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Independence Pass

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Rest Day:
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From MP's sister site: MTB Project

Independence Pass 


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Location: 39.1923, -106.8245 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 450,067
Administrators: Alvaro Arnal, Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: Pinklebear on Dec 15, 2001
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Aspens near Aspen.
Photo by Blitzo.

Description 

Unless you're a movie star, ski bum, or coke addict, the best thing going in the Aspen area is definitely Independence Pass. An often overlooked, but ultra-worthy, granite area, East of town off the super-steep CO Highway 82. The area includes crags between Aspen & Twin Lakes.

The Pass is also historic, offering some of Colorado's earlier forays onto steep (5.7) rock, a handful of Henry Barber and Lynn Hill testpieces, from the Golden Era of free climbing, and some of Colorado's first rappel-bolted sport routes.

While route activity has dwindled as of late, the Pass continues to thrive as an adventure bouldering area, with plenty of potential for those willing to do a bit of exploring. The highway conveniently bisects most of the granite in the canyon, so most crags are never more than 1-20 minutes from the road.

The Grotto Wall with its landmark route Cryogenics Corner is a great place to get acquainted with Pass rock, a sometimes confounding mixture of compact granite and metamorphized gneiss. Because it's so featured, rock at the Pass lends itself to some very overhanging climbing not typically associated with granite, especially on the left side of the Grotto Wall and at Wild Rock.

Though the Pass is considered a summer area because of its elevation (9,000-11,000 feet), the walls mostly face south and can become blisteringly hot under the high-altitude sun. With some planning, you can stay in the shade all day; or if you're lucky, some clouds will roll in and cool things off.

The road is generally closed a few miles above Aspen from late October through mid-May due to heavy snows. If you think the rock might be dry, you can park down low at the gate and bike up the road, making for a true multi-sport experience.

The beauty of the Pass lies in its variety. I would say there is a nearly perfect 50/50 split between trad and sport climbing, and many of the "sport" climbs require that you place gear anyway. To boot, there is some great bouldering up here. John Sherman's "The Ineditable" being perhaps the most famous (and best) problem on the Pass.

While the Grotto Wall offers the highest concentration of routes, most of the crags are more modest in size, typically offering between 5-10 routes each. Thusly, you can visit two or three crags in one day and get tons of climbing in.

Addendum: Aspenclimbingguides.com may provide additional local info.


Getting There 

To access Independence Pass from the Aspen side: From I-70 take exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) onto Highway 82. Follow CO-82 for 42 miles into the town of Aspen. Stay on CO-82 through Aspen towards Independence Pass. The crags at Independence Pass are arrayed along CO-82 west of Aspen en route to the Pass itself at 12,000 feet. The lowest area is the Difficult Cliff while the highest area is Instant Karma Cliff, located near the summit of the divide.

To access Independence Pass from the Twin Lakes side: From I-70 take exit 195 (Copper Mountain/Leadville) onto CO-91 South. CO-91 becomes US-24 as you go through the town of Leadville. Follow US-24E out of Leadville for about 15 miles and turn right onto CO-82 towards Twin Lakes. Once you pass through Twin Lakes the first major crag you will arrive at is Monitor Rock; about 5 miles from Twin Lakes.

Most of the climbing on Independence Pass is found on the Aspen side. The vast majority of these crags are on the left (South) side of the road as you drive up the pass from Aspen, while Lincoln Creek, a valley branching off to the Southeast from the main highway, offers good climbing as well.


Camping 

There are a multitude of camping areas throughout the length of Independence Pass. Most of these are pay camping but there are a few free options as well. Visit the Forest Service webpage for more camping information.


Guidebook 

Independence Pass Rock Climbing II by Tom Perkins, 2006 provides good descriptions. $32.99.


Climbing Stores 

Ute Mountaineer
210 S. Galena St.
Aspen, CO
970.925.2849
www.utemountaineer.com

The Trailhead
707 Hwy 24 N
Buena Vista, CO
719.395.8001
www.thetrailheadco.com


509 Total Routes


['4 Stars',53],['3 Stars',160],['2 Stars',166],['1 Star',68],['Bomb',1]
['<=5.6',9],['5.7',15],['5.8',41],['5.9',40],['5.10',93],['5.11',94],['5.12',66],['5.13',11],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',29],['V2-3',54],['V4-5',28],['V6-7',12],['V8-9',8],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',9],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Independence Pass:
Jaws   V3 6A     Boulder   Jaws Boulder
ICBJ   V6+ 7A     Boulder, 12'   ICBJ Boulder
The Nose   5.6 4c 14 V S 4b     Trad, 5 pitches, 700'   Monitor Rock : Butt Wall
Trooper Traverse   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c PG13     Trad, 4 pitches, 400'   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
Twin Cracks   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 200'   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Zanzibar Dihedral   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 125'   Weller Slab
Fox Trot   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Outrageous Overhangs Area : Olympic Wall
Squid Kid   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
Cryogenics   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ E1 5a     Trad, 2 pitches   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
I'll be Black   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Lincoln Creek : Sunset Cliff
Mother Lode   5.10 6b 20 VII- E2 5b     Trad, Sport, 3 pitches, 350'   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
Baba Fats   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   Ptarmigan Creek Area : Greg's Cliff
Standing Eight Count   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 75'   Outrageous Overhangs Area : Olympic Wall
One Strike and You're Out   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch   Outrageous Overhangs Area : Olympic Wall
Dean's Day Off   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 115'   Lincoln Creek : Lincoln Creek Cliff
Problem Child   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ E5 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Wild Rock Area : Wild Rock
Victims of Fashion   5.12b/c 7b+ 27 IX- E6 6b     Trad, Sport, 3 pitches, 160'   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Scene of the Crime   5.12c/d 7c 28 IX E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Wild Thing   5.12d 7c 28 IX E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Wild Rock Area : Wild Rock
The Avenger   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ E6 6c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Lincoln Creek : Sunset Cliff
Browse More Classics in Independence Pass

Featured Route For Independence Pass
ICBJ and proximity to CO Hwy 82.

ICBJ V6+ 7A  CO : Independence Pass : ICBJ Boulder
Start on the overhang closest to the road, climb from back and right. It has a scary fall....[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Independence Pass Slideshow Add Photo
Instant Karma, June 2007.
Instant Karma, June 2007.
Independence Pass. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass.
Photo by Blitzo.
Autumn color near Aspen. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Autumn color near Aspen.
Photo by Blitzo.
Sunset at the top of Independence Pass August 8th, 2011.  <br /> <br /><a href='http://andylibrande.com/news/2011/09/independence-pass-bouldering-and-camping/' target='_blank' rel='nofollow' >andylibrande.com/news/2011/09/independence-pass-bouldering-a>>></a>
Sunset at the top of Independence Pass August 8th,...
Independence Pass. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass.
Photo by Blitzo.
Steve on Thindependence, @ the cliff of the same name.
Steve on Thindependence, @ the cliff of the same n...
Nick on ICBJ.
Nick on ICBJ.
Independence Pass. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass.
Photo by Blitzo.
Steve Mestdagh on Cryogenics, Independence Pass, photo: Bob Horan.
Steve Mestdagh on Cryogenics, Independence Pass, p...
Looking toward Mt. Elbert and IP.
Looking toward Mt. Elbert and IP.
Summer, 2010.
Summer, 2010.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Wild Rock.
Wild Rock.
Clay on Turkey Rock.
Clay on Turkey Rock.
CO Hwy 82 in the fall.
CO Hwy 82 in the fall.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Twin Lakes, CO and Independence Pass.
Twin Lakes, CO and Independence Pass.
Jensy McNamara following the classic 2nd pitch of Zanzibar Dihedral on Weller Slab, Independence Pass, CO.
Jensy McNamara following the classic 2nd pitch of ...
Summer, 2010.
Summer, 2010.
Comments on Independence Pass Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 1, 2013
By Joshua Lewis
Mar 19, 2002

Monitor Rock is well worth a visit. The south side has Flatiron-esque trad routes (5.easy, 500') that are ideal for moonlight ascents and the West face has a slew of single pitch sport on great rock--very similar to Boulder Canyon routes. Fantastic scenery and proximal hot springs make for a killer weekend.

By Frances Fierst
Administrator
From: Manila, Philippines
Jul 18, 2003

I just climbed here for the first time yesterday. What a beautiful place. Great rock, short approaches, and a great variety of climbing. The high alpine feel of the area rivals Lumpy Ridge. This is a great destination to beat the heat and crowds of the Front Range. There is also a lot of new route potential for anyone who will take the time and effort to clean and bolt new lines.

The new guide by Tom Perkins, Independence Pass Rock Climbing is a great resource. The book is laid out well, and it has nice photos and topos. There is also a great website www.aspenclimbingguides.com to supplement the book.

By Adam Holmes
Apr 21, 2004

Anyone have a good idea when the road for Independence Pass will open this year? I was planning on hooking up with some friends there in early May.

By David Hodges
From: Parker, Colorado
Jun 2, 2006

IP pass is open for the season. I love this area, hardly ever crowded and has great sport climbing in the moderate range.

By C Miller
Administrator
Jun 2, 2006

A great website related to Independence Pass can be found at www.aspenclimbingguides.com/.

By Jon Georger
Jun 11, 2010

Check out Independence Bouldering for the best guide to bouldering on the Pass www.independencebouldering.com/index.php

By Scotty Nelson
From: Boulder
Jun 20, 2011

Can anyone offer any suggestions on where to camp, for a weekend climbing trip to IP? I'm worried with the proximity to Aspen there aren't many good options.

By David Oakley
Jul 31, 2013

The movie star & coke addict line should probably be removed....

By Alvaro Arnal
Administrator
From: Aspen, CO
Aug 1, 2013

Why? It's not entirely inaccurate!