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Bouldering on the Front Range is blowing up.
To get in on the game — not The Game, the uber-hard Boulder Canyon problem local Daniel Woods sent a couple of winters ago — in late summer, you just need to know where to go to escape the blazing sun until winter brings better bouldering weather.
(Oh, and despite the dry climate, at this time of the year, you’ll also need a lot of chalk.)
Here are five bouldering haunts, both near and far, where you can beat the heat now:
Most of the bouldering on Sanitas faces west, off the steep trail that heads straight up the mountain — perfect for a morning sesh. It’s also not a bad intro bouldering spot: the climbing trends easier, and the rock is less abusive (read: less fingertip shredding) than some of the other bouldering crags nearby.
2 The Dark Side
The Dark Side — a collection of boulders downhill from Cloud Shadow — stays true to its name, thanks to the dense evergreen forest overhead. An added summer-bouldering benefit: Many of the problems are north facing.
The problems here offer something for everyone, but those who boulder harder might find more to entertain in the long run.
It’s a quick walk to this area from easy-to-spot Capstan Rock, which is inside a switchback on the road.
3 Morrison south
Morrison is a love-hate bouldering destination on the Front Range — as in, some love to hate on it.
For a love-fest experience instead, find a bouldering buddy who knows the area and can eliminate the route-finding frustration that might cause a lousy first impression. Or just ask the enthusiastic Morrison locals when you arrive.
The main bouldering area at Morrison is popular in the winter since it catches tons of sun. But across the road is a collection of shady routes from V1 to V8 that are less well-used (polished) than the main area. The rock here is different than Flag and generally less likely to eat up your fingertips.
4 Satellite Boulders
The Satellite Boulders are nestled in shady forest at the foot of the Second Flatiron, and if there’s a cool breeze coming down from the mountains, it’s, well, sublime. The area has a variety of problems — from crimpy to overhung to slappy, with plenty of warm-ups (with safe landings for the chicken-hearted), and plenty of harder problems to work on through the fall.
The hike from Chautauqua is about 30 minutes.
5 Chaos Canyon
at altitude — cool temps
Rocky Mountain National Park
Chaos isn’t necessarily shady, but by climbing at altitude, you definitely get to escape the Front-Range heat.
But more than just checking it out because of the cooler temperatures, go to Chaos because it’s a premiere bouldering destination.
Climbing season in RMNP is short, so go now — the weather will probably only cooperate into October. Late summer can bring daily afternoon storms, so go early, too. The hike in takes about 45 minutes from the Bear Lake parking lot.
And if it’s your first time bouldering in the park, rejoice that you now have an excellent guidebook, by local author Jamie Emerson: “Bouldering Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Evans.”