You’ve got a lotta nerve: Matt Samet defines “enduro” on Positively Fourth Street (5.9).
Do you like pushing it to the point of forearm failure? Then you are going to love our rundown of the top 10 Front Range Pumpfests.
The forum post shows up every month at MountainProject.com: “New to Colorado, looking for Front Range pumpfests.” A bit of online head-scratching ensues, followed by a few meager suggestions for climbs of this genre: sustained endurance or “enduro” routes, longer, steeper climbs on which you fail because your forearms fatigue, not because you can’t execute a specific sequence. It’s a style climbers love—if you’re good at hanging on, you can tick these routes at your outer limits because no individual move feels hard.
Our thousands of wonderful Front Range climbs often seem to be of a particular style: short, bouldery and cruxy, or with multiple cruxes separated by rests—you just don’t find many classic, unrelenting pumpfests. Perhaps it’s because F-Range rock—granite, gneiss, Dakota and Fountain sandstone—tends to be morphic and jumbled, especially compared to, say, the Red River Gorge, Kentucky, or Rodellar, Spain, where a route might be 5.14 because it’s 100 feet long, overhangs 40 feet, and has no rests—but also no sequences harder than V4. By comparison, a Front Range 5.14 will have some butt-kicker V11 crux that sends suitors home weeping like Nancy Kerrigan after a kneecapping.
I’m what climbers call an “enduro pig,” endowed with more slow-twitch than fast-twitch muscle power, so I’ve spent the last 20 years hunting for pumpy Front Range climbs that make me look like the hero I never will be. Here, then, are the Top 10 Front Range Pumpfests from 5.9 to 5.13, all of which will leave you gasping, cotton-mouthed and wood-armed at the chains.
positively fourth street (5.9), West Ridge, Eldorado Canyon
Highlight: A half-pitch gem behind the pines high on the West Ridge, Positively Fourth Street is also one of Eldo’s best-protecting trad leads. A splitter, finger- and hand-width crack cleaves a gently overhanging wall with edges, buckets and gear aplenty. The pump clock starts ticking immediately so hang straight-armed to slam the cams, and save some mojo for the crimper exit.
Extra Credit: The 5.10 Coniferous Types on the arête just right (as in, an arm-span). Easily toproped.
Local’s Beta: If you’re not feeling up to lead Positively, scramble around the left side of the buttress to rig a toprope off cracks and a tree.
Cool the Guns: Southern Sun Brewery, 627 South Broadway. Cash only and be prepared to wait!
tracks are for kids (5.10b), Dinosaur Rock, Dinosaur Mountain, Flatirons
Highlight: Formerly a toprope, this sustained 100-degree pane of beige sandstone on Dinosaur Rock’s hidden southwest fin is studded in huecos, round, hollow, hand-swallowing jug pockets formed by weathering—so many huecos, in fact, that it’s hard to pick a sequence. Tracks Are for Kids is now equipped with five lead bolts thanks to the Flatirons Climbing Council’s partnership with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, which allows for new routing by permit.
Extra Credit: The “5.9+” Big Bob Cranks and the 5.10c Triceratops Tracks on the same wall, with similar climbing on flakes and huecos.
Local’s Beta: The best approach is via slabs along the gully leading south from the notch, due west of Dinosaur Rock.
Cool the Guns: Hueco is Spanish for “hollow,” so head to Casa Alvarez at 30th and Walnut for margs and killer Mexican food for your hollow gut.
monstrosity (5.10b), Mineshaft Wall, the Palace, Poudre Canyon
Highlight: It’s hard to miss Monstrosity—this popular climb’s flat, slippery jugs are so coated in chalk that they nearly glow. Monstrosity catches good morning shade, though the first 40 feet are typical glassy-smooth Poudre gneiss—with an extra coating of boot rubber. Monstrosity navigates so many pumping crux rooflets (with so many hold options chalked) that it’s probably 5.10+ onsight.
Extra Credit: Toprope the first two-thirds of the crimpy 5.12d Rapid Fire, just left, off the Monstrosity anchors.
Local’s beta: Conquer the slender spire the Scepter, just uphill, via its bolted 5.10a, then do the vertigo-inducing summit stand.
Cool the Guns: Gravity 1020 at Fort Collins Brewery, 1020 East Lincoln Avenue, a fine NoCo brewpub/restaurant.
reefer madness (5.11b), Wall of the Nineties, Clear Creek Canyon
Highlight: A golden face rearing above the creek off an airy ledge, Reefer Madness is a bona fide CCC crimp testpiece. Two thin, pimpy cruxes midheight favor taller climbers, but the bizarre, sloping lieback to finish will flame out midgets and mongos alike.
Extra Credit: Clip bolt one on Reefer but head straight up the even meaner, leaner Ten Digit Dialing (5.12c).
Local’s Beta: A new Daniel Woods 5.14+ Mission Impossible, out right, tempts would-be slimp-masters.
Cool the Guns: Golden City Brewery, 920 12th Street, with a popular beer garden. Cash only; no food.
wishbone (5.11c), the Amphitheater, West Ridge, Eldorado Canyon
Highlight: A bulging chocolate headwall above South Boulder Creek—what could be better? How about a 15-foot runout to the anchors on 5.10+/5.11- when you’re already blasted from sustained 5.11! Six bolts and an often-fixed nut, and you’ll happily clip everything.
Extra Credit: Just left is the gunfight Wild Turkey, a 5.12a through a series of overlaps to a crimpy green face.
Local’s Beta: Tote the rack for the overhanging cracks Wing Shot (5.11), Blues Power (5.12b), and Office Girls Walk the Plank (5.12+), all in the same alcove.
Cool the Guns: Southern Sun Brewery.
the ticket (5.12a), East Blob, Blob Rock, Boulder Canyon
Highlight: Milk the rests on this 85-foot bad boy, because you’ll need them. Though the lower 5.11+ face is separated from the upper black-streaked wall by a stance, the top is so continuous (and punctuated by such a technical, Bo Can-alicious crux) that you’ll be juicing. Perfect granite with a sampler buffet of sills, knobs, crimps, cracks, and seams.
Extra Credit: Warm up on The Young and the Rackless, a four-pitch 5.9 downhill with linkable, all-bolt pitches.
Local’s Beta: Ramble past The Ticket onto the promontory out right or the summit of Blob for the best view in Boulder Canyon.
Cool the Guns: Walnut Brewery & Restaurant, a downtown-Boulder fixture: 1123 Walnut Street.
undertow (5.12b), the Slab, Fern Canyon, Flatirons
Highlight: This venerable classic (FA: 1989) is tucked high on the looming, austere west headwall of the Slab; it features six bolts in eighty feet and a raft of widely space jugs off which to launch. Twenty degrees overhanging and with a crux near the lip, Undertow only lets up in its final 25 (spicy) feet.
Extra Credit: Start on Undertow then hook right into the 5.12+ Sweet Niblitz to yield a pumpy 5.12a.
Local’s beta: Bouldering possibilities abound on huge blocks in the forest. Bring a pad—OK, bring many pads—for highballing.
Cool the Guns: Boulder Beer, 2880 Wilderness Place, on the east side of town.
tailspin (5.12b/c), Upper Echelon Wall, Triple Tier Area, Poudre Canyon
Highlight: Incut crimps—far apart—and long reefs to sloping horizontals are the drill on this climb’s gently overhanging gneiss, so dark, swirly, and perfect that it looks like petrified wood. The spans grow ever bigger until you finally—praise Jah—reach a recreational slab.
Extra Credit: O.D.K. (5.12a), The Pinklebear (5.12c/d), and Dream of Poudre (5.13a) out left aren’t to be missed.
Local’s Beta: Head uphill to the overlooked Sail, with fine bolted face and arête climbs from 5.10 to 5.12+.
Cool the Guns: The Mishewaka Amphitheater, just down the road, has a restaurant with an awesome deck right on the Poudre River and a summer concert series.
holy crap (5.12c), Wipeyur Buttress, Devil’s Head, Rampart Range Road
Highlight: Seventeen bolts long and overhanging 30 feet in 95, this über-mega-pumpfest on lovely pink-orange granite serves up continuous 5.12 on rails and incuts to a double-overhanging corner and strange, bulbous exit. You have so many chances to blow it, it’s not even fair.
Extra Credit: Barking Spider, a 5.13a that breaks left at the second bolt and features lonnnggg yorks off fiendish razors.
Local’s Beta: Warm up in morning shade at the Jungle, east of Wipeyur, then hit Holy Crap after 2:00 p.m.
Cool the Guns: Sedalia Bar & Grill, 5607 Highway 85, an old-school burgers-n-beer roadhouse.
ultrasaurus (5.13a), Dinosaur Rock, Dinosaur Mountain, Flatirons
Highlight: A 115-foot voyage with sixteen bolts, Ultrasaurus climbs radically overhanging roof and bulge terrain on Dinosaur Rock’s spectacular nordwand. While the climb has two distinct cruxes and a resting pod at two-thirds height, the surrounding terrain holds steady at 5.11/5.12 to yield a wicked full-body pump.
Extra Credit: Tick the crimpy power-endurance testpiece Milk Bone (also 5.13a) just left.
Local’s Beta: The two-pitch Pink Man’s Burden (5.12a) on Dino Rock’s obscure west face has a monster, hueco’ed second ropelength, earned by surfing choss on pitch one.
Cool the Guns: The Boulder Beer & Liquor Emporium on Table Mesa—grab some Night Train and drown your sorrows should you fail to redpoint.
Boulder-based freelancer Matt Samet is the author of the Climbing Dictionary, an illustrated reference to more than 650 climbing slang and lingo terms. Visit climbingterms.com for more.