I awoke in an RV park nestled between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. I rolled my tent out over tracks made by behemoth RVs and stiff suspension trucks. Many older gentleman walked beside me as I strolled to the bathrooms to clean up. I noticed the gentlemen wearing particularly clean laundered clothing and I was not.
Rob & I paid a rock climbers premium for the site labeled overflow lot but it was worth it. We were a twenty minute bike ride from one of Colorado’s famous climbing areas: Garden of the Gods.
The Garden of the Gods, a Colorado Springs city park since 1910, nestles in a broad valley against the forested Rampart Range… The Garden of the Gods is one of the oldest technical climbing areas in the United States. The area’s first climbers were undoubtedly the Ute Indians… The ruddy sandstone layers at the Garden are the dramatic remains of the Rocky Mountain’s uplift some 2.5 million years ago. – Stewart M. Green from Rock Climbing Colorado
The Garden is a quirky area to climb because it is so frequented by tourists. Many of the cliffs are surrounded by thick concrete sidewalks and tall wooden fences. Only climbers with permits are allowed to touch the rock. Sandstone is a very brittle rock and there are many regulations that prevent climbers from eroding here. Fixed protection is limited and the use of white chalk for drying the fingers is restricted. We had to comply to use this area.
Anticipating sketchy climbing, Rob & I packed up every bit of gear we had – we wanted to be safe and protect our climbs in case of falls. Some of the fixed points in the rock are decades old, rusty, and worn, yet still in use! Rob and I read the warning as we cycled into the park “Do not rely solely on any of these bolts for your protection. They have, on occasion, sheared off or pulled out with body weight.”
It was quiet in the Garden at 9am. A few older couples were walking laps of the formations and a few student groups were at odd ends of the park. We spotted a climbing guide, Patrick, with his client for the day. Patrick was belaying and took the time to recommend to us his favorite climbs in the area. We set off on a mission to do them all.
The climbs were mentally difficult. The rock was new and brittle and the protection was often poor. We placed our own gear, the style of trad climbing, every now and then to ease our minds. I was fearful of the gear I placed and how it would fair if I yanked hard. Would the rock crumble and turn to sand? It was best not to find out. Rob and I never fell in the Garden.
It was a hot day. Colorado Springs is the hottest city we have stayed in and every night is a reprieve from the heat. We rotated about the Garden’s many spires in a quest to find shade – sometimes planning a few climbs ahead while tracking the sun.
I returned to the tent site well worn out and dehydrated. In my tent, I found that my plastic glasses case and phone had both melted, boy was it hot! My tent must become a heat box when the sun is overhead!
Rob & I celebrated our success at the Colorado Mountain Brewery. We ate Buffalo Poppers and Ghost Chili Fries. The appetizers were exactly what our bodies needed, something tasty, oily, and full of calories. We each had a beer and noted that alcohol affects us greater at this elevation. Barring any noise from dogs, motorcycles, and late-night pedestrians, we slept well from accomplishing so much in one day.