c2002, Rick Karden & Laura Smith
For me, this story started about 2 years ago when a physics graduate student from Georgia Tech posted to rec.climbing asking whether there was any climbing in Summit County, Colorado. A quick flurry of follow-on postings suggested that he look elsewhere, perhaps Boulder, to get his fix; I happened to have the same question and fixation, and met up with Brent before a physics conference in Breckenridge for a few days of alpine rock. We played, explored, put up a new route on Mount Royal; I spent a couple of months of weekends that summer exploring more with my girlfriend, trying out each of the major areas. It was always empty, and the rock was always fun Ė scary and dangerous, sometimes, but alpine fun.
The original, out-of-print guide book for Summit County, Colorado, published in 1993 (High Country Crags, S. Astaldi & M. Gruber), was the only resource out there until we started slowly mapping the areas, ticking off climbs, taking pictures, and recording our impressions on a supplemental web guide to the book. The original bookís hand-drawn topos and directions were confusing and hard to follow, and the descriptions for individual climbs were short if anything beyond a route name and who the first ascensionists were.
Ten years later, we have another guide available to wander through, and to search out a good number of trad and sport climbs in what most consider a skiing & snowboarding resort area. Rick Karden, a Summit County teacher and climber, has sought out, visited, chronicled, and reported on 27 older and newer crag areas, some not in the original guide, and included a wide array of trad, sport, and bouldering areas for all sorts of interests. Instead of confusing topos (and some were pretty bad), we now have reasonable high contrast black and white photographs of each climbing area, showing protection and direction for each route.
The new guide covers most of the sub-alpine developed crag areas in (and just out of) the county. It specifically leaves out closed areas, several more alpine areas that were lightly covered in the previous guide, and ice climbing in the canyons, but includes a half-dozen new areas. The photos, a mixed bag of clear and easy to follow to fuzzy, Ďwhereís that looking?í, do an overall reasonable job of describing the climbs. Since so many crag areas are hidden in the trees, it was difficult to get good perspective to show the cliffs and boulders from the approaches and also show where routes are located. Directions to each crag are fairly clear, but it would be helpful to have a county map to supplement the book for just getting around the area and in between climbs. The hiking instructions from each parking area are good; itís an alpine area, and there may or may not be a trail. This ainít Eldo.
I wish that more information about each route was available. None of the available guides have very much route beta, or what to expect; but, then again, I like to know what Iím getting into. A big draw for the alpine climbing in the County is its obscurity, mystery, and solitude. Iíve never once bumped into another party climbing in the County. Okay, once, but it was ice. Thatís a bit different, and doesnít count. If you want a little more adventure on some out-of-the-way crags, like your climbing a little risky and alpine-flavored, donít mind the occasional wet and cold at a crag, and it doesnít bother you if the climbs are not all ultra-classic five-star routes, you could have a great time here with this guide.
The guide is not available Ďat a bookstore near you,í at least not yet. The limited first distribution run is only available around Summit County and in Denver, or from the author. You may have to wait to get on a distribution list to get a copy if you tarry, though. Print-On-Demand publishing is great for the small, niche-market author, but it is not cost efficient. The guide costs $14.95 plus shipping (if youíre not a lucky local); email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information on the guide.
This is an excellent guide to have if you plan to spend any time in the County over the summer months. Iíll carry both my older Astaldi guide and this the next times Iím up climbing, and make notes for Rick to add to the route descriptions. Summit County isnít just for skiing vacations anymore!