Rifle the shot heard ’round the world of climbing | PostIndependent.com

Rifle the shot heard ’round the world of climbing

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Staff

RIFLE – Mention the city of Rifle to a climber in France, Australia, Japan, or South America, and chances are they will know exactly where it is.

“Every climber knows the word `Rifle,'” said Derek Krol, originally from Poland, but who has lived in Boulder for six years.

Rifle Mountain Park, a city-owned park 12 miles north of town, has been for years and remains one of the premier sport climbing destinations in the United States.

The park attracts sport climbers from all over the state, nation, and globe.

When asked about the quality of climbing at Rifle Mountain Park, all climbers seem to say the same thing: Rifle has world-class climbing.

“Every self-respecting sport climber will climb here at least once in their life,” said Krol.

“This is some of the best climbing in the world,” said Erik Schildroth of Glenwood Springs.

“When people come to the U.S. (to climb), Rifle is a definite destination place,” he said.

Good rock, plenty of routes

Rifle Mountain Park attracts good climbers for a variety of reasons. Climbers talk about the limestone rock, the dry Colorado air that makes the rock easy to grip, and the cool canyon air, which keeps their hands sweat-free.

What climbers mention the most, however, is the number of difficult routes available.

“It’s got some of the hardest in a really high concentration,” said Michael Thuoy, of Carbondale.

“You have to really know how to climb,” to climb there, said Krol.

Krol says people who are not complete climbers suffer at Rifle. The climbing is best for those who have good technical skills, strength, and endurance, he says.

The majority of climbs at Rifle Mountain Park start at a climbing rating of 5.11, considered highly difficult.

If climbing routes were classified like ski slopes, Rifle would have very few blues, and the vast majority would be black and double-black routes, said Thuoy.

In addition to the high concentration of routes, the routes themselves are unique.

“The movement is really good here,” said Schildroth.

He said routes in other places sometimes require the same body movements over and over again, like climbing a ladder. The routes in Rifle are more interesting, he said, and require a variety of body movements.

“It’s like playing chess,” Schildroth said of the routes.

He said climbing combines physical and mental skills. To get to the top of a route climbers need the physical ability, but must also be smart enough to conserve energy for the whole climb, he said.

The climbing lifestyle

Most of the climbers at Rifle Mountain Park embrace the climbing lifestyle, which often means a serious dedication to climbing.

Krol said he has made the three-hour drive from Boulder to climb just one day at the park.

Luke Zimmerman drove 27 hours from Vancouver, British Columbia, to spend three weeks climbing at Rifle Mountain Park.

If it were up to Zimmerman, he’d live at Rifle Mountain Park.

“If I get the opportunity, I’ll move here for this,” he said.

Schildroth lived in a R.V. for three years so he could climb. He spent each summer in Rifle Mountain Park.

“A lot of these people are doing exactly what they want,” said Schildroth.

Though Schildroth didn’t necessarily agree with the “dirtbag” stereotype of climbers, he did say many climbers have a different set of values than other segments of society.

“A lot these people don’t value money,” he said.

Instead of a big bank account, many climbers would rather live with little money, and on the road, doing what they like, said Schildroth.

“When you climb, that’s what you do; you don’t tend to do a lot of other stuff,” said Thuoy.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 535


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