Type: Trad, Sport, 300 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II
FA: Ed Webster, Bryan Becker, Leonard Coyne
Page Views: 1,282 total · 12/month
Shared By: Phil Lauffen on Jun 28, 2010
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Access Issue: 2015 Seasonal falcon nesting closures - reduced Details
Access Issue: 2017 Seasonal Closures - Partial Closure Lifting Details


Over the Rainbow has a beautiful position, traversing over the top of the monstrous roof on the west face of North Gateway Rock, then firing straight up the awesome looking face above before reaching the top of that inspiring red ridge. The description in D'Antonio's book says the route offers "great position and good climbing on somewhat loose rock."

Change the words "somewhat loose rock" to "horrifying chossy sand" and you'll gain a more accurate description, if of only the first and second pitches. I cannot say anything for the remaining pitches because we did not get that far.

Pitch breakdown:

1)The climb traverses straight left from the belay on Rainbow Bridge for a pitch of "5.8". This is the only pitch we climbed of this route, because the movement was only slightly more difficult than Rainbow Bridge, rated 11a, but contained more loose rock on 70 feet than I have ever seen combined on all the routes I have climbed.

This pitch is a nightmare. Traverse left easily for 20 feet before clipping your first piton in a hollow sounding flake. Make some 5.9ish moves to reach the second piton, and then imagine how to gain the third piton with footholds crumbling away to dust. Spirit yourself past these difficulties and two more pitons to a wonderful, solid jug (the only one). Ponder the 10 foot runouts between remaining pitons and make your way past massive flakes held on with fairy dust, availing yourself only by using the smallest edges for your hands and sandy slab for your feet.

Finally reach the two piton belay with many bail slings (including ours). Laugh at your partner as he sketches across and knocks grapefruit-sized flakes down, because only you know the desperate plight he is immersed in.

And try to do this without ripping one of the many loose flakes to the vastness below, likely hitting a boulderer in the process. These flakes ranged in size up to approximately 30 lbs.

If you've had enough fun at this point, it is completely possible to rappel straight down with 1 60m rope. A 50m rope would not make it.

2) From what we could see of this pitch, it resembled the last pitch, only worse. Make your way up and left on depressions resembling holes dug by a child on a beach then washed by five waves. All of this appeared to be coated by a layer of dust that is already having quite the bacchanalian in your lungs.

From D'Antonio's guidebook: "Continue left past 7 fixed pins to a 2 piton belay.(10c)" If the last pitch you did was only 5.8, you are in for a ride.

The remaining descriptions are completely based off D'Antonio's guidebook.

3) Go straight up to vine ledge. 11 pitons (11a)
4) Head right on easy terrain to Pot of Gold (5.8). Summit.

Scramble down some ledges until you can walk south and downclimb tourist gully.

I apologize for not finishing the route and therefore presenting a complete description of the climb. In all, this posting is kind of wankish and lame-sounding. I only hope to dissuade people who are not prepared for the full adventure from climbing this route. If you would like to post a complete route description, email me your information and I will replace mine with yours.


Climb Rainbow Bridge. Look left. See the pitons? That's your line.


All pitons, of the usual Garden variety.


Bill Olszewski
Colorado Springs, CO
Bill Olszewski   Colorado Springs, CO
Thanks, Phil, for your in-depth post; no apology necessary. Some friends and I had been considering rapping in from the top to check the anchors, the holds and the pins. Your exploration of this route is on a par with the adventurous nature of the FA.

Back in the day, this was an awesome route! I followed it a time or two with my climbing partner Scotty, who wasn't afraid of anything so long as he had a rope attached, and together with our friend Richard, FA'd Wimpish and Weak and Touchy Situation, the 4 pitch extension to OTR. I remember this as being a fun route, traversing high over the parking lot, hoping you didn't blow a move. And the two rope rappel from the second anchor, going free for about 120', was classic! What a shame that we probably have to just let this one die, unless some hard core climbers can run some laps and clean it back up. But I'm afraid even then, the result would be a much harder route that few will be able to do. Amazing what 25 years of neglect will do to a route on soft sandstone... :-( Nov 4, 2010
Joseph Crotty
Broomfield, CO
Joseph Crotty   Broomfield, CO
I can't resist and just have to chime in here.

I attempted 'Over the Rainbow' in the late '80s, probably 1988, with a college buddy from CSU whose folks lived in Manitou Springs. The route was in a guidebook by John Harlin that had climbs from many areas in the Western USA. I had climbed previously, I think, twice at the Garden and enjoyed it. I had long dreamed that OTR was a classic and as it was the longest line then on North Gateways' West face was determined to have a go at it.

At the time I lived in Ft. Collins and bouldered regularly at Rotary Park and other Horsetooth Reservoir spots. In a word I was super fit. I onsighted Rainbow Bridge which was excellent. My friend was just getting into climbing so I did most of the leading. The first traverse pitch went fine although a bit dirty. I took a few falls on the second traverse pitch when some choss under foot broke off. The second fall was a bit long and I had to prusik back up - no biggie. The belay at the apex of the rainbow was simply awesome. Now it was time to climb directly up. In short order, I reached a pin in a crack where the grade ticked up to .10+/.11- range. A foot hold started crumbling, and I instinctively grabbed the pin, quickly reset my feet, and relinquished the pin after a tense 30 second stare down with the rest of the tottering crap show that awaited me above. The crack petered out and a blank sea of red sandstone broke forth. The gear thinned to an occasional pin and a mental piece now and then. Waves of totally insecure .11-ish climbing on bad rock swept in every 20' or so. At one point I was holding onto a large swaying flake that would have likely killed my partner and me if it broke. I was terrified throughout but managed without incident finding myself in a deep pothole almost tall enough to stand in with a stalactite type feature in the middle of it wrapped with tat. I brought up my buddy.

It was later in the day now with probably an hour and half of day light left. His parents had surfaced in the parking lot and were watching our progress. I could see the drilled pins on the next pitch and knew it was supposed to be .10- or so. I figured for it to be a true team effort my partner was due for a turn at the sharp end. Shortly after casting off and clipping two pins and a bolt, he was at the crux. He climbed up and down trying to build up gusto and finally committed. A foot hold crumbled and he was airborne. The bolt ripped and the next thing I knew we were level with each other eye to eye 2' apart - him dangling in space and me pulled out of the cave but still tethered to its central column. I could hear the piercing wails of his mother from blow - "my baby is gonna die, he is gonna die!!"

The decision to bail was easy. Although it brought me much remorse as I knew the crux of the battle had been won, but the war would be lost on a technicality. At the second rappel I lowered my car keys to his Dad who fetched us another 50m rope so we could finish the rappel. His Mom and Dad were decent enough to clear out before we touched dirt and I dropped him off at home and split town.

Reflecting on this adventure brings me great joy. It was an epic I'll never forget! I would gladly attempt it again. Jul 8, 2012
I did Over the Rainbow in '85 with Dale Goddard. I'd like to say that I was in no way remotely close to the same level of climber as my partner, but we both went to C.C. and spent a lot of time at the Garden of the Gods. We also called it the the Garbage of the Gods due to the friable nature of the rock.

On the day we did the route, I remember him wanting me to lead Rainbow Bridge, but I had failed an attempt to follow this earlier and figured I'd be sandbagged in the classic sense, so I voted for Borgoff's Blunder which I breezed through. Dale took the first traverse pitch which seemed true to the grade in Mark Rollofson's guidebook at 5.9. I was up next for the second traverse pitch, which stands out in my mind as one of the most inspired and rewarding feats of daring do I ever accomplished in rock climbing. I wasn't a particularly strong climber, an indication of why Rainbow Bridge was problematic for me, but I got pretty good at the fingery, smeary, techniques necessary to dance delicately on the garbage of that lovely, inspiring sandstone and was able to climb that second pitch smoothly without issue. The crux seemed to me to be at a spot where the traversing turned in to upward movement relying on a balancy undercling in a rounded hueco. The pitch was a solid 5.10 + with awesome exposure. There was also a blind, left hand sidecling reach move to gain access to the belay which took some time to figure and feel out. Dale was pretty famous in the eighties and nineties and could do a one arm, one finger pull-up. The route's physical demands were no challenge for him, but the rotten rock and exposure to a swinging fall into space on the old rusty army angles in drilled holes caused us both to be pushed to the limit mentally.

The last two short pitches to the top had unclimbable, blank, sandy sections where the only way anyone except Spiderman could proceed was by yarding on slings attached to the pins. At some point in the climbs history, there could well have been flaky features allowing for the free climbing of these pitches, but there were definitely not even 5.14 options for the bulk of those two vertical pitches above the traverse pitches. Blank, sandy, and steep.

We used to joke around about the rumors that some Garden climbers used hammers not just to drill and fix pins, but also to create holds to make their routes go. I think there was some real truth to the rumors. As easily as a critical flake could be ripped from the crux of a pitch, a two or three finger depression could also, in all likelihood be added. We topped out at twilight due to a late start and third classed our way down the east ramps. Neither one of us felt in the least bit dirty, pun intended, yarding on gear for the last two pitches due to the absolutely blank, sandy rock through which the pin ladders ascended.

We were proud to have accomplished the first two pitches clean without any epic free hanging prussik moves, which would be the inevitable outcome of some falls on the traverse pitches. I can't say we free climbed the route, but I'd be really surprised if much has changed on the last two pitches since then, unless of course, there's been some creative sculpting that has taken place since our visit. Jun 28, 2018