Progress, Frustration in Flood-Damaged Colorado


Photo courtesy of Eldorado Canyon State Park.

9/26/13 - Since Climbing's report last weekend on the September floods' impact on Colorado climbing, glimmers of hope have emerged for rock-starved Front Range climbers.

• Rocky Mountain National Park announced that closures on the Bear Lake Road and Longs Peak Road will be lifted today (September 26). All trails accessed from these roads are open. In addition, climbers can now access the beautiful granite crags at Lumpy Ridge. Bear Lake gives access to popular bouldering areas as well as classic backcountry routes in Glacier Gorge and elsewhere. Longs Peak Road gives access to the northernmost 14'er in the Rocky Mountains, where fresh snow may be setting up classic fall ice routes.

There's a catch, however. The usual access roads to the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park are all heavily damaged and remain closed. The only way to reach Estes Park, at the east entrance of the park, is from Grand Lake on the west side, over Trail Ridge Road (which will soon close for winter) or from I-70, via the Peak to Peak Highway, a route that adds one to two hours of extra driving for many Front Range residents. Easier access is not expected for at least another month.

• Eldorado Canyon has moved "much faster than expected," according to one ranger, to repair the severe road damage that limits access to the state park. Heavy equipment has moved in to begin repairing the roads, and park officials reiterated that climber trails are in relatively good shape. Meanwhile, after one volunteer trail-building day last weekend, volunteer work has been put on hold to allow the construction crews to work unimpeded. For now, "the park is not safe for visitors, volunteers, or rescuers," the ranger said.

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, which manages access to the Flatirons and many bouldering areas above the city, has begun to reopen trails, including ones up popular Mt. Sanitas (which has limited bouldering). Most of the climbing areas remain off-limits, but the open space board of trustees said last night at a public meeting that most trails would reopen within two weeks. The trustees recommended $1 million in extra spending on trailwork this year.

• Boulder Canyon may be the major Front Range climbing area facing the longest road to recovery. The highway up the canyon sustained major damage, and highway officials have expressed concern about stability of the many roadcuts lining the road. Even if a climber wanted to hike or bike to a crag, all U.S. Forest Service property between Boulder and Nederland, which covers most of the cliffs in and near Boulder Canyon, remains closed to public access.

“People who want to recreate in the mountains or go see the destruction will actually hamper access for emergency responders, utility workers, and mountain residents who absolutely need the access,” said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle. “For that reason we’re asking people who don’t have to go to the mountains to stay away and to understand that this is a very long-term problem.”

A good place for updates on all Boulder-area trails is the Facebook page of the newly formed Boulder Trail Volunteers.