Buena Vista: A Climber’s Playground
Articles - BV Outdoors

by: Dustin Heron Urban

Photos by Kennley Montrose and Dustin Urban

While the gaze of many visitors passing through the Upper Arkansas Valley is likely to gravitate west toward the stunning collegiate peaks, visiting climbers will immediately find themselves inspecting the eastern reaches of the valley, captivated by the abundance of granite cliffs scattered east of the Arkansas River.  For residents and visitors alike, Buena Vista offers hundreds of climbing routes and endless bouldering within a ten minute drive of Main Street.  With the valley cooling off and the yellow of the turning aspens descending upon BobsRock018atown, autumn is the perfect time to explore BV’s climbing options.

Tom Perkin’s Arkansas Valley Climbing is an excellent guide to the area’s crags.  You can find this guidebook and any other climbing gear you may need at BV’s outdoor store, The Trailhead. There is also an online supplement to the guidebook. Be aware that rock climbing is inherently dangerous and climbing without the proper gear and skills is likely to lead to injury or death. If you are new to climbing, be sure to stop by The Trailhead in order to get set up with the proper instruction and gear.  That said, when all appropriate precautions are taken, climbing is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and the views from the top are outstanding.  

The greatest concentration of Buena Vista climbing is found just north of town along County Road 371 and within the Fourmile Recreation Area, accessed from County Road 375.  This area offers numerous sport (fixedBobsRock042a protection against falls such as bolts) and traditional or ‘trad’ (place your own hardware for protection) climbing routes.  If you’re looking for moderate climbing, I recommend Transmitter Tower and Almost a Tunnel— located just north of the series of tunnels through which 371 passes on its way out of town— for some fun 5.10s.*

The Tunnels Area is full of great after- work options, but Buena Vista’s most classic crag lies just to the north.  NotBobsRock001a only does Bob’s Rock offer some of the best rock quality in the area, its 140 foot face is also home to some of BV’s longest routes.  Most routes can be toproped, but if you’re looking to lead from the ground up, you will be hard- pressed to find a bolt lower than 15 feet on most of these climbs, so I recommend bringing a crash pad and some supplementary trad gear for extra security on the starts.  If trad is your game, classics like Airsoles (5.9), Bob’s Crack (5.10a/b), and Wire Man (5.11a) are sure to keep you smiling.  Recommended sport and mixed routes include Ego BusterBobsRock032a (5.10c) and Hot Foot and High Step (5.10a/b).  The Toprope Slab at the north end of Bob’s offers excellent beginner climbing as well.

Buena Vista is an excellent home base for the climbing enthusiast.  The proximity of the local crags makes it easy to climb all week, and the moderate temperatures in the valley make climbing all winter a possibility for the rock fanatic.  And when the weekend roles around, it’s an easy drive to the alpine granite of Independence Pass, the volcanic sport climbing of Penitente Canyon or the limestone cliff bands of Shelf Road.  Climb on!  

* If I’ve lost you at this point, here’s a quick run down of the rating system.  Climbing in the U.S. is rated using the Yosemite Decimal System which ranges from class 1-5.  Class 1 consists of trail hiking while class 5 is reserved for the type of technical climbing referred to here which requires ropes and various types of hardware to protect against falls.  Class 5 climbing is further broken down using the decimal system where 5.1 is easily climbed by beginners and 5.15 is currently the most difficult route to have been ascended.  For a good overview of these details and other climbing in Colorado, see Rock Climbing Colorado by Stewart M. Green.

Photos top to bottom:

-John Bernhard leading Ego Buster (5.10c) at Bob’s Rock.
-Dustin Urban working the tricky boulder start.
-Dustin leading the crux.
-Gearing up for the climb.
-John Clews working the balancy seam on Ego Buster.

Photos by Kennley Montrose and Dustin Urban

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