climbing general hiking trip reports

rewind – the colorado story

So, I’ll take a break from packing my bags for the trip back to Australia to give a rewind account of the Colorado adventure.

Flying into Colorado, we had some trouble adjusting to the fact it was flat. Really flat. All through Denver and Boulder, up until the point where it suddenly shot up to about 10,000 feet. We’d been hoping to climb the Third Flatiron that night, but we were tired, and weren’t sure about the descent, so we decided to eat lots of food and sleep instead.

the flatirons

As the moon was peeking above the horizon on the evening of Day Two, we were hiking up to the base of the Third Flatiron. By the time we started climbing the moon was hanging low above Boulder, looking enormous and red. The climb we did was the Standard East Face Route – 5.4R. Although the gear was a bit sparse, the belays all involved a single enormous eyebolt, that has probably been there since the days people were doing the route in top hats and crinoline frocks. Climbing by moonlight was amazing – headlights only needed to search for eyebolts, and the occasional foothold. And somehow, all 8 pitches and descent were completed without epic-ing. So we retired to spend another night in our van in the Walmart carpark (did I mention our rental car was upgraded to a van? Vans are the best roadtripping vehicles ever, why have I not done this before?).

Day Three took us to the Longs Peak campground, at 9000 feet or so, where we wandered part way up the trail towards Longs Peak. Day Four, and we decided to head out to Lumpy Ridge (outside of Estes Park) to do some climbing. This plan was going well until we’d hiked a couple of hundred metres towards the cliffs, realised how much further we had to go, and how much harder hauling all this gear around seemed at altitude. A quick change of plans, and the rest of the afternoon was spent bouldering and lazing around.

twin owls

Day Five brought the epic ascent of Longs Peak (14,261 feet), a story that will be told another day. Suffice to say, we got up the mountain. Day Six, and we drove out through Rocky Mountain National Park towards Leadville. Everything was ridiculously picturesque, and I became angered when I realised we were driving along a stretch of road that was pretty much half as high again as anywhere in Australia.

All throughout Colorado, there were patches of bright yellow aspen trees contrasting against the dark green of the fir trees.

aspen trees

Then after leaving Rocky Mountain NP, on our way to Leadville, we stop off at a town called Hot Sulphur Springs – and guess what?

hot sulphur springs

We stopped in Leadville for dinner, then took our trusty van out on the dirt track to the Mt Elbert trailhead.

colorado hay balse

Day Seven dawned, looking unpleasant and foggy. Eh, the mountain will still be there later in the day. We kept sleeping. Eventually we started out, finally break through the sea of clouds, and have the spectacular view of the surrounding 14ers. Several false summits later, and lots of snow, and we arrive at the summit of Mt Elbert, at 14,440 ft, the highest mountain in Colorado.

mt elbert

We are greeted by a hoard of ominous looking clouds, and scarper back down to the carpark, where we start heading back towards Boulder.

mount elbert views

Our final day in Colorado, and we head to Eldorado Canyon, just outside of Boulder. A lazy day, we climb two pitches of 5.6, a climb called Calypso. Then Boer dislodged an enormous boulder as we make our way down the descent, and we decide to call it a day. Time for more food.