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Five Favorites: Jack Roberts’ Spring Alpine Routes

April 5, 2010 Climb 2 Comments

Jack Roberts begins the cave pitch on Brain Freeze, Rocky Mountain National Park.

As winter’s powder metamorphoses into névé and melt-freeze ice from April though mid-June, couloir and chimney routes in the high mountains come into prime condition. Jack Roberts in Boulder is the author of the Colorado Ice guidebook and is one of Colorado’s most experienced mountain guides. We asked him for his five favorite spring alpine routes, all of which happened to be in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dreamweaver. For me, Dreamweaver on Mt. Meeker is the perfect high-mountain couloir route. The steep hike to it usually takes three hours. The climbing in the couloir isn’t difficult, but you still need to pay attention. Exposure is constant but never overwhelming. Once you complete the climb, you can either go home or link it up with Martha on Mt. Lady Washington or the Notch Couloir on Longs.  Which is also the beauty of Dreamweaver. You can ascend it and enjoy it for its own merit or you can push your luck.

• Hallett Chimney. An ultimate classic. Forget the fact that it doesn’t always come into the perfect condition that you want for an intermediate mixed alpine route. Forget for a second that the climbing isn’t really very technically demanding. That it is a climb that requires skill and cunning rather than the brute strength and power developed on a campus board. Success on this climb is more dependent on the ability of the experienced leader to figure out how to tread gently on snow/ice and rock when conditions are less than ideal and protection is not always exactly where you would like it to be. But the length of the climb (1,000 feet) comfortable belays, interesting climbing positions, and total alpine feel make this one of the top five alpine routes to do in RMNP. … Continue Reading

The Hull Cook Journals

April 2, 2010 Climb, Hike 6 Comments

Hull Cook at Chasm View on Longs Peak. Photo by H.P. Ziedema

Starting next week, we’ve got a real treat in store for Colorado MoJo readers. During the late 1920s and early ’30s, a small hut stood at the Boulderfield on Longs Peak, at about 12,750 feet. Guests could hike or ride horseback to the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, spend the night in relative comfort with bunks and hot meals, and climb the 14,259-foot peak in the morning, usually by the north face, which was equipped in those days with steel cables for hand rails. For two or three years during the early ’30s, Hull Cook worked at the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, and his feats as a guide and rescuer have become legendary. Now, thanks to his son, Hull “Cactus” Cook from Bellingham, Washington, we are able to bring you Cook’s first-person, never-published tales. … Continue Reading

A Fine Line on Arrowhead

March 26, 2010 Climb, Firsts No Comments

The south face of Arrowhead in May 2008. Deborah takes the obvious vertical snow couloir. Photo by Greg Sievers

Climbers Scotty Nelson and Gil Weiss have discovered (or maybe rediscovered) a great-looking moderate mixed route in Rocky Mountain National Park that might take pressure off overcrowded climbs like Dream Weaver or Martha. The line, which they called Deborah, splits the south face of Arrowhead above the high bench to the west of Black Lake in Glacier Gorge, with almost 1,000 feet of steep snow and short mixed steps (M3/4); some ice might form in the spring. At the top, two exits give a hard or easy finish, and Arrowhead’s superb 12,642-foot summit is just a few yards away. Descend by following the ridge west toward McHenrys and look for rappel anchors near the saddle; rappel to the south. This route may have been climbed before, but no previous winter ascent has been reported. It’s likely in good mixed condition from January through early May. … Continue Reading

Truly Tested: Stoic Bombshell

March 25, 2010 Climb, Hike, Ski No Comments

Cold day at Hidden Valley, RMNP. Photo by Doug Schnitzspahn

By Dougald MacDonald

I’ve been wearing the Bombshell Jacket, the flagship waterproof-breathable shell from Backcountry.com’s new Stoic line, for much of this winter. And after months of backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and a bit of ice climbing, I’m definitely impressed.

At first, I wasn’t at all psyched with the jacket’s fit. At a trailhead in the Indian Peaks, as I pulled on the coat, my female skiing partner gave me that look I know oh-too-well from my wife—the look that says: “You’re not going to wear that, are you?” Don’t get me wrong: The jacket looks sharp. Mine is black with turquoise highlights, and the cut and detailing are fine. The problem is the super-trim fit around the waist, which would have looked great when I was a 145-pounder in college but looks and feels a bit snug as a 162-pounder (OK, 164-pounder).

I almost always wear a medium jacket, and the Bombshell fit me perfectly in the chest, shoulders, and arms; if I sized up, I think there would be too much fabric bunched around these areas. I grew to appreciate the trim cut on long ski tours and while climbing; the jacket fit great under a harness, for example. But it limits your options for layering. If you wear your jacket as a true shell, over multiple insulating layers, think about a larger size. If you wear the shell over light inner layers while moving and throw a puffy over the top when you stop, as I increasingly do, this fit might be perfect. If you’re just thinking about taking up ski touring to lose a few years of accumulated paunch, consider another coat.

Despite my quibbles about the fit, the Bombshell hits nearly every other note perfectly. … Continue Reading

Gimps on Ice

March 19, 2010 Climb No Comments

Photo by Claudia López

Last weekend, the third annual Gimps on Ice event brought about 15 disabled athletes to climb at the Ouray Ice Park, opening the minds of participants and spectators alike. The event is organized by Paradox Sports, an organization founded by Iraq war vet DJ Skelton and climber/comedian Timmy O’Neill, along with Ouray-based Amped Outdoors. In the past several years, Paradox has helped more than 500 people with equipment, training, and opportunities to re-enter the world of outdoor sports. “With each new event and participant, our goal is to use muscle-powered outdoor sports as a vehicle to heal and reintroduce as much of a normal life as possible,” says Malcolm Daly, executive director of Paradox. “In turn, these activities reignite each participant’s confidence.”

The extraordinary Boulder-based photographer Claudia López was on hand in Ouray and provided us with this small, inspirational gallery: … Continue Reading

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Recent Comments

  • Jamie Jones: The secret chute was only a secret top all you easterners....
  • Jeff: Awesome!!!! Are they ever going to be published in book form! These stories need to be made into a movie!!!!...
  • Karen D McCall: What a story, I read every word, absolutely enthralled. As an aging outdoor enthusiast headed for hip replacement, I can...
  • Kirk Miller: New rats in the Platte. Well done sir....
  • Dale: I met Clerin Zumwalt hiking on the Long's Peak trail back in the 1990's. He was with his family and was wearing his RMNP...
  • Ben Collett: Dougald, I miss the updates on this site. Anyway, there is a great route on the 4th Flatiron (see MP.com for details) th...
  • Tim: Thanks for the great writeup. We just did this loop yesterday and had a blast. Do you know if anyone has skied the coulo...
  • 14er Sports: Awesome accomplishment!...
  • Kailas: Yes Wick there are that many people. And they are all from back east or Texass... booooo. I've skied up here for ove...
  • jeff: What amazing experiences Dr. Cook had. I feel so fortunate that I've found this website and have been able to enjoy Dr. ...

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A Fine Line on Arrowhead

March 26, 2010

A Fine Line on Arrowhead

Climbers Scotty Nelson and Gil Weiss have discovered (or maybe rediscovered) a great-looking moderate mixed route in Rocky Mountain National Park that might take pressure off overcrowded climbs like Dream Weaver or Martha. The line, which they called Deborah, splits the south face of Arrowhead above the high bench to the west of Black Lake […]

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

March 10, 2010

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

Colorado’s Shelf Road , a network of vertical limestone cliffs near Cañon City best known for sunny moderates, has a new 5.13d pitch and may soon get its first 5.14. On Sunday, March 7, Mark Anderson redpointed a striking, super-technical arête at Cactus Cliff that was bolted in the early 1990s but apparently never free-climbed. […]

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

February 14, 2010

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

Jason Haas, who’s working on a new guidebook to South Platte rock climbs, has just redpointed what’s likely the Platte’s hardest pitch, a roof seam that’s protected with removable pro and might be 5.14a. The new route, Comprometido, took about a year and a half to complete. Here, Haas tells the story. While researching routes […]

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Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

March 18, 2010

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

In the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, a granite spindle called Zowie protrudes from the convoluted south face of Mt. Otis. Just to Zowie’s left is a zigzagging chimney and gully system that holds an unlikely mixed-climbing gem. Brain Freeze was discovered very recently (early 2008) by Andy Grauch and Chris Sheridan. Several parties […]

Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

February 19, 2010

Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

Kevin Landolt is a skier/climber/student, based in Fort Collins, who writes the fun Alpine Ambition blog for the Mountain Shop. Here, Kevin describes a favorite midwinter ski tour near Cameron Pass offering a little of everything. Trailhead: Lake Agnes Road, 2.5 miles west of Cameron Pass Tour Distance: 7.3 miles Total Vert: ca. 2,900′ Season: […]

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

January 28, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

Two of the wildest and most difficult water-ice pitches in the state are in plain view from Highway 50, en route to Ouray and Telluride from points north, plunging down the sheer face of Grand Mesa. Yet few people notice them, and far fewer have climbed them. The routes are tough, to be sure, but […]

East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

December 28, 2009

East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

Mt. Bancroft’s rocky east ridge is a terrific mountaineering adventure for Front Range climbers, beginning less than an hour from Denver. The 13,250-foot peak is relatively close to the road, and avalanche danger can be easily managed, making this perhaps the most accessible technical winter summit on the entire Front Range. The east ridge offers […]


Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

February 5, 2010

Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

Photographer James Beissel sent us this fantastic dawn-patrol shot of the full moon setting over South and North Arapaho in the Indian Peaks, shot from Flagstaff Mountain. Said Beissel: “The first full moon of the New Year is often called the Wolf Moon. The name comes from Native American culture, in which it was associated with […]

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

January 20, 2010

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

By Bob Berwyn Stakeholders in the San Luis Valley have taken a giant step toward protecting Great Sand Dunes National Park from mining, energy development, and water exports. Lexam Explorations has agreed to sell its mineral rights if a $9.7 million deal can be finalized by May. Great Sand Dunes National Park was created by […]

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