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Five More Things You Didn't Know About…Rifle – VOLUME 1.5 – SEPTEMBER, 2006

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Photo by Cody Blair


The 5.13d/14a Gomorrah (on the Bauhaus Wall) was originally bolted by Pete Zoller. Zoller wired out the bottom section, Liquid Culture, a seeping 5.13a, but later decided to abandon the route. He sold the red tag on Gomorrah for $100 to Christian Griffith, then sold the route to a friend for a six-pack of beer. Neither of the men ticked the FA of this line, unfortunately; Tommy Caldwell bagged its first ascent.

Kneebars (aka “Colorado etriers”) weren’t invented on the blocky, roofy stone of Rifle, but the technique was certainly perfected here. Although early lines (Dumpster Barbecue, Vision Thing, and Pump-O-Rama) used selective kneescums or kneebars, the art of kneebarring was popularized by California transplant Chris Knuth, who climbed in jeans to protect the tops of his thighs. After Knuth found seven kneebars on Kurt Smith’s Slice of Life (5.14a, then the Canyon’s hardest route), bringing it down a letter grade, other climbers followed suit on other lines. Most routes at Rifle are now done with “kneebar tech” Beta and sticky-rubber kneepads, with the ratings suffering accordingly.

Kurt Smith took close to over 50 attempts on the dyno crux of his 1993 testpiece Slice of Life, made famous in Masters of Stone II. Chris Knuth found seven different kneebars on Kurt Smith’s famed route, bringing the grade down to 5.13d. Bobbi Bensman later sent the route — the first woman to tick the grade at Rifle — but her glee was short-lived as Californian Don Welsh found a much easier, static sequence slightly left on good crimps. Although both follow the same line, Don’s variation (aka, Piece of Cake) is considered 5.13c.

According to Colin Lantz, the name for Dope Party came from a little old lady from Rifle. In 1993, the town of Rifle banned bolting and was considering closing the city park to climbing after numerous complaints from Rifle residents about overcrowding, lack of parking spaces, and unpleasant encounters with rude and sometimes belligerent climbers in THEIR park.

I solicited help from John Juraschek, the Executive Director of the burgeoning Access Fund and at his suggestion formed a climber’s advocacy group and called it the Rifle Climber’s Coalition. During a public hearing while attending a City of Rifle Council Meeting at which the subject of Rifle’s closure was being debated, one resident in favor of closing the park to climbers was listing off the long list of climbers’ transgressions. This was immediately rebutted by the little old lady, who stood up at the hearing and said “Well, at least they’re not up there having DOPE PARTIES.”

One Spring morning of 1999, after a severe freeze/thaw period, climbers traipsed into the Arsenal only to find to find that a huge panel of blocks had dropped off the bottom third of Rendezspew (5.13b), Vitamin H (5.12c/d), Debaser (5.12d), and Dope Party

(5.12d) — quickdraws still attached!

Best route:Present Tense (5.13d) Project Wall. FA Don Welsh, late 1990s

First Route:Rumor Has It 5.11b, 1991 by Mark Tarrant and Richard Wright

Worst route: A toss up between Moroni Blows (5.12b), a green drainage line in the Skull Cave that that seeps constantly, and the neighboring block-heap Pygmy Mastadon Boner (5.12b).

Biggest sandbag:Philibuster originally graded 5.12c/d

Hardest onsight:Strange Ranger 5.13d