Rock Climbing at Lumpy Ridge – Estes Park Valley

rock climbing at lumpy ridge

When I moved to Fort Collins, all my friends only really talked about climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, or up the Poudre Canyon. Most of my climbing experience has been in the Western Slope desert area of Southern Colorado and Utah…

So, I really didn’t care to climb anything that wasn’t sandstone. All my experiences on granite just didn’t impress me much. One of my closest climbing partners was excited I now lived in Northern Colorado, because he could always have a climbing partner when he went to Lumpy Ridge.

I had never heard of Lumpy Ridge. I had no idea where it was. My friend, Dan, was beyond excited to take me. He has a truck bed camper, so the first time I went out there, we planned on making a weekend out of it. This turned into us meeting at Lumpy Ridge almost every other weekend for the Summer.

How to Get To Lumpy Ridge

  • If you are coming from the South, US 36 will take you to Estes Park; if you are coming from the North, US 34 will.
  • At the intersection of US 36 and 34, turn North onto E Wonderview Ave. Here, you will pass the famous Stanley Hotel.
  • Turn right onto MacGregor Ave. Follow this as it leaves town. The trailhead will be on your left. There’s a pretty large sign that is hard to miss. You can also see the lumpy rock formations from the road, so you’ll know when to start looking for the trailhead. https://goo.gl/maps/bNmafXpicCPUHDpKA

I drove from Fort Collins, and it took just about an hour to get there, and the drive was beyond gorgeous.

Access/Things to Consider:

  • Lumpy Ridge is a piece of Rocky Mountain National Park property that is just North of the city of Estes Park. What’s even better about skipping out on the crowds of RMNP? Lumpy Ridge is free! Free to enter, and free to park!
  • The hike into the area is a bit “too long” for climbers who prefer roadside crags, so only the true believers can be found here.
  • There are a lot of classics here, but these are decently spread out or on different rock formations altogether. So, the crowded days never really feel that crowded.
  • There are seasonal closures in the park for raptor nesting that you should be aware of. To see which formations are currently closed, visit HERE before heading out.
  • The unfortunate (but important) bit about climbing on National Park land is that dogs are not allowed off the pavement. The only pavement here is at the trailhead parking lot.
  • While these trails never reach above tree line, it is still important to check the weather before you head up here to climb for the day. In the summer, afternoon thunderstorms are very common here. It is not the best idea to be exposed on a slab of highly conductive granite when there’s lightning above you. It’s a nice idea to try and spend a few days at a time up there if you can; this way you can spend the morning climbing and hike out as the storms roll in without feeling like the trip was cut short.

I have learned from climbing here, to never hike in without at least a rain jacket. All the storms usually roll in from the West, and you can see far West and into the main Park from most of the rock formations in Lumpy. Every time I’ve climbed here, we’ve always been able to see a storm developing and work our way off a climb before it reaches us.

There’s no shame in bailing due to weather conditions here; hiking out in a storm is better than trying to climb a slippery rock face through rain, hail, and lightning (all of which I’ve experienced in one storm here).

The Batman Pinnacle at Lumpy Ridge

That same friend and I made another trip to Lumpy Ridge in late Summer because the “Batman Pinnacle” area was closed all Summer long due to raptor nesting, and was just deemed as open. The “Batman Pinnacle” only has a few routes on it, but it’s a tower! You can see this tower from the parking lot, and it’s one of those things where you see it and you immediately want to get on top of it.

Batman Pinnacle – photo 13ergirl.com

There’s a route known as “Batman and Robin” that goes up to the summit. It is rated as a classic and fun, four-pitch 5.6.

We met at the parking lot, grabbed our packs, and headed off to the tower we had been passing on the trial all Summer long. We parted ways with the maintained trail, and bushwhacked our way through a discrete trail up to the “Batman Pinnacle.” You can see the tower, and “Batman Rock” right behind it while you’re hiking in, so it’s pretty easy to keep your bearings if you do end up losing the trail.

As soon as we reached the base of the awesome, slabby, crack-filled tower, thunder cracked right over our heads. While we were deep in the woods finding our way to the rock, a huge storm had rolled in out of nowhere. It started raining immediately, and we just watched little water falls roll down the slab of rock we so badly wanted to climb.

Since granite dries pretty quickly, and we had spent so much effort getting there, we decided to wait it out for a while. There was a small little alcove that provided a good amount of shelter while we just watched the storm get worse. The rain turned into hail. The hail got bigger.

The thunder was right over our heads. Lightning was everywhere. At some point, we decided to call it and to just get out of the mayhem. So when the hail turned back into rain, we left our comfy alcove and headed straight down a hill that we knew connected back to the main trail. Maybe two minutes after the hail disappeared, it was back.

The scramble to try and find the trail again, and hike our way out of this epic alpine storm was simply entertaining. I couldn’t even be upset. We were both slipping or getting hit in the head with hail, and just laughing the whole time.

We made it back to the cars defeated, covered in mud and grass, and decided to just go into town and get some big cheeseburgers.

The Classic “White Whale” Route

Off the main trail from the trailhead, take the Book Trail. Leave the main trail and work up toward the Bookmark. Continue going West around the Bookmark. There’s a recess between the Bookmark and the Book formations, go past this until you find your way to the slabby base of the cliff.

White Whale is a wonderful first climb in Lumpy. It is graded at 5.7. It is a trad climbing route that can be 4 pitches. By “can be,” I mean that you can rappel after the 1st pitch, and you can walk off after the 3rd pitch. This route is also very popular, but hard to distinguish if you’ve never been to this area before.

Depending on what day you go, there might already be some climbers on it, which makes it easy to find. There is also a tree at the top of the first pitch that serves as a good anchor. If you see this tree, follow the most left crack down to the ground, and that is the start of “White Whale.”

  • Pitch 1: Follows that left crack up to the tree. The climbing is very easy, and protection is also easy to find. *Once at this anchor, you can see over the trees in the area and see into Rocky Mountain National Park. As I mentioned before, this is where all the weather comes from. This is a good spot to look for any thunderstorms developing, since bailing off the tree is easier than scrambling down from the third pitch.

    White Whale route.
  • Pitch 2: There are two cracks that work there up and left. This is amazing 5.7 climbing! Set up a belay on left side of large concave alcove. This pitch is a full rope length, which makes for fun and sustained climbing!
  • Pitch 3: There’s a crack on the left edge of the alcove belay that you follow. This pitch goes up to a steeper wall where protection is thin. There’s a black water groove to the right which is completely unprotected and slick. I lead this, and I followed a traverse that takes you around and to the left of this black groove and the steep, thinner wall. Traversing here, also takes you straight to the walk off ledge. My partner attempted the steeper side of the wall since he was on top rope and said after already climbing two and a half pitches of fun 5.7 cracks, the sudden steepness and thin protection caught him off guard. He’s a much stronger climber than I am and said he would not have liked to lead that section.
  • Pitch 4: Above the walk off ledge, follow a wide crack. The original guidebook listing of this route, does not mention this fourth pitch. I have not climbed it, but a party after us did. They were able to scramble their way down and end up on the same path as we did from the walk off ledge from pitch 3.As far as gear goes, bring a standard rack. If you can, bring a couple extra finger-sized pieces. I mostly place passive gear and had the time of my life setting some bomber stoppers in these flaring cracks.

My Favorite Guidebook For Estes Park Valley

As a desert rat myself, Lumpy has swept me off my feet. It’s huge rock, fun cracks, amazing climbing, and everyday feels epic. It is simply inspiring to climb here. Lumpy Ridge has just over 400 climbs total in the area, if you are inspired to go here, please check out Mountain Project or a guide book and you will find at least 50+ climbs you’ll want to get on. My favorite guidebook of the area I’ve found is Bernard Gillett’s Rocky Mountain National Park: The Climber’s Guide, Estes Park Valley.

Historic Stanley Estes Park Hotel

Pro Tip: Cocktails at Stanley Hotel or food at Smokin Dave’s BBQ

After a long day of amazing climbing, or if you were rained/hailed off of some amazing climbing, treat yourself to some libations at the haunted Stanley Hotel.

The food at the Stanley is pretty expensive as one would imagine, so if it’s food you seek, you can find great burgers at “Smokin Dave’s BBQ & Brew.”

 

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