Thursday, October 3, 2013

Update from Boulder: Not Much Better

It's been about three weeks since the last post and I thought I would post an update. It should probably be titled, "Just When You Thought it Couldn't Get Worse" because that is exactly what has happened. Courtesy of Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives, a federal government shutdown has eliminated access to Rocky Mountain National Park and possibly hindered reconstruction efforts on Highway 36 from the National Guard. For icing on the cake (literally, well literally ice anyway) snow is forecast for Friday across the Front Range. This will seriously hamper the many efforts being made to clean up and restore the small mountains towns hit so hard by the flood in September.

So what's up climbing-wise? Lincoln Lake is closed now and Evans Area A is going to be getting snowier by the day, along with all other alpine locales such as Guanella Pass. Access to the Estes Park region, seriously affected by both flooding and the NPS closures already, is only by a lengthy and tedious (though scenic) crawl from Central City far to the south. Clear Creek is open, which is why I was trying Echale last Saturday, but more about that another time. Coal Creek Canyon is closed.

Eldorado Canyon is still closed though heavy equipment has been in place trying to repair the road and volunteers have been on the ground working on trails. The real mystery is Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks department. After an initial wave of openings, the only "legal" climbing in their jurisdiction at this writing is on the First Flatiron and the mediocre bouldering on Mount Sanitas. While unofficial word is that trails on Bear Peak and Green Mountain and elsewhere have been minimally affected, if at all, there has been complete silence on the condition of or any plans to reopen Flagstaff Mountain, the Mesa Trail or any of the significant trails on Bear or Green. In a peculiar instance of inconsistency, the trail to the Satellites is open but the boulders themselves are closed to climbing. Local dissatisfaction with this situation has been increasing as the time from the flood increases and it becomes increasingly apparent that in many locations trail damage has actually been insignificant. Furthermore despite the availability of literally hundreds of volunteers and OSMP claims of major damage, virtually no opportunities for trail reconstruction or rehabilitation have been posted. You can find out which trails are open at this OSMP page. (UPDATE: there may be plans for OSMP to enlist climbing volunteers to assess climbing areas in the Flatirons. Check the FCC page for more details. Also see this announcement from the BCC.)

Boulder Canyon remains closed as the road (SH119) is undergoing emergency repair to get it passable before winter proper begins. This is expected by mid to late October but whether the NFS will immediately re-open the land bordering the road is another question altogether. As mentioned above Highway 36 between Lyons and Estes is being rebuilt but a full reconstruction of the road will have to wait until next year. Highway 34 between Estes Park and Loveland was hit incredibly hard and will be out indefinitely. Further north things are brighter with Carter Lake, the areas around Fort Collins (Horsetooth, Arthur's) and Poudre Canyon all being open. Areas to the south, especially south of Denver, are generally accessible and open, though how the federal government shutdown may affect certain spots (such as Shelf Road) is not exactly clear.

So in a nutshell, I would not especially recommend coming to Boulder for climbing at this point. Climbing access is basically still on hold and with winter approaching, options are narrowing. This may sound like whining, especially given the catastrophic destruction and losses so many have experienced. However for lots of Front Range residents, the opportunity to run, hike, ride and climb without driving long distances is much needed stress relief in these difficult times. It's bad enough when natural destruction hinders these opportunities but worse when political obstruction extends this peculiar exile from our own backyard.

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