Swanson's Arete (5.5)
Eldorado Canyon, CO
July 5, 2007
Kim and I flew out to Denver to visit her grandmother and while we were there we had an opportunity to climb in Eldorado Canyon. Kim was breaking in a new pair of Scarpa "approach shoes", so we picked an easy route, Swanson's Arete. I had originally planned on climbing the classic Third Flatiron, but I learned that it was closed to climbing due to raptor nesting. !@#$#^% birds! So we stopped in the Denver REI and bought the Eldorado climbing guide by Steve Levin. Wow! What an excellent guidebook.
We tried to get an early start to be ahead of the crowds, but we ran into car trouble just outside of Westminster and ended up renting a car. So, about three hours later we pulled into Eldorado State Park and started hiking up to our intended route. It was pretty warm, but not too hot.
We hiked up the trail to Red Guard Wall and found what looked to be the 5.6 pitch that lead up to the ledge where our route began. Another couple hiked up behind us and confirmed that we were in the right place. Excellent! I lead up through the blocky crack system and eventually reached a small ledge where I built the belay and brought Kim up. This was Kim's first time climbing outside this season, and she was breaking in her new Scarpa approach shoes. When she arrived at the belay, she didn't have a lot of nice things to say about her new birthday shoes! I encouraged her that the pitches above were only 5.5 and the worse was behind us!
From my anchor we climbed up the ledge proper and belayed beneath a large pine tree. I couldn't see where the route began so I ended up traversing out right and then back left up a gulley/crack system to a left facing slab. Pretty easy, fun, climbing! From here we followed up an arete to the base of a slabby open book. I thought this section was the crux, so I built the belay a few feet above it so I could see Kim when she reached it. Kim cruised right up the pitch with no problem! Since I had cut the pitch short, our final pitch was only about 30 feet as we made our way up and to the right to the summit. We had a great view of the valley as well as Eldorado Canyon itself. What a beautiful place to climb! Truly a gift to have the chance to spend some time in this wonderful place....
We read in the book that there was a walk off, but from the top we saw two other climbers rappelling, so we followed them. Four rappels later we were back at the trail. It had warmed up a lot since we started the climb, and my arms were a bit sunburned. We hiked back down to the parking lot and then drove into Boulder where we had a wonderful meal at an Italian cafe next to the pedestrian boulevard. Thank you Kim for sharing your wonderful state with me!