American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Colorado, Grizzly Creek, Mudflap Girl and Mudwall

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Grizzly Creek, Mudflap Girl and Mudwall. Unreported from 2005, in the Grizzly Creek drainage of Glenwood Canyon, Chris Kalous and I established Mudflap Girl (700', IV 5.10), the first new route on the wall since Layton Kor’s explorations in the 1960s. Several climbers not present on the final ascent began work on the route in fall 2002. Mudflap Girl ascends the tall buttress on the north end of the Grizzly Creek Wall, mostly via gear-protected climbing, with some bolts and fixed pins. The hardest climbing is well protected, but there are runout sections and route-finding challenges throughout. Though still a big adventure, this is probably the most user-friendly route on the wall.

In April 2007 Tony Angelis and I completed an old Layton Kor project, Mudwall (600', IV 5.10+), in the same drainage. The line follows a cryptic path up the obvious, continuously overhanging sector, with few discernable features. It was attempted twice by Kor in the mid-1960s. On the first attempt he and Bob LaGrange managed, by Kor’s account, “75' of direct aid on terribly rotten rock.” Kor returned with Huntley Ingalls, his partner for the first ascent of the Titan in Fisher Towers, and they managed only another 75', reaching, “a section of even worse rock, where we could find placements for neither pitons nor expansion bolts.” Ingalls promptly declared the rock nothing “like the Dolomites,” replaced Kor’s proposed moniker “Cima Fantissima” with the unarguably apt “Mudwall,” and refused to return. The line stood idle for 40 years until a spontaneous, rainy day assault on the appalling overhangs in June 2005 yielded an intriguing 60' of progress.

Despite the enthusiasm of that day, I was apparently the only one with enduring curiosity about the blocky overhanging expanses that continued above. I experienced the same difficulty Kor reported in finding partners, but recruited Tony Angelis, a talented ice climber and peak-bagger with some rock experience. My fondness for less-than-bullet stone, Angelis’s near-complete naivete, and our mutual need for distraction from personal concerns proved a potent mix. In four early season visits in 2007 we pushed Kor’s neglected brainchild to the top of the crag.

Memorable passages included the 30' of gently overhanging sand that had finally thwarted Kor and Ingalls, overcome in a flurry of desperate free-climbing (this section later cleaned up into 5.9+), handlebar-like rails that allowed the wildly overhanging White Dihedral to go all free on-sight, the tottering pillars and improbable blank bulges (and four-hour belay session) of the Wonder Wall, and the unexpected, uncalled-for, Birdbeak-protected crux on the “only vertical” last pitch. Excluding the challenges we encountered with layers of grit, mobile blocks, route finding, establishment of protection, and continuous anxiety that the entire escarpment might somehow collapse, most pitches failed to surpass mid-5.10 in difficulty, offering large holds, dramatic, exposed positions, and good belay ledges on which to recover.

We placed bolts only at belays, but with an eye toward posterity we equipped the route with a generous number of Dolomites-style soft-iron pitons (from a retired climber’s collection that we had acquired in trade for tequila). We used some aid to establish many of the pitches, but on our final push we climbed the route all free. We did extensive cleaning during our several rappels and re-climbs of the pitches, and it would be a shame if this spectacular route was not recommendable to someone. Alas, imagination fails me as to whom.

Jeff Achey

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.