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Independence Pass

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Independence Pass  

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Location: 39.12042, -106.70159 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Alvaro Arnal, Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Pinklebear on Dec 15, 2001

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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.


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.


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

Climbing Stores 

Ute Mountaineer
210 S. Galena St.
Aspen, CO

The Trailhead
707 Hwy 24 N
Buena Vista, CO

Climbing Season

Weather station 5.2 miles from here

573 Total Routes

['4 Stars',55],['3 Stars',193],['2 Stars',201],['1 Star',77],['Bomb',1]

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
Reanimator   V8 7B     Boulder, 15'   Ivory Field
The Nose   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 5 pitches, 700'   Monitor Rock : Butt Wall
Trooper Traverse   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, 4 pitches, 400'   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
Fox Trot   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Outrageous Overhangs Area : Olympic Wall
Twin Cracks   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 200'   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Zanzibar Dihedral   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 125'   Weller Slab
Cryogenics   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 2 pitches   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Squid Kid   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
I'll be Black   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Lincoln Creek : Sunset Cliff
Mother Lode   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Sport, 3 pitches, 350'   Monitor Rock : Trailhead Wall
Baba Fats   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   Ptarmigan Creek Area : Greg's Cliff
Dean's Day Off   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 115'   Lincoln Creek : Lincoln Creek Cliff
Problem Child   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 85'   Wild Rock Area : Wild Rock
Victims of Fashion   5.12b/c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Trad, Sport, 3 pitches, 160'   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Scene of the Crime   5.12c/d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch   Grotto Walls Area : Lower Grotto Wall
Len's World   5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Outrageous Overhangs Area : Olympic Wall
The Avenger   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Lincoln Creek : Sunset Cliff
Wild Thing   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Wild Rock Area : Wild Rock
Browse More Classics in Independence Pass

Featured Route For Independence Pass
Pitch 1, bolts shown in red.  Anchor for Go Down G...

Transformation 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c  CO : Independence Pass : ... : Endless Wall
Transformation is a four pitch tour to the top of Monitor with excellent stone and engaging movement. Pitch 1, 11+, 60 feet, 7 bolts. Thoughtful edging takes you up to an overhanging, crux section. Powerful, bouldery moves take you to a jug and a nice pull over a small roof. There are two bolts with chain/links at the anchor.Alternative start to pitch 1, 10c. Begin on "Go Down Gambling", traversing into "Transformation" for its final 10 feet to the pitch 1 anchor.Pitch 2, 10c, 100 ...[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Independence Pass Slideshow Add Photo
Aspens near Aspen. Photo by Blitzo.
Aspens near Aspen. Photo by Blitzo.
Autumn color near Aspen. Photo by Blitzo.
Autumn color near Aspen. Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Sunset at the top of Independence Pass August 8th,...
Sunset at the top of Independence Pass August 8th,...
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Steve on Thindependence, @ the cliff of the same n...
Steve on Thindependence, @ the cliff of the same n...
Steve Mestdagh on Cryogenics, Independence Pass, p...
Steve Mestdagh on Cryogenics, Independence Pass, p...
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Independence Pass. Photo by Blitzo.
Nick on ICBJ.
Nick on ICBJ.
Beautiful high altitude cragging.
Beautiful high altitude cragging.
Twin Lakes, CO and Independence Pass.
Twin Lakes, CO and Independence Pass.
CO Hwy 82 in the fall.
CO Hwy 82 in the fall.
Clay on Turkey Rock.
Clay on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Lynn on Turkey Rock.
Looking toward Mt. Elbert and IP.
Looking toward Mt. Elbert and IP.
Summer, 2010.
Summer, 2010.
Jensy McNamara following the classic 2nd pitch of ...
Jensy McNamara following the classic 2nd pitch of ...
Summer, 2010.
Summer, 2010.
Wild Rock.
Wild Rock.

Comments on Independence Pass Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 19, 2014
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
From: Munchweiler, Germany
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 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 DavidHH
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
Jun 2, 2006
A great website related to Independence Pass can be found at aspenclimbingguides.com/.
By Jon Georger
Jun 11, 2010
Check out Independence Bouldering for the best guide to bouldering on the Pass independencebouldering.com/ind...
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 oaklo
Jul 31, 2013
The movie star & coke addict line should probably be removed....
By Alvaro Arnal
From: Aspen, CO
Aug 1, 2013
Why? It's not entirely inaccurate!
By oaklo
Jun 19, 2014
Yes, possibly too accurate. Maybe the line should stay then :)
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