Local routes with OESIC: Scaling Shelf Road

After a rousing night of Greek gods, dad bods, and excessive midnight pancakes, 11 members of the Outdoor Education Special Interest Community (OESIC) mustered up the energy to embark on a sport climbing day trip at Shelf Road in Cañon City.

We departed at 7 a.m. and were led by Nick Crews ’18 and Rob Balloch ’18. The expedition proved to be informative and exciting for all and catered to all levels of climbing ability in the group.

The drive took approximately an hour and a half, half of which was spent on rocky dirt roads with constant hairpin turns (much to the dismay of several dad bod participants). We were relieved to arrive and the weather was absolutely perfect—sunny and mildly breezy.

Heading for the Cactus Cliff and Green Pillars areas, we made a short approach to set up some initial routes. These included a classic 5.7 called “Crynoid Corner,” consisting of several large cracks and ridges, and an initially over-hung and later pocket-y 5.10b called “Slicer.”

Nick easily led the 5.7, and Grace Ford ’19 successfully led the second after much determination and a bit of innovation.

Following this warm-up, we made our way along the cliff to set up some equally chill climbs. “Kalahari Sidewinder” (5.8) proved an interesting climb, as you had to continually zig-zag along a crack that stemmed up a tall wall. A bit further on, in the Green Pillars section, we also set up “Ian’s Climb” (5.7), “Beef Cake Formula” (5.8), and “Totally Blonde” (5.10a).

We spent the rest of the day in this area and the trip became a great opportunity for learning. Grace and Nick in particular were excellent teachers for the members who had never lead climbed, set up an anchor, or cleaned a route.

Using Ian’s Climb, a short lead with a lot of bolts and continuous small ledges, various members of the group got a chance to lead for the first time and also to set up an anchor. In addition, with a huge ledge at the top that several people could stand on, Ian’s Climb was perfect for teaching others how to clean a route.

With newfound climbing confidence, many members returned to Kalahari Sidewinder to lead it, as well as attempt Beef Cake Formula and Totally Blonde on lead. Beef Cake Formula was especially admired due to a gaping under-cling pocket perfectly situated below one of the bolts mid-climb. Totally Blonde, on the other hand, was more difficult. Though the route was mostly a 5.9, two bolts on particularly slabby areas with only a crack for foot placement bumped up the grade level.

After a lunch of PB&J bagels, Clif bars, and an heirloom tomato, the climbing mellowed a bit as everyone took some final attempts at the routes they had yet to complete. In addition, some set up a 5.9 between Beef Cake Formula and Totally Blonde, “Ol’ 47.” Only a few got to climb the route, but the overall consensus was positive.

Nora Holmes ’18 raved about it, as it was a mentally challenging climb—the overall direction to follow was unclear, allowing for the climber to be more creative in using its large cracks and slabs.

Exhausted, out of water, and sunburned, everyone headed back to CC by 4:30 p.m., ready to eat and sleep but also satisfied with the day’s accomplishments. Not only was the trip a wonderful first bonding session as a hall, it also stepped up the entire group’s climbing knowledge.

Almost everyone that came returned to campus having learned something new about climbing technique, safety, and set-up. Better yet, everyone returned with greater self-assurance in their abilities and stronger friendships. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s what CC is all about—earning new friends, memories, and knowledge.

Sarah Laico

Sarah Laico

Sarah is a junior from Warwick, New York. After being Head Writer of her high school paper, she has enjoyed continuing her passion for journalism working at the Catalyst. An outdoors enthusiast, Sarah loves to rockclimb, hike, ski, and trail run, and she also is a backpacking, rafting, and climbing leader for the Outdoor Education Center. When she is not editing for the Active Life section at the Catalyst or monitoring at CC's Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym, Sarah can be found playing drums and eating cereal.

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