American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Front Range Bouldering

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  • Publication Year: 1990

Front Range Bouldering. Bob Horan. Chockstone Press, Denver, 1989. 196 pages, numerous maps, diagrams and black and white photos. $11.95.

Most good climbers are good boulderers, but there are a few exceptions. Tobin Sorenson, the best climber of the Seventies, claimed he could not boulder, but he never really applied himself to it. He lacked the patience to spend weeks on a problem. Also, perhaps it just was not exciting enough to climb so close to the ground: Tobin was at his best when in mortal danger.

For me, nothing compares to the satisfaction of completing an intricate route on a boulder after working through the usual progression. At first, there is the questionable conception of the route, followed by tentative pulls on the initial holds. Then comes the training of the muscles to adapt body to the rock and the laborious assembling of individual moves into a smooth sequence. Finally, there is the supreme moment. The mental and physical practicing pays off and the body finally is able to realize what the mind had long before foreseen.

In light of the important part that bouldering plays in most climber’s regimens, one would think that there would be more guides devoted to bouldering areas. Often, there is a short mention of adjacent bouldering in the back of a climbing guide, but nothing more. Pat Ament did a comprehensive bouldering guide to Flagstaff Mountain a few years back, but bouldering has never been taken seriously by writers of guides.

Perhaps this new guide by Bob Horan seriously signals a trend to better guidebook coverage of bouldering. The guide describes a number of fine areas near Denver and Boulder, Colorado, including Horsetooth, Morrison, Eldorado Canyon and Flagstaff, as well as a few lesser known areas. Horsetooth reservoir, near Fort Collins, is the best. Its Dakota sandstone is ideal-like fine-grained sandpaper for maximum adhesion, yet smooth enough so that it does not rip the fingertips on dynamic moves. And what dynamics there are! Gill established the standard here 25 years ago and the frequent flyer could not ask for a better variety of aerial moves.

Morrison, near Denver and just off Interstate 70, has similar rock and is almost as good. The prettiest setting is Flagstaff Mountain, which overlooks Boulder. Its red sandstone boulders are strewn among a pine forest with a view ranging from Boulder in the foreground, across the plains toward Kansas. On a clear day, this makes for an idyllic setting. Unfortunately, the rock does not have the quality of Horsetooth—it’s too rough and holds occasionally break here.

The guide uses a birds-eye view format which makes for ease in locating the boulders, but it could use a few more photos or drawings of the rocks from a side view. Sometimes, many different routes are close together and regular topo format would be an improvement. The guide is a valuable addition to any boulderer’s library and any climber’s trip to climb in Colorado should reserve some time to visit these areas.

Eric Accomazzo

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