Eldorado Canyon Rock Climb (Ruper)
Participants: Mike Sullivan and Kate Marquis
Ruper is a 6-pitch 5.8 route that scales Eldorado Canyon's fantastic Redgarden Wall. I've wanted to climb it ever since I read a write-up of the route back in issue #67 of Rock and Ice. However, I've always found reasons to, um, put off an attempt because of Ruper's reputation for hard offwidth moves, serious runouts, and a manky belay. (At least they're not all on the same pitch...) On the plus side, it has excellent rock, steep and continuous climbing, exhilarating exposure, and a nice mixture of thin crack, offwidth, and face climbing. There's even a juggy roof traverse thrown in to cap it all off. It's another one of those "top ten" classic routes put up by my favorite old-time wildman, Layton Kor.
For some reason, I felt psyched to finally do Ruper this month. A stroke of luck led me to meet Kate, a very nice victim/partner who was willing to second the route on the only day I had available to climb it. We scrambled up the fourth-class approach ramp and set up a belay at the start of a short 5.8+ fingertips crack. I stink at tips-cracks, and scuffed through the low crux mostly by bicycling my feet and lunging for the only good fingerlock. So much for an elegant start...
The second pitch brought us to the infamous Ruper Crack - a 5" gobbler at the back of a flaring dihedral. Some ripples that provide good lips and footholds are the only thing that keeps this pitch in the realm of 5.8. It went mostly OK, except for that place where the crack wouldn't let go of my foot... Hot tip: Bring a #3.5 or #4 Camalot to work up as you go along.
Pitch three began with a wildly airy thin friction traverse along the top of a slight bulge. This led to a fun dihedral that shoots up to a big belay ledge. To protect Kate from taking a pendulum fall into the void below the bulge, I used double ropes and clipped only the right-hand rope while leading up the dihedral. This kept the left-hand rope free as a toprope for Kate as she worked across the traverse. If you don't bring double ropes, the second (and leader, too) should be prepared to prussik if he or she falls.
A brief fourth-class scramble led to the next pitch. It began with a short protectable dihedral, then worked left to some run-out 5.6ish face climbing. A fall in the wrong place would lead to an unthinkably ugly landing on the belay ledge. Not to worry, though - the rock is solid and juggy. It went quickly, and I was soon back in happy pro land, and on up to the tiny belay shelf. The short fifth pitch led to a cramped and funky pod underneath a huge roof. Two old pins (probably pounded in by Layton 35 years ago) were the primary anchor, which I backed up with a marginal cam between two fractured blocks.
The final pitch started out with a traverse under the roof, past three more pitons which belong in the climber's hall of fame. (One was nearly loose enough to pluck out with my fingers.) However, there were good cam and nut placements to use instead of the death pins. A few reachy 5.8 moves up and past a hidden jug ended the technical difficulties. About 40 feet of mostly-easy run-out climbing led to a nice belay tree at the top of the route. From there we did a 15-minute scramble to the summit of Tower One, for some cosmic views of northeastern Colorado. A perfect way to top off a tremendously fun route.
One final note of caution: the walkoff down the East Slabs is tricky. Study the route description carefully, or - better yet - go with someone who is familiar with the descent. People occasionally die attempting to descend the slabs in bad weather or oncoming darkness.