The Mother Lode – Route of the Month

Steve Buchanan topping out the third pitch of the Mother Lode.

On the east side of Independence Pass, on the flanks of the highest peak in Colorado, sits a wonderful crag of compact alpine granite. Featuring some of the finest 5.10 sport climbing in the state, Monitor Rock is known by most for its excellent bolted routes. There is, however, a hidden trad gem lurking among all that steel: the Mother Lode (5.10).

It’s an obvious line from the ground, the second pitch featuring a striking crack that looks fairly steep from below, setting your mind spinning, wondering what the jams must be like. I’d always wanted to get on this pitch, and finally got the chance on a recent trip to the area.

After scrambling up some fourth class to get to the base proper, the route starts off with some good face climbing protected reasonably enough by the occasional small gear. Once you get to the bolts, things get a little weird, and if you want a mellower start, it’s possible to climb the last half of a new route to the left, the Pirate Mode, at 5.9, and join Mother Lode at the belay.

From the anchor at the top of the first pitch, look up and get psyched! A beautiful, steep flake leads off the belay ledge and into a steep corner. Climbing higher, you’ll find two excellent (and cruxy) undercling sections that take good gear, but don’t always have the most obvious feet. When the crack ends, technical face climbing past several bolts leads to a big ledge and an anchor. From here, a bolted pitch takes you up through some thoughtful climbing to the top. Soak up the excellent views of the surrounding mountains, including 14er La Plata just across the valley, and contemplate your next move.

From here, you can continue up to the top of the formation via some scrambling, hit up some newer pitches, or simply rap back to the base with a single 70m. If you choose to rap, you’ll want to make the first one down to the anchor for the Other Road, just down and left of the top of the second pitch of the Mother Lode. From here, you can hit the first pitch anchors on the Trooper Traverse, and one more rap to the ground.

Gear: nuts, TCU’s, doubles .4 to #2 Camalot. A #3 is optional, but I didn’t find a good place for it.

Locals Corner

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