Rifle Mountain Park is a special place, both to me personally and in the general sport climbing world. The blocky and cryptic limestone makes for some of the most unique and challenging climbing I have encountered. The number of hard routes (and potential hard routes) is quite staggering, and is perhaps the most concentrated in the country. Through the years, I have developed as a climber there, achieved some of my proudest moments, and defined my climbing career. This season in Rifle Canyon was one of the most memorable and enjoyable that I can remember. Never before have I spent so much time in that canyon, despite 13 years of visiting.
One of my first outdoor climbing experiences was in Rifle. I was 11 and tried to lead “Cold Cuts”, a long 11a on the Meat Wall. It was my first outdoor lead, and I had a panic attack about 5 feet before the anchors, 10 feet above my last bolt. I was frozen and couldn’t climb up or down. I remember being paralyzed with terror. I had a white knuckled vice grip on the rock, and; being 11 and only about 60 pounds, I had not yet experienced being “pumped”. There was no chance I was going to fall or let go. I just held on and cried. After around 30 minutes of terrified and tearful wailing (and careful pleading from my dad belaying me), I forced myself to climb to the chains. I was embarrassed and angry with myself after that episode, and vowed to learn to not be afraid while leading. It was a traumatic experience and would take years for me to get over that fear become a competent lead climber, but that was one of the first real climbing experiences I had had. I had been petrified (literally, to the wall), more scared than I had probably been in my entire life at that time, and yet I was too passionate about climbing and determined to get through it. I put myself through dozens more nightmarish experiences just like that first one before I gradually gained confidence and was able push past that initial fear.
And now, 13 years later, I am still going back to Rifle. Still dealing with the fear and failure that goes along with climbing, and celebrating the successes and friendships I have made through my time spent there. The canyon has a special meaning to me for that experience and for the numerous other memories I have of learning and developing as a climber and person.
I spent a good portion of this summer/early fall in the canyon, dedicating my time to projecting some challenging lines and to gaining the fitness needed for our next big adventure to the Red River Gorge and Yangshuo, China. I had one of my most successful seasons there this year, managing to do a few notable ascents:
– Living the Dream (5.14a/b, First Female Ascent)
– Roadside Prophet (5.14a, First Female Ascent)
– Present Tense (5.13d, First Female Ascent)
– Bite the Bullet (5.13c)
There was also alot of developing going on there this season. Several of the country’s most talented climbers were there bolting new lines. Steve Hong, Sam Elias and Joe Kinder doubled the number of 5.14s in the canyon, putting up several hard routes, including Let it Burn (13d), Living the Dream (14a/b), Caddy Whompus (14a), Waka Flocka (14b), Planet X (14a/b), Rorschach Test (14?), and two more unfinished projects in the Wicked Cave. Andrew Bisharat, Chris Weidner, and Jeremy Hensel were busy bolting as well, and Jeremy developed an entire new wall, called “The Sanctuary”. Right now, there’s an 11a, 11c, 12a, 13a, and an unfinished project. I climbed on the wall on my last day in Rifle, and was not disappointed. All the routes climb really well, with interesting movement, and are pretty clean already. Thanks so much to all these guys for all their hard work this year!
Goodbye Rifle, until next year………….