Independence Pass Trad IS Rad

Thanks to the funky, metamorphic geology of the area, Independence Pass offers some of the steepest trad climbing this side of the Gunks. It’s not uncommon to find yourself on overhanging 5.8 or 5.9 terrain, plugging gear and thinking, wow this IS rad! Above 5.10, the gear routes can get scary, as the pro can be awkward to place, really small and/or not all that abundant, but in the magical 5.8 to 5.10 range, there’s a wealth of fun widget wanking to be had. Here’s our pick for the top moderate trad classics at this alpine playground.

Zanzibar Dihedral, 5.8+

Located on the Weller Slab, the first pitch is a classic 5.7 crack which leads to a nice, comfy ledge, the perfect spot for the belayer to kick back and relax while the leader tackles the next pitch. And what a pitch it is. More reminiscent of Yosemite than the Pass, it features a long corner that’ll give your calves a pump smearing on the polished stone out right. When it looks like things are about to get thin, face climb up and right, and then up easier rock to the anchor. Rap with two ropes or walk off.

Apple Pie, 5.10-

There are few finer things in life then 5.10 finger cracks, and this one is no exception. Starting from the same ledge as the second pitch of Zanzibar, perfect fingers leads to a small overhang and a thin sequence, after which you’ll find easier climbing leading to the top. Be sure to bring two ropes, as a 70m will not get you off the top of this one. And while you’re here, you might as well tick the Ultra Edge (5.9) out to the right as well.

Plaque Right, 5.9

The Plaque is an obvious shield of stone sitting high above the talus, and this route tackles the prominent right edge of the feature. The direct start has a tricky balance move down low, followed by fun climbing along the arete. A second mini “pitch” takes you up to the base of the Plaque proper, where the real fun begins. It looks way harder than 5.9, but the holds are there and the positioning is spectacular. Once on top, it’s easy to set up TR’s on the other routes on this wall, several of which carry “R” ratings and are probably best enjoyed with a rope from above.

Twin Cracks, 5.8

Probably the most climbed route on the most popular cliff at the Pass, Twin Cracks is a striking line that offers fun hand jams followed by an improbable looking traverse to steep jug hauling. Most folks lower from the chains, though you can continue up another short pitch to the top of the cliff. If you do lower you can get a bonus TR on One for the Road (5.10c).

Cryogenics, 5.10- (first pitch)

The second most popular route on the pass, most folks are drawn to this one by what looks like a splitter crack, only to find it’s really more of a face climb on gear. Still, this is a fun climb, with an exciting finish getting to the chains. Some folks opt for the punch it and don’t place gear approach, and it’s not uncommon to see some big whippers on this one. If you cruise it no problem, don’t miss out on the second pitch, which has two variations, 5.10 or 5.11.

Cardo’s Corner, 5.9

Best 5.9 on the Pass? You can decide for yourself. Though the unprotected start detracts slightly from the experience, once you get past this you’ll be rewarded with a long corner offering all sizes of jamming and stemming. Be sure to use a 70m rope if you want to set up a TR, and if you like this one, check out the wild Haywire (5.9+) just around the corner.

Cohen’s Crown, 5.9

As you work up the overhanging flake towards the start of the route, you might find it hard to believe you are trad climbing. Steep jugs are the name of the game on this one, with a short tricky spot near the top. This is a great warm up for the classic routes on the right side of the cliff, Flexible Flyer (5.10c) and Flying Dutchman (5.11c).

Nose of Turkey Rock, 5.8

This one will get you off the deck a ways, with awesome views of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak to the west. The first pitch features a delicate traverse, and then a few steep bulges that are passed on jugs. The rest is cruiser, with most folks heading right to finish up on the top pitches of Right Wing, a worthy 5.6.

Got a favorite that’s not listed here? Let us know in the comments.

5 Responses to Independence Pass Trad IS Rad

  1. Good list – if you have more time, don’t miss out on;

    – Thindependance 11a ***
    – Cryogenics, 2nd Pitch 11c ****
    – Deans Day Off 12a ****
    – Peruvian Flake 10a ***
    – Springtime Groove 9 ***
    – Karma Crack 9 **
    – Master of Reality 12a ***
    – Brainwashed 9 ***
    – Bloodbath aka Secrete Crack 9+ ***
    – Grotto Wall Traverse (Diving Board Pitch) 8 **
    – Innerworld 9*
    – Tits On a Bull 9 **
    – Daredevil 9 **



    JG August 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm
  2. Victims of Fashion pitch one, exciting, superb mixed pitch.

    Lynn September 1, 2011 at 2:20 am
  3. For a hard one: La Nueva Esperanza .12+, Jimmy Cliff.
    I just want some one to repeat it!

    jay brown September 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm
  4. I am glad to see Independence Pass getting some well-deserved traffic these days. It was a destination for a lot of us Front Range climbers in the late 1980’s when things got too hot and greasy on our local crags. Cryogenics is an awesome route and you really feel every grade point at that elevation. Scene of the Crime has really great moves and was as technical as it was strenuous (my footwork wasn’t so hot back then).

    Marc B September 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm
  5. Anyone have beta on how to find Turkey Rock? Found a climb on Mtn Project but no directions to the crag.

    Rick July 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm
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