Summertime Sport Spots

Original Post
MattH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 325

Hey MP,

I've elected to take the summer off between work and starting grad school, and I figure I should take the time to do some climbing somewhere.
Thanks to some injuries, I can't boulder (ankle) or climb on jams/slopers (wrist), and I don't expect to be recovered enough to do either on a regular basis by the summer, so my original plans are kind of shot.

Therefore, I ask you: if you were to sport climb exclusively on crimps and pockets in the summer, where would you go? I'm hoping to find a spot that will have other climbers on the average weekday, or a good community nearby with lots of locals if the crags are more dispersed - basically, I'd like to find somewhere with good summer climbing and a reasonable shot at finding a weekday partner.

My two current thoughts are Lander and Estes Park. Is Clear Creek Canyon in season? Would Cheakamus up in Squamish fit the bill? I know it's the go-to summer sport crag in CO but I have zero interest in Rifle.


JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Short answer: go to Tensleep.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Longer answer:

The "big 3" of summer destination sport crags in the US are Maple, Rifle, and Tensleep. All three offer great climbing, decent summer conditions, lots of shade, and ample climbing partners. All offer different experiences, and IMO the best way to spend an all-summer sport climbing trip is the do a circuit, with 2-4 weeks spent at each.

Might I ask why you have no interest in Rifle? It is a great summer crag with a really good community, and does not deserve some aspects of its reputation.

Another note is that both Maple and Rifle tend to have big, open-handed holds; and Rifle in particular has slopers. This may be an issue for your wrist. Tensleep would be best if you want to climb on small crimps and pockets.

Other places:

Lander is great, but most of the climbing faces south. This makes mid-summer pretty hot. Consider going there in early summer, and then proceed to Tensleep (more shade) once it gets hot.

Canmore has great sport climbing and cool summer conditions. This would be another excellent choice.

Clear Creek is a great local crag for the front range, but the quality isn't even in the same universe as a destination like Tensleep. Also, summer there is pretty warm, and there is basically no camping. Skip it.

There is not much sport climbing in Estes Park. Lots of trad and bouldering, but for sport you could visit for a few days, then go elsewhere.

Chek/Squamish sport climbing is good. You could easily spend a summer there, but I would say that it isn't up to the caliber of a sport destination like Tensleep, Rifle, etc. The trad and bouldering are the main draw around there. Also, it might be tricky to find focused, sport-only partners. Most people are there for the trad or the bouldering, or a mixed trip.

Someone on this thread will suggest spending a summer at the Red, Owens, etc. Ignore them, unless you are part lizard.

MattH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 325
JCM wrote:Short answer: go to Tensleep.
I was worried about that suggestion - what if I'm adamantly opposed to monos and want to climb hard? (2 finger pockets are fine)
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

How hard? Some of the hard routes at TS have monos, but crimping seems to be more prevalent. You can avoid routes with hard monoing pretty easily.

Hard stuff in Canmore (at Acephale, etc) is also crimping-dominated and not very pockety.

If you want to climb hard and hate monos, avoid Lander.

If you want to climb hard and avoid tweaky holds in general, Maple and Rifle are your spots.

MattH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 325
JCM wrote:Longer answer:...
Thanks! I'm opposed to rifle because of the wrist issues, the general climbing style, and the polished routes. I'd been interested in Estes primarily because of the Monastery - I've wanted to climb there for years. Third Millennium is basically my dream route and is finally the right grade for a summer project (the cusp of 13/14). The variety of rest day activities is another big plus, as is the bouldering (in case my achilles heals up). It seemed like there would be enough to tide me over for the summer but perhaps I'm biased by my weekend-climber perspective.

Squamish has a similar appeal in terms of off-day variety and other climbing styles.
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Sounds like you need to take a trip to Estes/Monestary then. Go early in the summer for the best conditions; it will get warm and thunderstormy as the summer progresses.

It will be easy to stay motivated and have a lot to do for the entire summer in Estes... if you can boulder and/or trad climb. If you are limited to just the sport climbing, you might get burned out on climbing at that same wall all the time. That stuff at the Monestary is certainly worthy, but there just isn't the quantity or variety to provide an entire season of motivation (for sport climbing; the bouldering is a different story). I'd say go to the Monestary at the beginning of the summer and stay until you send your route or get burned out, then head north to cooler temps and different climbing in Wyoming or Canada. June in Estes and July/August is Tensleep, Canmore, or Squamish would be a good plan.

Somewhat similar situation in Squamish- you would want to be able to boulder and/or trad climb in order to get full value out of the area. That said, the quantity and variety of sport climbing available in Squamish is much higher than what is available in Estes. Unlike Estes, I think that you could easily stay motivated for an enitre summer on the sport climbing alone. There is also really nice camping, a lively social scene, and a steady supply of partners (though you will have to sort through the many boulderers and trad climbers to find motivated sport partners). Rest day activities are great too. It is a fun place to spend a summer for pretty much anyone. Be warned that several of the best/classic sport climbs in the 13+/14- range in Chek (on the Big Show) involve jams and/or slopers. Actually, jams (on the trad routes) and slopers (on the boulders) define a lot of the Squamish experience. Of course there's other stuff to be found, though you might have a better trip somewhere where you can get on all the climbing and don't have to pick and choose so much.

If Third Millenium is in your ability range and preferred style, then you will absolutely rampage in Tensleep. You will have more projects to choose from than you will know what to do with. Go there. Really. Also definitely consider Canmore. The setting is beautiful, the temps are cool, and the sport climbing is really good.

Side note: the Monestary, and pretty much everything in Estes, involves a lot of hiking (problem for ankle?). Same is true to an even greater degree in Canmore. Tensleep and Maple both require a decent bit of hiking, but not nearly as much as Canmore/Estes. Lander approaches range from short (Sinks) to massive (Wolf Point). Rifle and Squamish allow for 2-minute sandal approaches.

Hope that this info is helpful and you figure out a good plan for your trip.

MrZ · · Colorado · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 270

TS is extremely tweaky regardless of 1-2 fingers in the pockets. Maple is a good destination, as well as the whole PNW

MattH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 325
MrZ wrote:TS is extremely tweaky regardless of 1-2 fingers in the pockets. Maple is a good destination, as well as the whole PNW
What other areas in the PNW are worthy destination spots? Little Si looks cool but I don't know if I'd drive across the country to climb there.
Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 378

Maple has a gigantic heap of routes in your project range that can be climbed throughout the summer. It also has a steady stream of weekday climbers focused into a small area.
The routes aren't inspiring visually, but are incredible fitness challenges with few tweaky holds.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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