Life revolves around climbing
RIFLE MOUNTAIN PARK – They come from all over.Many will stay a while, not leaving until they’ve quenched their climbing thirst.When summer hits, Rifle Mountain Park plays host to a geographically diverse crowd of climbers – many who set down roots for months at time.Some are teachers or professors. Some are college students taking advantage of their fleeting free summers. Others simply find a way, no matter the real-world obstacles.
Ryan Young is a college student. The 19-year-old Montana native attended the University of Colorado at Boulder last school year. This year he’s taking a break from college.He sleeps in a tent at a campsite just up the road, just past the statuesque limestone walls that serve as a summer playground for Young and his peers. Young works at the Rifle City Market, some 20 miles away, keeping a job to pay the bills and achieve Colorado residency to cut college tuition costs when he returns to Boulder next year.The engineering and physics major is in the midst of a four-month stay at Rifle Mountain Park. An avid climber for about three years now, he’s relishing the chance of a lifetime.”It’s really nice to be here,” he said.
Last year, he made the drive from Boulder to Rifle for eight or nine consecutive weekends.”Then it got too cold,” joked Young, holding a rope for his day’s climbing partner, Joe Collins.Collins, a 35-year-old professor at Front Range Community College in Boulder, is in the middle of a weeklong climbing trip. He’s been climbing for 10 years and gets to Rifle whenever possible, primarily in the summers.”I spend a week here in June, and I’m finishing up another weeklong trip (right now),” he said. “A lot of people from Boulder come like every week. I get a little more done, it seems, if I come for longer.”
At Rifle Mountain Park, it’s not uncommon for a 19-year-old and 35-year-old with vastly different backgrounds to partner up for a day. Climbing is the common link. The regulars, whether squatting for extended periods of time or simply making a short visit, share a common passion, after all.Said Collins: “It’s very addictive climbing here.”
Rising early to tackle shaded routes and avoid the draining summer sun, the life of a climber is repetitive and based in routine.”Lately, we’ve been getting up at like 7 and are here by 8:15 or so, maybe 8:30,” Collins said. “We’ll maybe take a siesta in the afternoon and then climb in the evening on the other side.”Meal and snack breaks are sandwiched between climbing sessions. Tuna is a favorite of Young, who finds a rock seat on which to grab a bite every so often. His City Market job comes with discounts and eases the food hunt.Bottom line: Climbers pretty much strive to utilize every ray of daylight available to them.Diversions are welcome but not plentiful, especially considering the nearest source of civilization is the town of Rifle.
“The climber’s social center in Rifle is the public library,” Collins joked. Added Young: “You’ll like go in there and there’ll be a bunch of climbers checking their e-mail on the computers. We pretty much all have close to the same schedule.”
Amid a village of tents, smack dab in the middle of a lush, green, tree-littered field, sits a picnic table. Camping stoves, dirtied pots and pans, utensils and a crumb or two cover the table.Young chuckles as he calls it his “kitchen.”And it’s more than just his kitchen. Young shares a camp site – a camp area, really – with climbing friends, all whom were strangers before their arrival in June. Now, they’re friends and climbing partners. He showers at friends’ houses when possible, friends he met through work. Though he’s well-accustomed to and comfortable with a bare-bones lifestyle.”For work, I have to be somewhat presentable,” he joked.Like Young, some sleep in tents. Others in cars. Whatever their setup, all are there for one thing: to climb.
While partying isn’t unheard of, most of Rifle Mountain Park’s long-term visitors are passionate, no-nonsense climbers.”Some nights, we’re tired and go to bed. Other nights, we chill by the campfire or maybe watch DVDs and stuff on laptops,” Young said. “It’s usually pretty mellow. On weekends, it sometimes gets a little rowdier.”Non-climbing campers and weekend warriors, Young said, tend to spice up the campground nightlife intermittently. Still, given the difficulty of the park’s routes and the dedicated lot tackling them day after day, most climbers aren’t there to party. Climb and rest to climb again is the routine for most.Said Young: “Everyone is out here to climb and, regardless, they’re going to get up and climb the next day.”That’s why they come to Rifle Mountain Park.
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