Rampart Range Rocks—A Review
Although it’s been out two years already, I figured I’d be remiss in not reviewing Tod Anderson’s Rampart Range Rocks ($25, http://www.bentgate.com/rararobytoda.html), which covers the sport areas of Devil’s Head and the Rampart Range Road here in Colorado. There has been some online brouhaha over a dispute resulting from these areas also featuring in the new Fixed Pin guidebook to the South Platte, South Platte Climbing: The Northern Volume, which I also reviewed at this site. Anyway, the long and short of it is I am friends with and have climbed with both Anderson and Jason Haas (one of the authors of the Fixed Pin book), and they’re both good guys and both books are excellent in their own way. In fact, for lovers of both the trad and sport flavah in the South Platte region southwest of Denver, the books are complementary and essential.
Rampart Range Rocks is the third Anderson guidebook to Devil’s Head, and with 400-plus routes, and full-color action photos, crag photos, and photo topos often complementing exquisitely detailed hand-drawn topos, it marks a step up from the past iterations. (The second edition, The Devil Made Me Do It, has many of the same topos but the photos are black and white.) This is a modern guidebook with all the trimmings: graphs, charts, trail maps, color coding of areas. It also features the newer cliffs of the Lower West Side and the massif of Radio Head, just down the Rampart Range Road. It’s on these formerly secret crags that you’ll find some of the Rampart Range’s steepest, hardest, and most accessible sport climbs up to 5.13, as well as some of Devil’s Head’s funnest moderates, well-bolted 5.9s and 5.10s on slabby and vertical patina’ed rock with a smattering of chickenheads. It’s also a laugh riot to hunt through the pages for Anderson’s wry observations like this one, for the climb Throwin’ The Shit Fit: “More often done at Rifle than at Wild Iris.” Keep an eye out, as there are plenty of other witticisms.
Devil’s Head seems to be gathering steam in terms of popularity, perhaps because of this new book or also because people are starting to figure out that there’s a wealth of summer climbing at cooler alpine heights (8,880 to 9,700 feet). Remote but not too remote from the Denver metro area, the Head makes for a good, long, wear-you-out day trip (or weekend or week/s; you can camp up there) and the crags are stacked. Wherever you end up you’ll get in a ton of pitches, and will most often find a “four-devil” classic in the 5.10-to-5.12 spread that characterizes the Head. I’ve passed many great days with the Head Crew, bolting, exploring, seeing the latest cache, fleeing from the giant thunderstorms that amass over the range, listening as great winds tear through the aspen groves, slogging up the 143 stairs to the fire lookout. It’s an eternal, special place, and Anderson, part of a crew of avid new-routers, puts book proceeds back into a kitty to buy more hardware. More hardware = more new climbs, and the terrain seems to be endlessly expanding in this granite maze of fins, walls, craglets, slabs, and spires. That’s another big plus to Rampart Range Rocks: the navigation. Crag-and-trail maps help you easily thread the labyrinth, and helpful graphs dole out things like route count, approach time, sun/shade aspect, and grade range for each crag so you can plan your excursion accordingly. Devil’s Head is a monster sport area that, were it closer to Denver or Boulder, would be swarmed constantly. As it is now, even if somewhat overlooked, it’s certainly top-quality cragging and Anderson’s excellent book does the Head proud.