Climbers from around the world are drawn to Rocky Mountain National Park for its world class climbing. Whether it’s the big wall routes like the 2,000-foot Diamond of Longs Peak or the large granite slabs, faces and domes at Lumpy Ridge, climbers discover their passion and get after it.
Rock Climbing Categories & Classifications
Climbing has evolved over the years into these categories:
- Traditional Climbing Traditional or “trad” climbing was simply called “climbing” until the 1980s. Climbers follow the natural features of cracks and ledges and must possess the technical knowledge of climbing anchors and the skill of placing protection (camming devices, chocks, etc.) to protect against falls.
- Sport Climbing involves high intensity, difficult climbing on relatively short, pre-planned routes by clipping into bolts with metal hangers. Sport climbers do not place their own protection.
- Bouldering The simplicity of bouldering celebrates movement over stone without rope or other protective gear. Often climbers bust hard moves less than 10 feet off the ground as a way to practice new techniques, skills and moves. Because climbers stretch the envelope, falls are inevitable so climbers use a crash pad and spotter.
- Ice Climbing Climbing doesn’t stop because of ice and snow. Favorite ice climbs in the Park are the wide, gently-inclined ice at Jewell Lake, ideal for beginners, and Hidden Falls out of Wild Basin with routes rated from easy to hard. Loch Vale offers a combination of rock and ice climbing.
Climbing routes and features are classed individually to help you plan a safe trip. Class 1 is hiking that graduates to Class 5, which involves climbing with the use of rope, belaying and protection. Fifth class is further defined by decimals and letters. For instance, 5.0 to 5.7 is where novices begin and is easy for experienced climbers. Rock climbing skills are needed for 5.8 and 5.9 while a dedicated weekend climber may attain a 5.10 grade. But climbs of 5.11-5.15 are reserved for experts who have training and natural ability.
Planning Your Rock Climbing Trip
No permit is needed to climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, but a bivouac permit is required for climbers planning multi-day climbs 3.5 or more miles from a trailhead with four or more technical pitches. As a designated wilderness, the Park prohibits motorized drills and establishing fixed anchors. Chipping and drilling destroys the rock face so use removable protection and natural anchors whenever possible. The local climbing community promotes Leave No Trace clean climbing ethics. Contact the Backcountry Office for permit procedures, backcountry conditions and climbing regulations.
If you’re planning a climbing trip to the famed Lump Ridge, be aware of closures. Lumpy Ridge sits above the meadows of MacGregor Ranch and has shorter approaches than the higher peaks. Still, Lumpy Ridge boasts some of the premier climbs in the country, among them Batman, Twin Owls, Pear and Sundance. Each year Rocky Mountain National Park officials close areas of Lumpy Ridge and Sheep Mountain from March 1 to July to protect raptor nesting sites. Check for updated raptor closures at www.nps.gov.
The best way to get started in the exciting sport of rock climbing is to take a lesson so you know how to climb properly and safely.Tags: What to Do