Trip Report: Swanson’s Arete, Multipitch Climbing in Eldo Canyon

Trip Report: Swanon's Arete Eldorado Canyon // lynnepetre.com

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.comIn the vein of Throwback Thursday + the fact that I’m heading back to Colorado TONIGHT, I’m posting a trip report from my first multipitch climb in Eldo Canyon!

In July, a week and a half before we moved, Alex and I headed up to Eldorado Canyon (affectionately known as Eldo or Eldo Canyon), a famous climbing area just outside Boulder and a short 40 minute drive from Denver, with our friend Lucas for a 4th of July multi-pitch climb. Lucas has spent lots of time in Eldo and picked Swanson’s Arete to lead us up. Swanson’s Arete is a classic beginner’s climb, rated at 5.5 but much of Eldo is considered to be ‘sandbagged’ or rated at a lower difficulty than many perceive it to be.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

Parking shortly after sunrise made for a cool hike into the canyon. A really cool thing about Eldo is that routes start right off the road so as park visitors drive through the main drag (or as climbers trek in), they can marvel at the routes being climbed just outside their window.

We hiked in about 20 minutes, gaining significant elevation in the short, ~.5 mile hike, and arrived at the base of our climb. Our route: Rewritten > Swanson’s Arete

Lucas briefed us on what do expect in the first pitch (‘take your pack off when you get to the chimney’) and up he went. We’d opted to ‘caterpillar climb’ meaning Lucas would climb, Alex would belay from below; then Alex would climb and Lucas would belay from above; lastly, I would climb and Alex would belay from above.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

Going in to this climb, I was pretty stressed with the chaos of moving and had a hard time getting into the right headspace. As any climber knows, confidence, focus and determination are integral to your success and I spent much of the first pitch struggling to get a handle on my brain. It had helped watching Lucas and Alex head up before me because I was able to plan my route while I waited for my turn.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

P1 was not my favorite; it looked a lot easier than it was and, with a lack of confidence, I slipped halfway up the pitch and fell partway back down the route. Which shook me up and put more doubt in my mind about if I’d be able to finish this climb. I let myself have a few moments of panic, realizing that the only way to get through it was to go up, before I refocused and found my determination. At the top of the pitch is a chimney – something I’d never tackled before. If I’d been in a better headspace, I would have enjoyed this challenge but I did not enjoy it in the moment. Regardless, the chimney is short and extremely doable.

Fortunately, the belay station between P1 and P2 was a pretty large ledge so I was able to calm down and regroup and these guys had room to snap selfies.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

P2 brought us through Swanson’s Arete and, again, Lucas gave insider tips about where we could find bomber holds and how best to navigate the arete. Lucas first, then Alex, then I climbed; I flew through this pitch and found myself really enjoying it. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in sight and I made sure to pay close attention to my surroundings; this was to be my last outdoor climbing in Colorado for a while and I wanted to soak it all in.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com
Getting my booty over Swanson’s Arete! AND SMILING!

And then…we got to the belay station of P2/P3. Airy belay stations are still something I’m not super jazzed about but I was proud of myself for (mostly) keeping it together. The team decided to switch from ‘caterpillar climbing’ to climbing in tandem where Lucas would lead and belay both me and Alex at the same time.

P3 had a funky start, immediately having to overcome a ledge with not-obvious holds, and I was thankful to have Alex there with me, rather than figuring it out on my own. It took us a few tries but we finally found the right hold to get up and over.

The rest of P3 was really fun with good holds and fun options. Alex climbed a few moves ahead of me and I was happy to summit shortly after he did. Success!

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com
summit with a view!
Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com
Quite possibly the internet’s worst summit photo

This was only my second multi-pitch and, despite my lack of confidence to start, I felt so much more comfortable here than I did on my first multi-pitch on the Boulder Flatirons. A combination of gym climbing + more exposure to exposure (outdoor top-roping, mountaineering school outings) really helped.

I can’t speak to the down climb as I was pooped and just following directions but I do know we followed Option 2 here. We did 3 rappels and had a super short hike back up to the crag before calling it a day and hiking back down the canyon to the car.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

Back in the parking lot, we stopped in the ice cold South Boulder Creek to cool off before heading back into Denver.

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com
#TevaTime

Trip Report: Swanson's Arete Eldo Canyon // lgsmash.com

It was such a perfect ending to our outdoor adventures as Colorado residents; climbing in the classic Eldo Canyon with one of our best friends…not much more this gal could have asked for.