I love big, dangerous, run-out climbing. The kind that has more in common with a fist fight then than a rollercoaster. To train for this, I climb outside a lot. The style of climbing I do can’t be prepared for by only climbing and lifting in the gym. You need time on the real stuff, the big stone, mileage to expand your repertoire and ability. I pick local crags to keep my sessions fast, efficient and frequent. The selection of climbs I do in any given area a selected to help me push my game both mentally and physically.
Today I’m going to cover one of my favorite local spots to train around Denver during winter. Morrison, Colorado is situated only 20 minutes from my house in downtown Denver, it’s a breeze to get to. The most significant advantage is the cliff face has both a southern aspect and is protected from the wind, making it a sort of solar oven, keeping it warm on the most arctic of days. Morrison also hosts a slew of routes and boulders, enough to keep just about anyone busy for years.
Below is my go-to circuit for training in Morrison. Each climb is selected to be easy enough for me to repeat on command and without a rope. Keep in mind these particular routes are not for most people, while not terribly difficult, they are all highball. Some are free solos and as such have never been repeated without a rope. The gauntlet is set.
Matt’s Morrison hit list:
#1 The Morrison Traverse v4
I start the day off with a complete traverse of the wall. It’s at least a 1000 feet of easy climbing ( I climb from east to west, starting in the “lobby” ) with the occasional difficult or highball move thrown in for spice. Beginners and old timers like this traverse because you can easily avoid the cruxes when desired and you don’t need a crash pad or spotters. It's an excellent lunchtime excursion. Advanced climbers can add harder moves and more highball paths easily. It’s like a choose your own adventure novel.This traverse makes a phenomenal warmup.
At the end of the traverse, you only have to walk a short bit to get to the first solo of my day.
#2 Juggmo 5.7
This climb is both easy and fun. It is also tall. I like it because its a good warm-up for my brain after the long traverse. The downclimb in very close which is a plus. After this climb, I step things up.
#3 "Z is last" 5.8
I have mixed feelings about this route. The beginning is fun, and comfortable and the end is amongst the best solos I have ever done, but the middle…. Its scary as fuck and not for the right reasons. You need to yard on a loose-ish chockstone. I don’t ordinarily solo routes with loose rock, but I have inspected this block and feel like its safe enough. The top of this route is so good it seems worth the risk. The chockstone crux on an overhang part of the wall and requires a pretty significant pull to get past. The move will invigorate even the best climbers in the world. The end of the route is straight-dream-climbing. Easy, exposed and just engaging enough.
After descending this one, I head to the visible cave on the west end of the cliff line known as Nautilus.
Next up is a classic free solo / sport climb. I have probably climbed it 100 times, never with a rope. Nearly every time I get both scared and psyched. The perfect combo.
#4 Nautilus 5.10
It’s a pretty straightforward, juggy climb. In fact, I think it's easier than climbs graded much lower than it. This is because the holds are both incut and obvious, rather than friction-y and slabby as most easy routes tend to be. If you consider yourself a tough guy and an adventure climber, SOLO this route. It's easier then you think.
When your back on old terra firma I walk back to The lobby, where we started.
The next three climbs are located right next to each other, and I do them in ascending order of difficulty. The downclimb off these is a bit trickier then you want it to be, so don’t take the descent lightly your first time.
These climbs fall into the highball zone, while the previous climbs are more free solo type terrain. With the decreased danger the difficulty rapidly climbs.
The next three routes can be protected with crash pads and a spotter. You still don’t want to fall from the top of any of these but if you do, you might be ok. Maybe.
#5 Twist and shout v3/4 R/X
This is the only one of the lobby highballs that I onsight soloed ( meaning I did it first try), a feat that I’m pretty proud of. This thing is unnerving, steep and in your face despite being only v4 ish. You get to do a hero jug dangle at the apex of the roof and impress your friends. This route deserves to be climbed a lot more then it does. In fact, I don’t know of anyone else who has done it without a rope. Come on peeps, its only v4!
#6 Hairy Scary V4X
Both this route and the next one I headpointed, meaning I tried it on top rope first then climbed it solo. The moves felt too hard to do onsight. Think of this climb as being the little brother of the route below. If this one gets in your head, don’t continue. The crux is lowish on the route but it feels hard and scary moving to the arete and then mantling at the 20 ft mark.
#7 Unknown V7/8 R/X
This is the king of the highballs in the lobby. Its hard, dynamic and requires wild movement. If you like steep, gymnastic climbing then this route is for you. Setting at v7/8, it's not too hard to solo, but it definitely requires an iron mind. After barely climbing this route, I descend via the Black Hole to cap off the day.
#8 Air Loopus V8
To finish off the day I do "air lupus," a v8 traverse loop to round out the day. This is the only non-highball in my circuit; I do this because its fun, hard and pumpy, all of the good things in life.