Blitzen Ridge for Beginners

Blitzen Ridge Colorado

Climbing Blitzen Ridge, RMNP (with a few pointers for beginners)

I got interested in climbing the Blitzen Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, after several acquaintances asked me if it was a good beginner alpine climbing objective. (Alpine climbing here defined as remote & technical rock climbs in the high mountains). On paper, rated 5.4, the climb seems quite approachable.

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Crowds, Covid, and the Casual Route

Alpenglow on the Diamond face, Longs Peak

“Dr. Tony Fauci would be so pissed if he could see us,” the climber to my left says. He imitates the USA’s top Coronavirus expert, a well known figure in recent days: “‘You’re all the way out there, on the side of a mountain, and you fuckers still can’t stay six feet apart!?’”

All three of us at the anchor laugh.

We’re in tight proximity, for sure. Me, my climbing partner, and a stranger are in what’s called a “hanging belay”: literally hanging off the side of the Diamond, a huge alpine wall in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There is no ground below us — just thousands of feet of air.

A few pieces of climbing gear stuck into cracks in the rock and some short nylon tethers are all that keep us from dropping to the glacier below. We aren’t all attached to the same gear — but our anchors are built around each other, at the only possible stance. The wall is too smooth and vertical to spread out much.

We are climbing the same route, chasing each other up. There are two climbing parties in front of us, and one behind. It *is* a bit ironic: we are more remote than most people will ever get in their lives, and yet… our new acquaintance is right. Dr. Fauci would not approve.

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Why I Chose to #OptOutside this Black Friday

When I’m traveling and people find out I’m American, one of the first things they usually say is: “Oh, America: Black Friday!”

I’m not sure why this event has managed to attach itself to the American identity, but I’ve had enough foreigners ask me about it that it clearly has. The rest of the world sees us as capitalism-crazed lemmings; people who will jump out of bed at 5 a.m. for anything, as long as the discount’s high enough.

And maybe that’s true, for some segment of my countrymen. But that’s not MY America. The same way the extreme Islamic clerics don’t represent Nouman’s Morocco, the homophobes in the streets don’t represent Iuri’s Brazil, and the Brexiteers don’t represent Sean’s England. Black Friday shoppers don’t represent MY America.

You can’t (successfully) stereotype people of any country — but the US, even less so. As I tell people when they ask about my home: there are many Americas.

And in my America, we #OptOutside.

While everyone else got up at 5 a.m. to snag #dealz, we got up at 5 a.m. to go snag some early-season ice climbing at Hidden Falls, in Rocky Mountain National Park. Find a different side of America, below the jump.

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