Location: Brown Cloud Crag, south side of North Table Mountain – Golden, CO
Parking: Parking Lot, Colorado 58 (39.766105, -105.214137)
Hike: About 10 minutes from parking lot to crag, less than 1 mile
Route: Brown Cloud has 50+ lines, so it can be hard to find a specific route. There is a class 3/4 gully that can be climbed to set a top rope anywhere. “Volobee” is basically the first slab to the left of that gully. It can be found to the right of “Deck Chairs on the Titanic” which is a famous and well known route.
Route Stats: 5.11a, 50′, 1 pitch
Climbing type: sport or top rope
Pro: 4 bolts with two top anchors (with 3 linked chains)
Gear: I follow the “bring what you need plus two” rule. With a 4 bolt route and 2 for the top, I carry at least 8 quickdraws (but I tend to carry all 14 for practice carrying the extra weight). PAS for cleaning the route after the climb. Helmet for any climb.
Basic Gear: harness, ATC, locker, chalk bag with chalk, 9-10mm single rope
For those that followed my blogging, I apologize for my hiatus. Applications to medical school have hindered me from having time to blog (but I still found time to play outside!). But I am back! I will try my best to catch you up on the adventures I have had this last year, as I am still an avid photographer when possible. As it turns out, climbing is hard to photograph if you only go with one partner!
For our final route today, my brother and I wanted to lead “Protection From the Virus (5.10c)” but some other climbers were working on “Lemons, Limes, and Tangerines (5.8+) right next to it. So we went to mountain project to investigate other climbs in the area. Having done most of the 5.10s in Brown Cloud, I decided that it was overdue for me to attempt to lead my first 5.11. As it turned out, we had just finished “Deck Chairs on the Titanic (5.10a)” and there was a 5.11a right around the corner!
The route positions your belayer below the 15-20 feet of bouldering to reach what I would call the start of the line. From the top of the “bouldering” problem (which is a cake walk compared to a 5.11) you can reach the first bolt – a feeling of satisfaction when you look at what is to come. Although this route isn’t rated highly, I will tell you why I really liked it. The route is CRIMPY if you follow it straight up the bolted line. However, you can utilize the arete on either side of the climb to make it a bit easier while still staying within reach of the bolts. Obviously, this makes the route easier. But allow me to defend why I am still calling this a 5.11a.
While you can stay in the right-hand crack for the first three bolts (making the lower section more like a 5.10b/c), you can also make the problem harder by never leaving the bolted line (making the problem more like a 5.11c/d, if you stay true over the overhang). So, you can have climbers lead the route ranging from a comfort level of 5.10-5.11 and everyone can make the route as hard as they are comfortable with!
That being said, I used the right-hand arete for the first two bolts with my right hand and kept my left hand in the crimps of the slab. Toes are tough, but I recently bought new climbing shoes with a sharp toe, which has significantly enhanced my climbing as of recently. For the third bolt I moved in more, utilizing a heel hook in the crack – and then my heel ended up getting stuck, so I spent a ton of energy getting it out and just doing away with that move. I’d be lying if I said that I flashed this route… I definitely needed a couple takes on bolt 3, but I didn’t fall once!). I found it easiest to just traverse across the super flat ledge about bolt 3 and get over left of the 4th bolt. From here, I came up left of the bolt under the bigger overhang (which is actually easier than going over the jutted-out rock that bolt 4 sits on). The move will get your adrenaline going, but it is actually easier than it looks like it will be, as it has super large foot holds and the lip at the top of the rock is flat.
Overall, I estimate my route to be a 5.10d/5.11a at the crux, which I would say is between bolt 2-3. The route, overall, is not as sustained as something like “Deck Chairs on the Titanic” which I would argue is only slightly harder at the crux as compared to the rest of the route. Here, once you clip bolt 3, you are in the clear unless you want to make the route a hard 5.11 by going directly over bolt 4. I plan to return here and try staying on the slab for the entire climb to see if I can handle the tougher line. It is definitely crimpy for the first 3 bolts, with few footholds to really rely upon. I think speed and confidence are your best tools on that face, as the holds will serve you well if you planned your route.