Man o Man it has been quite a crazy fall this year. We have been slowly and surely getting out to experience as much Colorado Climbing as possible before winter is officially upon us! We have spent much of the fall actually up in Boulder Canyon, at this place called Eagle Rock. We post a lot about that in the “You’re Not Hardcore” series. Jilly has been working on a great 5.12A project that she has almost mastered and I have attempted a very hard 5.13A project.
So with all of this Boulder climbing, we decided we wanted to get at least one more camping hoorah out of the van before its too cold to be enjoyable. We decided that Shelf Road would be the perfect destination. It is located about 3 hours south of Boulder, about 50 miles outside of Colorado Springs in a tiny town called Canon City.
We have been to Shelf about a dozen times over the past decade of life in Colorado, so we knew the climbing would be good. It can get pretty crowded down there, mostly from fellow Boulderite climbers. We also thought it would be a really fun trip to spend with a long time old friend and his wife.
Tim was in my infantry unit when I was in the military back in ’09. We stayed pretty good friends until life took us in different directions, although its funny in retrospect how truly close we were geographically, but had no idea until the modern-age of internet, and more importantly, social media brought us back together. Tim and his wife, Brit moved to Colorado last year when a devastating tornado destroyed their house in Washington, Illinois (just outside of Peoria). They had always wanted to move to Colorado, so when their insurance check came, they decided to make the move and start a new life out here.
So, we decided to reconnect after all these years while camping and climbing at Shelf Road. Brit had never camped before, so this would be her first venture to ‘outdoor liven’. They were also going to bring their dog, Missy, who is a puggle. We planned to go out on a Friday afternoon and climb all day Saturday and then leave on Sunday.
Jilly and I headed out with all of our camping gear in tow on friday afternoon. We pulled in to the campground around 4:30PM, just as the sun was setting over the mountains. It was pretty spectacular sights. The campground was not super crowded yet (as we had hoped), so we got a pretty large campsite and setup shop…namely our cook tent. As the sun dipped lower and lower, the temperatures followed suit, so we were getting REALLY cold REALLY fast. More and more campers were showing up with their dogs or significant others or friends. Everyone was super friendly which was kind of interesting, and super chatty and outgoing. I think we talked to half the campground, though mostly because those folks needed something from us (extra propane, water, a ride, climbing parter, etc).
So we got our warm clothes on and set out to build a nice gigantic fire to set the stage for our evening camping. That night we ended up cooking veggies and cous cous in the fire and it was DELICIOUS. Our friends were not set to arrive until after 7PM, so we figured we would get the “eating” out of the way so we could just enjoy the rest of the night.
And when they pulled in around 7:30PM, we had an awesome time reminiscing about the past and getting to know our new friends and their adorable pup while trying to stay warm. Before we knew it, the rest of the campground was quiet and we decided to turn in so we could get a good start in the morning.
At around 3AM, Brit had to go to the bathroom and accidentally set off their car alarm, which may have woken everyone in camp. We were barely conscious though Jilly remembers hearing a weak sounding “sorry” from Tim – that made us all laugh in the morning when reminiscing. Brit said she was so embarrassed and thought the other campers would come at her with pitchforks…but it happens…its just the nature of camping.
Saturday rolled around and I got up early to start hot water for coffee and tea. We had a lazy morning, cooked a huge breakfast of pancakes and sausage and hung around camp until the sun warmed the land. At around 9 or 10 in the morning, we packed our gear and headed up to the climbing wall, Menses Prow, which has some of the most classic, easier routes in the area. Since Tim and Brit had only climbed outside twice, we figured it’d be a great place to test their skills and have a great day. AND IT WAS!
It was pretty crowded up at the crag, and after the 45-minute or so hike in, we were all sweaty messes. We had to wait to get on the first route of the day, since there were other climbers already there, but it didn’t take terribly long, and it was nice to take our time (not something Jake and I do when we climb, usually we do as much as we can as fast as we can). Our first route was a nice 5.8 warmup and we all took our turns climbing.
Because it was crowded, another group setup a top rope on a climb that we all wanted to try, so we climbed on each other’s routes which was nice because it allowed us to get more climbs in. The second climb was a 5.9 and it was really cool. It was a little more challenging but also way more fun AND long. Jilly did this route twice, and Tim and I did it once each. Brit worked on the other route 3 or 4 times so she was feeling worked by the end of the day.
After 6 or so hours in the sun, the crowds started to thin. We got on a bit of a harder climb, a 5.10B, which is up a classic tower that Jill and I have done probably 6 or so times. I setup the top rope on lead, and Jill followed and then Tim decided he wanted to give it a go. This would be his hardest climb attempt ever, so he worked his butt off and did pretty remarkable. He got about halfway up and then took a break and did it again, making it a little further. I’m sure that if we had more time there, he would have been able to work it out all the way to the top. But the sun was setting fast and the temps were also dropping quickly again.
Through all of this climbing, Missy hung out with us and seemed to have a good time. She met a few other crag puppies, most of which she got along with very well. As this was her first time “climbing” she was a real sport and kept spirits up the entire day!
We decided to hike back down to camp to get a fire going and prep dinner. The hike back was uneventful, although Brit fell on a cactus and I think Tim grabbed a cactus at some point during the day, so they were both hurting a little bit more than Jilly or I. But then again, we have been all over this place before many times, so we knew what to expect.
At camp we setup for a super yummy meal of hot dogs and baked beans and corn. Tim and Brit went all out with grilled veggies and HUGE steaks. We also had a ton of food for smores, but we never got to them after all the other food. Missy the dog was super adorable and pretty worked after the long day of hiking on her little legs, so she cuddled up in Brit’s lap and passed out (which is not normal for her apparently!). All-in-all another wonderful evening with friends.
Sunday rolled around and everyone was moving a little slower today. It was a much warmer night so we all slept a lot better, but still knew we had a long drive home. We took our time this morning cooking another large breakfast and hanging out. Then we packed up all our gear and took off around 11AM to head back home. It was a really great way to spend the last warm weekend, because as soon as we got home, the snow started to fall. PERFECT TIMING!