Every year the sun gets lower in the sky, the temps drop and most folks in the valley switch over to winter sports. Skiing, snowboarding, and for the demented few, ice climbing, replace our rock climbing ambitions until the warmer days of spring find us back out at the crags. But not everyone embraces these winter sports, and often folks wonder how can you make it through the winter here if you only want to climb? Well, this winter my wife and I have made climbing a priority over other sports, and as strange as it seems, there is some pretty good and reliable winter climbing in our area (as long as it’s not snowing.) The following are our suggestions for those looking to stay fit and climb outside through the winter.
It always boggles my mind to see people climbing here in the summer, don’t they know it’s a winter area? With a low elevation and good sun exposure until the afternoon, this is a great spot to get in a couple pitches on nice winter days. As long as you don’t mind climbing next to I-70, that is. And while the setting isn’t for everyone, there is some quality climbing that many folks find enjoyable. Plus the five minute approach is great for those days when you don’t get started until noon, or you aren’t sure if the weather will hold.
This area sees a lot of sun and as such makes for very warm climbing. It also doesn’t see as much snow given its lower elevation, just remember its sandstone, so give it a day or so after a big storm. The beautiful hike in is worth the trip, but there are several fun, moderate sport routes here to keep you entertained for the day. A couple multipitch lines offer the chance to get some air under you as well. More info about Rifle Arch can be found here.
As mentioned previously this winter, Main Elk bakes in the sun and is likely the best local winter crag. Or if you are feeling feisty you can hoof it all the way up to the Fortress of Solitude and get your groove on with some of the hardest routes in the country.
New Castle Boulders
This small collection of sandstone blocks outside the town of New Castle is usually sunny and warm. The rock is an excellent sandstone and the problems are good. You can get more information in the Colorado Bouldering Guidebook.
The Surgery Buttress in Glenwood Canyon offers sun from about 1pm until dusk, and a good selection of grades from 5.9 to 12a. A little farther away you can usually find good conditions in Unaweep for sandstone bouldering and sometimes the granite is good too. Colorado National Monument and Escalante Canyon are good desert climbing areas without the crowds of the Creek.
So yeah, you CAN climb year round living in the Roaring Fork valley, provided it’s not too snowy. Or you could just hop in your car and drive three hours to the best crag in Colorado. Your choice.