Tough Limestone on Shelf Road


We rolled into Cañon City, Colorado late in the evening along with the summer thunderstorms. Our destination was a sport climbing area known as Shelf Road thirty miles north of town. We needed to stock up on rations and water before our planned stay at Shelf. We loaded up with nine gallons of water and dry goods enough for days. We wanted to climb for days without being bothered by simple things like errands.

I wanted to climb hard at Shelf Road and learn how to climb on vertical limestone. The routes running up the cliffs are supposed to be very demanding. Balance and technique are essential skills needed to be successful here. By the end our time at Shelf Road I was unable to hold a pen and write because my fingers had worn out in strength and dexterity.


The first section of cliff Rob & I had our eyes on was a vertical white square of limestone called the 2150 Wall. The climbs here are spacey and futuristic. I warmed up on two simple climbs and winced in pain. The hand holds were as sharp as glass! The holds were also small and deep – pockets fit for fingers and toes. I thought I would try a Shelf Road test-piece Aoxamoxoa. This climb was one of the hardest I have ever attempted. The holds were minuscule and at odd angles and the feet were actually non-existent. Often I would have to step high to a textured pad of rock and smear my rubber-soled shoes into the rock face (and then somehow generate upward force from it). This climb was dead vertical and insanely tough.

I fell four times and made it fifty feet from the ground. The hardest part of the climb was near the top. The two handholds needed to power through the tough spot were similar in size to two dimes, flat sides glued to the wall. I was crimping dime edges. I failed in reaching the top, so I aided the the remainder of the climb, and slung the anchor chains up above. While rappelling my finger tips pulsed with a dull ache. I looked at them as if inspecting them for severe damage. On a few of my longer fingers it was clear I squeezed hard enough to push blood out my vessels and through my fingerprints.


About Clint Valentine

Clint is currently enrolled in two undergraduate degrees in Biology & Environmental Science at Northeastern University. He enjoys pursuits of endurance and distance which have included summiting many peaks in New England during winter alpine ascents, sailing the Atlantic in a vintage gaff-rigged schooner, rock climbing in five states including Oregon, and cycling 5,000 miles across North America. He has goals of pushing the envelope of his limits and combining his many outdoors interests into one big trip. He has a passion for photography and hopes to one day produce a documentary for a round-the-world tour.
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