> Alpine Rock
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) needs little introduction as one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Consequentially it has some of the most beautiful climbing in the U.S. The routes here are long, (grade III to V), committing, usually have some sections of loose rock, require a lengthy hike in, require some knowledge of snow travel, and are absolutely spectacular. In short, you need to be a competent climber to safely enjoy this area.
Climbing in the park is a complex endeavor that requires being able to analyze many different objective hazards, all while sucking air at 12-14000 feet. These hazards include loose rock, bad weather, bad pro, etc. all of which are magnified in this alpine setting. A first-time climber in the park should feel competent at leading trad at the very least a grade harder; probably two or three than the climb they wish to tackle. One should have a good deal experience on multi-pitch climbs, and one should feel in shape enough to hike five miles uphill in the dark and then climb a thousand-foot face.
All this said, the climbs are magnificent and unforgettable. Some good introductory routes would include the North Ridge
of Spearhead (5.6), the Northeast Ridge
on Sharkstooth (5.6), or even the East Gully
on Sharkstooth (5.4 and NOT a chosspile, a really good climb). A step up from these routes would include the South Face
of the Petit Grepon (5.8, with a time-consuming descent), the magnificent Culp-Bossier
on Hallett (5.8+, runout 5.7). Climbing in the park really starts to open up in the 5.9 and 5.10 range. In the 5.9 range, Syke's Sickle
(9+++, (7s)), the steep Hesse-Ferguson
on Hallett (5.9 with low dihedral variation is in my opinion the best route on Hallett), and the Direct South Ridge
of Notchtop (9) all offer spectacular and incomparable climbing.
In the 5.10 range you can't beat the Casual Route
on Long's (10a), but there are other stellar 10s in the park. Chasm View Wall offers some spicy routes, and Spearhead has a couple classic 10s (The Barb
and Age Axe
?) with The Barb
having a reputation as an "easy" 10. The Yellow Wall
on the Diamond is 10c if done with the Forrest Finish
variation, and is possibly the most spectacular route I have ever done. Pervertical Sanctuary
(10+) is also apparently totally classic.
I have yet to venture into 5.11 and 5.12 range in the park, but two routes come to mind as totally classic, these are D7
on the Diamond (11c) and Birds of Fire
on Chiefshead (11a). There are tons of other routes in the park, some suck, others are hidden gems. Exploring the more obscure routes is part of the fun of park climbing.
Take US 36 north to Lyons. From Lyons, follow US Highway 36 to Estes Park. From Estes Park, take CO Highway 7 south to get to the Long's Peak trailhead or Wild Basin, or head directly into the park [US 36 and then left on the Bear Lake Rd.] to get to the Glacier Gorge area and the Bear Lake area.
FWIW, if you are trying to enter during entrance fee collecting times, you can use the right lane at the Beaver Meadows entrance with the card activated gate bypassing the lines with a Rocky Mountain National Park annual pass OR a National Parks annual pass purchase at RMNP!