BETA PHOTO: Fortress of Solitude taken by Kirstin Kraig.
This is Colorado's biggest limestone sport crag and also happens to have Colorado's biggest sport-crag approach: 1 steep hour uphill, with some nasty scrambling thrown in as a bonus.
It was looked at and dismissed by many climbers for years (Rifle was just too close by) until Tommy Caldwell, Mike Caldwell, Nick Sagar, and Herman Gollner found the key nature trail up to the crag and began bolting routes.
It is currently the home of what is most likely America's hardest sport route--Flex Luthor, which Tommy bagged in 2003.
The crag is about 250 feet high and sickly steep in the central, south-facing amphitheater, with shorter outlying caves and walls on its flanks. The rocks varies from shattered to sublime. This crag is maybe, just maybe 10 percent developed. Routes always end up being steeper and harder than they look from the ground, so plan accordingly if you lug a drill up the hill. I usually tack a number grade onto my first estimate, which seems to ballpark it pretty well. Reaching the top of the crag to rap-drill is a total nightmare. It's best to traverse off existing anchors or drill ground-up.
There are a few projects up here, but nobody seems too choked up about ownership. Most of the routes have seen little traffic, so beware loose of holds, especially on the lower 30 feet of all the routes, where there is a shaley band.
Leave the glue and the chipping kit at home.
From the town of Newcastle, get on the Grass Valley Road as if taking the back way to Rifle from Boulder. It's simplest to go straight through the 4-way stop sign after you exit the highway, north up the hill, follow the road as it bends around west, and drive through the Castle Valley neighborhood for a mile or two.
After a bit this road hits a T-junction with the Grass Valley Road. Turn right and drive about three or so miles, passing the turn for East Elk Canyon, until you see the signs for Main Elk Canyon on your right. Turn right (north) here, then drive 5 to 6 miles, past where the pavement ends. Cross a bridge over the river and park in a big pullout on the left at a huge brown sign with beta on the "Clinetop Sheep," just as the road begins to climb steeply uphill. Do not bugger, I mean bother, the sheep, as they are endangered.
Follow the trail north out of the parking area, staying high and right at a Y-junction. (The lower trail leads down into Main Elk Canyon). Continue along this steepening trail until it bends east into Hadley Gulch. Grunt up the Gulch, passing two or three short limestone crags. At a tan-dirt, cleared-out area, the trail makes a brief jog north, and you'll be staring straight up into the maw of the Fortress. You can't miss it. A game trail on the left zig-zags up the hill, depositing you, after 15-20 steep minutes, at the east-facing left side of the amphitheater. The routes begin here and continue rightward, or eastish, along the cliff band.
Total hiking time: 1 hour. Distance: 2-3 miles. Elevation gain: 1500-1700 feet. Bring lots of water.
Weather station 2.2 miles from here
14 Total Routes
['4 Stars',5],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',6],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]
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Latest Regional Forum Messages
By Bryan Gall
From: New Castle, CO
Feb 15, 2011
Voluntary seasonal falcon closure notice for the Fortress of Solitude from February 15- July 31. The closures as of now are route specific. The central super routes (Daily Planet to Flex Luthor) are open. Once nesting has been determined routes may open. No new routing (noisy power drills) can happen during this time period even in the open areas of the main cave. Any routes east of the main cave remain open. Please no caching of gear on Forest Service land. The forest service has been very cooperative in establishing this plan; please be responsible.
By Bryan Gall
From: New Castle, CO
Feb 15, 2011
The specific routes to be closed are listed below with numbers from the Rifle/ Western Slope Wolverine Publishing guidebook.
For the left aerie:
The Sandman (not in guide)
5. Lois Lame.
8. Blind Date.
For the right aerie:
Ironman (not in guide)
Snake Woman (not in guide)
17. The Kalous Logan.
18. The Fuck Up.
By Blake M
Feb 9, 2013
Anyone climbed up here recently? I just moved to the area and would like to check it out. From what I have found, it is good in winter, is that correct?
By Michael Schneiter
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Feb 10, 2013
Yes, it is very good in the winter. The trail has typically been packed out within a couple days after a good snowfall. Doesn't take a very high temperature (30s or less) and any day without clouds or partly cloudy can be good and even borderline hot. With heavy cloud cover or high, cold winds, it may be kind of cold. Depends on what your tolerance is for climbing and the kinds of conditions you want.