Does the Off Season Exist Anymore?

Whoa, maybe the off season isn't any less crowded!

At first, I was surprised. What were so many people doing here on a Monday, during the first week of October? We were on a school trip to Indian Creek, and there were quite a few folks hanging out in the main campground. Don’t they know Creek season starts in November, when the climbing everywhere else gets too cold? Many of the days in October can be too warm to climb anywhere but in the shade, and there just aren’t that many options for completely avoiding the sun in the land of splitter cracks.

And then I started thinking about it. If you get up early, or don’t mind going to cliffs you can’t stay at all day, there actually is quite a bit you can get done down there in the warmer months. And maybe more and more people are realizing that the “early” season means less crowds, and more solitude, which is one of the best things about the place.

I was talking to a friend in the gym the other day, who loves going to the Red in December, because “everyone is gone and the friction is supreme.” Which had me pondering further, is there really an off season any more? Last winter was a bit of an anomaly, but even around here you can still get out on the sunny local cliffs in December, January and February.

As our crags become more and more crowded, has the “season” been redefined? In order to have that experience of being at our favorite places without a major crowd, maybe we are learning that it’s OK to think outside the box a little. Indian Creek in the summer, Yosemite in the winter? Why not?

On a personal level, I know that after a couple years of focusing on climbing year round, I no longer think of the end of THE season, but the end of “a” season. When summer is over, it’s time to hit the fall crags. As the snow starts piling up, we hit the lower elevation spots and sunnier walls. There are people who climb in Rifle all winter long, chasing what sun there is. Granted, it’s a select few, but it goes to show that with the proper motivation, a great summer crag can be a decent winter one too!

So what do you think? Have you ever visited a crag “out of season” and found that it was actually pretty darn fun? Is the off season more of a state of mind? Or are we holding on too tightly, and should we just go skiing or play Xbox during the winter instead?

11 Responses to Does the Off Season Exist Anymore?

  1. I don’t know about an off season, but climbing Little Cottonwood Canyon granite boulders in the summer is a humbling experience. Everything feels 2-5 grades harder, and I swear there are problems that become completely undoable when it’s warm an humid. But of course, you can still climb there, if you’re willing to throw grades out the window and just dork around.

    Justin Roth October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm
  2. Yosemite is horrible in winter. Please don’t come visit. There are no crowds or tourists and the campgrounds are full of snow and empty of people…

    Luke October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm
    • That DOES sound horrible!

      BJ Sbarra November 1, 2012 at 11:47 am
  3. I can remember many a February trip cruising over to Shelf Road or Penitente canyon. Although, I remember more than 1 time that we mucked up reading the forecast and were climbing in 5 degree dry wind or snow…

    Jestep October 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm
  4. The “off” season is just that singular moment of our memories. Found once, but almost never repeated, a blissful dream that we wish to have over and over again.

    John Smollen October 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm
  5. Great post. This was something I thought about a lot this past weekend in Tensleep, where we were literally the only party climbing in the upper canyon, perhaps even the whole thing! I think “off season” is just a rationalization used by lazy people :).

    mtsplitski October 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm
  6. I’ve climbed at the Red in July, Indian Creek in August, and Maine in February. It’s all what you’re willing to do. You certainly won’t get “sending temps” climbing at the Red or the Creek in mid summer, but you chase shade and it still makes you stronger. You might be cold (unless it was this past winter) in Maine in February, but it’s still fun as long as you keep your toes warm. Climbing is possible, enjoyable, and even pretty damn good way outside of when the crowds visit. In some cases (Ten Sleep and Kalymnos for example), I think the conditions for hanging out and climbing are even better after the crowds have gone. But if you’re not interested in branching out that’s with me, I like a quiet crag.

    Dyland October 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm
    • When it was super hot this summer in Rifle, many people were staying away, but the climbing was just as fun! Of course if everyone felt this way then I guess there would never be an off season, so maybe we should keep it to ourselves!

      BJ Sbarra November 1, 2012 at 11:49 am
  7. I’m sorry, I live in California. What is this thing you call “off season”? Go to the mountains in the summer, desert in the winter, and hit the freshies when it storms.

    And if you watch the weather, almost everywhere gets a break now and then — a cool summer, or a dry winter. Just keep it to yourself.

    HD November 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm
  8. i hit up a local crag near my college in november on a cold day – the high was 30 degrees.

    i am a proficient lead climber at the 5’9 difficulty. that being said i had never climbed the poudre that much.

    i attempted a 5’7 in the cold as the sun went down to help my friend complete a liberal arts photo project that was about the rock climbing process.

    my hands and feet froze on the cold rock that was not exposed to sun but a cold wind chill all day. i ended up taking a whipper. my friend was not a very goot belayer. that being said it was not a fun experience.

    i can see winter climbing on warm days with classic partners – not on cold days with a brand new belayer. good days and bad days i guess

    dane January 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm
  9. I live in Maine and our season to climb in shorts and a t-shirt, or shirtless is very short. That being said it isn’t uncommon to see a few climbers ocean-side at Acadia National Park in late October or early November and even as early as April. Is it cold? Heck yeah it is! Are there many other options around here? Not really, unless you want to travel out of state.

    Mike February 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm
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