The WINDS of Eldorado

@ the top of shirttail peak

It’s a typical saturday morning in paradise(Eldo). I have been up since dawn, and had my morning coffee. I am stretched and packed up now what to do? I wander next door to my favorite climbing partner’s house. Corey, Chloe, and Canyon are having a nice morning as well. I hang with my favorite three year old and convince her (Canyon) to eat her breakfast while uncle Drew makes some play dough sculptures. Meanwhile, Corey and I discuss what to do for the day. Since we have aspirations to climb the Diamond this summer, we decide that we should climb the biggest mountain Eldorado has to offer. We also continue to dialogue about how lucky we are to live in a beautiful place like Eldorado Springs with world class climbing right in our backyard. At the culmination of our discussion, we decide that since the winds are howling at 40+ miles an hour it would be a good idea to go and climb shirttail peak- which is the highest summit in Eldo, with views that span from the Continental Divide and across the entire Front Range. To make this experience complete we hike from our houses, down the dirt road which runs through town into the state park, and up the eldorado canyon trail to the base of the classic route Gambit. This approach is a good three miles, and we are happy because we are probably the only two people in the world that are hiking from their houses and into the canyon for another day in the office. Side note- Eldorado is an iconic climbing landmark where modern climbing was born, and in this era Corey and I are living the rock climbing dream. Two dirtbags at the base of Mecca taking full advantage of our location. Most people are doing car to car adventures, but we are doing door to door! I am truly blessed to be one of the only climbers living in the canyon making the most of it! Anyway, I have climbed Gambit six or more times but it never disappoints. It is basically 400ft of corner, and hand crack climbing that can be done in three long and fun pitches. We decide to work on some speed for our future mountain ascents, so we climb in blocks. Corey first, Drew second. At this point the winds are howling quite loudly, and it feels as if we will take flight at any moment. We quickly realize that this is perfect training for Patagonia, and the wind only adds to the experience. Corey’s block goes with no hiccups and before I know it I am sitting well above the rest of Eldorado Canyon ready for my block of leading at the end of the third pitch. One would think that the wind would be scary or disheartening, but it is only an added challenge to make this 5.8 even more fun. For some odd reason, when I am on lead in windy situations like this I turn in to hyperfocus mode, and am truly on point. Not only does the wind disappear from my head, it makes me feel even that more “in the moment” and in control. From my perch I am just over 200ft from the summit, and decide to link the last two pitches together. Starting off by clipping an ancient pin, I make the insecure lieback moves through the offwidth, clip the fixed #4 camalot and traverse to the next ledge where the classic chossy handcrack starts. I examine that I am probably 25ft run out at this point, place a bomber #2 camalot, and proceed with the climbing. I’m quickly at the next belay ledge with plenty of gear on my harness, so I decide to keep going, forgoing the wonderfull exposed belay stance on this vertical face. This route if full of loose rock, and the belay at this spot actually does not inspire confidence as it is all in loose rock. I continue upward methodically analyzing the rock ahead, while simultaneously analyzing what is left on my rack in order to safely make it to the summit. 200ft+ of cracks, wind, and fun gear take me to the summit with not much left on my harness. I sling a block for the belay, and extend myself to the edge of the wall in order to take in the exposure and enjoy watching Corey from far below. As I belay, I can see to the Continental Divide, to Eldora ski area where I spent the previous two days with my friends riding 12+ inches of champaign powder. I can also see my house down in town, and maybe even Warren if I look close. What a vantage point. LIVING THE DREAM! In no time we have shot down the three tree rappels to the base of the route. We notice how powerfull the wind really is and examine how a refrigator sized rock had fallen during the recent 80+mph windstorm and literally split a 100ft pine tree in half! At the base we eat and have a little sacrament and are off down the trail. I run into an old friend Sam along the way and chat about riding powder, climbing, and good times with our buddy Matt from Alma. Back down to the road with the other climbers who have had an adventure of their own. On the route we had seen a guy soloing Icarus on the Redgarden wall. We ran into him, and he stated about our route “best summit in Boulder”. We commented how it must of been wild soloing 600ft off the deck with all the winds, but he said it was casual with lots of big holds. As they pack up their cars and get ready to head back into the city, Corey and I keep on walking back through town and to our houses realizing that we are truly lucky men.

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Drew Whitley, is a Certified Climbing Guide. Ex shred bum, now crack climbing adventurer. Drew can be found climbing in Eldorado Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, or any other climbing destination around the state of Colorado, or western U.S.

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