Sport climbing for all abilities on Alpenglow Wall near Keystone |

Sport climbing for all abilities on Alpenglow Wall near Keystone

Fragile Balance

Type: Sport climbing

Rating: 5.8-5.12a

Height: 50-75 feet

Bolts: Yes

Signature climb: The 5.11 route Fragile Balance, with nine bolts and small holds

Travel time: 30-minute hike from trailhead

Season: Late June to October

SUMMIT COUNTY — Dan Caro grunted and toiled as he struggled to keep his body close to the wall while reaching for that next three-finger crimp. Sometimes, the most disturbing yet oddly awakening moment of a climb can be looking for a hold that doesn’t seem to be there.

The only description the Summit County climbing guidebook has for Fragile Balance, a 5.11, nine-bolt route outside of Keystone, is straightforward: “If your fingers are slippin’ keep on movin’.” Finally, Dan’s fingers cinched down on that trivial in-cut he had been looking for, and the Breckenridge local let out the small breath. He clipped the bolt and continued up.

The aptly named Fragile Balance is just one of the many routes on Alpenglow Wall, found off the beaten path about 1.5 miles past Keystone Resort. The wall offers climbers a variety of classic routes, from 5.8 climbs for newcomers to the 5.12a Rockin’ Science, a climb I have yet to see anyone attempt. Most of the routes are for sport climbers, ranging from 50-75 feet with bolted lines and rappel anchors. The area offers a few traditional routes, as well.

Alpenglow Wall is a great day adventure if you don’t mind a 30-minute uphill approach. The area offers space for camping, nearby bouldering spots and a breathtaking view of the revered alpenglow that reminds us why we live here. Haus Rock, another popular Summit County climbing spot, is just a ten-minute hike from the Alpenglow Wall.

If you’re not sold on it yet, the wall has a few additional perks and curiosities, including a small cave at the west end of the wall that provides shelter if you’re caught in the occasional Colorado thunderstorm.

“The Alpenglow Wall is a good, hidden place to challenge yourself, without a lot of traffic,” says local climber Brigitte Coburn, who often climbs in the Montezuma area on weekends.

If you’re interested in climbing the Alpenglow Wall and other routes in Summit County, consult or any of the Summit County climbing guidebooks for more information.

Getting there

To access the trailhead, drive east on U.S. Highway 6 from Interstate 70 toward Keystone Resort. Continue past the main Keystone parking lot (Montezuma Lot) and take a slight right onto Montezuma Road. The trailhead is a small dirt lot, found about a mile up Montezuma Road on your left.

This is where you begin a 30-minute uphill approach to the wall. Follow the power lines northwest before turning east to head straight uphill. Once you reach a talus field, you will find yourself at a fork in the road. The right trail will take you to Alpenglow Wall, while the left trail will take you to Haus Rock.

The trail to Alpenglow Wall can be confusing at times, but there are cairns to guide your way. One thing is for certain: If you do end up on the wrong path, your destination is sure to be as beautiful as your planned itinerary. And, who knows, you could come across another excellent climbing spot, bringing spontaneity to your day.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User