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When climbers converge on upper Anthill in Eldorado Canyon...


Original Post
Rob White · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 20

Curious the take by the MP community on this. I went to Eldo today late morning with a friend who is coming back from an injury, and we were looking for moderate open routes on lower Redgarten with easy access. We both live in Boulder, and love Eldo, and have climbed there very regularly for many years. A party was on Touch N Go, and another was on the Original Anthill start, so we moved right at the base looking for other options. We then found someone on the first pitch of C'est Le Vie, then considered Whistlestop or Flakes, but decided we wanted to get higher up on a multi pitch climb, so decided on Pseudo Sidetracks. My friend had never been on the route, and I said it was an under appreciated mini-classic, especially for the rating.

So after two pitches up the route, to just past Sidetrack Junction, I decide to link to upper Anthill Direct. It's a great link up, with cool exposure, and my friend had never been up there. I left her belay on that semi-rotten rock up and left of the Junction, and climbed maybe 20 feet or so traversing up and left on the narrowing ramp to the airy step around onto the Anthill face. When I popped around the corner I saw one climber just above me by maybe 15 feet, following (on Anthill Direct), and another climber in a different party leading maybe 40ft below me, also presumably on Anthill. If you are unfamiliar with the location there is a runout 'ramp' with some questionable rock but easy climbing that angles up and left across the face. From rounding the corner it's maybe a 20 ft traverse up to where the Anthill route zigs back right following a thin crack with two (unneeded) pins, to the arete, then zigs back left to a belay (if desired) under the Anthill Direct variation finish. 

I scoot up the pitch, establish a belay in the normal spot below the roof, and bring up my partner. When she arrives she's visually a little shaken, and says in a hushed voice 'the guys below are really not happy and the belayer is irate.' I ask what happen and figure out they are annoyed we got in front of them. The leader then comes up soon after to our belay spot and, to his credit, calmly but with clearly an 'I'm right, you're wrong' demeanor says 'did your friend explain to you the problem? You stranded me on lead mid pitch.' 

There then is some back and forth, and I try to make the point that I also was mid pitch, on a variation of Pseudo Sidetracks linking to Anthill Direct, that he was at least 40 ft below me when I merged onto the route, and that I didn't even really know they were on the same route or going to the same place. Furthermore, if he was serious about being 'stranded' mid-pitch why didn't he just put in an anchor there, or continue to lead up the route paralleling my rope, etc. There were many points along the way with good stances and good gear for belays. Seemed like there were a lot of options for him. But he was insistent that I was being an ass, cut them off, stranded him mid pitch, and that his belayer wants to 'tear our heads off' about it. 

I'm trying not to get worked up and ask what alternative he was suggesting? That after I rounded the corner, and saw that there was someone leading 40 feet below me, that I should have realized I was wrongly cutting him off, that he can't put in an anchor at any point (and actually the spot where I joined the standard route is a traditional belay for the route; they were apparently linking pitches - which is not unusual, I think), that my rope was somehow in the way so he couldn't just lead through it? Was the alternative he expected that I instead reverse course mid-pitch, even though I'm way above him, and downclimb 30 or 40 ft back to my belayer and sit tight until they climbed through?

What made this situation so odd was that this seemed like a pretty experienced, pretty decent guy. When I asked if he climbed in Eldo much he dropped 'more than 400 days'; and yet we couldn't even come close to understanding each other. 

...any opinions on this? Was I in the wrong here? 

Pinklebear · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2006 · Points: 3,075

If he was only 40 feet below you, seems like you could have established verbal communication and tried to agree upon a mutually acceptable solution before proceeding—he might not have been aware of your situation since you came in from that ramp around the corner, and so just jumped to the conclusion that you were "cutting him off," which is a not unreasonable thing to think given the logistics of the situation.

Rob White · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 20

Good points Pinklebear. Though when I saw him I was on somewhat questionable runout terrain. By the time I got through it to a good stance, he was below a bulge and I didn't make visual contact again with him until he reached the belay after my partner was there; and with the stream and wind noise I couldn't hear anything. He did seem to think we intentionally scooped them to get in front, and my guess is from the time they first saw me to when my partner arrived they were just stewing in that thought. We didn't plan for it or intentionally try to get in front of them; I just found myself in front of him when I rounded the corner. Though even if we had done it intentionally, don't faster parties get in front of other parties all the time? On technical terrain, 40ft doesn't seem that close. The options for me were to down climb 30-40+ feet on easy-ish but largely unprotected terrain, to get back to my belay and wait for the other party to climb through, or to continue on to the belay. Heck, if he'd of just continued on and built a belay near mine, and if they were reasonably fast, we would have let them pass us from that point. Am hoping that this other party sees this post on MP and explains why they were so insistent I was wrong.

Eliot Augusto · · Boulder, CO · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 60

I'm of the opinion that if you're higher up on the route and you haven't been trying to pass them since you racked up, that you're not in the wrong. Sure things might have been communicated better, but the higher leader has the right of way. Also, I don't get the super phobia of having two ropes near each other. I try and keep things tidy, but two parties ropes can touch and everyone will be perfectly safe. But ultimately you're higher on the route, not going out of your way to snake their line, doesn't like like too dangerous of a spot(I haven't been on that area of the formation yet), and that there were alternatives for belay for the lower party if they didn't want to join you(which they did). Can't win 'em all.

michael s... · · Denver, CO · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 60

I feel if you are higher and the situation is potentially ambiguous you have the right of way. Otherwise you'd have to make decisions based on what someone might eventually do, which is hard to predict.

Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30
Rob White wrote:

Curious the take by the MP community on this. I went to Eldo today late morning with a friend who is coming back from an injury, and we were looking for moderate open routes on lower Redgarten with easy access. We both live in Boulder, and love Eldo, and have climbed there very regularly for many years. A party was on Touch N Go, and another was on the Original Anthill start, so we moved right at the base looking for other options. We then found someone on the first pitch of C'est Le Vie, then considered Whistlestop or Flakes, but decided we wanted to get higher up on a multi pitch climb, so decided on Pseudo Sidetracks. My friend had never been on the route, and I said it was an under appreciated mini-classic, especially for the rating.

So after two pitches up the route, to just past Sidetrack Junction, I decide to link to upper Anthill Direct. It's a great link up, with cool exposure, and my friend had never been up there. I left her belay on that semi-rotten rock up and left of the Junction, and climbed maybe 20 feet or so traversing up and left on the narrowing ramp to the airy step around onto the Anthill face. When I popped around the corner I saw one climber just above me by maybe 15 feet, following (on Anthill Direct), and another climber in a different party leading maybe 40ft below me, also presumably on Anthill. If you are unfamiliar with the location there is a runout 'ramp' with some questionable rock but easy climbing that angles up and left across the face. From rounding the corner it's maybe a 20 ft traverse up to where the Anthill route zigs back right following a thin crack with two (unneeded) pins, to the arete, then zigs back left to a belay (if desired) under the Anthill Direct variation finish. 

I scoot up the pitch, establish a belay in the normal spot below the roof, and bring up my partner. When she arrives she's visually a little shaken, and says in a hushed voice 'the guys below are really not happy and the belayer is irate.' I ask what happen and figure out they are annoyed we got in front of them. The leader then comes up soon after to our belay spot and, to his credit, calmly but with clearly an 'I'm right, you're wrong' demeanor says 'did your friend explain to you the problem? You stranded me on lead mid pitch.' 

There then is some back and forth, and I try to make the point that I also was mid pitch, on a variation of Pseudo Sidetracks linking to Anthill Direct, that he was at least 40 ft below me when I merged onto the route, and that I didn't even really know they were on the same route or going to the same place. Furthermore, if he was serious about being 'stranded' mid-pitch why didn't he just put in an anchor there, or continue to lead up the route paralleling my rope, etc. There were many points along the way with good stances and good gear for belays. Seemed like there were a lot of options for him. But he was insistent that I was being an ass, cut them off, stranded him mid pitch, and that his belayer wants to 'tear our heads off' about it. 

I'm trying not to get worked up and ask what alternative he was suggesting? That after I rounded the corner, and saw that there was someone leading 40 feet below me, that I should have realized I was wrongly cutting him off, that he can't put in an anchor at any point (and actually the spot where I joined the standard route is a traditional belay for the route; they were apparently linking pitches - which is not unusual, I think), that my rope was somehow in the way so he couldn't just lead through it? Was the alternative he expected that I instead reverse course mid-pitch, even though I'm way above him, and downclimb 30 or 40 ft back to my belayer and sit tight until they climbed through?

What made this situation so odd was that this seemed like a pretty experienced, pretty decent guy. When I asked if he climbed in Eldo much he dropped 'more than 400 days'; and yet we couldn't even come close to understanding each other. 

...any opinions on this? Was I in the wrong here? 

So you are 20ft up from your belay spot and MERGE in between two parties on Anthill Direct? I would DEFINITELY have backed down those 20 feet and continued up REGULAR Side Track and STAYED on the route you were on. If you really wanted something different, you could have communicated with the lower party and asked them if it was OK to CROSS their line and join Anthill itself (NOT Anthill Direct).

You also claim " ...and that I didn't even really know they were on the same route". I call this (possibly subconscious) BS as you claim you " ...have climbed there (Eldo) very regularly for many years". I think you know very well there is no other line anywhere near Anthill Direct in this neighborhood (except for maybe an obscure aid line and there's a 10bR that is never done). Besides, you could have asked, right? You knew the name of the route you intended to MERGE into. 

I guess what had happened earlier was that the second party on Anthill Direct had been forced to wait for the first party (possibly cutting in from Touch and Go), so the second party was already mildly pissed off. And now they have to wait for you as well coming in from another totally unrelated route. They had an absolutely miserable day and I fully understand their "attitude". If they read this post and understand how EASILY you could have backed down (it is a 4th class ramp down to your belay from where you merged) and CONTINUED the line you were on, I give them the full right to be even more pissed. 

Since you had only done 20ft of "your" pitch when popping around the corner, you had barely started. Most climbers take about 30-45min (or sometimes 1h) for leader and follower to complete one pitch. So you forced the party below you to hang out unmoving for at least 20min (my guess) because you wanted "...a great link up, with cool exposure, and my friend had never been up there". NOT COOL! And even remotely suggest the fustercluck of two leaders leading almost "side by side" on the same pitch is irresponsible. Especially on this particular pitch. It is not super well protected to start with, so after the first leader taking all the "good" gear spots, there's not much left over for the second leader to pick from. Secondly, they have no idea how strong of a leader you are, so they have to assume there is some chance you will fall. Guess what? There is a lot of rope stretch when a leader falls and on this particularly meandering pitch, I suspect you can easily fall 20ft even when having gear at your waist. So staying 50ft behind is probably a good idea. Big cudos to the second party NOT leading through causing unsafe practices.


Several people express their opinion that "the higher party has right of way". This is generally true, but NOT WHEN SOMEONE IS MERGING IN FROM A DIFFERENT ROUTE THAT HAS A SEPARATE CONTINUATION. At least in my mind. 

Your story is not finished though. There is one more pitch to go on Anthill Direct. The leader below you arrived at you belay spot and you "suddenly realized" (or maybe not?) you had significantly delayed them. Did you offer them to lead the last pitch before you jumped on it? Or did they have to sit and wait ONCE AGAIN?


Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

I can't really voice an opinion without hearing from the other party.  That said I think a lot of lessons could be learned from the way things are typically done in Europe.

Keatan · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 20
Patrik wrote:

So you are 20ft up from your belay spot and MERGE in between two parties on Anthill Direct? I would DEFINITELY have backed down those 20 feet and continued up REGULAR Side Track and STAYED on the route you were on. If you really wanted something different, you could have communicated with the lower party and asked them if it was OK to CROSS their line and join Anthill itself (NOT Anthill Direct).

You also claim " ...and that I didn't even really know they were on the same route". I call this (possibly subconscious) BS as you claim you " ...have climbed there (Eldo) very regularly for many years". I think you know very well there is no other line anywhere near Anthill Direct in this neighborhood (except for maybe an obscure aid line and there's a 10bR that is never done). Besides, you could have asked, right? You knew the name of the route you intended to MERGE into. 

I guess what had happened earlier was that the second party on Anthill Direct had been forced to wait for the first party (possibly cutting in from Touch and Go), so the second party was already mildly pissed off. And now they have to wait for you as well coming in from another totally unrelated route. They had an absolutely miserable day and I fully understand their "attitude". If they read this post and understand how EASILY you could have backed down (it is a 4th class ramp down to your belay from where you merged) and CONTINUED the line you were on, I give them the full right to be even more pissed. 

Since you had only done 20ft of "your" pitch when popping around the corner, you had barely started. Most climbers take about 30-45min (or sometimes 1h) for leader and follower to complete one pitch. So you forced the party below you to hang out unmoving for at least 20min (my guess) because you wanted "...a great link up, with cool exposure, and my friend had never been up there". NOT COOL! And even remotely suggest the fustercluck of two leaders leading almost "side by side" on the same pitch is irresponsible. Especially on this particular pitch. It is not super well protected to start with, so after the first leader taking all the "good" gear spots, there's not much left over for the second leader to pick from. Secondly, they have no idea how strong of a leader you are, so they have to assume there is some chance you will fall. Guess what? There is a lot of rope stretch when a leader falls and on this particularly meandering pitch, I suspect you can easily fall 20ft even when having gear at your waist. So staying 50ft behind is probably a good idea. Big cudos to the second party NOT leading through causing unsafe practices.


Several people express their opinion that "the higher party has right of way". This is generally true, but NOT WHEN SOMEONE IS MERGING IN FROM A DIFFERENT ROUTE THAT HAS A SEPARATE CONTINUATION. At least in my mind. 

Your story is not finished though. There is one more pitch to go on Anthill Direct. The leader below you arrived at you belay spot and you "suddenly realized" (or maybe not?) you had significantly delayed them. Did you offer them to lead the last pitch before you jumped on it? Or did they have to sit and wait ONCE AGAIN?


Looks like we found the belayer...

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569
Eric Engberg wrote:

I think a lot of lessons could be learned from the way things are typically done in Europe.

I'm curious what lessons you have in mind.

I still remember climbing the N ridge of the Piz Badille 20 plus years ago.

Parties were climbing over each other, clipping their rope to my gear, generally a free for all.

I was a Boston driver at the time, so took it in stride and joined right in, but it's hard for me to see Americans acting this way without getting aggressive.

Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30
Keatan wrote:

Looks like we found the belayer...

Nope, I was not anywhere near this place (wouldn't go up there with my half broken foot). 

Also, sorry for wrongly suggesting the Anthill route. It actually shares part of that pitch with Anthill Direct, so that would not have worked. 

Backing off would have worked though. 

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

Bottom line, if you climb in the Front Range on a weekend, especially anywhere near Boulder, you need to expect a total shit show. Under no circumstances on a weekend in Eldo should you expect happy people, open routes, or easy parking. 

I agree with Patrik's assessment. You essentially swerved in to their lane while climbing. They had a right to be pissed off. You do what you gotta do, but don't expect someone not to get annoyed when you jump in to the middle of their route. 

Eric, what is this Europe B.S. you are talking about?

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
grog m aka Greg McKee wrote:

Bottom line, if you climb in the Front Range on a weekend, especially anywhere near Boulder, you need to expect a total shit show. Under no circumstances on a weekend in Eldo should you expect happy people, open routes, or easy parking.

I felt the same way about Eldo over 30 years ago and, among other reasons, why I haven't climbed there since.


T G · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 1
Marc801 C wrote:

I felt the same way about Eldo over 30 years ago and, among other reasons, why I haven't climbed there since.


Leave it to the two guys who don't even live in Colorado anymore to badmouth Colorado over and over and over again in thread after thread. It's so tiring and boring...

Rob White · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 20

Some fair points Patrik and appreciate the feedback. Though you seem a little biased to me. Assume this was a friend who told you about it from their perspective. 

A few things to add. 

1. We DID offer the leader of the other party to bring his follower up and pass us for that final pitch. (Which frankly seemed generous at the time.) My partner was apologetic to him when she passed him, not understanding what was going on before she got up and talked to me (she was reacting to him; but she didn't after, and I never did, think we did anything wrong.) Once he reached the belay he declined to pass saying his partner might 'bite your head off.' I probably led the final pitch in 5 minutes and total time they we're delayed (once he reached the belay) was maybe 15 minutes. 

2. The pitch he was on, based on the guidebook, on the MP description, etc., ends where I joined the route. My instinct at the time was that he was leading 40 ft down and left, and his belayer was well below that, another 40 feet maybe? I did not know he was linking pitches and trying to get up to the next belay. I assumed he would either belay below at that spot, or climb in parallel to the next belay. He was linking pitches and I got in front of him and it pissed him off. Fine. But cool it with the Eldo road rage because you don't like a situation. The alternative was me down climbing and being delayed probably much longer as the leader was well below and his follower was well below him. You say you would DEFINITELY have down climbed back and done a different finish. I'm not so sure. Hard to know not being in the situation, but we were significantly in front of them and at the time it just would have seemed weird to see a party well below you, then backtrack so that the leader and follower can pass you. If I'd of known they were wiggy over previous delays, though, I probably would have backtracked just to have avoided the confrontation. We were just trying to have a fun day in Eldo.

The overlap of the pitch was maybe 50 feet with moderately easy climbing and lots of gear placements. Once you get through that first 15 or so feet with the pins it's quite easy. You might be thinking of a different pitch. We might all have a different opinion but I don't think it would have been risky following a reasonable distance behind. To me that would have been the obvious path. Especially for someone with '400 day in Eldo', I don't see that as irresponsible or particularly dangerous. When the leader didn't come up I assume he put in a belay below. To just hang out, AND NOT PUT IN A BELAY AT AN ESTABLISHED BELAY SPOT so you can link pitches, and wait for my follower and then say I 'stranded him mid pitch' seems like contrived outrage. Your extra information confirms my suspicion that there was a lot more than our climbing that caused their reaction.

4. You could be right, though, about subconsciously not realizing they were on the same route. I honestly wasn't sure, at the time, they were doing that route or where exactly the pitches ended. Anthill, and that face, is confusing with challenging route-finding and it's hard to know exactly where you are. He seemed far left of me (wasn't thinking how Anthill roams around there), and I knew Reguard was somewhere around there, and wasn't sure if the regular Anthill route veered off by that point. Looking at the guidebook, I realize neither of those were likely but I didn't realize it at the time.  

3. RE: crossing lines. I guess. Though that ramp from Sidetracks to Anthill is an established route. The line is in Levin's guide, I think it was in Rossiter's, and it's done regularly. It's not as if I was doing some unusual line. You/they say I scalped their line. I think we merged and I was above them by a good margin.


ClimbandMine · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2001 · Points: 910
Eric Engberg wrote:

I can't really voice an opinion without hearing from the other party.  That said I think a lot of lessons could be learned from the way things are typically done in Europe.

My thoughts exactly...  The lower party would lose their minds in France.  LOL.

Sam Sala · · Denver · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40
Rob White wrote:

1. My partner was apologetic to him when she passed him...

2. My instinct at the time was...I did not know he was linking pitches... I assumed he would...When the leader didn't come up I assume... 


1. You say when you merged, he was 40' below you...how far below your second was he when she passed? Did he stop where he was when you came on, or continue up while you were climbing? That would have put him much closer to your second and could have left him "stranded" if he felt like he didn't have a good option once she was on his line also.

2. Insert old adage about assuming *HERE*...Seems like you could have avoided MOST of this, if not all, by not making so many assumptions, and by asking a couple simple questions...he was only 40' below you...yes, there is stream noise...yes, there is wind noise...but I doubt you had 'zero' way to communicate with him at that range, whether verbal or visual gestures. The assumptions go for both parties. He also assumed you were scooping him and (based on a previous delay from what I'm understanding?) probably got more pissed than he should have been, in Eldo...on a beautiful weekend day.

2a. You place the error on him for not stopping and belaying at the established spot where you joined the route (rather than linking pitches - which is VERY common throughout the park)...if you truly had no communication with him, why couldn't you have stopped there and waited for him to come up? True, it causes your party a slight delay, and could cause a more significant delay if his party elects to climb through, but again, it would have done wonders for the situation. You say you just wanted a fun day out in Eldo...so did they...but everyone made assumptions about what the other party was doing and unfortunately, you climbed through and didn't give them the opportunity to voice their opinion until after the damage was done and 'heads would be torn off'.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
T G wrote:

Leave it to the two guys who don't even live in Colorado anymore to badmouth Colorado over and over and over again in thread after thread. It's so tiring and boring...

Huh? Are you thinking of someone else?

I've never lived in CO (unless you count that month in the RMNP Aspenglen CG in 1980), but have visited - a lot.

I've climbed in many areas in CO - liked them all except for Eldo.

At one time we considered a move to CO. With the amount of development and population increase in the front range since our first visit to Boulder, we opted against it when the time came to move west. 

You'll have to show me how I "badmouth CO over and over", 'cause I couldn't find those posts.

Jorge Pantalones · · Colorado · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 85

OMG, This EXACT same thing happened to me at the gym just the other day.

Joseph Crotty · · Broomfield, CO · Joined Nov 2002 · Points: 1,176
Rob White wrote:

Curious the take by the MP community on this. I went to Eldo today late morning with a friend who is coming back from an injury, and we were looking for moderate open routes on lower Redgarten with easy access. We both live in Boulder, and love Eldo, and have climbed there very regularly for many years. A party was on Touch N Go, and another was on the Original Anthill start, ...

In these type of situations with crowding I always assume the parties currently on route will top out on the most obvious line. In this case both parties would by rule of thumb top out Anthill. Sure, the party on Touch N Go might bail after doing the first pitch and the party on Original might bail too, but if you think worst case it's most probable both top Anthill. I don't think you played your cards wisely given what was already on the table.

Mike Slavens · · Houston, TX · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 35

+1 that it sounds like you climbed through and that the other party being pissed was understandable.  Cooler heads could have prevailed but that's usually the case.  We'll never know the full details and we have to read into a lot of things but I get the impression you wanted them to accommodate you (by waiting at the belay or climbing parallel) but you weren't willing to accommodate them by waiting till he got higher and had a chat about his plans and making sure it was kosher to hop in.  Whether or not its common, you were on a different route, they were already on the route, and in close enough proximity that you would be overlapped so yeah not cool.

jleining · · CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 26

@ Rob White

Don't worry about the other parties entitled attitude, you did nothing wrong. Passing parties happens all the time. generally a party of two, your party in the situation, is faster than a party of three, his party. IMHO the faster party has the right of way on routes that require yielding. Most routes don't require this as you can build an anchor wherever and stay out of each others way. The leader of the below party should either have built an anchor below you(preferred option) or leaped frog and built an anchor above. no big deal

It's not uncommon for a leader to leap frog the belayer of an above party and build an anchor a little higher. When this happens I offer the leader to clip in to my leaders placed gear if they want. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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