Scarpa North America Blog

Climbing in the Cathedral Spires with Cody Scarpella

Jan. 9th 2014

A guest post from SCARPA climber, Cody Scarpella.

Three years ago, on a climbing trip out to the magical Cathedral Spires, I was introduced to the South Platte of the Colorado River. We dropped onto the rural road that follows the west arm of the river and I knew then that it was a special kind of place. The narrow road winds around dilapidated cabins built on boulders of solid rock, hugging the river and mimicking the flow of every bend. Hillsides rise steeply from the edges of the narrow valley and bold granite formations stand like castles at the top of those hills.

Within an hour, we were out of the city and parking at the base of a sandy trail scratched into the sediment. The trail led straight up to the most grand of the “castles” in the neighborhood: the ever-glowing Cynical Pinnacle. Summiting the Pinnacle on that day encompassed the intangible reasons that keep me coming back to my climbing shoes and harness – staggering views, ridiculous crack climbing and a good friend to share it with.

After battling a few hard-nosed pitches, we spun circles atop the Pinnacle, taking mental images of one of the most beautiful panoramic scenes in my personal collection.

Brad Gobright looking out on The Bishop (left) and Dome (right)

On that first trip to the spires, we climbed the ultra classic Wunsch’s Dihedral. Last year, Rob Kepley and I climbed The Bishop, which must be one of the best unsung finger cracks in the state. A few months ago, I joined Mike Morin to sample the unreal slab climbing on the infamous Dome. With such incredible climbing, the Cathedral Spires have grown to be my favorite retreat on the Front Range.

Mike Morin on the Dome’s classic last pitch, Topographical Oceans.

Since the first time I thumbed through Jason Haas’s guide to the area, I have had my eye on the all-but-forgotten aid climb, Buffalos in Space. In October, I finally made it out to take a closer look at a line – a clean, steep headwall marked by technical crack climbing and laser cut edges that had never been free climbed.

Looking up at the headwall pitch on Buffalos in Space.

The following months were spent daydreaming about that tucked-away hidden gem on the north side of the Pinnacle. Most of my early efforts were spent dangling from a static line working out the technical sequences solo. My progress was slow though, and with snow starting to fall, the climbs became shady and cold. But when the holiday passed, I was given exactly what I asked for – blue skies.

Buffalos in Space

In the end, it was a few good friends and the extra energy they brought that made the difference. Two short winter days of attempts with Dave Vuono and Joe Mills helped me stay psyched and afternoon sun made it happen. On my second try of the second day, everything felt right and I was able to snag the first free ascent on one of the sweetest pieces of rock I have ever climbed.

Climbing in the Spires has always felt a little more raw than what most of Colorado’s crag climbing has to offer. “Buffalos in Space” packs all of the necessary ingredients to be the go-to route for those looking for a little extra challenge. I won’t forget it any time soon.

Continue to follow Cody’s adventures on his blog:

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