Mountain Project Logo

Areas in Independence Pass

Classy Cliff Area 7 / 13 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 19
Diehard Cliff 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1
Difficult Campground 5 / 3 / 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 11
Eyebrow 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Grotto Walls Area 20 / 30 / 1 / 17 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 62
Grottos Day Use Area 7 / 14 / 0 / 25 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 44
Hernando's Hideaway 0 / 0 / 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
ICBJ Boulder 0 / 0 / 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Ivory Field 0 / 0 / 0 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5
Jaws Boulder 0 / 0 / 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Lincoln Creek 44 / 31 / 4 / 43 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 108
Lost Man Loop Boulders 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0
Mollie's Buttress 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2
Monitor Rock 26 / 67 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5 / 75
North Boulders 0 / 0 / 0 / 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 6
Outrageous Overhangs Area 4 / 41 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 44
Overlook, The 2 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 7
Pass Walls 9 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 13
Piranha Boulder 0 / 0 / 0 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5
Pooh Corner Area 3 / 9 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 12
Powerline 0 / 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 6
Ptarmigan Creek Area 1 / 37 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 39
Putterman's Dome (submitted as Treeline Dome) 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2 / 2
South Boulders 0 / 0 / 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Twin Lakes Area 0 / 16 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 16
Upper Boulderfield Area 9 / 45 / 6 / 41 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 95
Watchtower Crag 0 / 0 / 2 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Weller Slab 7 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 8
Whirlpool Rock 4 / 1 / 1 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 8
Wild Ridge 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1
Wild Rock Area 1 / 10 / 4 / 15 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 27

Description

Unless you're a movie star, ski bum, or coke addict, the best thing going in the Aspen area is definitely Independence Pass. An often overlooked but ultra-worthy, granite area, East of town off the super-steep CO Highway 82. The area includes crags between Aspen & Twin Lakes.

The Pass is also historic, offering some of Colorado's earlier forays onto steep (5.7) rock, a handful of Henry Barber and Lynn Hill testpieces, from the Golden Era of free climbing, and some of Colorado's first rappel-bolted sport routes.

While route activity has dwindled as of late, the Pass continues to thrive as an adventure bouldering area, with plenty of potential for those willing to do a bit of exploring. The highway conveniently bisects most of the granite in the canyon, so most crags are never more than 1-20 minutes from the road.

The Grotto Wall with its landmark route Cryogenics Corner is a great place to get acquainted with Pass rock, a sometimes confounding mixture of compact granite and metamorphized gneiss. Because it's so featured, rock at the Pass lends itself to some very overhanging climbing not typically associated with granite, especially on the left side of the Grotto Wall and at Wild Rock.

Though the Pass is considered a summer area because of its elevation (9,000-11,000 feet), the walls mostly face south and can become blisteringly hot under the high-altitude sun. With some planning, you can stay in the shade all day; or if you're lucky, some clouds will roll in and cool things off.

The road is generally closed a few miles above Aspen from late October through mid-May due to heavy snows. If you think the rock might be dry, you can park down low at the gate and bike up the road, making for a true multi-sport experience.

The beauty of the Pass lies in its variety. I would say there is a nearly perfect 50/50 split between trad and sport climbing, and many of the "sport" climbs require that you place gear anyway. To boot, there is some great bouldering up here. John Sherman's "The Ineditable" being perhaps the most famous (and best) problem on the Pass.

While the Grotto Wall offers the highest concentration of routes, most of the crags are more modest in size, typically offering between 5-10 routes each. Thus, you can visit two or three crags in one day and get tons of climbing in.

Addendum: Aspenclimbingguides.com may provide additional local info.

Getting There

To access Independence Pass from the Aspen side: From I-70 take exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) onto Highway 82. Follow CO-82 for 42 miles into the town of Aspen. Stay on CO-82 through Aspen towards Independence Pass. The crags at Independence Pass are arrayed along CO-82 west of Aspen en route to the Pass itself at 12,000 feet. The lowest area is the Difficult Cliff while the highest area is Instant Karma Cliff, located near the summit of the divide.

To access Independence Pass from the Twin Lakes side: From I-70 take exit 195 (Copper Mountain/Leadville) onto CO-91 South. CO-91 becomes US-24 as you go through the town of Leadville. Follow US-24E out of Leadville for about 15 miles and turn right onto CO-82 towards Twin Lakes. Once you pass through Twin Lakes the first major crag you will arrive at is Monitor Rock; about 5 miles from Twin Lakes.

Most of the climbing on Independence Pass is found on the Aspen side. The vast majority of these crags are on the left (South) side of the road as you drive up the pass from Aspen, while Lincoln Creek, a valley branching off to the Southeast from the main highway, offers good climbing as well.

Camping

There are a multitude of camping areas throughout the length of Independence Pass. Most of these are pay camping but there are a few free options as well. Visit the Forest Service webpage for more camping information.

Guidebook

Independence Pass Rock Climbing II by Tom Perkins, 2006 provides good descriptions. $32.99.

Climbing Stores

Ute Mountaineer
210 S. Galena St.
Aspen, CO
970.925.2849
www.utemountaineer.com

The Trailhead
707 Hwy 24 N
Buena Vista, CO
719.395.8001
www.thetrailheadco.com

638 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Independence Pass Change
Type:  to 
Quality:
Pitches:
Sort by:   then:
 

Classic Climbing Routes at Independence Pass

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 81
The Nose
Trad 5 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 53
Two Ears
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
 64
Trooper Traverse
Trad 4 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 113
Twin Cracks
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 82
Zanzibar Dihedral
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 55
Fox Trot
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 123
Squid Kid
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 65
Prospector
Sport
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 110
Cryogenics
Trad 2 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 43
Master Blaster
Sport
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 44
I'll be Black
Sport
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 61
One for the Road
Sport
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 33
Storm Jumper
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 51
Baba Fats
Sport
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 25
Problem Child
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Nose Monitor Rock > 1. Butt Wall
 81
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad 5 pitches
Two Ears Weller Slab
 53
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad
Trooper Traverse Monitor Rock > 3. Trailhead Wall
 64
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad 4 pitches
Twin Cracks Grotto Walls Area > Lower Grotto Wall
 113
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Zanzibar Dihedral Weller Slab
 82
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Fox Trot Outrageous Over… > Olympic Wall
 55
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Squid Kid Monitor Rock > 3. Trailhead Wall
 123
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Prospector Monitor Rock > 5. Iron Side Wall
 65
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Cryogenics Grotto Walls Area > Lower Grotto Wall
 110
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 2 pitches
Master Blaster Monitor Rock > E Face aka Clairabell…
 43
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
I'll be Black Lincoln Creek > Sunset Cliff
 44
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
One for the Road Grotto Walls Area > Lower Grotto Wall
 61
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Storm Jumper Ptarmigan Creek… > Storm Jumper Wall
 33
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Baba Fats Ptarmigan Creek… > Greg's Cliff
 51
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Problem Child Wild Rock Area > Wild Rock
 25
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Sport
More Classic Climbs in Independence Pass »

Weather Averages

High
 
Low
 
Precip
 
Days w Precip
 
Prime Climbing Season
J F M A M J J A S O N D
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Monitor Rock is well worth a visit. The south side has Flatiron-esque trad routes (5.easy, 500') that are ideal for moonlight ascents and the West face has a slew of single pitch sport on great rock--very similar to Boulder Canyon routes. Fantastic scenery and proximal hot springs make for a killer weekend. Mar 19, 2002
I just climbed here for the first time yesterday. What a beautiful place. Great rock, short approaches, and a great variety of climbing. The high alpine feel of the area rivals Lumpy Ridge. This is a great destination to beat the heat and crowds of the Front Range. There is also a lot of new route potential for anyone who will take the time and effort to clean and bolt new lines.

The new guide by Tom Perkins, Independence Pass Rock Climbing is a great resource. The book is laid out well, and it has nice photos and topos. There is also a great websiteaspenclimbingguides.com to supplement the book. Jul 18, 2003
Anyone have a good idea when the road for Independence Pass will open this year? I was planning on hooking up with some friends there in early May. Apr 21, 2004
DavidHH
Parker, Colorado
DavidHH   Parker, Colorado
IP pass is open for the season. I love this area, hardly ever crowded and has great sport climbing in the moderate range. Jun 2, 2006
C Miller   CA  
A great website related to Independence Pass can be found at aspenclimbingguides.com/. Jun 2, 2006
Check out Independence Bouldering for the best guide to bouldering on the Pass independencebouldering.com/… Jun 11, 2010
Scotty Nelson
Boulder
Scotty Nelson   Boulder
Can anyone offer any suggestions on where to camp, for a weekend climbing trip to IP? I'm worried with the proximity to Aspen there aren't many good options. Jun 20, 2011
oaklo  
The movie star & coke addict line should probably be removed.... Jul 31, 2013
Alvaro Arnal
Aspen, CO
Alvaro Arnal   Aspen, CO  
Why? It's not entirely inaccurate! Aug 1, 2013
oaklo  
Yes, possibly too accurate. Maybe the line should stay then :) Jun 19, 2014
Such nonsense, what about the food, and high quality music? Whoever wrote the intro should be ashamed. Movie stars are long gone. Jul 23, 2016

More About Independence Pass

Printer-Friendly
What's New
Guidebooks (13)
Fixed Hardware Report (10)

All Photos Within Independence Pass (660)

Most Popular · Newest · Random