‘I don’t know, I think the guy on Mountain Project intentionally gave obscure directions to Radiohead so no one will know how to actually get there,’ I said, after going down a second false path. For instance, the mileage is not .7 miles from the junction of the road to the Devil’s Head trail on Rampart Road, it’s more like 1 mile. Trying to find the area for the first time, .3 miles is a huge gulf of confusion.
But, since we actually did find the area – I guess the directions are good enough.
I like the tad bit of obscurity, though. The more I climb, the more I dislike going to places with crowds of climbers. The appeal of a fairly close by crag (1.5 hrs from Denver, or Golden) with no crowds on a sunny Sunday morning is a revelation to me.
Turning the corner from the trail of cairns the Giant Dihedral blooms into view. The route description lists it as 2 pitches and 190′ total. I kinda wish the length of routes corresponded to rope lengths and vice versa. I did the calculation in my head: 60M is roughly 197′, so with a standard rope length you could do both pitches with 7′ to spare. But you’d also probably be out of voice range of your partner, having to communicate by a series of rope tugs, or walkie-talkie.
Except for a group of hikers that swung by we had the crag entirely to ourselves. I was trying to fathom why that was. I guess the combination of obscure directions, a tad more travel time than say Table or Clear Creek, a slight emphasis on trad (versus sport everywhere else in DH), and a higher level of difficulty (most routes in the 5.10-12 range) keeps the madding crowds away.
But, oh so glorious! The view is, as always, breathtaking at DH. The one thing I can say about climbing: it has taken me to places and views I would never have discovered otherwise. The hike to the Dihedral was fairly mild (15-20 minutes) with rock that compares favorably to Eldo, Clear Creek and Shelf (depending on which DH route you climb) without the lines of climbers waiting in line for the “classic” climbs. I remember hiking 45 minutes to the Cadillac crag to a similar Dihedral (V3). V3 is 140′ long – and we still had 4 other groups of climbers up there! And, at 190′, the Giant Dihedral is 50′ longer, a short 15 minute approach – with zero crowds. We felt like we had ascended to climber’s Nirvana, we were that amazed.
The start goes up a low ramp that has some bolts for protecting the start.
It then quickly goes vertical at a large rectangular block. That’s pretty much where the trad portion of the program begins. The thing I found interesting about Radiohead is that there seemed to be a good amount of mixed routes that combined sport and trad. For a beginning trad leader it’s comforting to know that if you can’t quite get any of your cams to fit, that there exists a bolt to clip onto if the pump demands it. The Giant Dihedral, even though it is listed as just trad, had some bolting, or even a nearby route that was bolted that could work in a pinch.
The first pitch ends in a good ledge. There are two other rappel anchors to the left of the Giant Dihedral that provide 5.11 top rope setups which we took advantage of after this climb.
I thought the first pitch was easier than the second. Mark thought the opposite – so go figure. Since he was leading, I’ll defer to his judgement – next time I’ll lead this and compare notes.
The view from the top was worth the climb, so take a moment and revel in it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture to share – sometimes the best photos are in your head – go climb it yourself, and then you’ll know!
For me, Libertine was a fight to the top. There’s a crucial dyno to a just good enough horn edge to get past the rest. High steps and strong fingers are your friend.
Refiner I found more appropriate to my skills. An angular traverse with sidepulls on an angled ridge was more confidence inspiring to me than Libertine. I had the feeling that I could lead it – a difficult lead for me, but doable.
After Refiner, we sat watching the line of clouds on the horizon drag rain towards us. We could predict that it would be on us in the next 30-40 minutes. Maybe that was the other reason for no one on the crag: afternoon Colorado monsoon season.
The place seemed like a climber’s paradise: no one but ourselves, the the sky and the climbing. We’ll definitely come back to explore further.