| Are there bolts up there?
Who: Noah (Winter8000m) and James (jameseroni)
Where: Some random wall further left of creek side wall, in Clear Creek Canyon
What: A three pitch trad route, possibly a first ascent. 400ish feet?
“Are there bolts up there?”
I couldn’t hear him. I first took note of him while taking in my surroundings. Up 200’ on an unknown (to us anyway) route, semi hanging belay above the sound of a rushing creek entwined with the loud rumble of the occasional passing Harley.
I pointed to my ear, letting him know I couldn’t hear, then focused my attention back to Noah. Noah was another 140’ above, setting up what would be the second and final anchor on this three pitch route. I looked back down, Mr. unknown was still hanging around, checking our progress randomly. I noticed him drive by in a silver Porsche earlier, honking to gain our attention then giving us a thumbs up. When Noah told me his question, we now had a name for this route – if indeed it has not been documented.
Mr. Unknown got back in his Porsche 150’ below and drove away, into the tunnel. Only in clear creek canyon can you get rushing water, passing cars and good rock. Very unique experience for me, although it made it a little difficult to communicate with Noah 140’ up.
The first pitch looked a little daunting to me. I was glad Noah would be leading it. It was an off-width crack with a menacing bush in the middle of the crux. Later Noah and I would laugh about how he tried to plug in a #3, only to be warded off the first time by the bush. A cam is meant to go in with solid rock. Not rock with a twig in between.
“Off Belay” Noah yelled, simultaneously giving me a thumbs up. I’m up. My heart rate is increasing a bit. Breath. Breath slower. Climb.
Two hours earlier:
So today I called Noah up, seeing if he was available for some sport in CCC. He was, so we decided to go check it out. All of the crags were a complete zoo. There wasn’t hardly a place to park on the way up. We decided finally to go further up the canyon to a place known as “Creekside”. Check it out on mountain project under Destinations>Colorado>Golden>Clear Creek Canyon. Well I passed it, not paying attention to the wide open parking on the right shoulder. I was just about to turn around when we spotted a single vehicle parking area, just big enough for us to squeeze in. We got out and looked around, preparing our gear and getting ready to walk back down the road to Creekside. Noah’s senses suddenly go up. “Man look at that line!” he told me
I looked and noticed a beautiful crack splitting what would later be the first pitch of this route. It went up and to the right, a seemingly perfect belay ledge with a tree at the top of the pitch. We continued to study the face and noticed it may be possible to ascend the entire face.
“Pitch one would go up and to the tree, then pitch two would go to the bush. From there it looks like some traversing and then possibly a top out” Noah would say, as he studied the wall.
I agreed, not realizing at first Noah was serious about tackling this route. I was still in Sport climbing mode. Not adventure climbing mode. Noah let me know he was indeed serious, telling me he things it will go in three pitches and not more than a couple hours. I start to take the bait. Something about his adventurous spirit is addicting. Climbing an unknown route with the challenges it presents mentally, was appealing to me.
We decided to give it ago. Me more so reluctantly, stating things like, “Well maybe just the first pitch…” and “We only have a 50m rope”. Noah had forgotten his 50 we were supposed to double up with mine. I did however, have a 30m rope we brought along as a rappel rope.
We knew we would have to cross the creek to gain the route. We took our shoes off and set off on the slippery moss covered rock. The water was about 2’ deep where we crossed and moving pretty good. I slipped a few times, regaining my balance. The water was COLD but felt good at the same time.
Back to pitch 1:
Shoes on, pack on, tied in, chalked up, ready to go. “Climbing!” I yell. “Climb On.” Noah says in return.
I scramble up the beginning difficulties of 5.4ish without as much as a second glance. Next I get high and underneath the crux move, which awkwardly pushes me out and away from the rock. “I have to get through this quick” I say to myself. My forearms are already feeling the burn from hanging on in the awkward position. I think to myself, How in the heck did Noah lead this. The climbing only gets harder. The bush starts poking me in the face. I couldn’t find anything good to hold onto in the crack, so I grab the base of the bush itself. I place my right foot higher. It slips, weighting my right hand. The bush breaks and I take a 3 foot follower fall, now well below the crux once again.
I hang here and contemplate my future for a second. Maybe this isn’t for me. I tell Noah to lower me and that I do not yet have the strength for this crux move this season. Noah does what he does best, remains persistent and tells me to grab on the gear if I need to. He had placed a #3 cam which was bomber, deeper in the off width crack. I grabbed the shoulder length runner and finally pulled myself through the crux move. He would later rate it 5.10a. I would agree, but it felt harder to me. Maybe I’m just out of shape since it’s the beginning of the rock season.
The rest of the pitch went by pretty smoothly but definitely had a few moves of similar difficulty I was able to pull off. I get up to Noah and he has a big smile on his face. “The rest of the route looks mid 5th” he tells me. I’m thinking to myself, yeah right – just lower me and get me out of here. Then I look up at the remaining route and see it indeed looks mid 5th. I agree to continue, gaining confidence from the solid belay anchor he had set in a perfect crack.
Here is a photo of the first pitch. The anchor is at the top right to the left of the small tree.
Here is another photograph of the first pitch. The large off width is right in the center. The bush is about half way up the off width.
Here is an overall shot of the entire face. The line starts out with the first pitch on the bottom right of the photo. The off width crack leads up to a small tree which is noticed in the mid right of the photo. This is the first belay. The second and third pitches go basically straight up and stay to the right. The third pitch finishes by climbing the highest portion of the face with the trees on top. Noah and I agreed it was a stiff 5.8 finish. Maybe more difficult for a leader.
The second pitch was pretty straight forward. There was some 5.5ish climbing toward the end of the pitch, which seemed mostly 5.0. Easily protectable, 140’. There was a lot of loose rock on this pitch and not any sign of a previous ascent. There were even a few cactuses.
I climbed up to Noah’s second belay, which was not ideal. There was really no great place for a solid anchor. He was able to get two #1’s into a questionable crack. It was questionable because of the angle and width of the rock at the particular point the cams were placed. It would have to do.
Noah was off for the third and final pitch. Once he got to the top, he looked down with a smiling face and told me the pitch was awesome. I asked him if it was the top and he said it was. Great job Noah.
Here is a photograph of Noah on the second or third pitch. The angle is steeper than it seems.
Here is another shot to show that the angle is much steeper and more like the following:
The angle was the least on the second pitch, then picked back up again the third pitch.
Here is a shot of Noah sitting on top. The last pitch was very fun, although sporty. The gear was not great either. I grimaced thinking about leading such an airy pitch, with not so great of gear to protect. The gear did get better as the pitch continued. This last pitch was vertical.
Top out shots. Yes he’s anchored in.
Of course what does any self respecting mountaineer do? We go to the highest visible point in our proximity. I think we will name this the corn dog summit. Noah said it looked like a corn dog and I’m pretty sure we were both thinking about corn dogs at this point.
The descent was uneventful. From climbers left, turn left and traverse your way down class 3 loose junk until you find a gully. It’s a walk down from there, back to the creek.
Here is Noah crossing the creek on his way back to the car.
A panorama of the first pitch
What a great climb with great company. Thanks to Noah and his adventurous spirit, the bolts will have to wait another day.
“Are there bolts up there?” The answer to your question Mr. Silver Porsche Man, is “No, there aren’t bolts up there.”
Should this be a first ascent, the name of the route will be the title of this trip report.
Oh, one more photo showing the belays.