Rock Climbing 7
Denver’s Front Range offers an abundance of outdoor adventure sports, such as rock climbing, but don’t overlook the many indoor climbing opportunities available.
The safety and convenience of having an instructor and being removed from the harsh elements of the outdoors may be the perfect way to perfect your skills.
We’ve scoured the Front Range for you, and have selected our top picks for indoor climbing.
1912 S. Broadway
Denver, Colo. 80210
For both beginners and experts, Thrillseekers in Denver may be the perfect place to start your climbing exploration, with climbing walls of all angles, including 90-degree ceiling climbing.
Introductory lessons are available, (a sliding scale is implemented for groups of two or more) and include rental gear, an introduction to safety skills, and the rules and language of climbing. Lessons last approximately one hour, followed by two hours of practice. Daily admissions and member rates are also available. Family rates make it possible for all to enjoy this activity together.
Check out thrillseekers.cc for more information.
Rock’n & Jam’n 1, Inc.
9499 Washington St. Unit C
Thornton, Colo. 80229
Rock’n & Jam’n 2, Inc.
7390 S. Fraser St., Unit E
Centennial, Colo. 80112
Rock’n & Jam’n has two locations in Thornton and Centennial, and offers a large indoor climbing space. They also host fundraisers (such as The Summit for Someone which benefits at-risk youth), group events, summer camps and competitive meetings.
Rock’n Jam offers individual lessons, which include two-hour instruction, rental gear and practice climbing. For all available pricing and details please visit one of their locations listed above.
Colorado Mountain School
2829 Mapleton Ave. Boulder, Colo. 80301
No one can deny that Boulder – with a name that brings to mind climbing craggy cliffs and scaling giant rocks – is one of the best places in the state to go for indoor climbing, as well.
Colorado Mountain School offers both indoor and outdoor instruction. Memberships include free yoga and fitness classes, massage sessions, skills clinics and buddy passes.
The gym features a newly remodeled 10,000-square-foot building. The club claims to provide a “total climbing experience, one that offers something for everyone…”
Visit coloradomountainschool.com to see more of what they offer and learn more about their location in Estes.
Ouray may not have its own ski area, but when it comes to winter sports, there is plenty to keep you busy. This hamlet in southwestern Colorado enjoys an envious location in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. The town sits at 7,700 feet, and is surrounded by peaks that soar another 5,000 feet.
No wonder that some have called Ouray the “Switzerland of the Rockies.” Switzerland or not, this Colorado community is all about enjoying the outdoors. Speak to any of the shop owners along Main Street, and chances are that you will hear stories of other lives that have been abandoned for the allure of this Rocky Mountain village and its nature-loving lifestyle.
And it’s easy to see why.
The biggest winter draw is undoubtedly the Ouray Ice Park, billed as the first ice climbing park in the world. The park lies in the shaded, steep-walled Uncompahgre Gorge. The ice is formed by sprayers that divert water from the town reservoir to strategic locations along the canyon. The result is a safe, ice-filled wonderland.
While I had always enjoyed watching climbers, I hadn’t thought of trying it for myself. But then I heard about Kim Reynolds and her company, Chicks with Picks. Reynolds specializes in helping women learn to climb. Her enthusiasm for the sport is obvious. And though I was a bit hesitant about climbing at first, Reynolds chatted encouragingly while she explained the gear and how we would approach the climb. Then we headed out to the ice.
Unlike many locations where you have to hike miles to find good ice, access is easy in Ouray. You simply park and hike into the park. It took us 30 minutes to reach the climbing spot that Reynolds had selected for my friend, Ben, and me. (Yes, she is happy to teach men as well.)
After checking all our gear and giving us a quick lesson, Reynolds scampered up the ice to test the route and show us how it is done. She made it look so easy!
Then it was my turn. At first, the feeling was awkward, and I was nervous. Then I learned to let the gear do the work for me. The crampons secured my steps in the ice, while carefully placed picks allowed me to pull myself up to the next step.
It was slow going at first, but I finally made it to the top of the 80-foot canyon wall. And what a rush! Then it was Ben’s turn. He had a smile on his face when he came back down.
After we got the hang of a few skills, Reynolds moved us to another spot in the canyon. One-by-one, we scaled those walls, too, all the while hearing the encouragement of other climbers in the park.
When we were tired, we stopped to eat the lunch we had packed in and watch the other climbers. There were climbers of every age, from age 10 on up. Folks come from all over the world to climb in Ouray. I heard several different accents throughout the canyon.
By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but happy. It brings an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you can scale a wall by your own power. Reynolds had made a convert out of me.
By evening, though, our sore muscles began to protest the day’s activities. This led us to Ouray’s other draw – the mineral hot springs. There are numerous hot springs in Ouray, but our first stop was the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. Smack in the middle of town, the 250 x 150 foot public pool has more than a million gallons of clear mineral waters. Best of all, the hot springs in Ouray don’t have the putrid sulfur smell typical of other hot springs.
It was relaxing to soak in the steaming waters, watching our breath in the cool winter air and taking in the mountain views.
Refreshed from our soak in the pools and a hearty meal at The Outlaw (see our article on Dining in Ouray), we were ready for more adventure the next day.
The sun shone brightly in a Colorado blue sky, and white snow shimmered from the nearby peaks. It was the perfect time to go snowshoeing. Armed with rented gear from Ouray Mountain Sports, we headed to Ironton Park, a valley south of town on U.S. 550.
Founded in 1883, Ironton was once a thriving mining community. Times got tough, however, and now a ghost town is all that remains. Today the Ouray County Nordic Council maintains four miles of groomed trails in the area. The multi-use trail runs past several buildings from the historic ghost town. You can still see wallpaper on the walls of some of the homes. It almost seems like the town’s inhabitants left only yesterday.
But the ghost town was just part of the fun. The trail ran across a wide open valley, and then through secluded forest trails, quiet and peaceful.
After a few hours of snowshoeing, it was time to try another Ouray restaurant (see Dining in Ouray) and hit another hot springs. There are hot springs at the Box Canyon Lodge, which has four redwood hot tubs on the mountainside behind the lodge, and at The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa.
As it was getting dark, we headed to The Wiesbaden to soak in its outdoor Lorelei pool. (The Wiesbaden also has an indoor Vaporcave with soaking pool.) Under a clear winter sky dotted with thousands of stars, we could unwind and savor the moment.
There are many experiences to appreciate when you’re visiting Ouray. On our last day in town, we decided to take one more hike. Though it was the dead of winter, we wanted to see the Box Canon Falls.
Located a short walk from town, the Box Canon Falls Park is perfect for those who love hiking, birding (a large population of Black Swifts lives in the canon walls during the summer) and natural beauty. A 285-foot waterfall plunges into a tight quartzite canyon, and the hike offers beautiful views.
The waterfall rushed beneath a large ice formation, its roar echoing off the canyon walls. Overhead, the sun shone brightly in another blue sky, and the air was crisp and clear. It was the kind of moment that makes you truly appreciate Colorado. And it was this kind of moment that will keep me coming back to Ouray.
If You Go
Going with your family or a group? These luxury vacation rentals are perfect. The 1,400-square-foot units are located right on Main Street. For reservations, call 970-318-6546.
Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs
Ouray’s most popular lodge offers traditional one- or two-bedroom rooms to two-room suites with kitchens and fireplaces. The lodge backs to the mountainside on the edge of town right next to Box Canon Falls. www.boxcanyonouray.com
If Parker hasn’t been in your travel plans lately, you may think the town 20 miles southeast of Denver is nothing more than an amorphous, fast-growing bedroom community. But the community of 48,000 people, which boasts a Western Victorian downtown, is making a name for itself as a cultural, recreational and artistic boomtown.
Here are seven ways we found to have fun in Parker:
Railbender Skate and Tennis Park
Railbender merges the unlikely extreme worlds of skating and BMX biking with your traditional tennis courts. The skate park features a 36,000-square-foot “street-plaza”-style skate park. The park includes a flow bowl, street plaza and small peanut bowl for beginners and children, plus spines, roll-overs and hips along with handrails, ledges, manual pads and, yes, even a volcano. At the entry, you will find a ramp in the shape of the Colorado Rockies, keeping with the Colorado outdoor enthusiast theme of the park.
The tennis section includes six lighted tennis courts. When scheduled play is not in session, the courts are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Leagues form yearly for Spring United States Tennis Association (USTA) and USTA Colorado Adult Leagues. Leagues are for men and women, daytime and night.
The park also offers a children’s playground, three picnic shelters, a public art display, seasonal restrooms, access to the Cherry Creek Regional Trail and plenty of parking.
Salisbury Equestrian Park
Saddle up for 160 acres of equestrian space, as well as facilities for other youth and adult sports. Colorado Rockies-sponsored baseball fields for youths are located on the north side. Thirty acres of the park are reserved, underdeveloped open space.
The park’s equestrian features include a new arena grandstand with seating for 80, a lighted arena and a new two-story equestrian building with a ticket booth, restrooms and judges’/scorers’ observation area. The park also includes a multi-use equestrian area and picnic seating.
The Parker Fieldhouse has 100,000 square feet for recreation and fun. Gymnasiums, batting cages, sports turf, inline skating rink, climbing wall, fitness loft, elevated track and an indoor playground make it a must-visit. The field house is home to several youth and adult competitive leagues.
Family events, such as Winter Wonderland Skate, which offers frosty crafts and skating activities, are often held at the field house.
Parker Fieldhouse admission fees are $5 for ages 15 to 61 and $4 for ages 3 to 15 and seniors 62 and older. Punch passes and memberships are also available.
Hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Located on historic Mainstreet in downtown Parker, the Mainstreet Center is a recreational and cultural landmark. Built in 1915, the center was originally the Parker School House, until 1967. The town of Parker acquired the building in 1997.
The Mainstreet Center is available for public rental. With an auditorium that seats 200, it can be used for business presentations and cultural events, including plays, concerts, children’s performances, recitals and classes.
The gymnasium houses youth sports activities. And exercise classes, such as Zumba, which fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms, is held at the Mainstreet Center, as well as at the Parker Recreation Center.
Pinnacle Climbing Wall
The pinnacle is a 25-foot indoor climbing wall that also features a bouldering surface. Natural rock features add to a more realistic climbing experience. Also, routes are often changed for more expert climbers to add variety and difficulty.
Climbers may use their own equipment, or harnesses may be rented for $3 and shoes for $2; helmets are free. A combo packet may be purchased for $4 or a punch card for 10 for $20. The wall is also available to rent for $75 per hour.
Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 4 p.m-7 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon and 5 p.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Fika, located on the downtown Mainstreet strip of Parker, has deemed itself a Swedish-American coffee house. Fika serves Kaladi Brothers Coffee and a few Swedish treats. It invites guests to enjoy traditional Swedish-inspired decor, not typically found in the area. Originally an old hotel, Fika includes the remodeled lobby and three other offshoots, perfect for business meetings or gathering with friends. This unique coffee house is a must visit.
Hours are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Railbender Skate and Tennis Park
10543 Twenty Mile Rd.
Parker, Colorado 80138
Salisbury Equestrian Park
11920 Motsenbocker Rd.
Parker, Colorado 80134
18700 E. Plaza Dr.
Parker, Colorado 80134
19650 E. Mainstreet
Parker, Colorado 80138
Pinnacle Climbing Wall
1870 E. Plaza Dr.
Parker, Colorado 80134
19559 E. Main St.
Parker, Colorado 80138
Like any other town in Colorado, Glenwood Springs provides a bevy of activities to take part in year round. During the summer months, vacationers can hike through the town’s ample national forest areas or explore them via a number of different modes, from rafting to horseback rides. During the winter, visitors to Glenwood Springs can expect world-class ski and snowboarding resorts. The town also has a number of year-round activities to enjoy with their natural hot springs, vapor caves, and rock and ice climbing areas.
The summers in Glenwood Springs provide a number of activities for people vacationing in Colorado to take part in. Spanning over 2 million acres and ten counties, the White River National Forest provides ample space and scenery for those looking to explore the natural beauty that Colorado has to offer.
Contained within this national forest are seven different wilderness areas that include the Collegiate Peaks, Hunter-Fryingpan, Raggeds, Flat Tops, Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, and Ptarmigan Peak. These areas offer a number of forests and lakes to explore through guided horseback, biking, segway tours, white water rafting, rock climbing, and zip line adventures.
For something a little less physically demanding, vacationers can relax with a trip up the mountain via the Iron Mountain Tram ride or play a round of golf at one of the nine municipal golf courses.
Not to be limited by the snow, Glenwood Springs also hosts a number of winter based activities for Colorado vacationers. It goes without saying that Glenwood Springs is the perfect place to have your Colorado vacation if you’re looking to ski or snowboard.
In addition to the town’s very own Sunlight Mountain Resort, it is also situated near a number of other world-class skiing areas such as Aspen and Vail. Once you’re done hitting the slopes, there are other winter activities to occupy your time. Vacationers can choose to go on guided snowshoe and snowmobile tours, opt to rent a Jeep for private outdoor excursions, and even go on a snowcat tour of the mountain back country. The town also sports an NHL-size skating rink.
There are a number of activities for people vacationing in Glenwood Springs that can be enjoyed year round. Perhaps the biggest draw for people from around the country, and the world, for that matter, are the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and the Yampah Vapor Caves.
First used by the Ute Native American tribe, the hot springs and vapor caves have been tapped for their therapeutic, holistic, and public appeal. Since 1888, the Hot Springs Pool of Glenwood Springs has drawn in many notable guests such as Al Capone, Molly Brown, and even former President Theodore Roosevelt. With a constant water temperature of 90-93 degrees, this pool is the largest of its kind in the world. Much like the Hot Springs Pool, the Yampah Vapor Caves were once considered a holy place by the Native Americans of the Ute tribe.
Now visitors can come and use the therapeutic properties of these natural vapor caves in its underground chambers or enjoy a massage or a beauty treatment above ground in the spa area. For those looking for more adventure, vacationers can try their hand at a number of challenging rock climbing and ice climbing areas which include Glenwood Canyon, Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake, No Name Canyon, Rifle Mountain Park, and others.
If You Go
For more information on the Glenwood Springs Hot Spring Pool visit: http://www.hotspringspool.com/ or call: (800)-537-7946.
For more information on the Yampah Vapor Caves or to make reservations visit: http://www.yampahspa.com/ or call: (970) 945-0667.
For information on Zipline Adventures visit: http://www.glenwoodcanyonzipline.com/ or call: (888) 494-7386.
For information on rafting and canoeing in Glenwood Springs visit: http://www.raftingglenwoodsprings.com/ or http://www.rockgardens.com/ or http://www.coloradowhitewaterrafting.com/
For Information on Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park visit: http://www.glenwoodcaverns.com/ or call: (800) 530-1635.
For information on guided horseback, off-road, ATV, rafting, and snowmobiling tours visit: http://www.glenwoodadventure.com/ or call: 1(877) 346-4536 or (970) 945-7529.
For information on Sunlight Mountain Resort visit: http://www.sunlightmtn.com/ or call: (800) 445-7931 or (970) 945-7491.
Evan Witt is an Illinois native with a degree in English Literature from Lake Forest College, and as a frequent visitor to Colorado, he enjoys fishing, camping, hiking, and photography.
Header photo of the Glenwood Hot Springs by Scott Foutz.
Glenwood canyon photo by Flickr user suzphotofun.
Climbing guide Eric Zerowin sets anchors high above the shores of Lake Dillon as his two guests absorb the views. The late-morning sun shines brightly in the blue sky, and it’s too early in the day for summer’s afternoon showers to begin rolling in. A cool breeze, common for 9,200 feet, sweeps across the lake.
“Even though that tree is dead, can it support our weight?” asks one of the guests.
Obviously not new to the question, Zerowin, a guide for Colorado Bike and Ski Tours, continues setting anchors as he explains that even dead trees have super strong root systems. He details Colorado’s pine beetle situation and pushes against a dead tree with all his body weight.
“See, it’s not going anywhere,” says Zerowin. “And since we anchor to the base, it’s even stronger.”
He explains that he’s setting three separate and equally strong anchors, so that even if two were to fail, everyone’s weight still would be supported.
As a guide, Zerowin has faced plenty of questions regarding the ropes, how much weight they can hold, why all the trees are dead and so on. After one of his recent trips, he agreed to answer some of our questions, as well.
The rope you used to tie one of your anchors couldn’t be more than a half-inch in diameter. How much weight can it really hold?
It’s rated for at least 2,000 pounds. The climbing rope is rated to the 4,000-pound range.
Is this what you do every day?
Climbing is not the only thing I do. I guide cycling and hiking, and I’m also one of the guides for our corporate team-building programs. Basically, I’m in charge of all the equipment.
Tell me about your standard climbing trip.
A regular climbing trip is typically a smaller group, family or friends. We take them out for approximately four hours and we have them climb outdoors on top rope routes. Most of the people that come out are completely inexperienced, and it’s a big deal for them to get outdoors and climb on a real rock, as opposed to a climbing gym, where some have climbed before.
What do you mean by top rope routes?
Top roping, which is what we do for our customers, is when you can easily access the top of the cliff, whether it be by hiking or climbing a route that is very safe and easy. You set up an anchor at the top and throw the rope over the edge to the bottom.
But, when you do a traditional lead climb, both the first climber and the second climber are at the base. As the lead climber goes up, he has to put pieces of gear into the rock face to clip the rope to. That creates the anchor that would hold you if you were to fall.
Multi-pitch means that you end up climbing more than one rope length away from the ground. A rope length is typically about 160 feet. With some multi-pitch climbs you end up climbing 300-plus feet above the ground.
Have you ever been in any sketchy situations, privately or professionally?
I used to climb multi-pitch traditional routes in the Gunks, in New York. We were doing a climb so tall that we had to do a multiple rappel to get to the ground. And when we went to pull our rope down it got stuck. So we were not on the ground yet, but our rope was stuck above us in some unknown way.
We considered climbing the rope, but we didn’t know how it was stuck, and that could be a risky proposition, because you could get up the rope and then it could break free and you could fall. We decided that wasn’t a very smart option. So we yelled for help, and fortunately we had other friends climbing in the vicinity.
They heard us, and we were able to use some of the other equipment we had to hoist up their climbing rope, which we borrowed to rappel to the ground. And then we hiked up the easy route that took us to the top of the cliff, and retrieved our rope from the top. It wasn’t very scary, it was just a pain in the butt because we were kind of trapped.
Since you’re always looking up, do you get to see a lot of good butts?
Yeah, a couple.
How did you end up with the skills to not just climb, but to be a guide, someone who beginners entrust their lives with?
Through years of experience and practice. Most people who are comfortable climbing on their own, or with friends or family, they probably have enough knowledge to set up an anchor system to properly secure people they don’t know. But having the right attitude and demeanor with customers builds trust. I began instructing as a counselor at scout camp. I was in charge of the climbing wall there when I was 16 years old. The first time I ever climbed, I was 13. I’m 30 and nine twelfths.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Seeing the excitement in anybody from a 4-year-old kid to a 45-year-old parent that’s there with their kids; and seeing the excitement they get out of trying something that’s above their typical comfort level. It may be something that they never tried before, or that thrill of being off the ground and being in a beautiful location and doing something they don’t normally do.
If You Go
Colorado Bike and Ski Tours
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.