Playing in the Garden

“If you learned to climb in the Garden, you can climb anywhere in the world.” -saying I’ve heard climbing in the Garden


Garden of the Gods is one of those climbing locations with a ton of history and awesome tradition. Many underestimate the climbing in the Garden since it is right in the middle of Colorado Springs, and isn’t much of an ‘adventure’ as most would expect from a climbing destination. I call those people climbing hipsters. They stray away from Garden of the Gods because that’s where everyone goes for a quick climbing session. By ‘boycotting’ climbing in the Garden, and thinking that it is not a respected climbing location, or think they’re too good, or the Garden has no history or tradition, they are missing out on all the climbing history and tradition in Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods is not just a bunch of random red rocks sticking out of the ground; it’s a location shared to the public for all recreation purposes (hiking, biking, climbing, etc.). The fact that the park is free to ALL and everything has a remarkable history that most people native to Colorado Springs don’t even know about.

You can read all about the general history of Garden of the Gods HERE if you’re interested.

Climbing in Garden of the Gods will never get old. The rock is so soft that routes actually change within just months. That one horn you used to use on a route may have broken off entirely, or scoops may have appeared that weren’t there that time you climbed that route in the spring. Some rock faces here are so soft just the type of slab you never want to climb. However, there’s always booty left on these routes… so of course I’ve climbed some of these mildly terrifying routes for the sake of snagging a single carabiner or something just as silly. They always say to add a little spice to your life…

Here, Kevin plays Russian Roulette with the soft, slabby sandstone edges.

Largely, all of the routes we guide run five bolts to the anchor. That’s only five quickdraws. “Well that must mean that routes are just really short,” someone who hasn’t climbed here would say. Sure, some of them are pretty short…those require less quickdraws. The Garden climbing routes were established when you put a bolt in the rock only when you REALLY needed it. If you’re on a route that’s labeled as a 5.9, only the 5.9 moves are going to be bolted. The rest, you shouldn’t need to be protected on. What I’m trying to say, is that everything in the Garden is really run-out. This is why if you learn to climb here, you can climb anywhere in the world. Run-outs don’t scare you as much after a season of Garden climbing, and you learn quickly what the “no-fall-zone” is. Personally, I’ve fallen onto an old piton on an obscure tower in the Garden called Pizza Rock and the piton broke out of the rock. A few years ago, this tower was protected by that single piton. A few years ago, Stewart Green hammered two railroad spikes into the two huge ledges below because he didn’t trust the crumbly conglomerate sandstone that made up the top portion of the tower. When I climbed this silly tower, I wasn’t even going to sling the railroad spikes at first but the better half of me corrected my ego, and I decided to sling them because I might as well be more cautious here since I can. The rock was extra crumbly the day I climbed it, and I fell just after I clipped the piton – about a foot above it. I fell and the piton caught me just fine. I pulled on the piton to check for wobbly-ness and it never budged. We were all like, “Alright! Now we know that works, get through the crumbly crap and get to the top!” I tried again to pull the same maneuver and another bit of rock fell right out of its place on the chunk of rock. This time, I fell onto the piton, it ripped out of the rock and into my sternum and I fell until the railroad spike below me made the rope go taught. I mentioned the two giant ledges below me, right? Somehow, I managed to dodge those and not break a leg, and the rope caught me just about a foot off the ground. I could reach and touch the ground with my toes… It was one of the craziest feelings I have ever felt in my life when I fell and felt the piton pop. In that split second, everything was beyond my control. I couldn’t do anything besides let my body fall to the ground. Now that I know what that feels like, I’m probably more confident climbing in the Garden. I’ve experienced that moment of accepting the inevitable fate of a serious injury or worse.

Climbing in Garden of the Gods is a unique kind of beast. The select few still enjoy and appreciate every second of it.


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