Colorado Scrambling Sites to Check Out Soon (If You Haven’t Already)

Col­orado is known for its jagged land­scape and thou­sands of peaks, but not all of them require tech­ni­cal climb­ing skills. Scram­bling is the art of tra­vers­ing ter­rain that’s too steep to hike but not steep enough to require climb­ing equip­ment. It’s a hybrid of the two. Some of the clas­sic Col­orado scram­bling routes fall into a Class 3 and Class 4 rank­ing, indi­cat­ing that they are safe with­out a rope or a full rack of rock protection.

Mt. Alice, Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park
When the mass­es head to Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park, they head for Longs Peak. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is often dan­ger­ous­ly overcrowded.

But at the heart of the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide is Mt. Alice, a fine yet over­looked 13er, which fea­tures excit­ing exposed Class 3 climb­ing between Alice and Neigh­bor­ing Chiefs Head. Set deep in the west­ern reach­es of the park, climbers start in Wild Basin and make their way up to Alice’s dra­mat­ic pyra­mi­dal face. Start from Lion Lakes, work­ing up Hour­glass Ridge for a thrilling tra­verse to a less­er-known sum­mit offer­ing soli­tude and vistas.

flatironsThe Flatirons, Boulder
One of the Front Range’s clas­sic climb­ing spots, these angled sand­stone for­ma­tions are tex­tured enough for excel­lent grip and fun-sus­tained climbing.

Locat­ed just min­utes from res­i­den­tial Boul­der, the Flatirons offer an easy approach with just enough length to make it a local favorite for after-work climbs. The Sec­ond Flat­iron, the low­est angle of the three, fea­tures one Class 5 move with a high Class 4 the rest of the way up. Its most noto­ri­ous move involves a sec­tion known as the “Leap of Faith.”

From the top of the Sec­ond, which over­looks Boul­der and Den­ver, it’s a short trail hike down to the base. The First and Third Flatirons are steep­er, with more sus­tained low Class 5 climb­ing. With run-out pro­tec­tion and great grip, they make for fun rope-free ascents with the option of free-rap­pels from the summit.

kelso ridgeKel­so Ridge, Tor­reys Peak
Grays and Tor­reys peaks are two of the most pop­u­lar 14ers in the Front Range, with prox­im­i­ty to Den­ver and Boul­der, plus a rel­a­tive­ly easy yet crowd­ed hike to their summits.

Tor­reys Peak is rife with hik­ers, but it offers a less trav­eled and thrilling line to the sum­mit. The Kel­so Ridge tra­vers­es sec­tions of Class 3 and 4 scram­blings, with a short, stout exposed knife edge. Start by fol­low­ing the main hik­ing trail then turn­ing about a mile in onto a side trail that pass­es a his­toric min­ing cab­in. From here, the low­er sec­tions are fraught with boul­ders and rocky tow­ers as climbers steadi­ly ascend the rudi­men­ta­ry path.

The ridge requires route-find­ing skills, as some sec­tions can be deceiv­ing­ly chal­leng­ing but can be bypassed. The excit­ing crux of the route is known as the “Knife Edge,” a short, thin and blocky tra­verse right before the sum­mit. From here, climbers take a short scram­ble to sum­mit Tor­reys Peak. Those want­i­ng a longer adven­ture can cross over and sum­mit Grays Peak then come down the stan­dard route, or detour via Kel­so Mountain.

Mount BierstadtSaw­tooth Ridge, Mt. Bier­stadt / Mt. Evans
The Saw­tooth Ridge is a Front Range Clas­sic, con­nect­ing two 14ers, Mt. Bier­stadt and Mt. Evans, via a thrilling low Class 3 scram­ble for half a mile. While the ridge may be scram­bled, either way, the most com­mon route starts by sum­mit­ing Mt. Bier­stadt (14,065 feet) and drop­ping down on to the ridge direct­ly from the summit.

The trail starts by tra­vers­ing a sprawl­ing talus field and regain­ing the ridge via a series of gen­darmes and boul­ders. This is where the real fun starts as climbers fol­low trails on thin ledges and climb­ing short walls while bounc­ing back and forth to either side of the ridge. Fol­low­ing the cairns mark­ing the trail, the route alter­nates between Class 1, 2 and before end­ing on a grassy tun­dra access­ing Mt. Evans (14,265 feet).

With a total ele­va­tion change of 4,675 feet, the route is short and steep, but it makes for a spec­tac­u­lar intro­duc­tion to ridge scram­bling in Colorado.

Lone Eagle Peak, Indi­an Peaks Wilderness
Lone Eagle Peak is one of Colorado’s most breath­tak­ing moun­tains thanks to its point­ed sum­mit ris­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly above the Indi­an Peaks land­scape. And it alter­nates between Class 3 and 4. Route find­ing skills are essen­tial, as it is easy to take a wrong turn into Class 5 territory.

Start­ing from Crater Lake, the cairn-marked route ascends ramps of up to Class 3 climb­ing. It then fol­lows a series of ridges and notch­es while keep­ing the sum­mit in sight. This leads to an extreme­ly exposed, Class 4 tra­verse across the sum­mit ridge to a mag­nif­i­cent point­ed pin­na­cle. Lone Eagle Peak is tru­ly Col­orado scram­bling at its best.

Clos­ing Thoughts
While scram­bles may not be tech­ni­cal climbs, remem­ber to use extreme cau­tion and wear a pro­tec­tive hel­met and stur­dy boots. Don’t go it alone, and always be aware of haz­ards includ­ing adverse weath­er and rock­fall. Be safe out there!