Add rock climbing to your to-do list, because there’s a multitude of climbing opportunities in the Upper Arkansas River Valley.
The Fourmile area offers a wide array of sport climbs, trad routes and bouldering problems.
Head north on CR 371, cross the Arkansas River bridge, go through the historic Midland Railroad tunnels and you’ve arrived at three prime spots for sport climbs: Almost a Tunnel to the southeast, Elephant Rock to the west and Bob’s Rock to the east.
Bob’s Rock has routes for climbers of all abilities. For beginners, Ben Wygant, with Buena Vista outfitter The Trailhead, recommends Top Rope Slab, a 5.6 route. For challenge-seekers, he suggests 5.10b-rated Cartoon Watcher.
“I really like that one,” he says. “It’s terrifying.”
Almost a Tunnel, a chunk of rock just past the tunnels that looks just like its name, has some short-but-sweet routes including This, a 5.8 trad route.
For a somewhat less-traveled, but still superb, rock, head further down CR 371 to Split Rock. Behind Split Rock is a crag called Transmitter Tower, where Wygant recommends 5.9 sport route I Can Hear You Now.
Head further into Fourmile on CR 375 to test yourself on Turtle Rock’s trad and sport climbs.
Bouldering abounds near Buena Vista, and challenging problems can be found within walking distance of downtown on Midland Hill, also called Sleeping Indian. There are also manmade boulders at South Main.
“Our vision for the boulders was to have direct, easy access to the sport that we love to do,” South Main developer Jed Selby explains.
He notes the boulders are designed with holds and routes that are often more challenging than the features of natural rock, with lines that can easily push the limits of even the most experienced climbers. “They’re excellent for training.”
If you’re willing to spend some time on the road, the Davis Face northeast of Buena Vista below Buffalo Peaks offers classic climbs. Its Center Route is rated 5.9 with four pitches of excellent trad climbing.
Another popular climbing destination in the valley lies just west of Twin Lakes on Colo. 82. Independence Pass offers dozens of sport, trad and bouldering routes and is a mere stone’s throw from Buena Vista and Leadville — a must for any serious climber.
For climbing information in the Buena Vista area, go to mountainproject.com or purchase Tom Perkins’ “Arkansas Valley Climbing” and “Independence Pass Rock Climbing II,” available at local outdoor shops.