Epicenter: Boulder, Colorado

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The Scene

Welcome to Climber-ville. This town of about 100,000 has more than 4,000 routes so close that you can send in time for yoga class and a jaunt to Whole Foods for coconut water and kale salad. With traditional, sport, bouldering, and even seasonal mixed and ice climbing, there is a reason why many of the world’s best climbers live and train here. Whether you want to spend the day in Boulder Canyon crushing granite classics, bumping dubstep during a bouldering sesh at Flagstaff, running out a blood-curdling “5.8” in Eldorado Canyon, or cruising 1,000 feet up a Flatiron beneath a full moon, Boulder is an essential stop for every itinerant climber (and you might never leave). Peak times to climb span from spring to fall, but with more than 300 days of sunshine, you can find climbable rock year-round. If you do catch a freak weather front, don’t fret, as there are a handful of world-class gyms with complimentary showers and unwanted beta. And whether you want to perk up or loosen up, Boulder has a lifetime’s worth of coffee shops and breweries to visit. If the impossible happens and you run out of stuff to climb, Estes Park and Golden are within 40 and 20 miles, respectively, and they boast another 2,500 routes. Better start packing the van!

Locals Know

Where climbers...

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[eat]  If you think the best thing about sending is pigging out afterward to reward yourself, start with some nachos and local beer at Southern Sun Pub and Brewery (303-543-0886). If you’re in the mood for Indian, conveniently placed next to Movement Climbing + Fitness is the well-priced and addictive Curry-n-Kebob (720-328-4696), where you can call in for a to-go order or grab a booth and some tikka masala for around $10. On the pricier side, Mateo Restaurant Provençal (303-443-7766) is a pro climber’s favorite date spot. It is not uncommon to catch the likes of Cedar Wright or Daniel Woods pairing roasted duck with some of the best wines in town. Don’t worry about dress codes; Boulderites are known for enjoying the bourgeoisie lifestyle in a parka and muddy trail shoes.

[drink]  The only thing that rivals the number of crags in the area is the number of excellent nearby breweries, and drinking at elevation stretches your dollar further. If you want to drink like a local, head to Boulder Beer (303-444-8448) or Upslope Brewing Company (2 locations in town) and try anything on tap. We recommend staples like Avery’s White Rascal and Upslope’s Craft Lager, each around $5. If you happen to be downtown, the new and improved Bohemian Biergarten offers some tasty European imports in full and half steins as well as das boot with great pre-WWII atmosphere and live music. However, be prepared to drop $12 a pop and risk a hangover for the full-stein experience. Or scrap the typical crowds and head to the Outback Saloon; it’s the best dive bar in Boulder. Here you will find pool tables, dry humor, and ambitious karaoke singers. Oh, and cheap beer.

[stay] Have you ever dreamed of a smoldering hot international rocket-scientist grad-student climber hosting you on a whim via the Internet? Oddly enough, you can probably find that here. It might sound strange, but couch surfing locations around Boulder are a godsend. This slice of adventure sports paradise might be one of the only climbing towns in America where you can find any type of climber to put you up and take you out, all the while providing you with plush accommodations unique to this mountain town. Hotels are expensive, and there isn’t any camping close by, but a much-needed accommodation just opened in Boulder Canyon only a short walk from the walls.

[gear up] Neptune Mountaineering (303-499-8866) has been an indispensable fixture in the Boulder climbing scene since 1973, when Gary Neptune set up shop, fixing ski and climbing boots and putting edges on wooden skis. In 2013 Gary sold Neptune to Backwoods Retail, but that hasn’t affected the quality of this landmark. Offering everything from alpine gear to all the modern amenities needed for a typical Colorado outing, they have a selection that will handle your addiction. But the real beauty of Neptune lies in those desperate moments when you are in need of some local beta, help finding a partner, or forgot your shoes and crashpad in a friend’s car. All of these are easily fixable with their social climate and cheap day rentals.

[kill time] Boulder is also a helluva place for a rest day. Enjoy gems like The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse where you can catch music any night of the week, grab some Internet, or relax to a much-deserved PBR tallboy on the patio. The Boulder Public Library (303-441-3100) is one of the town’s best assets. With free Internet and a location over Boulder Creek across the street from downtown, it’s a prime place for beta research. As for gyms, choose your poison of the Boulder Rock Club, Movement Climbing + Fitness, The Spot Bouldering Gym, or the new mega complex Earth Treks in Golden.

[green up] Yep, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado. We are well aware! And there are, like, dozens of shops. If you’re curious, stop by Headquarters (720-287-1635). It’s an upscale “boutique” dispensary near the mouth of Boulder Canyon and more low-key than other shops crowded with college stoners. Your budtender (yes, that’s a thing) will direct you to a product you’ll like and help inform you about the usage laws. Papers are easy, but one of our testers loves the Vapium Summit, a rugged, rechargeable vaporizer (). “You’re not inhaling smoke,” he says. “It’s smooth and nearly scent free."

Metrics

Style A playground for all disciplines

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Season Nine months of primetime

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QualityNever-ending value

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Difficulty5.10 climbers shine

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Routes

Boulder Classics

The 10 best 4-star routes as ranked by Mountain Project users

Direct Route (5.6 R)First Flatiron, 10 pitchesFlatirons“Fun, easy, long. Although protection is sparse, it didn’t feel too exposed. The two eye bolts on the first pitch were well-placed, the face is fairly low-angle, and the friction is fantastic.”

The Bastille Crack (5.7)The Bastille, 5 pitchesEldorado Canyon“I pooped my pants on pitch two. I wish I were kidding.”

The Yellow Spur (5.9)Redgarden Wall, 6 pitchesEldorado Canyon“If you’re going to climb this route, skip the traverse on the crux pitch and head straight up on the 10a/b section. The tricky section is very short and more of a balancey, hidden move than a pumpfest. Awesome exposure and fun climbing high on Redgarden Wall. What more could you ask for?”

Lust (5.10c/d)Tarot WallBoulder Canyon“Really fun climb. It can’t be 10d. I led it in flip-flops with only two falls, and I’m not that badass.”

Archangel (5.12c)Lost Angel, 2 pitchesUpper Dream Canyon“This is an ultra-classic line! Best 12c I’ve done, and one of the best pitches in the area. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to climb the route with the current modern hardware. Big thanks to Chris Weidner for taking the time and effort to clean and retro-bolt this beauty. He did a perfect job.”

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The Naked Edge (5.11a/b)Redgarden Wall, 6 pitchesEldorado Canyon“The exposure and position are some of the best on the Front Range in my opinion, and the climbing...I just love that chimney pitch! Just enough gear, but not too many options. It’s a classic for sure!”

Global Gorilla (5.12c)Animal World, 3 pitchesBoulder Canyon“Only led the first pitch, but what a wonderful pitch with different types of moves all the way! From the left side of the arête, clip the bolt before committing to the move out onto the arête. A sunny day, good friends, and climbing like this are what it’s all about.”

Milk Bone (5.13a)Dinosaur RockFlatirons“Killer sustained climbing on a long, proud wall. Unusual movement, good rock, nice approach. If you like 13a climbing, don’t miss this one.”

Hagan’s Wall (V4-5)Cloud ShadowFlagstaff“This is an incredible problem with interesting holds. Most people start with both feet on the smaller of two blocks, but a direct start, which I couldn’t do, makes the problem harder and seems to be the full line.”

Country Club Crack (5.11c)Castle Rock, 2 pitchesBoulder Canyon“Best crack I’ve been on in the ‘Radbro.’ I, for one, liked the opening move…but the jams are where it’s at. So comfy. Great link and lowers to the ground with an 80m rope.”

Local FavoriteFreeway, the 5.0 easiest way up the Second Flatiron. It’s a classic moderate/scramble, starting right off the trail and going up the broad face (wherever you want to go, choose your own adventure) and running along a low-angle exposed spine with great views of the city below. Also, it’s rarely crowded, and there’s no rappelling or downclimbing needed; you just step off back to the trail. Partway along the spine section, you can drop down off the ridge to the Compound bouldering area, a long traverse, and get in some laps. But best of all, when they’re in season, have a handful of the wild raspberries that grow down on the ledge.​” –Matt Samet //