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Captain Beyond (5.10c), Boulder, Colorado

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Allison Herrington makes her way up pitch five's clean dihedral. Photo by Rob Kepley
Allison Herrington makes her way up pitch five

Mickey Mouse Wall and the twin summits forming its namesake “ears” loom above the eastern ramparts of the Colorado Rockies. Outside the borders of Eldorado Canyon State Park, Mickey Mouse offers an array of stellar routes. The sandstone has fractured into cleaner vertical lines than nearby Eldorado, leaving splitters and dihedrals in place of face holds. But despite its being visible on the horizon, a mention of the wall is often met with blank stares. The crowds are kept down by the hour-long approach and by the cliff’s annual raptor closure. For those willing to make the trek, Mickey Mouse’s 500-foot south face holds a classic five-pitch trad route, Captain Beyond.

The route begins with two pitches of 5.10- vertical finger and hand jams. With a paucity of face holds, these pitches require true crack climbing. Above a long, sloping ledge, the 5.8 third pitch starts off with the climb’s mental crux and most dangerous section: a slab just off the belay where a fall would land you back onto the ledge. Higher up, a tall, thin flake juts upward. The steep fist crack separating the flake’s inside edge from the wall’s face comprises the physical 5.10c crux of Captain Beyond. But with a double set of cams up to four inches, the pitch never requires climbing too far above your gear. The final lead shifts left before ascending a spectacular hanging dihedral via well-protected stemming and crack climbing up to 5.10b. Scramble to the Middle Tower of Mickey Mouse for unrestricted views of the Front Range and the planar prairie.

Captain Beyond was first climbed at 5.8 A1 in 1963, by the connoisseur of Colorado classics, Layton Kor. Eleven years later, Boulder’s prolific Briggs brothers, Roger and Bill, freed the entire route. Although the approach may be long by Front Range standards, Mickey Mouse’s 40-plus trad climbs soak up sun and are usually sheltered from the wind, providing a beautiful respite from winter shadows.

The Beta

SEASON: Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks institutes a yearly raptor closure from February 1 to July 31, and it’s often too hot in spring and summer. The fall and winter months provide the most comfortable conditions on these sunny crags.

GUIDEBOOK:Eldorado Canyon: A Climbing Guide, by Steve Levin

GEAR: A double set of cams to four inches, with a single set of nuts; 10 slings

APPROACH: With a brisk pace and knowledge of the trails, Mickey Mouse Wall can be found in under an hour. First-timers and those with a leisurely pace will want to plan for 90 minutes from the car. Half a mile east of Eldorado Springs, on Hwy. 170/ Eldorado Springs Drive, turn south on CR 67 and park at the gate a quarter-mile up the road. Hike up the gravel roadbed, making an unmarked right turn at a road intersection after a half mile. This gravel road becomes the “Fowler Trail” and is signed as such. Follow the Fowler Trail past multiple smaller paths leading to the right. When a gated road forks off to the right, continue straight for 100 feet and follow a smaller path to the right. This is marked as a “Climbers Only” trail. Follow this straight uphill to the railroad tracks. Turn left and follow the tracks for 10 minutes. The track runs through two tunnels; walking through them is the most popular option, but is illegal. Both tunnels can be skirted by walking around on the hillside, adding five to 10 minutes to the approach. Immediately south of the second tunnel (labeled as “T6”), turn right. The Mickey Mouse Wall will be facing you on the adjacent hillside. Captain Beyond is located roughly in the middle of the Mickey Mouse Wall, beginning with a hand and finger crack through an offwidth slot and roof.

DESCENT: Scramble west (climber’s left) to the first large notch, and make three single-rope rappels with a 60-meter rope.

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