Pay entry fee per vehicle to park or walk-in for less. You WILL be ticketed if you park in undesignated spots outside of the park.... The Eldorado Springs bottling company is right off the road to the park. You used to be able to get a free fill-up on your water bottle, but now it's a pay deal. What a rip, man.
The Action Committee for Eldorado
(ACE) is a 501c3 non profit climber organization that is staffed by dedicated volunteers who are committed to conserving Eldorado Canyon State Park. The ACE Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, the American Mountain Guides Association, and the Colorado Mountain Club, as well as unaffiliated members drawn from the climbing community. ACE has raised over $200,000 for the Park, and has organized and promoted thousands of hours of volunteer time creating and maintaining trails, planting trees, and assisting the Park in numerous other ways.
Proceeds donated to ACE are used for the Eldorado Canyon Trails Project, fixed hardware, and supporting climbers in Eldorado Canyon.
To donate or learn more information about ACE please visit: aceeldo.org
, BCC (Boulder Climbing Community), and Eldorado State Park are working together to replace old fixed hardware in Eldorado Canyon. A 'like for like' hardware replacement policy already exists, so what we need now is a way to track progress and get some much needed work done.
ACE has established a working database of hardware which is in need of
replacement. That working list is available here. aceeldo.org/fhrc/like_for_l…
Everyone is invited to contribute to this list so we all can be made
aware of the fixed hardware progress and priorities. Just register on
the ACE website and contribute to the list. Its fast and easy.
As a reminder, a permit for 'like for like' replacement must be
secured from the Park Headquarters prior to completing any work.
ACE will gladly supply the drill, bits, prybars and any
necessary hardware to anyone wishing to do like-for-like replacements in ECSP. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org