The Mechanical Man is a large stream-side crag in the S. St. Vrain Canyon. While this rock is about as close to the road as any climbing can get, the approach is actually longer than many. This approach is a archetypal approach for the SSV, in that it consists of a roadside walk, a creek crossing, a vague trail, copious amounts of poison ivy, and some loose rock and dirt, all packed into 15 minutes of time. That said, it approaches a fin crag of solid rock with a variety of climbs on it with a wide range of types and difficulties. Also as should be expected in the S. St. Vrain, you will have the pitch of your choosing at the time of your choosing, as there will be no crowds....
Note as well that the Mechanical Man has a sister crag called Rapids Rock that lies only 100' away and is only distinguishable as a separate rock via a gully running between the two and the necessity of different access points to the various climbs on either. Rapids Rock has its own 'page' here on MP.com, but the approach directions on this page may be applied to reach that crag as well.
The Mechanical Man crag itself faces North/North-West on the primary face and gets some sun in mid summer. On mornings or afternoons, some of the routes on the left or right side, respectively, get strong sun, but for most of the day, shade can be found somewhere on the crag if it is sought out. The 300' tower is broken into 4 tiers.
The First Tier, from a streamside ramp to the lowest ledge is about 40-50 feet tall, bulging, and boasts both the hardest 2 routes on the crag as well as the easiest. Alvino Pon and Hank Caylor bolted 2 lines up the solid and steep overhang in the mid 1990s, producing a 5.6 approach line to the ledge, and then a 12b and 13a sport route that climbed more directly up the bulge to the same ledge.
The Second Tier is 60-100 feet tall and boasts the best climbing on the rock. Most of these pitches (and the rest on the rock) were first ascended by Gillett and his various partners between 2002 and 2006 as they were working on the SSV guidebook. Six different pitches ascend this level, each rated between 5.9 and 5.10d.
The Third Tier has 7 published lines, many being easy extensions or continuations of the Second Tier climbs if started from below. The difficulties here range from 5.6 to 5.11, with two of the best three pitches each being 5.9+ and 5.9- Some of these shorter lines (40-50') can also be continued onward to the Fourth Tier on the left side for a nice summit route and 70 additional feet of climbing.
The Fourth Tier holds 3 lines, each of which go 75' up this top tier to the summit belay (bolts and chains). These three pitches include a less than ideal 5.6R, a nice 5.7 and an unique 5.10a pitch. Climbing this tier puts you atop a nice summit tower 300' over the river with nice views. Though some traffic noise can detract from the otherwise nice feeling up there, it is still worth doing.
Some of the best pitches on this climb are linkups. As each 'level' of the Mechanical man was determined by geology, not by what makes a nice pitch length, only certain pitches are long, and only certain pitches link to others.
The Little Narrows to the Finish Carpenter makes a nice link up of 5.10b face to 5.8 cracks to a 5.9 corner, almost 200' long. (***) Antifreeze to the Big Narrows to the Finnish Carpenter can also be linked up fro 155' of clean hard rock with judicious use of slings and protection, staring on 5.10a fingers and finishing on 5.9 corners. (***)
Emissions Testing can be taken as an initial section instead of Antifreeze to keep the climbing around 5.9 with an easy section in the middle. (**)
The slightly more confident climber may wish to start on The Tooth to reach the anchor, continuing on a 5.0 slab and then up to some attention-getting face and "crack" climbing on Bending Nails. This 160' combination starts with 10d, body english moves to flared fingers and opposition moves then a few thin slab moves before the angle kicks back. The final challenge on Bending Nails is keeping a quiet mind on a slab well above protection... and a ledge. But the climbing is certainly fine there, if you don't mind a runout or two. (***)
On the left side, Mr Goodwrench can be linked directly into the summit pitch of Auto Repair with no rope management issues for a nice face-to-crack pitch totaling about 130' in all. The 5.9+ grade of Mr Goodwrench is a bit of a sandbag. The combination is limited by the present licheny state of that lower pitch, which if cleaned might be less of a sandbag and also merit another star overall. (**)
Approach as for Rapids Rock, is so desired. there is an approach described on that page.
Better yet do the following:
Drive about 5.5 miles up-canyon from Lyons around a right hand bend in the road with two tower-like crags on the left (South) and some slabs on the right pinching the canyon down into a narrows. Just after the crags on the left (Mechanical Man and Rapids Rock, a guardrail on the left appears and runs for about 200 yards. Follow this to its end and park in a very large gravel pullout on the left side of the road, at road level. Even low clearance vehicles should be able to access this without a problem.
Walk back down the road on the inside or outside of the guardrail until it ends. You will be just upstream from where the Rapids Rock grows up out of the stream and towers overhead. A steep gravel embankment goes down about 15 feet to the stream, where you can see a few blocks with drilled blasting holes through them sitting in the center of the stream. These lie just above a series of rapids. Pull up your pants and wade across (between the knees and crotch at mid-depth water) to a large square block with more blasting holes drilled through it. If the correct path is chosen, you can keep your clothing dry. A walking/probing stick is advised to find and avoid the holes.
Once across the stream, head up the hill in your shoes, socks, and long pants, avoiding as much poison ivy as possible (I don't have any after 2 trips there and back) and eventually coming into the back right hand side of the crag (west slope) on Rapids Rock. Pick your way uphill for 10 minutes to reach a slight depression or perhaps "gully" on the side of the rock, passing between 2 twin pines (over a foot in diameter) and then another 10' up to see a larger pine (2 foot diameter) in a notch in the rock behind yo and left. Climb up past this pine and onto a ledge....
You now stand on the shoulder of the Mechanical Man, atop Tier 3, and below tier 4. Walk out North onto the large ledge and rack up, or do it in the small, but flat and comfortable space above the notch before passing through the shrubs onto the ledge.
You will be standing below the route Fluid Mechanics and at the top of the rappels down to the lower tiers once on this large ledge.
An interesting climb on good rock, but needs a little cleaning yet. Start at the leftmost bolt-and-gear belay at the base of Tier Two, having rapped in from the standard ledge atop Tier Three to the slab chains, then down and left of the slab chains to the comfortable belay ledge.From there, you will be looking just right up into Emissions Testing corner, or up into the shallow, hanging dihedral of The Tooth. Move left to a crack as for The Tooth and start...[more]Browse More Classics in CO