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The Bulge

5.7 R, Trad, 4 pitches,  Avg: 3 from 211 votes
FA: Layton Kor, Ben Chidlaw, 1957.
Colorado > Boulder > Eldorado Canyon SP > Redgarden Wall > Redgarden - S Buttress
Access Issue: Subject to Seasonal Raptor Closures Details
Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


This route is a classic face climb on the difficult to protect Bulge Buttress. The line is not obvious from the ground, but it is not too difficult to discern once high on the cliff. The entire climb is easy, but entails many very runout traverses where serious falls could take place. The leader should be confident at the grade and so should the follower, as it is just as dangerous to follow this route as to lead it. Have fun, this route is very unique and I found the most enjoyable part to be finding tons of edges and huecos covering the entire route.

Pitch 1 goes straight up from the bottom of the buttress starting right behind the Whale's Tail. It is runout 5.5 with one fixed pin to a bolted belay.

Pitch 2 traverses right on a horizontal crack under a bulge to the lip. Place your last piece here and run it out all the way back the way you came on a 5.4 ramp. This pitch is about 90 feet but only about 35 feet of elevation are gained.

Pitch 3 traverses right past a bolt and over a bulge before following another easy ramp way back to the left.

Pitch 4 traverses right for about 30 feet until the angle eases off enough to walk off the East Slabs.

Eds. There is a straight up crack-like finish that goes at 5.9.


All belays are hanging w/ double bolts. The route is extremely run out and most of the protection is fixed pins. Bring 6 quickdraws and cams up to a #1 Camalot.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

At the crux (THE Bulge) on pitch 3.
[Hide Photo] At the crux (THE Bulge) on pitch 3.
Unknown climbers on the 2nd pitch.
[Hide Photo] Unknown climbers on the 2nd pitch.
Bulge P1 variations: Green, Shades of Grey (5.9 R), Red: Bulge Var2 (5.7 R), Blue: Bulge Var1 (5.6 PG), Purple: Bulge V3 (5.7 R) [Photo by G. Bell, Lines by L. Paik]
[Hide Photo] Bulge P1 variations: Green, Shades of Grey (5.9 R), Red: Bulge Var2 (5.7 R), Blue: Bulge Var1 (5.6 PG), Purple: Bulge V3 (5.7 R) [Photo by G. Bell, Lines by L. Paik]
The Bulge, showing belays "xx", bolts "x", and pitons "p".
[Hide Photo] The Bulge, showing belays "xx", bolts "x", and pitons "p".
Dan Howell on the 2nd pitch traverse.
[Hide Photo] Dan Howell on the 2nd pitch traverse.
Darin Lang surveys the first pitch of The Bulge.
[Hide Photo] Darin Lang surveys the first pitch of The Bulge.
Peter Dillon at the end of the traverse to the right on pitch 2.  From here, Peter will climb up and angle back left onto a ramp.
[Hide Photo] Peter Dillon at the end of the traverse to the right on pitch 2. From here, Peter will climb up and angle back left onto a ramp.
Peter Dillon getting onto the left-angling ramp on pitch 2.  There's a 5.4 step-up move here, then an easy runout to the anchor.<br>
This move is more dangerous for the follower, since they would take a big swing if they fell off.
[Hide Photo] Peter Dillon getting onto the left-angling ramp on pitch 2. There's a 5.4 step-up move here, then an easy runout to the anchor. This move is more dangerous for the follower, since they would ta…
The fourth and final pitch (done the original way).
[Hide Photo] The fourth and final pitch (done the original way).
Unknown climbers on P2 belay of the Bulge, 8/27/06.
[Hide Photo] Unknown climbers on P2 belay of the Bulge, 8/27/06.
Bruce Theriault coming to the "exiting" mantle on the 1st pitch. Photo by Kevin Currigan on March 31, 2002.
[Hide Photo] Bruce Theriault coming to the "exiting" mantle on the 1st pitch. Photo by Kevin Currigan on March 31, 2002.
Bruce Theriault beginning the second pitch.  Photo by Kevin Currigan on March 31, 2002.
[Hide Photo] Bruce Theriault beginning the second pitch. Photo by Kevin Currigan on March 31, 2002.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
[Hide Comment] It seemed to me that for pitch 3, you go right, then back left past a bolt, THEN up and left to the belay. Lots of traversing around up there. A great variation to the last pitch is to climb straight up above the belay over a 5.9 bulge with an incipient crack (small stoppers or tcus needed). Jan 1, 2001
[Hide Comment] On the second pitch it is possible to place a #4 camalot in a big hole on the face, above the end of the crack, prior to traversing left to the next belay. This provides somewhat better protection than relying on the crack below for your last piece. Jan 1, 2001
[Hide Comment] Three comments:

Fun route

A fall on pitch 3 would really suck for the second - this is not a date climb.

Do the 5.9 finish. It's the easiest 5.9 in Eldo (possibly could be the easiest 5.8 in Eldo also) but quite worthwhile. Nov 7, 2001
[Hide Comment] A few comments of my own:

Combining P1 and P2 was pretty reasonable. Although we had double ropes, I don't think the rope drag would be bad even with a single if you either put a very long sling on the P1 anchor or skip it entirely and clip the decent fixed pin just up and right on the traverse.

There is a good eye-level #3 Camalot placement in a hole on P3, about 7-10 feet left of the bolt, which will add to your second's comfort level.

I agree with Frank's comments above about the "5.9" finish. Fun moves, and sewn up in comparison with the rest of the route. Nov 19, 2001
[Hide Comment] It's interesting to me that this only got two stars. For Eldo, and the routes I've done, I'd give it three stars. Rossiter calls it 'Top Ten' and it is in my top ten, certainly when pitted against other routes at the grade. The climbing is spicy, sustained for the grade (5.6-5.7), and there is virtually no loose rock.

One comment about the #3 Camalot placement - it is on the leader's right while traversing left, so it would be very easy to miss. Missing this piece not only means your second is unprotected, it also means you likely won't get another good piece for at least 50'. Nov 19, 2001
[Hide Comment] I would concur with the three-star assessment as well, particularly in comparison to other Eldo climbs 5.7 and below. If you take the direct P4 exit (which IMO is no more difficult climbing-wise than P1 of the Bastille Crack), every pitch on this route is solid, fun, and fairly exposed. The same cannot be said for other climbs of the grade in Eldo. Of course, I agree with Frank's assessment that it is "not a date climb", so the comparisons may not be apples-to-apples. Nov 19, 2001
[Hide Comment] Ben, I've been waiting for someone to comment...You know, I was climbing with Lang, what can I say. Someone had to carry it... Sadly, I only placed 3 pieces on the pitch. We did this again on 11/24, so I think I could adequately pare down the rack now.

Oh, the real answer? I'm a weiner! Nov 26, 2001
[Hide Comment] It's hard to argue with Kreighton's "climbing with Lang" logic. The truth is, we were in training for our upcoming attempt to free a Baffin Island wall in winter. Not shown in the picture are our two haulbags, extra rack, and Kreighton's dogs.

I note that we cut the rack in half on 11/24, and still had about 99% too much gear. You could probably get by on a few trick draws, an extra sling or two, a full set of RPs and stoppers, and #0.5 and #4 Friends. Nov 26, 2001
[Hide Comment] The oversized rack in the photos below appears to be the source of some confusion, notwithstanding the explanations above. Rather than repeat those explanations, I'll pose this question to the group: Assume you're heading up to onsight an Eldo route. You know that the route is "S", but details about the actual line of the route, the belays, and the mid-pitch gear that *is* available is sketchy at best. Assume further that you have not pumped anyone for detailed beta, since part of the fun is figuring things out as you go. Although solid at the grade, you would prefer not to unnecessarily run it out, and would also prefer to back up the fixed pins and belays if possible. What do you leave behind in the car/pack? Dec 5, 2001
[Hide Comment] ...I usually take a full set of RP's and stoppers, cams from 00 TCU to #4 Friend, #6-#8 BD Hexes, 10 or so trick draws, a webolette, and the standard accoutrements (nut tool, an extra locker or two, 3 or 4 extra biners). I usually will leave everthing else behind, although occasionally I will take doubles in blue and green alien. Too much? Too little? I really am interested in more experienced thoughts concerning a "standard Eldo onsight rack" if there is such a thing. [Also, a pink tricam] Dec 5, 2001
[Hide Comment] I would say anything larger than a #2 Camalot is unnecessary on a "standard" Wldo rack, notwithstanding an obvious wide crack. The best thing to do, however, is bring what you feel comfortable with, and if you look up at a pitch and find you don't need some crap just unload it on the second. They love that! Dec 7, 2001
[Hide Comment] ....As for The Bulge (guess I'd better say something vaguely relevent) you can help protect your second on pitch three. There is a nice placement for a large cam; #3 or #4 Friend (and maybe an RP), up above the crux on the third pitch. This is almost level with the bolt belay, but off a ways to the right (almost directly above the pitch three crux) and maybe down a bit. Watch out for the pitch 3 protection bolt, the nut works loose sometimes. The direct finish; let's settle for 5.8. It is about comparable with the righthand finish to Bastille Crack and definitely harder than anything else on The Bulge.... Jan 3, 2002
[Hide Comment] Just wanted to add that it is possible to lead the first three pitches in one 200' pitch. This is obviously easier with double ropes and long runners and not placing much pro and knowing where the route goes, but it works quite well. The "5.9" direct finish is about 5.7/8 with great pro. Jul 12, 2002
Ernie Port
Boulder, Colorado
[Hide Comment] On P3 after clipping the bolt that protects the crux (and the entire 40-50' pitch), step way left to a ledge while clutching a bomber undercling, then commit up and shift weight left moving right hand to a protruding stone, while reaching way high for a bomber heuco with the left hand. Balancey move. Move up 15' or so unprotected and work right to a ramp and another 20' of exposed runnout to the chains. Have fun and be careful on this one... Oct 20, 2002
Tonya Clement
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] There is little I can add to all of the previous comments...yet I will say this climb is FABULOUS! It seems there are multiple lines on P1. I personally step off the ground by the tiny bush and then find myself working my way left, for good hands and feet, before heading straight up to the pin. Pulling the small bulge on P1 was always a challenge until I learned to just work my feet up and pull/mantle through it. (Honestly, I had to top rope it a few times before I got it).

P2 was quite fun too...I got a little confused after coming around the corner. I wasn't sure if the ramp was directly left (on the dark water marked stone) or up a couple feet and then left. I ended up going straight up a couple feet and then left only to find I ended up working my way back down to the ramp. Sure seemed easier that way.

It appears P3 should start left...don't get sucked this way...look up towards One O'clock and you will see a pin. I was glad my partner (Will) led P3 and gained greater hero status for doing so. Stepping left around the bulge is delicate but as others have said, the hands are just gotta work your feet left and stay balanced. Seeing the #3 cam made me smile and would have been a blessing had I peeled off.

Don't skip the 5.9 crack finish. It is the easiet 5.9 I have ever climbed and you can always place a piece of gear above you as you work through it. I watched Will comfortably rest and place the gear before each move. Apr 20, 2003
George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Great route, but be sure you're solid on 5.7! We took a pretty standard rack but only actually used the stoppers and two smallest Aliens (blue and green). Probably it is wise to take a few medium and larger cams, especially the #3 or #4 Camalot for pitch 3. I missed the #3 Camalot placement on p. 3 after the bolt, although I found a place for a #4 Camalot (which we didn't have). Needless to say, my second was not too happy to see the monster swing he would take at the crux, so he downclimbed a ways and then headed straight up about 10' left of the bolt. (considerably harder than the regular route but following the line of the rope).

Pitch 1 is actually not all that obvious. There is a left facing dihedral/corner about 50' off the deck, this is the feature to look for (also shown in Rossiter's topo). There are many ways to get to it, but I followed a left-sloping ramp to the left edge of a horizontal crack. You can get a small Alien in this crack. Then I moved up and left and then back to the right to the base of the corner, where you will find the pin. Instead of climbing the corner, crank up on some jugs right of it. 30 years ago, my partner had taken a 70' leader fall on this pitch, so be careful!

This is an amazing line and looks harder than 5.7 from afar.

The crux (by the bolt) is at least well protected. The first pitch also has some tricky moves on it. Sep 16, 2003
Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
[Hide Comment] Last time up this route, a couple weeks ago, I noticed a great placement to protect the second on P3. After the crux traverse moves, you move a ways left, and turn the small roof on jugs. Then you are on an easy slab--instead of heading immediately up and left to the belay, go up and right (which is easy), and sling a solid, if small horn, clip it with a long sling, and then go to the belay. Makes the moves perfectly safe for the second, the horn will not pull off with the rope movement, and you don't have to haul up a #4 Camalot. [This only works if you skip or backclean the gear placement at the small roof after the bolt (the climbing is not too hard there, but I certainly placed this piece my first time on the route... I skipped it last time). It will also work if you are using double ropes, which actually can be helpful on the entire route.] Sep 16, 2003
[Hide Comment] Thanks to George for hauling my sorry ass up such a great climb. I think the crux is definitely a short man's move - I was really scrunched. I found I could either do the move without unclipping or chicken out after unclipping. I chose the latter and downclimbed to the belay (after unclipping) and then elimbing up and a little left to George's pro. Probably 5.9 or so. Now that I have time to think about it, the easiest way (short of having George find the camalot placement) would have been for me to lower him down from the anchor to unclip the piece after the traverse before I started up.

John Sep 17, 2003
Shane Zentner
[Hide Comment] Fun with interesting route finding. Do the direct finish. I placed a 3.5 Camalot in a hueco at the start of the third pitch. Definitely a date climb. Mar 8, 2004
[Hide Comment] A 3-star for me too. An eldo trad classic though I can see from the pic that I've done a few variations and never the exact direct finish. I think P1 goes pretty well any way you do it but have seen many have a problem with P2 the 1st time through here by thinking the traverse is higher up or more angled. Down climbing after the error can be tricky, feel runout and become 8+ rather quickly. Be sure to go immediately left after the lip and the chains will become apparent. Jun 12, 2004
Mike McKinnon
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] Did this route yesterday. The #3 Camalot on the traverse on the 3rd pitch is definitely there as a poster stated earlier. However, I think a #3.5 would be better suited as we got the #3 in but had to fiddle to find the best spot. Bring both to really sew it up. Aug 2, 2004
Tim Stich
Colorado Springs, Colorado
[Hide Comment] I almost did what AC from 6.12 describes by trying to go straight up after the right traverse at the beginning of P2. If you just pause and look, you can clearly see the chain anchors once you get up on the face above the traverse. I couldn't find any pro from the traverse to the anchor, but got a smile later looking at photos of slings draped over the micro-horns on the 50ft. 5.4 runout ramp. Sep 8, 2004
Edward Jenner
[Hide Comment] After doing the direct finish we wondered if we were on route or not. Looks like we were, but I have to say it was somewhat disapointing. Short, easy jugs. I guess you could jam fingers in it if you really wanted to. Quite fun, I guess, but don't expect much.

Of course it took us 10-15 mins to find the way down to the E slabs trail. Oct 24, 2004
[Hide Comment] Yet another comment-- I was also lured above the obvious ramp on p2, and my feet stayed about 6 feet above it all the way to the belay. I didn't feel the need to downclimb, and found jugs all the way to the belay. This route is the juggiest i have yet climbed at Eldo-- huge holds everywhere. Nov 3, 2004
[Hide Comment] I'd just like to point out, that at 7 a.m. on a mid-summer's day, the outline of the shadow of the Wind Ridge on the Redgarden wall nearly exactly outlines the line the Bulge takes. How weird is that? Jan 25, 2005
[Hide Comment] To : Greg B Hill

In response to your reference to the Wind Tower shadow that parallels the Bulge. That is no coincedence. When Kor originally established the route he was trying to tan the left side of his body because he just got back from a road trip with Ament. He has been riding shotgun the entire road trip and sunburned the right side of himself. His FA of The Bulge was an attempt to even out his tan. Jan 27, 2005
[Hide Comment] Tom:

Ya know, I heard something about that :) Didn't Kor also climb it facing out into the canyon so he could extend the use of his shoes by wearing out the heel rubber? In addition, that made sure that the right (I mean left of course) side of his body would get the tan, and also slowed him down from his notoriously fast pace just enough for the tan to take place at all? I think it's in one of the lost appendices to Climb Colorado... Feb 7, 2005
[Hide Comment] Hi Greg,

Yes, I believe that is correct. Kor was was quite the phenom.

It is interesting that you should mention rock shoes and Kor. About fifteen years ago I was doing one of the variations to Anthill Direct (Chromium Shore or Semi-Wild) with a pal of mine.I was wearing those old Sportiva Monolo's. The Manolo's had a symetrical last and were supposed to be able to be worn on either foot. The marketing strategy was that once you blew out the inside toe, you could switch feet and have a fresh inside toe edge. The trouble was that once you had worn them for several weeks they took the shape of the foot they had been worn on, and it was like trying any other pair of shoes backwards. About two or three pitches up my feet hurt so bad that I had to bail. I was so ticked off that for the first time in my climbing career, I tossed the rap line without calling down "rope!" Guess who I hit in the head with the rope? Layton Kor. That was a very embarrasing way to meet the legend. Feb 8, 2005
Kirill Kireyev
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Just out of curiousity: has anyone tried to go straight up at the start of pitch 2 (instead of the right-left zigzag)? Oct 23, 2005
Kevin Currigan
[Hide Comment] Look for a nest of wasps on the traverse of the second pitch. You can go low to avoid them as they are in one of the first hand hold/cracks of the pitch. They stung my partner on lead, and when I came up, they buzzed out to check me out. Sep 1, 2006
Santa Monica, Ca.
[Hide Comment] Fun climb with lots of history, as an early 5.7 leader in the 70s, the "bulge" move (about 2 or 3 moves) scared the bejeezus out of me. Feb 28, 2008
Mike Robinson
Grand Junction, CO
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] What a great route for its rating. A must do! Mar 8, 2008
Fort Collins, CO
[Hide Comment] Whew this thing is runout... but really fun!!! Reminds me of some really fun face climbs at Red Rocks. Make sure you're solid at the grade before getting on this thing. I was able to get 6 pieces (not including anchors) for the entire climb. The 5.9 is the softest I've climbed at Eldo. It's actually more like 5.7. Enjoy!! May 19, 2008
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
[Hide Comment] My advice: don't fall.

Fun route. The straight-up P4 variation is the way to go, not remotely 5.9 but still fun. We climbed with doubles and that helped with rope drag and traverses. Aug 31, 2008
Gary Schmidt
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Super fun summer evening climb as you are in the shade. Should probably feel comfortable soloing around 5.5 to lead this one. Also don't get sucked into missing the left trending traverse on pitch two by a second piton up and right. I climbed up to it and it is manky at best and then realized I was off and had to downclimb back to get on route. Easy to protect your second at the crux on pitch 3 with a number 4 cam. After the tricky business just look to your right for the obvious placement. You probably wouldn't be very happy following your leader without this placement. Competent seconds only. Jun 29, 2009
[Hide Comment] I've always considered The Bulge a 5.7 for 5.9 climbers - on both ends of the rope.

And communication is always such a joy! On the second pitch in particular, everybody in the canyon can hear you. Everybody, that is, except your partner, who'll only be hearing muffled, unintelligible bellowing. People on the Wind Tower in particular can hear you just fine. I've relayed messages to folks on the Bulge a few times, but I don't think that should be depended upon.

It's best just to plan for the situation before you leave the ground, whether that means rope tugs, coded whistles, rope Braille, walkie talkies or whatever works for you. Apr 19, 2010
Rodger Raubach
Loveland, CO
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] Worth doing, but not one of my Eldorado favorites. Shorter climbers tend to have some problems at the "bulge" on p.3. Not a "date" climb either! Definitely desereves the "R" cautionary rating! Of the "standard classics" in Eldorado, I've only climbed this one 5 times and that's probably enough for this lifetime. Jun 14, 2010
Ben Cassedy
Denver, CO
  5.7+ R
[Hide Comment] So I totally missed the part where you're supposed to traverse left after clipping the bolt on p3. I just went straight up from the bolt. The downside is there's nowhere to place the #4 when you do it that way, but the upside is that it puts you at an undercling where you can get a good orange Metolius TCU with the very sling-able chickenhead just up and to your left. It wasn't a whole lot harder than anything else on the route that way - maybe comparable to the moves on the direct finish, i.e., 5.8 or 5.9?

Otherwise, consistently excellent rock on all pitches of this route. Wasn't a big fan of the traverses and runouts (agree with the 'not a date route' comments) but very high quality climbing. Nov 24, 2012
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] Pitches 1 & 2 go together very nicely with a 60m rope, and one can see the belayer on the ground from the top of pitch 2.

The direct finish is excellent, but it felt more like 5.8 than 5.9 to me.

My 4 star rating is for the direct finish, the original finish doesn't look quite as good. Mar 7, 2013
Forrest L.
  5.7+ R
[Hide Comment] Great route. Even more funky traversing than many Eldo classics. Your second will like you if you bring a 4 for above the crux. Mine took a 10' swing onto it. Jun 3, 2013
Rodger Raubach
Loveland, CO
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] My "most memorable" ascent of this route was in the Fall of 1965 with Layton Kor. We timed ourselves, and it took only 40 minutes car-to-car. That was still driving and pulling pitons (I recall only ONE piton being placed on the 2nd lead). That was an "after work special" by Layton, and we had to go get beer and a bite to eat. Jun 6, 2013
Eric Klammer
Boulder, CO
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] Amazing line! Just did this yesterday on a beautiful November morning and had the most fun I can remember on a 5.7. Fun route finding, some exciting runouts on easier ground, and grippy, juggy rock make this a great little outing.

A few important things to note that may be helpful to those looking to do the route.... The pin is still there on P1 and looking good. Great small cam placement right below it and good slung horn above it make clipping it not a necessity though. (If someone has clipped it already, as was the case yesterday.) A new #4/old #3.5 is definitely going to be enjoyed by the second on P3. Fits perfectly in a big slot after the crux and helps protect the leader on the last awkward mantle as well. And finally, the direct "5.9" finish is really on 5.7, maybe 5.7+, go for it! Nov 17, 2013
Jonathan S
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] At the bolt on pitch 3, I also mistakenly went straight up! It felt 5.10 but doable, with poor hands. Probably the cold temps of the day made it feel harder than it was. Just above the bolt I got in a 0.3 C4. Feb 26, 2014
Mark Oveson
Louisville, Colorado
  5.7 R
[Hide Comment] Climbed The Bulge for the first time this morning, and it is wonderful. If this is not the cleanest moderate route in Eldo, I'd like to know what is. Protection is very scarce, and I was glad to be following not leading.

That said, this route is NOT as dangerous for the second as it is for the leader--that assertion in the route description above is quite an overstatement. For the leader, there are a number of, ahem, opportunities for long and dangerous falls from 20-40 feet above gear. For the second, there are really just two heads-up sections. The traverse on P2 could result in a significant swing fall, though the climbing at the point of maximum exposure is much easier than 5.7. The traverse on P3 is more serious and there is swing fall potential right at the crux. Though it does not eliminate the problem, a #3.5 Camalot (placed about 10 feet left of the bolt) greatly reduces swing possibility for the second, as others have pointed out.

The direct 5.9 finish for P4 is short and sweet. Felt more like 5.8 to me. Holds are small but positive. Jun 12, 2014