Let's start this description with a cautionary note: Ute Pass bouldering lies on private property, not just any private property but property belonging to the city of Colorado Springs. With a sense of balance and reason that seems rare in any climate these days, the City of Colorado Springs has, so far, taken a very distant view of the privacy issue. In other words, things are presently quite relaxed, and are likely to stay that way if we don't mess it up. In my trip down there a couple of weeks ago I met several hiking parties just out enjoying the day, and those we spoke to felt that a low profile was all that was necessary. No boom boxes, screaming, or trash, etc, etc, etc just a little respect for the place. If this area were moved into park status it would rival Boulder City Parks as a gorgeous "wilderness" only minutes from a major metropolitan area. Eagles soar overhead.
Ute Pass, so far at least (!), is all about bouldering on perfect granite, perfect bullet granite. There are close to 100 decent boulders here and many have problems on them. The boulders all sit in a short scrub-oak forest that is similar to Castlewood Canyon, perhaps even a bit shorter and offering loads of privacy - to say nothing of a place to pee. Most of the rocks are just moments from the road, sit high on a South by West facing slope, and get excellent sun throughout the year. The rocks are killer, possibly the best bouldering concept in the entire front range. High balls exist, but this does not appear to be the norm, its just available. Ute Pass bouldering is also all about the landings - nearly all of them dead flat, unobstructed, and sandy. You could readily go padless. This is perfect bouldering, get it?
The first area you come to is the Warm Up Boulders. Yeah right. We jumped on a classic warm up called The Flake route and couldn't believe the killer rock and perfect landing. However, nothing else that we stumbled into had jugs like these. Most of the problems seemed to have been put up ninja mutants with sick-strong fingers. We spent over an hour on one six foot finger traverse with pathetic feet and a ridiculous 45 degree angle - and loved it. The further we traveled the better the wonderland unfolded with gorgeous, brilliant problems lurking behind every tree. Frankly, if bouldering is not your forte, and it certainly is not mine, Ute Pass will seduce you entirely. If you are already mutant, it would be hard to imagine not finding a stopper problem, some of these things looked like minimum V50. We left thinking that if you can't develop strong fingers here, then you never will.
If this sounds like a rave, well.....
Getting to Ute Pass bouldering is considerably more simple than the bouldering. Take I-25 to roughly the middle of Colorado Springs, and from I-25 take exit 141 West. This puts you on Colo 24 to Woodland Park and Deckers. Zero the odometer once you hit Colo 24 and the large parking area will be on the right side of the canyon at the enterance to Waldo Canyon exactly 7.6 miles West of I-25. Cross the highway with some caution, and head up South past the locked gate on a good unimproved road. The trail to the first bouldering lies about 100 yards up the road from the gate, and as you continue West up the road you will pass several obvious trails leading to additional, and better boulders.
Myself and Steve Cheyney independently discovered the Ute Pass Boulders back in the early 1970s. Each of us worked at developing the classic problems in different areas. But even then the area had access problems. These access issues periodically reoccur so it is with great fear that I see the Ute Pass Boulders included in this forum. Despite Richard Wright's view that access to the boulders is relaxed and casual, the situation is anything but benign. Any problems, like forest fires for one, could lead to this area being closed. This is part of a watershed and there is now paranoia, after the 9/11 fiasco, about watersheds.
Most of us locals have kept information about the boulders somewhat private since it is posted "No Trespassing" and that is sometimes enforced. The access to the north area of the boulders, which no one goes to much these days, was cut off about 10 years ago and the parking area at that end along the highway was plowed over. The landowner, whose land you have to cross for a few hundred feet, has called the sheriff on climbers in the past and has let it be known that he will do so again.
The above description has some wrong information. Most of this property is owned by the Manitou Springs Water Board, not the CS Utilities. They will ask you to leave if they encounter you on the road. There are also a half-dozen private landowners, one of which is very down on climbers. She will call the sheriff. The others do not have a problem with climbers, as long as they keep a low profile and do not light fires. Everyone up there is scared of a forest fire from an illegal fire.
If you visit our fabulous bouldering area, please keep a very low profile and be respectful to everyone you meet on the roads. Do not light any fires. Carry out all your trash and cigarette butts--better yet don't smoke up here when there is fire danger. Absolutely no chipping or glued-on holds--this will not be tolerated and any problems with chipped holds will be erased by the local climbing police! Do not place any bolts on any problem or as an anchor on any boulder. Use gear or trees if you wish to set up a toprope.
All that said...the Ute Pass Boulders is simply one of Colorado's best granite bouldering areas. Hundreds of problems are found from V0 to V10. One of the beauties of the area is that so many problems can feel like first ascents. But remember, if you can do the problem....it's probably been done before!
Thanks to Stewart Green for his emphasis on guarding this unique place. Sensitive areas that have been open to climbing are a fast dwindling resource and in need of all the protection and stewardship that he mentioned. I can't say that I blame you, Stewart, for keeping the advertising down to a minimum. Many of these wonderful rocks and problems look like they were the design models for The Spot! If these problems were established in the 70s, then there is a good bet that they represented some of the most difficult problems established at the time.
I would echo the concerns of Stewart, as Ute Pass is a cherished resource. None of us in the area would care to see it compromised by irresponsible use. Keep a low profile, stay quiet, and keep it low impact.
There's a rough guide to the area at the Colorado Springs Climbing site. It doesn't provide specific directions to problems, but does include an overview map, photos, and enough information to get you started and help you find the classics. Here's the link:
There's also some information for Ute Pass in the book Front Range Bouldering: The Southern Areas (I think that's what it's called). I think it's a Bob Horan book, but I may be wrong. Regardless, it's confusing, often inaccurate, and very incomplete, but it will get you going.
The beauty of Ute Pass is that it is largely undocumented, allowing for lots of exploring and discovery. Every time I've considered Ute Pass to be mostly "tapped out" a little excursion further afield yields new classic problems, and sometimes whole new areas.
Be wary of Horan's section on Ute Pass in the Falcon/Chockstone guidebook. He didn't consult with locals before visiting the area and has the wrong names for most boulders and problems. He also claimed first ascents of many problems that had been previously done. The guide should get you there. But once there, the best thing is to wander around and just climb stuff. Whatever looks good has probably been done. So go for it. That is the essence of bouldering. Back in the 70s I bouldered with a lot of great boulderers and that was our consensus...just push your limits and do hard problems without naming or rating them. And that has always been one of the beauty's of Ute Pass--nameless and unrated problems...
Went up to Ute today. I was not impressed at all. I don't know what this bulletproof granite nonsense is, but Ute Pass is definitely not bulletproff. I almost pulled off several large holds on separate routes. There was one problem where the entire starting flake was lying next to the problem. It had chalk on it and everything. The rock quality is poor, as is the route quality. I am sorry, but I did not find one enjoyable route here. If (which I do not suggest) this area ever becomes a developed climbing area, it will need some work. It seems that the mentality is the opposite, due to Stewart's comments. Also, the drilling and chipping needs to stop. On the boulder with the huge cave roof, on the opposite side facing Hwy. 24, there is a traverse that is about 9 holds of drilled pockets. It is the absolute worst sight. You guys can have this area to yourselves.
PS.-The snow does not make for a good day, so plan carefully. If you see any snow, be wary of most of the problems. There was significant runoff on the problems. Also, the snow on top of the boulders makes topouts impossible. If you decide this place is ok (I did not), go in the spring when it is warm and there is no snow.
That's what I thought first time there. It takes a while to find things. If you only found choss, you weren't in the right places.
Ute Pass certainly has it's share of bad rock, but the good stuff is great. Generally speaking, the farther you walk, the better the rock gets. The drilled pocket boulder you speak of is certainly an atrocity! I'm not sure why you went to that boulder in the first place, there isn't even a trail!
If you go, follow the dirt road or the telephone lines as a general rule. Most of the good stuff is near these, and out of sight until you're near it.
It seems to me that bouldering is all about poking around until you find the sweet little problem that turns you on. There is some crumbly granite at Ute pass, but there is bad rock in almost every area outside of Spain, including Lumpy, Boulder Canyon, Clear Creek, RMNP, etc, etc, etc. If the rock doesn't look good - don't climb it. However, Ute pass indeed has an unusual amount of great stone, and nothing we touched had been altered in the least. While I can't speak for Stewart Green or any of the other developers, I suspect that thay would corroborate the over all quality rave.
That's right, it's absolute choss. There's nothing good at Ute, no reason for anyone to visit. In fact, it's so terrible at Ute that you might come away a worse climber than when you started. Heck, I'd even go so far as to say you might quit climbing altogether. It really is best to keep your distance, it's infectious and you might even catch the weak-arm-disease just by driving by on Highway 24.
To tell the truth, I'm kind of upset that Ute has been posted on such a highly travelled website. Dan, I've contacted you about Ute before, and found that my going out of my way to find a place I only remembered from childhood excursions with springs climbers was more than enough to come across your website. Which is, as it were, more than enough of Ute pass sprayed on the web. I appreciate the recognition it's getting, but the more respect climbers have for the area, the more the rewards reaped. I didn't find anything great to climb on, knowing only of megaton traverse, until probably my third or fourth time there. It's so immense, so much untapped wealth, it truly is a place of gods and kings.
But, take my word for it, it's choss, nothing's good at Ute, no reason for anyone to visit. Be wary of the weak-arm-disease. My suggestion: Never think about it again.
Stewart, Dan, and Adam all express great concern about protecting this unusual area, and the concern is well voiced and laudable. However, as was pointed out here, CB.com is not the only place where Ute Pass has been described. I had not been aware of the exposure on the Colo Spgs web site, but a quick perusal shows pretty much the same write up that I posted, but with considerably more detail. Overall, I have found climbers in Boulder to be highly sensitive to the issues raised and for that reason the brouhaha seems a bit self-righteous and tainted. Boulder climbers, to a large extent, won the case against the Conda mine. Boulder climbers sponsor clean up days in Eldo that are unprecidented elsewhere. Boulder climbers have long lived with the raptor closures that have been enacted in Boulder Canyon, Eldo, Mickey Mouse and elsewhere. The list goes on and on - and in many different forms. So don't imagine that climbers from Boulder and Denver will disrespect the area any more than climbers from the Springs. And while we are at it, let's squelch the hypocricy. You can't really have it both ways: you can't rail against the invaders from the North and then tout the nifty problems to be found in this boulder field. This "bait and switch" verbal game only draws more attention to Ute Pass, and this now appears to be the real goal. Furthermore, we should also realize that Ute Pass, despite the nice character that it does have, is no untrammeled wilderness. Boulders lie only yards from Colo 24 with its day long barrage of traffic. It sits only a few miles from one of the largest metropolitan areas in Colorado. Some of the trails up to the boulders now sport foot deep trenches from over use. None of these things detracts significantly from the experience; it's still terrific, and the developers deserve high praise for what they have accomplished. Let's just keep the slate clean.
I agree with everyone. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that Boulderites would trash the place. I just wanted to echo Stewart's concerns about preserving access, just to make people aware of the situation. If anything, I encourage folks to come down to Ute. That's why I have some beta on my C-Springs site. But it's important that we understand important issues when we go to any area. That's why sites like this are so useful.
My comments were directed not at all toward Boulder climbers. They were directed toward all climbers. More they were directed toward all people. My concern lies with the quality of the climbing environment. I boulder Flagstaff regularly, and enjoy it most of the time...especially in winter. However, when it's at it's peak use, I can't stand to even drive the road. It's not that the people aren't great. It's that why I go outside to do these activities in the mountains is to get away from them...yet it seems as if society has to follow everywhere. Ute has been a place long respected and as such there was no need for governing laws. We all know it's watershed, and we all know to keep a low profile thanks to this. The more the people there, the more the need for a consensus set of regulations as how we are to treat this precious area.
It doesn't really matter but most of the CSprings climbers active in the '70s did not believe a lot of the stuff that Harvey Carter claimed to have climbed. And yes he did retropaint his red dots on stuff at Ute Pass and a lot of other routes in the Pikes Peak region that he hadn't climbed. After he moved back to the springs from aspen he made a lot of ludicrous claims about freesoloing routes in the 50s and 60s that he clearly had not climbed. He was trying to get his route count up so he could pass Fred Beckey for most new routes climbed. As for Ute after Steve (Muff) and Stewart started bouldering there they turned a lot of local climbers on to the place so a lot of problems got done by guys like Jimmie Dunn, Don Doucette, Bryan Becker, and Ed Webster. All those guys did a lot of problems up there, a lot of hard bouldering, without crash pads.
If you visit Ute, leave your crash pad in the car. Climbing is about boldness and composure; bouldering should not be any different. Have some conviction about impacting this place and other boulder fields as little as possible. Colorado is being trampled and smashed by climbers who consider themselves environmentally concerned. Vegetation damage detracts from the experience. Practice conservation and preservation. There are enough dirt hole bouldering areas.
Awesome area for bouldering. I discovered the Ute Pass Boulders in 1998 while exploring Colorado Springs and have not been back since. Excellent granite in a great setting. The grades are solid and the quality of the rock is good.
You can also park furthur up the canyon, and hike over the hill to catch some of the boulders on the west end first, and then work down. I always used that approach anyways since I liked the western areas. Just don't go too far West or you'll hit insensitive property owners.
The guide to Front Range Bouldering Southern Addition says that Ute Pass bouldering lies on national forest property. I'm sure the problems that lie on the north side of the road do in fact lie on NF land can anyone comment on the south side of the road. Even in the guide, it notes the no trespassing sign on access road. I know there are several other access points, but if it's still private perhaps something should be said to the author.
So there are a bunch of no trespassing signs but didn't run into a sheriff out for our blood... EDIT: DON'T PARK BY THE GATE-- IT IS SUPER OBVIOUS WHAT YOU ARE THERE FOR IF YOU DO. As for the bouldering... eh, its so so. Really no reason for people to risk a big fine to come up and crowd my new favorite....some of the most overrated bouldering I have ever done.
I was up here a couple weeks ago with a friend, and we didn't run into anyone for almost 3 hours while we explored and climbed. However, after working a few problems and then heading further up the path (towards what I was hoping was the area with Ship's Prow and company), we came around a bush and were face to face with a white truck that I assume probably belonged to the city.
We were burned out and a little spooked, so we decided to head out. Turning onto 24, my friend said he saw blue and red lights flashing up the access road, so now I'm a little nervous about going back.
Has anyone heard about the access issues getting worse recently? I thought it was somewhat relaxed, but now I'm not so sure.
Huh, so where's Barney's Dome? I'd always heard a story about a guy (a priest perhaps?) named Barney from Marigreen Pines running up to that rock every day for years, or something along those lines.
Anyhow, I also didn't know about the Heizer access issues; there's that green, official looking sign pointing to the non-existent trailhead out on Emporia. I know a few of the landowners a bit further up the canyon, and they're all trail friendly (the homeowner who placed the gate on the bridge to Cascade Canyon specifically left the pedestrian access open, and I believe there's even some sort of public-access easement in place).
Thanks for the info, it always amazes me how much of the rock around here got climbed back in the '70s.
So, who bolted the perfect cracks to the left of this arete, assuming we're talking about the same area?
And if it is the same spot, then access is actually fine, minus a lack of tons of parking. The land is private, but the owner has put in a public access easement specifically to allow the public to hike the trail in the canyon, even sent out notices to residents of cascade inviting them to do so. He's not a climber, but knows about the bolts and is fine with them.
Yup, that new gate at the bottom certainly makes it seem sketchy, but you'll notice there's a pedestrian opening on the right side of the gate specifically to allow access. The guy who owns that gate (and a little sliver of the road) is a different owner from the guy who owns the canyon, but he also seems to be pro-access.
This is interesting to hear about so many reservations to access being an issue; has anyone seen how much exposure this area gets through any of the local running and biking guides? For example, Ute Pass Trail, which is a signed trail leaving Manitou Springs from the Cog Railway, takes you right to the heart of the area. There are many directions on local running sites for how to connect from Ute Pass Trail to Waldo and then up to Long's Ranch road. Each weekend day a herd of runners and hikers pass through the area. This is also the same area that the Ring the Peak Trail goes through, which uses the Ute Pass Trail as its first leg going in a counter-clockwise direction. For a reference to what I am talking about see: www.inclineclub.com/maps.htm Anyway, hope you get to enjoy the place. Perhaps the sagest piece of advice is to not park in front of the gate but to use the Waldo trail-head instead.
So I was always told by locals that the dome above Ute Pass, which I'm seeing called Barney's Dome, is called the Throne. I went up there around 2002 or so to climb it. The obvious line (the dihedral) is around 5.10, the crux is a roof move w/an RP as your last piece. It was a bit lichen-y.
A state trooper gave me a ticket today for parking in the pulloff next to the gate. There's a "no parking" sign now mounted below the falling rock sign that I didn't see. (He said it was posted there a year ago. I was last here a couple years ago when this parking spot was legitimate.) He told me that authorities plan to prohibit parking throughout the canyon due to the Waldo Canyon fire. There's one parking area up the road that he said remains fair game until they post "no parking" signs there, as well. Once that happens, "You can't come here anymore," he said. (We'll see about that.)
Worse, practically all the scrub oak has been clear cut, some of which appeared to be freshly killed. It now looks like a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape. Sorry to report this, guys.
Ute Pass scrub oak carnage. Submitted By: Step hen on Dec 2, 2013