Posted on 12. Apr, 2010 by in News

Friday Brian Capps and I drove down to the Apishapa State Wildlife Area, which is about an 2.5 hours from Colorado Springs in search of a potential new bouldering area. I used Google Earth and Bing.com/maps, which I think have the best aerial imagery on the internet. I have been interested in trying to find a sandstone area in southeastern Colorado. The few times I have driven to this region I have been taken by the open spaces, the lack of people, and the sudden and deep canyons that slice across the stark landscape. Here the evening sun stretches with the land and there is a haunting quality to this lonely place.
Brian and I drove for a long time on the freeway, and then even longer as we raced past cattle on the long and open dirt roads towards Apishapa. The spring air was cool, but the sun here was intense, and it showed on the land.
Brian’s Iphone was indispensable in finding our position. Finally we crested a small rise, on a very marginal road and the canyon dropped into view. The excitement was palpable, and we ran to the rim of the canyon and saw a hundreds of boulders.
We gathered our things and quickly made our way down to the water, passing several promising, but short boulders. The rock seemed to be solid, but by the time we made it to the river, it was becoming more apparent that the boulders in the lower portions of the canyon were of a softer composition. Brian and I hiked far upstream, and checked out as many boulders as we could. Unfortunately the farther we got the more the quality of the rock deteriorated. There certainly was some potential for marginal problems, but nothing worthy of the long drive and hike.
IMG_4457 The best boulder we saw, and although this had good rock, it lacked the features and holds for good hard bouldering.
We found mountain lion tracks, a big horn sheep skull with horns, and the recently shed skin of six foot snake. All of this tempered the lack of good bouldering.
We continued our day by hiking down river a bit, found nothing and turned back.
Driving out with still some daylight, I suggested a quick trip to a small boulder near Rye, Colorado. Brian was psyched and we scampered down the faint path. The boulder sits in near a small wash and has nearly perfect sandstone. We cleaned up the one obvious hard line and went to work. Darkness fell and it had been a long day. We refined our beta under the florescent glow of our headlamps. I climbed it first and Brian finished it soon after. I named it Clandestine and we agreed it was probably V10.
IMG_4464Brian Capps sends Clandestine V10
These days provide so much motivation. Going out, having a great adventure in a new place, seeing beautiful scenery and signs of wildlife makes for an excellent day. We didn’t run into another person all day, and then putting up a new problem on great rock to top it off. For me, this kind of experience exemplifies many of things I enjoy about bouldering.

13 Responses to “Apishapa”

  1. TK

    12. Apr, 2010

    Cool stuff…the power of GIS.

    The aerials from those mapping sites typically come from the NAIP (national ag imagery project), which are also available from the USDA for download. Currently in MT the aerials shown in GE and Bing are 2006, but 2009 imagery is available now for much of the western US…this will eventually be updated in GE and Bing, but it’s available now if you’re interested.

    Another great layer to look into is color infrared imagery for your state. It makes the boulders ‘pop’ out of the forest…super helpful IMO

    Great to see the exploring, keep it up


  2. MikeM

    12. Apr, 2010

    Small chossy boulders that are not made for hard climbing? Sounds like you stumbled upon a little piece of Idaho in CO.

  3. dp

    12. Apr, 2010

    So Picketwire is still the place to go?

  4. B3

    12. Apr, 2010

    The Picketwire is on private property, and climbers have been chased off. There are some areas in the Comanchee National Grasslands, but the rock was again of marginal quality and things were spead out.

  5. Carlos

    12. Apr, 2010

    You might be interested in Mills Canyon in northern New Mexico. E-mail me if you have questions regarding the area. Keep up the good work on your blog.

  6. sidepull

    12. Apr, 2010


    Sorry, but given the fact that when Jamie writes nice, beautiful trip/day-out reports, like the one above, he gets a pretty low response, I thought I’d stir the pot with more grade-V-16-gibberish. Here goes:

    Settle the dispute in the gym. In other words, get a group of top climbers together and have them recreate the grading scale, V0 to V-infinity (for example, this seems to be V10: http://vimeo.com/10848645). Have them create a problem that represents each grade and then have this set of problems serve as a museum of bouldering grades (eg: http://museum.nist.gov/exhibits/ex1/).

    It seems like this could be a real win-win for the sport:

    1) it provides an easy way to get the statistical numbers needed for agreement on a grade
    2) the gym that houses and the hold providers that make the problems would get instant boosts in credibility. For instance, suddenly the gym might become somewhat of a destination: people would travel to gym just to calibrate.
    3) it allows for a better test of climbers’ capabilities when they make claims. As in the Lucid Dreaming example, rather than citing a potentially esoteric problem that shut a climber down, simply note that they were only able to climb up to V13 in the “grade museum” so it’s impossible to believe a claim 3 grades higher.
    4) creating the museum could actually be a big event that gets revisited every 10 years, kind of like the writing of the constitution: “On this date in 2010, our bouldering forefathers met to insure fairness and parity and provide for the common experience of bouldering ….”

    Some caveats:

    1) Obviously it’s a whimsical suggestion, but I think it could actually be really cool. Disneyland is whimsical and I’m sure most of you have enjoyed that too.
    2) There are a lot of skills required for bouldering, so we’d probably need at least 3 problems for each grade as a way to try to capture the range of the grade. I’m sure even 3 sounds too limiting, but 3 is just such a nice number – 3 Amigos, Cerberus, and the Trinity – so 3 just feels right.

    Okay, sorry for the intrusion*.

    *But I really do think it’s a good idea! 😉

  7. Chad Greedy

    12. Apr, 2010

    dood Bobby (huran) and I went there a super long time a go and did all the classic hard stuff … i think we climbed a v12 or 2 .. shit so many years ago .. well anyway you didn’t find shit kid … keep lookin !

  8. Peter J.

    12. Apr, 2010

    Yep, check Mills next time. Longer drive, but solid.

  9. Ange

    13. Apr, 2010

    oh dear god it looks like joe’s…my tips are sweating just thinking about it. directions please.

  10. Carlos

    13. Apr, 2010

    I am not sure if you were talking to me or B3, but I in no way think I discovered Mills Canyon. I have however (ith the help of a few other people)developed 2 other areas around Taos if any one is ever interested. Have fun climbing everyone.

  11. John S

    15. Apr, 2010

    I have a question for most of you boulder locals or should I say Locos. Would you guys pay your dues to a new area that has huge potential, but the rock quality is marginal? (Some choassy Granit, some solid) I am talking possibly hundreds of problems on one mountain side. Its about 1/2 hr drive from Boulder and another 1/2hr hike. There is tons of hard stuff and roofs but a lot has bad landings. Thoughts?

  12. Criz

    28. Apr, 2010

    Mills area is very extensive and I believe it currently has over 300 problems documented. Key to this area is to explore the side canyons if you want to find unclimbed god smacking boulders. Loads more climbing to be developed. There are a few pics from the area on 0 Friction website under Roy as the area name. Just get yourself to Mills Canyon and take it from there. The area provides long days in deep canyons with complete solitude and unlimited amounts of hard lines on stellar sandstone. Just don’t go after May as the bugs get nasty!

  13. Jay

    24. Dec, 2010

    Just got back from Roy. Mos def a destination for those that want to pioneer some new bouldering (and there’s a new deluxe, free campsite to boot!)

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