Climbing Golden Cliffs

You Climbed When?

Wow. November 13th, in Colorado, and here I was going climbing. Outside. The weather was holding, you couldn't ask for a more perfect time, so it was decided to try Table Mountain (aka Golden Cliffs), on the edge of Golden, Colorado, on Saturday November 13th. The day was very nice, warm, sunny, just about everything you could ask for in the spring. The fact it was supposed to be snowy and cold wasn't lost on anyone in the parking lot that I could see.

Right on time Greg and Mandy rolled up. As they got out of Mandy's car I also saw Amy getting out of hers. Turns out some of Greg's friends from work showed up and added to the fray in the parking lot (just for the record the lots for Golden Cliffs are not very large and on a nice day like that they get filled quickly).

We began the hike up to the actual cliffs right around 11:30am. The hike isn't all that far, but it does gain elevation quickly, quite a way to warm up for the day. At the top of the trail it became obvious just how many people were determined to catch this lapse of Mother Nature, the place was packed. You can turn right and catch 10 routes or you can turn left and walk almost half way around the mountain, picking any route that doesn't already have a rope up. We opted for left since that seemed to give us the best chance for getting on the wall. Greg and I started off, with Amy and Mandy still working their way up the trail (they stopped to use the one port-a-potty at the bottom of the trail, be advised there are no bathrooms at the actual cliffs).

As we kept working our way around farther and farther (there were a lot of people there) Amy caught up to us and let us know that Mandy had already stopped and was putting up a rope. Not one's to shy away from letting Mandy lead, Greg and I turned around to follow Amy back to wherever Mandy was. She was standing, staring at a wall, backpack still on. Hmmm, so she hadn't actually started putting a rope up, but that's ok, she had picked out a nice area that had a couple of good routes.

Mandy led the first route, a 5.6 called Kevin Spies the Line. It was a nice route to just start out and warm up on and we pulled the rope down after each climber so everyone could get an easy lead in. The Table Mountain area, in my opinion, is a good place to meet new people and generally enjoy the day. Many climbers bring their dogs and wandering packs of dogs who have never seen each other inevitably end up running along the path playing and ignoring their owners, some of whom actually try to contain their dogs. Not a place for anyone scared of dogs, but also realize that most climber's dogs reflect the attitude of the owner, generally very easy to get along with, friendly, and laid-back (I've yet to be bothered by any animal in that area and most of the dogs ignore the people in favor of the other dog's company).

The route was easy and the rock was warm, sometimes hot to the touch.

After coming back down on the first route Mandy and I wandered over to the next one, just to the West of our current route (the Golden Cliffs area has so many routes that you can literally climb right next to someone and never interfere with each other). Some other climbers were taking down their gear and offered up the fact it was a great climb. We stared at it a bit, concerned with the second and third clip, which seemed to pop out of the rock at just the right places to be difficult. Giving in to my irrational need to climb, I grabbed the rope and tied in. The route (a 5.10b called Table Top, I was to find out later) started easy enough. The first clip was about 15 feet up, but was very easy to reach. The second clip, up over a small ceiling was a bit scarier but still not too bad. The third clip though, ohhh the third clip. It was on the face, about 7 feet above the second one, with only very small horizontal cracks to wedge a finger in and hold on. Here was where the 5.10 started. I gave it a couple of attemps, psyching myself out each time not sure that I could hold on to the rock, grab a quickdraw, place it on the bolt, and still get the rope up before falling. Being good at math and physics in my head didn't help and I was pretty sure that a tumble off the rock right there could have some serious consequences. I tried and tried, but just couldn't bring myself to let one hand off the rock to make the move, burning my muscles the whole time. Finally I gave in and asked to be let down. Mandy jumped on the rope to finish the climb, scampering up to where I had left off. She noted the places I had put my hands, gave a breath, and just... went up. Mandy is a great climber, someday I hope to be that good. (It's a humbling experience to go out climbing with Mandy and Greg. Their both so solid on the rock and just make the moves that I can't seem to get the hang of. Of course Mandy, being 5' even or so blows my theory that I can't climb like Greg since I'm shorter than him...)

Mandy placed all of the needed gear at the top and came back down as I asked Greg if he was going to lead it next. Simple answer: "No way". Still, even on a top rope he just climbed and climbed (the pictures to the right are from Table Top). After everyone else had gone I wanted another chance at this one, but on a top rope this time. For some reason I scaled right up it with hardly any problems. I did find out that just a couple of feet above the third clip there is a great hold, had I known that I might have kept going and worried about clipping once I'd had that spot. Next time...

After coming down from that we headed around the corner to go find Greg's friend. We found him and two other people working their way up Honey, I Shrunk the Hemorrhoids a nice 5.7 that looked easy but had the bolts spaced out far enough to give you that feeling of a challenge. As soon as they were done they headed over to our challenging 5.10, leaving us their gear and rope (it's common climbing at Table Mountain to switch ropes with other people if you are each on routes the other group would like to climb, at one point people were on our two ropes and we were on someone else's).

This one wasn't bad, even if on the way up I did see a small blood stain on little overhang where the last guy had slammed his knee into the rock. The climb started a bit weird, going from a boulder straight up and over a face, but once that was cleared it was smooth sailing. Just to the right of us must have been a good climb though, the string of cuss words coming out of that guy's mouth was out of place for such a nice November day.

Since the sun sets so early in Colorado in November I still wanted to get home and try to get things done around the house while I could. I decided to leave while Greg and Mandy wanted to head back to our original area from early in the day and get one more climb in. Amy and I hiked the path back down to the cars, said our goodbyes, and that was the end of one of the best November days I'd had. Final temperature for the day was almost 80 degrees.

Oh, and the weather held for me one more day, so I got to mountain bike the next day as well, what luck!


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