Trip Report

Weekly Wednesday Blog Post: The Scenic Cruise

The Black Canyon is home to some of the longest and best rock climbs in the state of Colorado.  It is a place that has an intimidating and dark reputation.  Horror stories of bad rock, dicey runouts, and getting benighted can be heard whenever the The Black is mentioned.  Think of Yosemite’s bad ugly brother that lives in the attic and you’ll get the picture of this brooding canyon.   Despite The Black’s fearsome reputation, the classic routes are as good as you will find anywhere and can be a great place to hone your skills for bigger alpine rock objectives in the greater ranges.

One of my personal favorites, not just in The Black, but anywhere is the ultra-classic “Scenic Cruise.”  It’s a 15 pitch (by the guidebook) mostly crack climb straight up the southwest face of the North Chasm View wall.  It has everything a climber wants: great climbing, aesthetic quality, good rock, and you top out at the beer cooler.  Your first time on a route of this magnitude can be intimidating physically, mentally, and logistically.  I hope to dispel some rumors and give some hopefully helpful beta on how to climb The Scenic in a timely, expedient manner.
If you are a solid 5.10 trad leader climbing this route in 8 hours should be totally attainable.  Before you go, make sure you and your partner are fast with belay transitions and have good route finding skills.  Do your homework:  Research the climb beforehand.  Read guidebooks, online trip reports, talk to friends, and look at any beta photos you can.  Become as familiar with the terrain as you can.  Plan ahead:  Scout the Cruise Gully entrance the day before so you don’t get lost in the morning. Each climber should have a copy of the topo with them on the climb.  Figure out who is leading what pitch before you go.  Know that retreat would be difficult and expensive.  So here it is, the how to.
The Kit:

Small backpacks for leader and follower (10-15L capacity e.g. Black Diamond BBEE)
Minimum of 2L of water each  (Hydration systems are helpful)
Roll of athletic tape
Enough food to keep you going for 12 hours
Emergency space blanket (this is something I always carry with me on long routes)
Good weather forecast!

The Rack:

70m rope mandatory for linking pitches
1-2 sets of stoppers with RP’s
1x green C3
1x red C3
2x .3 Camalot
2x .4 Camalot
2x .5 Camalot
2x .75 Camalot
2x 1 Camalot
3x 2 Camalot
2x 3 Camalot
1x 4 Camalot
1x 5 Camalot or #3 Big Bro(optional for OW on crux pitch)
14 alpine draws

The Details:
Don’t forget to sign the board at the Ranger Station.  Depending on the time of year (May and October are best) hiking by 6am is usually the best.  It will be cold in the morning but you will be basking in sun hanging from perfect hand jams by the time you make it to pitch 3. The Black Canyon mantra of “A rope, a rack, and the shirt on your back” certainly holds true.  Light is right.  Hike down the Cruise Gully in your climbing shoes.  It’s not far to the base of the route and then you won’t have to carry extra shoes on the climb.  The rappels in the gully are usually fixed by early May.  Check with the Rangers before you go.  If you are there in the spring, there’s usually a forest of poison ivy at the base.  It can be avoided.  Be careful or wear a Tyvek suit if you are allergic.  Scout the upper pitches from the base and look to make sure you know where the Scenic goes left and the Cruise goes right.  It should be obvious from the base.
The Spraydown:
P1- 5.8  Climb the 5.7 arete then into the slippery groove up through some easy but funky terrain and through the 5.8 hands section to a good stance.  There are a number of old rappel anchors in this section.  You will be simul-climbing a short ways with your partner.  You just linked the first 3 guidebook pitches.
P2- 5.9  Traverse left from the belay into a slightly loose blocky crack system.  The climbing is steep and fun.  Continue up the corner to a small stance below a shallow right facing corner.
P3- 5.10  Climb the thin corner off the belay (its harder than it looks) to a small stance with a perfect hand crack above you.  Fire up the hands passing a small overlap and finishing in some funky peg.
P4- 5.10-  “The Peg Traverse.”  Not as bad as its reputation.  The runouts are on easier terrain and the rock is mostly solid.  Climb up off the belay, clip the fixed nut (there is usually some long slings on it).  Start climbing down where you can eventually place a .5 camalot that protects stepping around onto the ramp.  You can then back clean the piece to protect your partner.  Continue up the ramp to a horn belay with fixed slings.
*When your partner arrives at the belay, have him/her continue to the ledge below the crux pitch and build an anchor.  It’s a short pitch and keeps momentum going rather than swapping gear/leads.
Photo taken from
P5- 5.10+  Climb the overhanging corner.  It’s steep and sustained but has good holds.  Look for the occasional stem rest and fixed wire.  Exit the roof to the right and catch your breath, then fire up the 5.8 hands and straight into the 5.8 offwidth slot.  Save a big cam for the slot.  Belay on a great ledge off mid sized cams.
P6- 5.8  Climb the blocky crack system on the left.  Some steep climbing leads to easier rambling up and left.  Belay below the big flake off of .5 and .4 camalots.
P7- 5.7  Continue up to the flake and chimney behind it.  Climb up and right to some funky flakes and a good ledge with a bolted belay.
P8- 5.9+  Traverse right off the belay into some flakey rock.  Continue up and right into peg while passing 2 bolts and an old bolt missing a hanger (a little runout).  There is still an exposed stud.  Fire through on some sloping holds to a short corner and small ledge.  Punch up the short but difficult layback into easier terrain. Belay at the good ledge above.
Photo taken from
P9- 5.9  Traverse left from the belay on flakes into a right facing corner.  Continue up the sustained crack passing an old fixed cam.  Keep climbing on slightly easier ground until you get to a small but good belay stance.  Belay here or continue to the terrace.  Once at the terrace, you can unrope and walk the easy (3rd class) exposed terrace or do some roped traversing pitches.  Follow the path of least resistance and look for a blocky chimney exit to the rim.  The last short section should be 4th class and is easily soloed.  High five your partner and be psyched you just did one of the most classic rock climbs in the nation!
An average time for a river to rim ascent by a competent team should be around the 8 or 9 hour mark without any major route finding errors.  The Scenic is great spring preparation for those people looking to climb a summer route on the Diamond such as The Casual Route or Pervertical Sanctuary.  While the Diamond routes aren’t as long they require speed and efficiency to beat the afternoon thunderstorms.  It’s also the “entrance exam” to the other bigger routes in The Black such as the Southern Arete on the Painted Wall or the Flakes on the South Rim.
Oh yeah… I forgot to mention…  Earl Wiggins free soloed the second ascent of the Scenic Cruise in 2 hours wearing Kronhaufers and no chalk bag!
I hope you can enjoy this route as much as I have.
Eric Whewell
Colorado Mountain School Senior Guide
800-836-4008 x3
Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Blog Post, Trip Report, 0 comments

Weekly Wednesday Blog Post: Strengh Training for Backcountry Skiing

We’re still digging out from Winter Storm #2 and storms #3 and #4 are already in the forecast!  As the snow pack builds over the next month or so, this is the perfect time to also be building your backcountry skiing fitness base.  A complete ski conditioning program should include elements of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, plyometric resistance, and strength training.  The aerobic conditioning will get you up the skin track; the anaerobic conditioning will enable you to link turns for hundreds of vertical at a time; the plyometric resistance training will prepare your body for dynamic skiing movements in ever changing snow conditions; and the strength training will build overall power and will help to prevent injury.

CMS Guide Matt Lipscomb hits the weights to prepare for ski season.
One of the most efficient styles of strength training is Olympic weight lifting.  The Olympic lifts are dynamic, they engage multiple large muscle groups, and the strength gains translate well to athletic sports (like backcountry skiing) without “bulking up.”  Shown above is one of my favorite training lifts – the deadlift.  It works all the major muscle groups in the lower body (hamstrings, quads, glutes) as well as the core and lower back muscles.
Now is the time to build your fitness foundation for a long and rewarding ski season! Once you are ready to get out skiing, I’d love to be your guide. Call the office, request me, and let’s get some turns in together.

 -Matt Lipscomb

CMS Guide

Please Note: The Boulder Rock Club offers ski conditioning classes free for all members.  Tuesdays at 5:45pm and Wednesdays at 12pm.

Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Blog Post, Trip Report, 0 comments

Weekly Wednesday Trip Report: Unforgettable Routes

As the summer time rolls out and the winter time rolls in I begin to reflect on the all the great climbs I did over this last climbing season. I climbed quite a few routes this spring, summer, and fall and there are a few that really stick out in my mind.

Climber on the first pitc of the East Ridge of the Maiden.  Photo taken from

The first route that sticks out in my mind is the East Ridge of the Maiden. My friend and I did this route this spring. Many formations in this area are closed due to falcon nesting. It may be because of this, but we were the only ones on the formation that weekend. The guide book says it is 5 pitches. We strung together pitches 1 and 2 as well as 3 and 4. We were climbing with a 70m rope, which made it nice. Pitch one is a beautiful crack and pitch three involves some wild face moves. After topping out two single rope rappels bring you back to the ground. The first rappel involves a free hanging rap down to the “crow’s nest”. The second rap is down the south face. A quick scramble back to the base brings you back to your packs and the trail to head out.

Climber starting the wild 3rd pitch of the East Ridge of the Maiden. Photo taken from
The crazy free hanging rappel off the Maiden. Photo taken from
Climber starting pitch two of Fat City. Photo taken from

The second route that sticks out in my mind is Fat City (5.10c) at Lumpy Ridge. This route is on the Book formation. Although the hike up to the Book can be a bit of a hump, this route is well worth it. Plus when you add in the route Cheap Date, this is a route that shouldn’t be missed, and that is what we did. When I first moved to Colorado, this is the route that I took my first trad lead fall on. That fall happened on the first pitch and I couldn’t even get through the second pitch. This time, 5 years later, I made it through the first pitch without any problems. The second pitch is the crux. Thin fingers lead to a bit of a chimney, followed by and overhang. Really work the feet for the finger sections and you’ll do fine. For the chimney section make sure you rack your gear on the right side of your body. For the overhang I threw my right hand up with a thumbs down jam and tossed my hip over the lip and kind of scummed it on the wall. The third pitch has a bunch of great lie-backing. It is a fairly long pitch and will bring you to the cave. From there you can finish up on Cheap Date or do other various exit routes. Once you top out, hug the wall to your right and you’ll end up back at the base of the formation. This route has a little bit of everything, and because of that I recommend you put this route on your to-do list.

Pitch 4 of Rewritten.  Photo taken from

The third route that sticks out in my mind is Rewritten (5.7) in Eldorado Canyon. This route is situated high up on the Redgarden Wall. My climbing partner and I started the route with the first pitch of the Great Zot (5.8). By doing this, you get to climb a great crack through a little bulge. Really fun. After two more pitches of fairly easy climbing, you come to another amazing pitch. A traverse out left brings you to an airy and exposed hand crack. After this pitch you get another amazing pitch up a knife blade arête. From the top of the arête one more final pitch brings you to the top. Overall, these six pitches are amazing. A walk off brings you back to your packs.

There are many more routes that where a blast. For whatever reason these routes just stick out in my mind. I recommend everyone doing them. If you don’t feel comfortable leading them, the guides at the Colorado Mountain School can guide you up anyone of these routes.

Call us today if you have any questions.


E.J. Nogaski
Colorado Mountain School
800-836-4008 x3

Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Trip Report, 0 comments

Weekly Wednesday Trip Report: Cancer and Climbing – A Powerful Combination

At the end of September I, and some of my fellow CMS guides, finished our second season of running climbing camps for a non-profit organization called First Descents (FD). They provide adventure programming for young adult cancer survivors, roughly ages 20-40. I know the name does not seem to fit with climbing, but the organization started out providing kayaking camps – and where climbers look for that coveted first ascent of a route, paddlers look for the first descent of a river.

FD camps are 6 days long, and like many climbing adventures, the first and last days are travel days. The real meat of each camp happens during the middle 4 days with 2 days of top roping and multipitch prep work to build everyone’s skill sets so they are ready for the graduation climb – a full-blown multipitch climb on the final day! There is one well-earned non-climbing day thrown in as well when campers get to sample some of the local sights in the program area like Estes Park, CO or Moab, UT.

FD campers (and sometimes the volunteer staff) arrive with a wide range of cancer experiences – from folks who have been out of treatment for many years, to campers who are recently diagnosed and still in the midst of treatment. Climbing experience runs the gamut as well, from total novices who have never been on a rope (indoors or outdoors), to the occasional camper who has done some trad or sport leading.

And while a typical guided climbing experience tends to focus on climbing or educational objectives, these take a backseat to FD’s main objective – creating a community for a group of cancer survivors who frequently have had to go through the challenges of cancer with a relatively small to non-existent support network. I am continually amazed how many times I hear campers say, “Until this week, I have never met another young adult cancer survivor.” After camp, however, they know 10-15 folks who they don’t have to explain cancer to, who understand first-hand the intricacies of cancer treatment…people who ‘get it’! Never mind the connection they make to the larger FD family which is growing all the time.

The community they build is a powerful tool – not only at camp where campers support and encourage each other on and off the rock, helping each other achieve more than they dreamed they could…but also, after camp. I love hearing the post-camp stories about campers who feel like their camp experience was the impetus they needed to realize that they have too long allowed cancer to run their lives, that they feel like they have gone home, taken their lives back and have started to realize some of their pre- and post-cancer dreams. Dreams like writing music, starting a non-profit, publishing a book, mending broken relationships, quitting a hated job and starting a dream job for much less pay, moving to Colorado, completing a triathlon or marathon, climbing on their own even though they are terrified of heights…the list goes on and is incredibly inspiring!

For a CMS climbing guide who (like my peers) is passionate about seeing people stretch their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits through climbing and the mountain environment… what is there not to love about being a part of the First Descents experience?! FD season can’t come soon enough – I can’t wait!

By the way, if you are (or someone you know is) a young adult cancer survivor and you want information about attending FD camps, or if you are psyched to find out how to volunteer (no cancer required!) for camps, check First Descents out at…

For more photos check out Photo Adventures with Ed.

Take care,

Bob Chase
Colorado Mountain School
800-836-4008 x3

Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Trip Report, 4 comments

Weekly Wednesday Trip Report: W. Ridge of Eldorado

 Sunset in the N. Cascades, Washington

For most of us (in the Front Range anyway), when we hear the name “Eldorado,” we immediately think of our beloved Eldorado Canyon with soaring brown, red, and neon-green walls.  We think of how good the movement is on the warm Fountain sandstone and we think of the innumerable, quality routes inaudibly beckoning us like sirens seducing ill-fated sailors…or, as the case may be, desk-jockeys.  We think of the incredible amount of climbing and, best yet, how short the approaches are.

 CMS Guide Eric Whewell cruising up the W. Ridge & on his was to alpine certification

But in the great Northwest, there lies another Eldorado.  Unlike it’s Colorado cousin, Eldorado Peak pretty much shares none of those aforementioned attributes.  The rock quality is poor and treacherously loose, relegating the few routes to low 5th-class ridge climbs; and the approach options to Eldorado’s W. Ridge are all very long by Colorado standards.  Though, I will say, the views are simply spectacular.

Surmounting one of many gendarmes
Views north to Early Morning Spire and Dorado Needle from the ridge

CMS guide Eric Whewell and I, training for an upcoming alpine exam, walked the long approach to the base of Eldorado’s E. ridge.  Here we set up our camp as the sun disappeared and the moon simultaneously arose.  We left our camp early in the morning and essentially circumnavigated the Eldorado massif, dropping through a col between the Tepah Towers and Dorado Needle.  This was done by headlamp, connecting various glaciers that required extensive roped travel to manage the considerable crevasse hazard.  After yet a few more hours of approaching, we finally reached the 3000′ W. Ridge.

Another Eldorado ridge in the foreground, Early Morning Spire getting late-afternoon sun in the background
 A giant gendarme mid-way up the W. Ridge; cloud-bank below rolling in from the ocean

The climbing started out easy enough and we simul-soloed a third of the ridge before deeming the rock quality and difficulty just enough to warrant the rope.  We led in blocks, either outright pitches or simul-climbing, swapping leads whenever our small rack ran out.  I think most people take rock shoes up this route though the moderate grade of 5.7 felt comfortable in our La Sportiva Trango S Evo boots.  (We found a very munched Muira shoe near the top of the second third of the ridge.)  The difficulties were mostly found in simply managing the loose rock.  The hardest climbing came on a poorly protected traverse with a piton at the start but, at least, this section was short.

Taking a quick break and soaking up the views, mid-way up the route
 Eric climbing through one of the ridge’s steeper sections

Higher on the route, the ridge blended into a headwall comprised of infinite ledge systems.  The information we had said we only had another 500′ or so to go but it seemed endless.  Each “summit” turned out to be only another bump leading to more ledges.  Finally, seven hours after leaving camp, we reached the summit.

Unroped scrambling in the upper third of the W. Ridge
 Navigating exposed ledges near the top of the peak

A short but elegant snow-arete forms the upper part of Eldorado’s E. Ridge but the going was much easier than anything we’d been on yet.  We cruised down the E. Ridge, sometimes on rock, mostly on glacier and, 15 minutes later, were back at our camp.  Of course, this still left us with a 4.5 hour “approach” to get back to our car making us appreciate even more the ease of alpine climbing in RMNP let alone rock climbing in Eldo.

Andrew Councell
CMS guide

Descending Eldorado’s E. Ridge snow-arete back towards camp
View to the North, can just make out Shuksan (center) and Baker (left) in the far distance
Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Trip Report, 0 comments

Weekly Wednesday Trip Report: “By Gully” 5.9+

Located approximately 12 miles up Boulder Canyon, Castle Rock is a wonderful place to climb granite.  There are a wide range of routes available.  Anything from single-pitch to multi-pitch, 5.4 to 5.14.  Since I was heading to Yosemite soon, training at Castle Rock was the perfect choice.

Photo taken from

My climbing partner and I climbed a few single pitch routes that morning before I decided to hop on “By Gully”.  This route is rated 5.9+ and is the wide crack just left of the large roof.  It is an offwidth so be prepared.

Route Beta:
Boulder up to a bolt and clip it.  I used a standard quickdraw and didn’t feel any rope drag because of it.  Make a funky move to a hand crack and place a #1 Camalot.  You could probably place a #2 Camalot, but my I didn’t want to take that place because I used it as a hand jam to get into the wide section.  From there I went right side in.  Last year I tried this route left side in and it didn’t work.  Right side in worked great.

Photo taken from

With my right side in, my right arm was a chicken wing and left hand palming down on the rock. I cammed my right foot in the crack and wiggled my way up a few feet.  I was then able to place a #2 Camalot and then quickly after that a #4 Camalot.

From there I placed a #5 Camalot and walked it for a little ways.  After that I placed a #6 and walked it for most of the top section.  The section where I placed a #5 and #6 is mosly heel/toe and much more mellow than the first offwidth section.

Once you get near the top you can do one of two things.  You can traverse over (climbers left) to the sling anchor on “Coffin Crack” or build a seperate anchor above.

If you “enjoy” offwidth climbing, I highly recommend “By Gully”.  This route will make you work for it, but when you get to the top, it is well worth the struggle.

Note: Wear long sleeves and knee pads.  It takes the pain down a bit.

Colorado Mountain School Guides can guide this route if you are interested.  If you have any questions, give us a call.


E.J. Nogaski
Colorado Mountain School

Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Trip Report, 0 comments

Red Rocks! Vegas, Baby!

Rocktober is just around the corner!  Where are you going to get your send on?  Red Rocks!  Vegas, baby!  Could you think of a better fall destination for a brief climbing trip?!  As things start to get frosty on long routes at elevation in Colorado, the desert is just starting to get into prime time!

I have returned to Red Rocks again and again… to work… to play… to train… to CLIMB!  Situated right outside of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a world class destination.  It is one of my favorite spots due to the immense volume and variety of climbing- excellent sport or trad climbing, world class lengthy multi-pitches, sun or shade, crack or face.  There are plenty of hard routes in Red Rocks, but it is particularly noted for having exceptional long moderate outings, with enjoyably sustained climbing of just the difficulty to meet any climber at the level they are at.  

Want a mellow, but enjoyably steep outing?  Bing, Cat in the Hat, with six pitches of 5.6 going up the stunning formation that is Mescalito.  Want to climb a route that takes all the juice you’ve got and all the light of the day?  Boom, Epinephrine, considered by many to to be the best 5.9 in the country, sucking you in with a monstrous 13 pitches.  Don’t be scared off by rumors of endless chimneying- there are plenty of splitter cracks and endless corner systems in there too.  There are also many high quality cragging spots to work on your climbing or leading techniques and to rest your legs for the next big day out.      

One of the all time classics is the six pitch 5.8, Frogland, situated at the mouth of the astounding Black Velvet Canyon.  This climb has it all, pitch after pitch, with high end crack climbing, face climbing and corner climbing with a very cool tunnel through up high.  Oh, sooo good!  Below are some of the photos from a vertical adventure I had on it with two happy clients.

Colorado Mountain School has permits from October 22-31.  There are limited spots available, so please call the office now if you want secure a spot.  The friendly staff working in the office are happy to answer your questions and work with you to cater to your needs.  You can also learn more online here.

See you out there!

Rainbow Weinstock
Colorado Mountain School Guide

Posted by Aubrey Wingo in Trip Report, 0 comments