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Elevation: 9,669 ft
GPS: 39.12042, -106.70159
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Shared By: Orphaned User on Dec 15, 2001
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Description Suggest change

Unless you're a movie star, ski bum, or coke addict, the best thing going in the Aspen area is definitely Independence Pass. Independence Pass is 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: may provide additional local info.

Getting There Suggest change

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.


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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.


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Title: The Pass: A Climber’s Guide to Independence Pass and Monitor Rock

Description: Modern, full-color guide to all the roped climbing, including Gold Butte, Monitor Rock, and the Twin Lakes crags. 330 pages, $39

Authors, etc.: Jason Brown and Mike Schneiter / Wolverine Publishing / 2023


OLD GUIDE: Independence Pass Rock Climbing II by Tom Perkins, 2006

Climbing Stores

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Ute Mountaineer
210 S. Galena St.
Aspen, CO

The Trailhead
707 Hwy 24 N
Buena Vista, CO

Bats - conservation

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See a bat on a route, give a shout. Climbers for Bat Conservation is working with climbers to understand bat ecology and why bats choose certain cracks and flakes. If you see bats, and want to tell them, here is their email ( and their website (

Climbers for Bat Conservation is a collaboration between climbers, bat biologists, and land managers to understand where bats roost and where large populations may reside. They are interested in finding bats because a new disease, called white-nose syndrome (, has killed millions of bats in North America. This collaboration has identified bat roosts throughout the U.S., and as far away as Norway and Bulgaria. CBC was developed by biologists who climb and they are advocates for climbing access and bat conservation. If you see bats while climbing, please let them know by emailing them at, or visiting their website to learn more (

Rob Schorr

Zoologist, Colorado Natural Heritage Program ( sites.warnercnr.colostate.e…)

Director, Climbers for Bat Conservation 

806 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Independence Pass Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at Independence Pass

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V3 6A
Boulder, Alpine
V4 6B
Sex Machine
V6 7A
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Zanzibar Dihedral
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Plaque Right
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Squid Kid
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Trad 2 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
I'll be Black
5.11- 6c 22 VIII- 22 E3 5c
Baba Fats
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Last Chance
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Sport 4 pitches
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Standing Eight Count
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
One Strike and You're Out
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Problem Child
5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c
Wild Thing
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Jaws Jaws Area > Jaws Boulder
V3 6A Boulder, Alpine
Sex Machine Wild Rock Area > James Brown Boulder
V4 6B Boulder
V6 7A Boulder
Zanzibar Dihedral Weller Slab
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Plaque Right Grotto Walls Area > Second Grotto Wall
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
Squid Kid Monitor Rock > 3. Trailhead Wall
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Cryogenics Grotto Walls Area > Lower Grotto Wall
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 2 pitches
I'll be Black Lincoln Creek > Sunset Cliff
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Baba Fats Ptarmigan Creek… > Greg's Cliff
5.11- 6c 22 VIII- 22 E3 5c Sport
Last Chance Monitor Rock > 5. Iron Side Wall
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
Transformation Monitor Rock > 6. Endless Wall
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Sport 4 pitches
Standing Eight Count Outrageous Over… > Olympic Wall
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a Sport
One Strike and You're Out Outrageous Over… > Olympic Wall
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Problem Child Wild Rock Area > Wild Rock
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Sport
Wild Thing Wild Rock Area > Wild Rock
5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c Sport
More Classic Climbs in Independence Pass »

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