In my past life as a rock climbing fanatic, home base was Independence Pass up above Aspen. In those days the “downvalley” west of Aspen was an ag and mining region where getting chased out of a bar because of your hair length was more likely than finding a rock climb. Or so we thought.
Yeah, we did venture downvalley to the granite in Glenwood Canyon — but that was about it. Years later, it became ethical to hang from a rope and use a power drill to establish climbing routes. When that happened, nearly any outcrop of halfway decent rock became fair game. Result: Virtually unknown western towns such as Rifle, Colorado became famous for their cliffs.
I’ll admit to being conflicted about modern sport climbing when the new style took off. But I’m comfortable with it now (death defying trad leads are somehow less attractive as the years slip by). Thus, it seems appropriate to trumpet a new guidebook that covers our area in exquisite detail — with emphasis on the explosion of bolted routes that has changed the sport.
At 227 pages, with stunning color photography of both routes and heroes (some with their last protection farther away than their feet!), “Rifle Mountain Park & Western Colorado Rock Climbs” is nothing less than state-of-art when it comes to publishing.
Last evening I kicked back with the book thinking I’d leaf through it for a quick take. Instead, several hours went by as I took in all the history and intro material that the authors obviously worked hard to compile. I even read a bunch of the route descriptions, concentrating on the 5.14s of course.
About the only thing missing? A couple of climbing areas where public land use issues have conflicted with climbing access. I found that understandable to a degree, but can’t help but wonder when recreationists such as climbers will get more radical about their rights to their own land, and at least publish controversial information. After all, you can find such info on the ‘net, so why not in print? It’s said that Internet publishing will eventually eliminate ink and paper. If guidebook writers intentionally leave out information you can find on the ‘net, they’re only hastening that process.
But even with a few small areas missing, “Rifle Mountain Park” is still an awesome compilation and something the authors and publishers can be proud of. I just bought a rope. And now I’ve got a shortlist of those 5.14 routes that need to go on my resume.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.