Crag Exposure: Shelf Road
posted by bronco
Canon City, America, home to Ortega’s (best New Mexican Food outside New Mexico), Colorado’s largest Penitentiary (known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies), and Shelf Road rock climbing! Probably Colorado’s best, most expansive face climbing area, Shelf Road hosts hundreds and hundreds of routes with a little something for everyone. Experience the Vertical Beach this winter, jump for more info on Shelf…
I was first introduced to Shelf a couple years ago during the dead of winter here on the front range. While most urban yippees like us were headed up to the mountains in search of powder and snow bunnies my friends and I were seeking sun and pocket pulling pleasure. Shelf Road has been the winter oasis for front range climbers for years. The dead vertical dolomite crags beg to be climbed on. On a sunny day climbers can be climbing in t-shirts while the actual air temp lurks in the 30’s and 40’s.
If you are looking to up your onsight tick list, this is the place to get dirty. Most routes are as straight forward as the come. In fact, most beta invovles crimp, pocket, high step, repeat. Although that may sound somewhat boring, you would be surprised how accomplished you can feel when you onsight 4 or 5 routes at your limit in a weekend. False confidence? Does it translate to other areas? Who the fuck cares! If it gets you psyched, then do it. Once you get in the Shelf groove, you may surprise yourself at how hard you can pull down on the onsight.
So, Shelf is a good to great climbing area. Warm temps in winter, accomadating routes for everyone, and easy access, what does this mean? Crowds! Shelf can, and is slammed most weekends that the weather is half way decent. Crews of gumbies clash with crews of hardmen and women, dogs barking, full campsites, parties, families, you may just see it all if you decide to go to the Shelf. However, this author thinks it is well worth the scene. As with any crowded area, you can often find some solace at less attractive, but just as worthy cliffs.
Let’s talk camping. Shelf is situated in a kinda high desert plateau region, so with the warm winter days, comes cold winter nights. However, the camping is pretty chill with porta-johns, group sites, picnic tables, and fire rings. If you do what Wig, Limit, and myself do and forget all kinds of food, then Canon City has a McDonald’s conveniently located approximately 17 minutes from Campsite 10 at the Bank campground.
You can post up your camp at the Sand Gulch which is the first turn off when you get to the crag, or you can keep driving up the wash board road to the Bank campsites. Each area has 1 group site that accomadates 20 people and is $8 a night, the other sites accomadate 10 people and are $4 a night. If you are planning on climbing at Cactus, The Bank, The Dark Side, The Vault, the Gym, or The Cash Wall, your best access point is from the Bank campgrounds. All other areas are better accessed from the Sand Gulch Campground.
Eats: Ortega’s! This is the shit, no lie, you have to eat here. Try the Stuffed Sopapilla for entree and for desert you must have the Xanga (cheesecake stuffed sopapillas with caramel ice cream and drizzled in caramel)!
Rest Day Activities: Cripple Creek is just a short drive up shelf road through a pretty amazing canyon. Gambling abounds in this town. Enough said.
Okay, The Must Do’s:
1. Back to the Future 11b/c, The Bank
2. No Future for the Timid 11d, The Bank
3. Heavy Weather 12a/b, The Bank
4. LaCholla Jackson 5.9, Cactus Cliff
5. Lat’s Don’t Have Feelings 11d, Cactus Cliff
6. Tit’s Up 12b, Cactus Cliff
7. Menses 10d, Menses Prow
8. The Mural 12c, Mural Wall
9. The Gym Arete 12a, The Gym
10. Morning Stretch 11c, The Gym
Shelf harnesses so many 4 star routes that this list would be ridiculous, go climb there and make your own list, these are just my favorites.
Last bit of advice for you shelf desirer’s, get the guide book! Shelf is a decently big place and the folks over at Sharp End have done a bang up job with the Shelf Book. Click Here to buy it!
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