Big Day at Little Eiger

Fifteen minutes of driving from my temporary Denver residence brings me to Clear Creek Canyon of Golden, CO. This is a long, winding canyon stacked with dozens of (mostly) sport climbing crags, boulders, and wild roofs of granitic gneiss. My friend Todd Bartlow (whom I met in Indian Creek) has been in Denver for a while, and on Friday we tried to climb every route at the Little Eiger crag, in a day.

There are 31 pitches listed in the guidebook, on a wall that sits above some of the biggest rapids in Clear Creek Canyon. We were excited to watch the kayakers battling white water as we enjoyed such a concentration of great climbs. Two routes are 5.9, two are 5.12, and the remaining 20something are 5.10 and 5.11, with all but 3 of them being bolted sport climbs. I was partially inspired to try such a climb-athon by the recent work of my friends Sol Wertkin and Jens Holsten of Leavenworth, WA.

We began on the far left edge of the crag, racking up at 8:30AM. The sun quickly emerged, and we were soon sweating our way across the selection of 5.10 and 5.11s, including this bolted crack.

After falling off the .11d Eiger Direct, I pulled the rope and sent it on my second go, finding it easier to climb fully through the tenuous crux section, before reaching back down to clip the bolt.

As more folks showed up and occupied the lower wall, we threw some snacks in our pockets and began the 4-pitch 5.12 route "Too". The first three pitches of the climb were all long (35-40 meters) and went well. Soon it was my turn for the headwall, a wild 5.12- pitch, with the crux coming in the final 15 feet. I hung on through the STEEP 5.11d middle section of the pitch, and shook out on a stance 30' below the top of the wall, eyeing the loose bolts, licheny rock, and amazing position of this rarely-climbed pitch. The crux involves a powerful dynamic throw leftward, from an overhanging crimp sequence to a softball-shaped blob. I ran out of energy before making the move, but after a couple falls I was happy to stick the sequence and clip the anchors, several hundred feet above the creek and road. "Too" worked to try and redpoint the pitch, I gave Todd a toprop belay and he concurred that this was some seriously sandbagged .12a climbing.

We rappeled to the ground as a few spits of rain began to fall, and seized the opportunity to eat lunch and gulp down some more water.

We both began to feel tired, and the long string of subsequent 35m pitches began to wear on us. I tried to take a break from steep crimping by climbing the 2 other crack climbs, but both turned out to be very wet and fairly chossy, resulting in a lot of wasted time, and a sorely bruised ego. After climbing 6 or 7 more pitches, the rain truly began in earnest, putting an end to the climbing of all folks still on the wall.

By day's end we had done 19 pitches and 1700' of climbing in 10.5 hours, fully earning us the beers that Todd had stashed in Clear Creek that morning.

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