National Park Service backs away from proposed ban on commercial guiding in Black Canyon wilderness zone

Black Canyon of the Gunnison. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

Are wilderness values at risk?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The National Park Service says it won’t ban commercial guiding in a wilderness zone in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison until it gets more input from stakeholders.

The announcement earlier this month garnered a positive reaction from U.S. Senator Mark Udall, who interceded with the park service on behalf of the climbing community.

“I applaud the National Park Service on its decision not to move forward with a guided-climbing ban in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park,” Udall said. “This is not only a spectacular area, but also a world-class climbing destination, and guided climbing continues to play a role in both supporting the local economy and promoting the safe and responsible use of our outdoor resources,” he said. Continue reading

Colorado: A winter climb of Huron Peak

Try, and try again …

The Three Apostles.

Moonset over Clear Creek Valley.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

When I woke up after a night with temperatures in the teens, the sun was not yet in sight.  Despite giving myself the comfort of two down sleeping bags, I still needed a significant boost to generate enough heat for the trail. After boiling a liter of water for a giant chocolate mocha coffee, I ground my legs into low gear and hiked up the road from the mining ghost town of Winfield toward the Huron Peak trailhead two miles from my camp. After the first mile, my leg muscles were loose and sweat began to seep through my base layer.  An hour later, I arrived at the trailhead.

A lesson in patience, this was my fourth attempt to reach Huron Peak, 14,003 feet, in winter.  From Clear Creek Reservoir, Chaffee County Road 390 is maintained only eight miles to the abandoned mining community of Vicksburg, across from the trailhead to Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, and Missouri Peak.

On my first attempt, in mid-March, I parked at Vicksburg and hiked on the snow-covered road for five miles to Winfield, then busted trail through powder that was sometimes waist-deep for a mile toward the trailhead before turning back. The twelve-mile hike was primarily a scouting mission to determine how easily I could approach the trailhead with a four-foot base of snow in the forest. Continue reading

Colorado: Scary moments on Mt. Elbert

Kim Fenske describes a winter climb of Colorado’s highest summit

Mt. Elbert view: Alpenglow — and the moon — across the Arkansas River Valley.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

At 14,433 feet, Mount Elbert is the highest mountain in Colorado. In summer, the summit is one of the easiest Fourtenners to attain. The primary trailheads mark junctions with the Colorado Trail that passes north and south along the base of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert within sight of Leadville. Branching off of the Colorado Trail, trails to the summit rise quickly on switchbacks to gain the summit along ridges from the northeast and southeast. The summit is four miles from the north trailhead and a bit over six miles from the lower south trailhead.  From either direction, the summit can be reached in approximately six hours, with a descent of about three more hours. Continue reading

Colorado: A fall hike on Castle Peak

Guidebook author Kim Fenske shares trail beta and photos from a Colorado classic

Aspen's famed Maroon Bells, seen from the Castle Peak area.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Castle Peak is a majestic fortress, diminished only by the magnificent company it keeps. Since the more renowned peaks of Maroon, North Maroon, Pyramid, and Snowmass lie close at hand, Castle Peak rests in relative peace.

From Summit County, Castle Peak Trailhead is a hundred miles away. Climb over Independence Pass, drop through Aspen, and turn from the roundabout to Castle Creek Road. Castle Creek Road leads to a jeep road that is the beginning of a six-mile ascent to the summit of Castle Peak. The abandoned silver mining town of Ashcroft is nestled among aspen meadows on Castle Creek Road, ten miles below the remains of the Montezuma-Tam O’Shanter Mine. Continue reading

Time to comment on Arches National Park climbing plan

National Park Service developing new climbing and canyoneering management plan for Arches National Park.

Draft options include an enlightened adaptive management approach

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The National Park Service has made some progress on a new climbing and canyoneering management plan at Arches National Park.

Four draft alternatives span a wide range of options, from a no action alternative that would leave the current rules in effect, to a climb anything, anywhere, anytime option, and a regulatory approach that would enact new restrictions.

Alternative B seems to be the middle-of-the-road approach, with an adaptive management approach based on careful monitoring. The draft alternatives are now open to public comment. After taking input, the park service will develop a more detailed study showing the relative impacts of each option. Continue reading

Access Fund supports Colorado wilderness proposals

Group says wilderness peaks an important part of climbing culture

A climbing access group says proposed new wilderness in Colorado would protect backcountry climbing areas.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite a few debates here and there on the ethics of bolting, climbers in general have always taken a progressive stance on land conservation, and the Access Fund this week continued that tradition by announcing its support for two pending Colorado wilderness proposals in the San Juans and on public federal lands in Summit and Eagle counties.

The Access Fund is happy to join with recreation and conservation groups across the state to support these public land conservation initiatives that preserve backcountry climbing and recreation opportunities,” said Access Fund executive director Brady Robinson. “We support all types of climbing experiences, from the remote wilderness peaks to urban crags and bouldering areas. The opportunity to climb in protected wilderness areas is a key value that many climbers cherish. We hope our Colorado membership will contact their federal legislators in support of these proposals.” Continue reading

Opinion: Frisco climbing route stirs classic controversy

Online flame war over bolts on Mt. Royal

A photo by STAN WAGON shows the upper face of the now-controversial Royal Flush route.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A climbing route on Frisco’s very own Mt. Royal has triggered an intense debate on a climbing website, with comments breaking down along predictable lines. The route was established and bolted by local climbing guide Peter Krainz together with Tim Toula in 2009. It’s described as a traditional 20-pitch, 5.9 (Grade III) climb covering 1,500 vertical feet.

Initial feedback from complimented the pair for the hard work they put into establishing the route, but a subsequent comment thread turned nasty and sarcastic, with some self-proclaimed climbing purists claiming that there are too many bolts in the wall, calling the route unethical. Others responded that they don’t see a problem with the bolts in a semi-urban setting, where trucks roar past on a four-lane interstate highway. Continue reading

Fourteener fees in Colorado?

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing $10 to $20 fees for climbing peaks in the Sangre de Cristos Colony Basin.

Public comment wanted on plan to charge for access to peaks in the Colony Basin area of the Sangre de Cristos

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is considering charging $10 to $20 for climbing a group of popular fourteeners in the Sangre de Cristos in order to help pay for trail work and restoration of damaged alpine tundra. For now, the proposal is only aimed at summer users.

“Relying on recreation use fees appears to be the best option for providing future high quality backcountry experiences and protecting the natural environment in South Colony Basin,” Forest Service ranger Paul Crespin wrote in a May 12 letter announcing the proposal.

While the agency claims it needs the money to help manage the area, groups opposed to the fees say the plan a first step toward widespread hiking fees on fourteeners. A better option would be to adopt a free first-come, first-serve permit system, according to the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition. Continue reading

A ‘big wall’ climb in Summit County?

Local guide teams with Texan to establish alpine-style route on Mt. Royal

The final section of a year-old route on Mt. Royal features some fine face climbing left of the dihedral visible in the photo.


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By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many people may not know it, but Summit County climbers have their own local version of a “big wall” climb practically in downtown Frisco.

Summit Voice contributor Stan Wagon recently completed the Royal Flush route on Frisco’s Mt. Royal with climbing partner Bill Briggs and sent us a short review.

“While people used to sport climbs rated this two or three stars on (www.mountainproject.com), I would rate this fully four or five stars,” Wagon said via e-mail. “Of course, I am old-school, trad climber. It offered a superb amount of high quality rock, in my opinion. And you simply cannot beat the 5-minute approach … Some people have done a lot of work to install this route, and we are grateful!” Continue reading

Colorado climbers mark 20th Everest anniversary

Everest - Photo by Pavel Novak via the Wikimedia Commons.

American Mountaineering Center features information, video on successful climb, which included the first American ascent of Lhotse

By Summit Voice

It’s climbing season on the world’s highest peak, and this week marked the 20th anniversary of a successful American Everest expedition led by Boulder resident Glenn Porzak, known to many Summit County residents as an attorney involved many water issues affecting the area. It was Porzak’s third attempt to summit the world’s highest peak.

The same expedition also saw the first American ascent of Lhotse, as Wally Berg and Scott Fischer reached the summit of the 27,940-foot peak on May 13. They also became the first Americans to climb two 8,000 peaks in the same expedition. Lhotse was first climbed May 18, 1956 by the Swiss team of  Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger.

The American Mountaineering Center in Golden has posted a short video interview with Porzak on it blog.

So far this year, 15 people have summited Everest, and there has been one death. Get up-to-date coverage of the current Everest climbing season at EverestNews.com or at AlanArnette.com.

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