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Spring Climbing in Colorado

Earlier this season, my climbing partner Luke and I were 500 feet above the ground on the Yellow Spur in Eldorado Canyon, bathed in flashing, golden light, getting beat down by the wind and watching a snow storm ripping down the canyon towards us. Temps were in the 50s when we started, pleasant and cool. However, near the summit, with Luke leading above me, and my belay stance perched out on the edge of the arête, conditions immediately changed for the worse.

Winds tore down the canyon, and rocked us off balance. When I finally crawled to the summit my hands had become immovable, my brain was sluggish, and my equilibrium was off kilter from tensing up against the gusts. Our fight with the wind continued on as we descended. At the base of the route, the winds stopped and conditions became pleasant once again.

The day was reminiscent of Patagonia’s legendary gusts, but otherwise it was a typical spring climbing day in the Front Range. The weather is unpredictable, but many routes are in prime condition. It’s a beautiful time to climb in the sun, especially on south facing routes—the perfect time to visit such areas as Eldorado Canyon (the six-pitch, 5.9 Yellow Spur is always fun), the Flatirons (the First [5.6] is an ideal multi-pitch for beginners or free solo if you have the chops, or try Honey Badger [5.13a]), South Platte (hit the trad classic Lost in Space on the Sheep’s Nose [5.9] ), Boulder Canyon (Animal Magnetism [5.11c ] is a blast of a sport climb) and Clear Creek (why not smoke up… Reefer Madness on the Wall of the 90s [5.11a]). Avoid the shade in spring, the winds can be hideous, and you can get still get snowed on, so pack for quickly changing weather.

This time of year also means spring ice climbing Rocky Mountain National Park. The snowpack is more stable and avalanche danger is down. It’s a great time for such lines as Dreamweaver (Grade III, 5.4, AI3, M2+), which goes to the summit of Mount Meeker and the south-facing route, Martha’s (5.6, WI2+, M1), which on Mount Lady Washington above Chasm Lake.

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