Black Diamond athlete Chris Schulte spends most of his summer bouldering in the Colorado highcountry, hunting for new problems and enjoying the classics in what has become one of the world’s top bouldering locations. Venturing into the alpine highcountry does has its challenges, however, especially the quick and violent turns of weather. Here is a video and an essay below that Chris put together for us that does a great job of showing a couple of sweet problems in Colorado’s highcountry and the nasty weather that can quickly slam the door on the day.
Every place I’ve been seems to have a saying regarding the weather: “If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes, it’ll change”. I’ve heard this said from Texas to California, Mississippi to Oregon. I’ve even heard it in Arizona (... WTF?) What we’re trying to say here is, weather is funny, everywhere, some time or another.
Summertime, at around 10 to 12 thousand feet, the adage starts to lean into literal reality: an otherwise cloudless sky will blow into a ragged palette of grey, black, and wispy white in moments. The wind picks up and drives needles of precipitation, all three hundred or however many Eskimo words for everything between rain and ice cubes, stinging into face, hands, head. Anything left uncovered is punished. Lightning raises hairs on the neck, the jaw goes tight at every flash and crack, the booms bounce around the valley, a rattling thump and clang as the sound careens from cloud to cloud, to cliff to space between ears. You cower in a cave, under a steep block, watching the rivulets of water collect and join into streams and rivers that dribble ever closer... You wiggle up against the back wall of the cave, reflecting on the correlation between crimps, cracks, and polished slopers, and the trickling deluge that scampers across everything you’d hope to grasp. The landscape is soaked in its entirety.
And then, without the marshaling fanfare of the gods at the forge, the storm just sorta… passes on… The sun’ll come out, an easy wind picks up, and in an hour you’re back at it, only a puddle in a hueco here and there, a dark corner packed with hail to hint at the fury given way to cooler temps and pink sunsets.
All the ups and downs make for a big pack: beanie, hood, shell jacket and pants, sometimes gloves, plus the fairer weather suit. Shoes, lunch and a snack for long days, chalk bags, quiver of brushes, maybe a camera (and maybe a tripod and a reflector and a crane and a steadycam), maybe a guidebook. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray. Multiple big pads for talus landings in the mountains. All of a sudden a simple day at the boulders has turned into an all-weather expedition. A tent and a sleeping bag, and you’d never have to leave.
Loaded for bear, the trudge into the wild is usually a good warm-up. Hiking all this out in a rain/hail storm is a little less quaint, though sometimes the gear never comes out of the bag. If you want it to really come down though, just forget your shell one day. Or bring a friend up from outta town: “I swear to GOD this never happens like this. It’s usually SO NICE in May/June/July/August/September” or “ It was SENDING TEMPS this time last year!”
Well, if you don’t like it...
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