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North America, United States, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Various Ascents

Rocky Mountain National Park, Various Ascents. Tricky to describe what started it, but the 1998 summer season in RMNP saw a frenzy of new route activity the likes of which haven’t been seen for years. For those involved, it meant a mad time of plotting and scheming, chancing the weather and desperately trying to find a suitably motivated partner for some of the projects. Nearly all of the 1998 routes were put up free and onsight, and most followed natural crack lines with no need for bolts or pins. This says a lot about the climbing potential in the Park. In addition, this modem, minimum impact approach is ever more appropriate for the future of climbing in the more remote alpine and tundra areas of our National Parks.

Most of the action can be ascribed to a core group of highly motivated individuals. Way back before the alpine season was even supposed to have started, one of the key figures, a certain Doug Byerly, was spotted at one of those local “in” parties, furtively dropping hints about hidden areas, south faces and early season routes. Doug and his various partners were responsible for 12 new routes, all multi-pitch. (See note by Byerly below.)

In addition to climbs noted below, Arrowhead Peak was the focus of much activity. Ex-pat Brits Andy Donson and Dave Light put up the hardest line on the east face, Ithaca (5.12b, five new pitches), in 1997 via overlapping slabs just right of the Airhead Dihedrals. This piqued people’s interest, and the summer of 1998 saw the addition of four more routes to the right of the route (see additional notes below). From left to right, a route by Bernard Gillet and partner attacked the next dihedral system to the right of Ithaca, producing a four-pitch 5.11. This was followed by Medusa (Donson, with newcomer Brit, Kath Pyke), a five-pitch, 5.11a “J” crack system of real quality status that is the third system to the right of the Airhead Dihedrals. Caught in a hair-on-end and carabiner-sparking thunderstorm, the pair named the route after the goddess Medusa, known for the snakes in her hair. On Arrowhead Peak’s southwest face, Independence (5.10, three pitches), a splitter dihedral, was put up by Pyke and Dylan Taylor. The higher you go on Arrowhead, the better the quality of the rock.

Over on the Longs Peak massif, up and behind the Diamond, the elegantly positioned Palisades was the scene of three new multi-pitch lines, the first new routes here for over two decades. Mark Howe and Joni Dutton found themselves doing a striking line, Beat the Heat (5.10d, three pitches), on the central dihedral system of the Great White Tower simply because people were already on the popular Flying Buttress further down the valley. Kath Pyke focused her efforts on the left arête of Wisteria Tower to produce the fine Slumgullion (5.11d, three pitches). This is the hardest addition to the Palisades and probably one of the only new routes in RMNP where all the pitches were led by a female. The belayer, Mark Howe, wanted no part of it! Also in the Palisades, Earth, Wind and Fire (5.10d, two 60-meter pitches), climbed by Doug Byerly and Kath Pyke, takes the west face of Great White Tower.

Kath Pyke, United Kingdom