An Outsider's Season in Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado
Okay, yes, I get it. You climb 5.13, probably 5.14. You're sick strong. You can get a knee bar rest everywhere with a fancy rubbery, glued, duct-taped kneepad. You can crush slopey pinches. You can dyno into an undercling. You can press your foot on icy glass smears and stand up. Before this trip, I'd climbed a couple of 5.13s at my local crag and thought I'd go to one of the best summer sport climbing spots in the country to check out thre real action. In Rifle, all the routes are bold and the 5.11 (and the 5.12s) warm ups are polished and scary. I can usually send them, but I'm always gripped at the top. Welcome to Rifle Mountain Park. Drive by the Project Wall any given weekend and there they are. The fronters. In full force. Hell, start at the beginning of the canyon... The Arsenal? Check. Bauhaus? Yep. Anti-Phil? Uh huh. Ruckman parking? You bet. But “hoooooo boy,” are they ever at the Project Wall. "How hard do you climb? What are you working on? Sent anything good lately" followed by a hollow stare. Such a harsh welcome it is.
If you wave, they might wave back. But if you just look, they'll look the hell out of you. You climb? I climb harder. You wave? I wave stronger. You glance? I look through your soul. On rest days, they'll even rest better. Back to the fronters. You know who you are. You're probably looking the hell out of these words right now as you read them. You saw "Rifle" in the title and wondered what in the hell someone had to say about your favorite crag.
Fronting is defined by the Urban Dictionary as 1. Put(ting) on a fake or false personality; not keeping it real. 2. To think and act like you are a badass when you are not.
The warm ups.Photo by Zach Alberts
Hmmm. Does this sound like you? If not, well, you're a liar. You know who you are. You're the liar-guy or -girl. I believe the kids would say that your pants are currently on fire. And yes, girls front just as bad (and climb just as hard). I was driving through the canyon one rest day (sorry fronters, I have to rest sometimes... I believe I heard the term "sandinvaginitis" when I was there... ouch) and this gal was in the middle of the road filming her friend standing at the base of the Project Wall. He wasn't even climbing. So there she was in the middle of the road, and she looked at me like I was in her way! I had some nerve driving through her canyon! She begrudgingly moved forward one step so that I was able to drive down into the river to make it past. Okay, maybe I didn't actually drive into the river, but it was close. I barely had room to get by. I think my side mirror might even have brushed up against her neon yellow harness touching her big logoed sponsor draws. So sorry. The fronters even front their friends! I was talking to one of the stronger climbers in the canyon one night — or I should say listening to him talk to other strong climbers as I was shrinking into the darkness trying not to be noticed as I might be crushed — and he was saying that "even your homies will stare at you if you drive by!" It's a phenomenon where, I guess, if you drive by them it doesn't matter who you are. You could be Sharma, but if you're riding shotgun, you're going to get looked at. Rifle is an amazing spot. Nowhere in the US will you find such a high concentration of hard, puzzling, steep and quality limestone routes. Check the guide book. You've never seen so many stars. It's like red carpet at the Oscars. Or courtside at a Lakers game. Or rehab. Once you hit 5.12, the majority of the climbs at each grade are three stars. And there are loads of four-star routes as well. I would definitely encourage everyone to check out Rifle. I just spent two months there. (I also spent four years in LA trying to be an actor. I'm honestly not sure where I felt more judged. I’m also not sure who sprays more about representation or accomplishments or sponsors — actors or climbers). I guess every crag is going to have it's locals who don't want others invading their territory. But come on, there're no Rifle locals. If you're a Rifle local, you're at the Wal-Mart or Cheermeisters. But you fronters live in Boulder or Salt Lake City. You come out to Rifle on the weekends. Front all you want at the gym or American Fork. But I beg of you... welcome the rest of us to Rifle. Accept us for who we are. We may take your parking spot or campsite, but we are also super psyched to see you climb. And then we tell our friends about it. I would rather come home and spray my friends down with the details of seeing a sick redpoint than tell them "what's-his-name is a huge prick."
Anyway. Climb on, climbers.
And front on, fronters. I'll see you next year.
Keep it real!