Climbing preserved history on Big Rock Candy Mountain – South Platte, Colorado.
I typically write posts for routes I really enjoyed and recommend to others. This post is atypical in that I write it not because I strongly recommend the route, but because the amount of people that have asked about it means there is interest in what is out there. So instead, I try to give a bit of modern perspective on a historical legend.
I respect the days of old and the ethics by which this route was established – ground up. I respect that each bolt takes time to install and each hanger is an unreimbursed costs on the part of the first ascensionists. To embrace the route this needs to be held in context, recognize the stances from which the bolts were placed do not necessarily coincide with the direction or flow of the route. Some experienced slab route finding may be in order. Remember, the route was established when 5.12 slab was cutting edge but 5.10/11 was mastered. These guys were hard – onsighting 5.10/11 slab was a cakewalk and taking repeated 40-50 footers meant you had chest hair; If you fell on 5.8/9, you deserved to fall 200 feet because you were weak. Childhood’s End was put up after Field of Dreams Running Wild was featured as the cover of Climbing Magazine. Childhood’s End needed to be harder, scarier, and badder.
I did not have these things in mind when, after sleeping in, I convinced my climbing partner to partake in what I promised would be a ‘casual’ day outing on Big Rock Candy Mountain. After a great morning out a couple months prior on Field of Dreams Running Wild, Childhood’s End seemed the perfect for some cooler late summer temps we were experiencing.
Location (for beta on getting there, read ‘Fields of Dreams’ post here)
Big Rock Candy Mountain – South Platte, CO
Childhood’s End (5.12-R, 11 pitches)
Topo and detailed route description available in 2014 guidebook: South Platte Climbing: The Thunder Ridge and Turkey Rock Edition, by Jason Haas.
P1/2 (5.9, gear, 60m) – We slightly altered this pitch, opting for a cool looking crack in a right facing corner slightly up and climber’s right from the normal start. This crack ends in an overlap. Turning the overlap a few heady slab moves get you into the easy crack of the first two pitches. The crack is fairly horizontal at the point you join it and you can sling a tree for protection and place a cam for your second as you execute the step down traverse and begin up the, at this point, mossy and vegetated Chimney corner system. Take this to the anchor you have now been eyeing for some time, no simul-climbing required with a 60m.
P3 (5.9, gear & 4 bolts, 25m) – Chimney time! This thing is fun and when it turns into a flare spitting you out right you get to bust a couple insecure moves well above gear before clipping the first bolt (you could probably protect this with small cams). Traverse horizontally right after the chimney heading towards the anchors, stepping a few feet down might make things a lot easier. Sorry this traverse was bolted for the leader and is worse for the second (route theme).
P4 (5.9, gear & 3 bolts, 25m) – We took the easy option, traversing right into the crack and then up. If you place gear in the crack, advisable, extend it for the slab above. Step out of the crack at a large crystal pedestal, execute warrior pose for those of us doing yoga, and snag the first clip. Then keep wandering left into and across the water streak up to the next belay on a big sloping ledge.
P5 (5.8, 3 bolts, 35m) – From the belay head straight left. The difficult sections come immediately after the bolts, unfortunate for the second when the second bolt is 20 feet right and down from the first. If you are on doubles only clip one of them. At the second bolt you achieved the big right sloping face below the crux headwall for Field of Dreams Going Wild. Head up this a long ways to a lonely bolt, and then make some hard moves left just before the anchor – try not to blow it, as you would probably end up back at the previous belay.
P6 (5.9, 4 bolts, 25m) – Weave about the odd bolts heading upwards to a great ledge on the left. After the bolting on the last pitch this seems reasonable because you have accepted you are mentally related to Alex Honnold. This could be linked into the next pitch, but it is the best ledge on the route. Have a snack.
P7 (5.9, 5 bolts, 30m) – Head up towards the visible bolt and then traverse right. 10 feet out, more pro will appear which you will happily aim for. After clipping the bolt a few down climbing moves get you back on the path of least resistance. The bolts and the route are at odds from here on out. Climb to the bolts and then climb back to the path of least resistance. The rock on this pitch is the worst rock on route and crumbling crystals and edges could add some excitement.
P8 (5.12, nut or small cam, 11 bolts, 30m) – This may technically be the crux, but laughable, as its A0, while the rest of the route’s character is diametrically opposed. After executing some scary moves up horrible rock you can place small pro (the mental protection type, not the it would actually hold a fall type). Your second sighs relief because they think you are no longer going to factor fall the anchor but you know differently until you clip that first bolt 20 feet up. From here you follow a balancy seam and ledge right and the rock starts to improve, or at least you tell yourself that as you have to trust your feet. I blew a foot at the end of the seam, somewhere around the 5th or 6th bolt, and was spat off, so in full disclosure, I did not onsight the pitch. The seam ends and you transfer to the flexing upside down tooth. Move up from here and you have made it to the crux, a small overlap roof, pull through this onto nothingness, and back onto truly great rock. Assuming you made it this far, you are going to need to be strong and have amazing crimp strength to shop out your holds and onsight this bad boy; feet above the lip the climbing technically eases assuming you can find the right sequences.
P9 (5.10+, 8 bolts, 40m) – The actual lead crux, what at first seems cruiser, rapidly becomes incredibly heady. Your belayer loses sight of you as the route trends left, and you have to figure out some difficult traverses sequences at 5.10/11 with bolts spaced at 20-30 feet. This is real slab climbing, and it does not help that at this point your toes are screaming to be released.
P10/11/12 (5.7R, optimism, 120m) – Go up. The odd bolt is almost laughable. The chances of surviving a 150 foot fall or a 200 foot fall are the same. You are immune to this chicanery though, so cheers.
The take home message: If you have not climbed a route on Big Rock Candy Mountain, do Field of Dreams Running Wild. If you were totally psyched on that route, then go for Childhood’s End. It is somewhat of a shame that the ASCA retro bolting didn’t reallocate the egregious number of bolts from the “crux” pitch to some of the 5.9 or 5.8 slab pitches to keep the spacing at 20-30 feet for the entire route and force the 5.12- crux pitch to be free-climbed. All that being said, the route is good and a pretty cool piece of preserved history, now let’s bring back dinosaurs so I can take a rest day at Jurassic Park.
- singles of BD (#0.5-3)
- singles of aliens (blue, green, yellow, grey)
- 10-12 Yosemite Draws
- 60m, twin ropes (enable you to bail from anywhere on route if you just get over it)
Descent: From where the route tops scramble along the ridge to the summit. The rap station is just below the summit proper heading towards the saddle. For some reason it is positioned so you have to do a sketchy exposed move down to clip into it. No real benefit to doing a single (52m) versus double (30m) rappels. Both stations are nice and the ropes will not get stuck. The stretch right before the ground is an overhang so I am not sure you could make it safely to the ground with a 50m.