An intro to Frisco sport climbing at Officer’s Gulch, White Cliffs and Mount Royal’s ‘Royal Flush’
Special to the Weekender
There’s more to the hills and peaks and cliffs of Summit County than powdery descents.
While this area is more commonly known for its epic skiing and endless mountain bike trails, local rock climbers know the county offers a variety of bouldering, sport and traditional climbing. For moderate sport climbers looking for a weekend getaway, or just somewhere to burn quick laps on after work, check out three classic areas that offer it all. The best part: they’re no more than 15 minutes from Main Street Frisco.
Hidden Wall at Officers Gulch
This south-facing wall stays in the sun most of the day and has a base sheltered by thick pines. You feel like you’re deep in the woods, rather than just a 15-minute hike from Interstate 70.
Follow a long wooden staircase built into dirt winding into the woods. Beautiful moderate sport routes await: This is a good place to bring friends who are new to climbing, as the ratings start at 5.5, with more classic routes from 5.8 and 5.9. The wall also offers a few 5.10 and easy 5.11s for more seasoned climbers.
The turn-off is easy to miss, so don’t blink. As you’re driving west on I-70, look for a sign on your right 0.5 miles after the Officers Gulch exit. You will see a green metal pole with reflectors and nearby cars pulled off to the side. After you park, there is a handmade sign reading “Officers Gulch West” in the trees north of the road. For a moderate, well-bolted 5.8 climb try Logan’s Run.
Climbing season for this area is prime from June to August and the trail can be accessible earlier, depending on the snowmelt. This area is relatively new and hasn’t seen much traffic. A helmet is always a good idea, especially when there’s potential for loose rock.
Royal Flush at Mount Royal
The Royal Flush is a local favorite and a fun route for those of you who enjoy multi-pitch climbing.
On the west-facing, 500-foot face of Mount Royal lies one of Summit County’s classic, long sport routes. This impressive 20-pitch climb overlooks Lake Dillon and the town of Frisco and is a great day climb for anyone comfortable leading up to 5.9. The route was originally established as a 20-pitch climb to make climber communication easier with I-70 traffic creating some noise pollution, so the pitches are short and easily linkable.
“I like that it’s a long, alpine-style climb, but its also easily accessible because it’s easy to get to, it’s bolted, and offers easy route finding practice,” local climber Erica Bareuther says. “It can be a longer day than expected. If both climbers haven’t been on the route before, expect to spend extra time route finding and hiking.”
Those who are new to multi-pitch climbing might choose to ascend only the lower half of the route and can easily rappel back to the base. Although the upper half includes more classic pitches, it requires commitment and takes a lot longer to bail from.
If you choose to tackle the entire climb, breathtaking views are waiting at the summit of Mount Royal. Start early and be conservative when you make the decision to start the climb. Weather in Colorado can be unpredictable, so be sure to check the forecast in advance.
White Cliffs at Officers Gulch
White Cliffs is west of Officers Gulch from I-70 west. The south-facing crag has solid slab and roof climbing and is a short approach for those squeezing a few laps in before sunset.
Drive west of Exit 207 in Frisco until you reach a group of aspens on your right (about a mile). You will see a handmade wooden sign marking the beginning of the steep approach leading up to the wall. Once there, you can find ratings anywhere from 5.8 to 5.11. Expect overall quality routes with a few flakes falling on your belayer as the rock continues to exfoliate (beware of the larger rocks).
The sport and traditional routes lining the wall are worth a taste. “Dirty Blonde” is the only two-pitch route on the east wall, good for anyone learning how to set up anchors and tackle multi-pitch climbing. White Cliffs might be climbable early in the season, but the area is prime from early June to late September.
And that’s only a taste of what Summit County has to offer. The county is home to a variety of climbs that are worth a lap. For those interested in climbing more across Summit County, consult http://www.mountainproject.com or any of the Summit County guidebooks for a more information.
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