Harness the knowledge | PostIndependent.com

Harness the knowledge

Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy Cody Blair Dave Pegg cranks for the next hand hold on a cliff near Carbondale. Pegg is the author of "Rifle Mountain Park and Western Colorado Rock Climbs" " the most comprehensive guidebook of its kind yet published for the area between Leadville, Redstone and Rifle.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A mildly historic moment in Western Slope rock climbing has just been published.

Dave Pegg, a 41-year-old England native who now lives in Silt, is behind the movement that recently produced and published “Rifle Mountain Park and Western Colorado Rock Climbs.”

The $29 book hit shelves last week and is the most comprehensive climbing guide ever compiled for the area.

I’ve been living in New Castle and Glenwood Springs for half my 25 years, climbing since age 11, and I’d never heard about many of the climbs hidden right out my backdoor until I flipped through the book’s 229 glossy, photo-filled, full-color pages.

Glenwood, apparently, is at ground zero for a contemporary golden age of route development. Which is not to say El Capitan-sized cliffs of perfect stone have suddenly been discovered; by “golden age,” I mean that there’s simply a lot of rock between Leadville, Redstone and Rifle that’s worth climbing and has met very few fingerprints, if any at all.

“The best thing about being a climber on the Western Slope,” Pegg said, “is all the unclimbed rock. There are so many new cliffs to find and explore that will have great climbing.”

Indeed. Besides the world-class limestone strewn throughout the area (especially in Rifle Mountain Park), there are varieties of granite and solid, red sandstone similar to the stuff around Boulder, and even other rock types in between. It is many of these latter places that are being placed on the map for this first time, thanks to Pegg’s book and adventurous locals who’ve been exploring.

“Please credit BJ Sbarra, Jeff Achey and Nate Adams as co-authors of the book,” Pegg said. “(And) also for their sterling efforts discovering and developing new climbing areas. Without those guys the book would be a lot thinner.”

Two others who might be worth mentioning for their efforts are Jeff Jackson, of Carbondale, and Bryan Gall, of New Castle.

When Jackson isn’t in his office at Rock and Ice magazine he is usually putting up first ascents around Basalt. Since he moved here in 2005, his energy seems to have bolstered the hunger for new-routing in these parts and his name is now associated with several difficult lines (5.12 trad/5.13 sport) that look to be of quality.

On the other hand, Gall has been a fixture on the local climbing scene for many years. When he’s not teaching seventh-grade social studies at Glenwood Middle School, he likes to bushwhack into all kinds of places just to see what’s there. He’s always looking out for the average Joe, establishing fun routes typically from 5.7 to 5.10. His efforts have helped to round out the spectrum at a few cliffs that would otherwise be too difficult for many climbers.

All the recent activity has not come without challenges, however. At least two cliffs outside Carbondale are neglected in the guide due to land use issues that complicate access for climbers.

“All land-managers should get to go climbing for a day,” Pegg said. “The same goes for any activity or user group that the land managers may have to manage. Hopefully they would have a lot of fun and understand the activity and user group better.”

Pegg has been a steward for the Western Slope for at least 10 years. Since writing the second guide ever compiled for Rifle Mountain Park ” “Bite the Bullet” ” in 1998, he became a liaison of sorts between climbers and Rifle city officials while building a house, getting married, starting his own business, Wolverine Publishing, and writing a third Rifle climbing guide in 2001.

“Today we have 13 titles covering climbing, kayaking, skiing, parenting and horse riding,” he said.

Before all that, he’d been working as an editor at Climbing Magazine (then in Carbondale), which sponsored him for a work visa and a green card (and later helped him get Wolverine off the ground).

“I’d already climbed in Rifle and loved it, so I was really happy to be able to move to the area and be a local.”

Even after all these years living here as a local, however, Pegg is now stoked to have recently earned his U.S. citizenship.

“I’m looking forward to being able to vote.” he said.

That might be a bit ironic, since climbers wanting to establish routes or replace anchors in the park basically need his vote to get official approval from the city.

So, if you see a guy at the crag with a knee brace who appears to be in his “element, happy, focused and alive” when he slips into his harness, go ahead and say, “Hi.”

He might even have a copy of “Rifle Mountain Park and Western Colorado Rock Climbs” available to sell you from the back of his car.

If you’re like me and have to know everything, especially about climbing, you probably wouldn’t be disappointed.

I’ve passed my advanced copy around, fishing for any potential criticism, and I’ve mostly been getting skunked for weeks, now. The only quarrels seem to be with some difficulty ratings changing to lesser or higher numbers from previous guides. But maybe all the love is just because the photos are so pretty to look at, or because this book is the latest, hottest thing off the press for climbing bums everywhere around these parts.

Derek Franz is a copy editor and columnist for the Post Independent. His coworkers call him “D-rock” for a reason.

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