The Nose Job 4: Eleven X 5.11

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Awkwardly following Smersh (5.11) in Boulder Canyon. Even though I helped put up this route, it

Awkwardly following Smersh (5.11) in Boulder Canyon. Even though I helped put up this route, it

11/1/10 - In my last post, I concluded that the key to preparing for the Nose in a Day (NIAD) next summer would be to get into 5.11 trad leading shape—a state of readiness I haven't been at in quite a few years. I doubt most people do a single move of 5.11 during the NIAD, but if you're super-solid on 5.10, you can motor up a lot of free-climbing on the route. And the way to guarantee you're super-solid on 5.10 granite cracks is to be semi-solid on 5.11 granite cracks.

Coincidentally, as we drove toward Poudre Canyon on Saturday (eight pitches of sport, super-fun), my old partner Dave Goldstein brought up a list he'd been pondering for some years: the 11 best 5.11 trad climbs in Boulder Canyon. This canyon, with dozens of granite domes and buttresses, opens into the city of Boulder, Colorado, just 15 minutes from my home. Moreover, the granite is often slick and smooth, much like Yosemite's, though there is only one crack in the canyon—Country Club—that might be called "Yosemite-like." Regardless, if it's granite cracks you're after in Boulder, this is your training ground. We spent the rest of the drive refining Dave's list.

We came up with 19 climbs, and I've narrowed it to my own personal 11, a mix of grand classics and obscurities. I based the list on the routes I think will be most useful for training, but, more important, the routes I actually want to do. So here they are, from the bottom of the canyon to the top:

FM, Elephant ButtressesAvoiding Wounded Knee, Blob RockConan, Blob RockDecade Dance, Blob RockDivine Wind, Blob RockSpiders From Mars, Dream CanyonBloodstone, Bowling AlleyHarder They Come, The LookoutSaved by the Bell, Bell ButtressCountry Club Crack, Castle RockEnglishman's Home, Castle RockMomentum Operator, Broken Rock

Yikes! To anyone who knows Boulder Canyon, this is a seriously intimidating hit list. I've only led two of these routes clean and attempted three others—the majority will be onsight attempts. It's also a list with big logistical problems: many of these routes will be too cold to climb for much of the winter, and the heavily stacked Blob Rock is usually closed for falcon nesting from February until sometime in the spring. But you've gotta have goals, and this is mine: Climb all of these routes before next summer's NIAD attempt. If I can do that, I should be in plenty fine free-climbing shape.

What's your favorite Boulder Canyon trad route? Post it in the comments. Meanwhile, I'm going to stock up on tape.

Climbing editor Dougald MacDonald is training for an attempt on the Nose in a day next summer. Read all the Nose Job blog posts here.