Front Range Foray

Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
Trip End Mar 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
with Arun and Joe Sambataro
What I did
Eldorado Canyon State Park Eldorado Springs
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Boulder Canyon

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Monday, October 1, 2012

What would it be like to live in Boulder, CO? Though this was our first real trip visiting Boulder and even the state of CO, we have often asked ourselves this question. Everyone talks about the glorious weather, the unbelievable number of sunny days year round, and the copious amount of rock climbing literally at one's fingertips. But many have also forewarned about the juxtaposition between the beautiful, inviting landscape and the beautiful but uninviting--often referred to as "elitist"--people who inhabit the area. Taking our foray to the mecca of
fit and strong people, we have to admit that we drove South from Wyoming a little bit nervous--would Boulder accept two non-5.12 climbers?

Of course it would.

And as per usual, we were blessed yet again to have good friends nearby to help us with our travels and enhance our experience. Arun and Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund, opened their doors to us for the full three weeks of our stay--and it couldn't have been more fun as a result!

Arun and Joe at Arugula to celebrate Joe's 30th birthday (Joe doesn't normally wear sunglasses indoors in case you were wondering.)

The Finger.
Upon arrival, our itinerary was packed with fun activities. First, the talented film makers Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer brought Reel Rock Tour 7 to Boulder, and we were sure not to miss it in one of the most prolific climbing cultures and settings in America. Even Alex Honnald, the climbing superstar who abruptly fell into stardome with his bold successes of climbing long and challenging test pieces without a rope, was in attendance and giving the rest of us mere mortals autographs in between the showing of "Honnald 3.0," a film of his next big exploits.

The Kunz family posing with Alex Honnald at the Reel Rock 7 Tour. Lindsey may have weirded Alex out by making him sign her Italian leather boot, but he probably recovered from that trauma already.

The following day, we decided to donate our time with the Access Fund's Conservation Team by participating in an "Adopt a Crag" day at Golden, CO's Table Mountain.

We awoke at nearly an "alpine start" to the day, too early really following the Reel Rock viewing and post-viewing celebrations. But we were psyched. A huge turnout, we elected to be in separate groups doing rock work near the base of some of Table Mountain's climbing walls. The
objective: to reduce erosion and potential accidents by putting in some rock steps and more direct pathways between walls. The manual labor and comrodery was fun, as was getting to know some of the local people that also turned up to improve their local crag. However, the South-facing aspect, i.e. direct sun and heat, was a bit much for us northwesterners. But we were determined to make an impact and pull our own weight, so we downed some more water, lathered on the sunscreen, and picked up the rockbar and other tools to move and chip the fallen stones into place.

And then it happened.

While moving a large rock into place, Lindsey, paying more attention to others' hands and fingers than her own, got her hand trapped below the roughly meter-long chunk of rock as it quickly and naturally fell into place. She whipped her hand out from under the stone, took a couple minutes of quiet time to get over the initial pain, and then put on her gloves and returned to work for a couple more hours.

Her finger was the size of a cooked Ball Park Frank and warped in shape around the knuckle. Swollen for the next week, Lindsey soaked it daily in Boric acid (thanks to Arun Sambataro for playing the role of doctor and mother!). About four days later, she tested it out on the rock and taped it up well to protect it from certain movements and direct contact with the rock. With repeated success and careful rock climbing, Lindsey and Ben concluded that it must not be a break.

But, over a month later, the finger's shape has not returned to normal, nor has the pain fully subsided, leading us to believe that this accident was, indeed, a break. Not much we could do about it anyway.

Joe's 30th Birthday Challenge.
Back in 2008, Lindsey orchestrated a birthday challenge for Ben's 29th B-Day in Central Washington's chossy (but at least warm enough to climb in early March) Frenchman's Coulee, during which he had to lead 29 pitches in a day. Well, this year, Joe Sambataro turned 30 and held a similar challenge: climb 30 pitches in a day in Colorado's famous Eldorado Canyon. Naturally, we wanted to support this effort, so Ben took on the role of climbing partner, while Lindsey took on the role of cheerleader and water boy.

The boys left Joe's condo in Boulder at around 4:45am. By 5:15, they had arrived at Eldorado Canyon State Park and were approaching the first objective in the dark: a beautiful climb called
Handcracker (5.10a). Being focused on climbing fast, the two often linked many of Eldo's short pitches with a 70m rope, leading in blocks. Joe took the first, charging up Handcracker with confidence and speed. It was still dark by the time they arrived on the summit of
Handcracker's 5 pitches--a beautiful site of Denver's city lights twinkling against a dark canvas.

The climbing at "Eldo" feels much like Mt. Arapiles in Australia to us: steep, traditionally protected face climbing. However, the climbing in Eldo is even more cerebral due to its sparse gear placement options--you have to think ahead and be creative.

A descent hike and another 40 minutes later, the boys ticked off Long John Wall (classic 5.8) and another 4 pitches.

By 11:10am, they were on the summit of Ruper, another classic 5.8, and Joe snapped this picture and posted it to Facebook to update their followers:

Nice outfits, eh?

With 16 pitches down on a sunny day, these boys were getting thirsty and hot. Their motivation and speed began to wain. That's when the reinforcements were called in.

Lindsey met the boys at 11:30am at the base of their next climb, Rewritten. Six liters of water,
four-inch thick sandwiches, fresh fruit, candy, and cheers, the two were refilled with energy and stoke.

Joe reracking for Rewritten

Joe washing down the last huge bite of sandwich while Ben prepared the rope and the belay

And just like that...nearly 10 minutes later, the boys were off again, listening to playlists out of their shared backpack while passing willing parties on the next reach for the summit. Lindsey hung around for the next 45 minutes, watching as the two literally dashing up and around the rock face for 6 more pitches.

By around 5pm, after topping out on other classics (Wind Ridge and Bastile Crack), the two
had mastered their goal...Tick! Ben even got the opportunity to run into and catch up a bit with Northwest friend and rockstar Mark Kroese--successful technology businessman and author of "Fifty Favorite Climbs: The Ultimate North American Tick List " book--at the base of the Bastile Crack. Bonus!

Following the days' success, there was no rest for the wicked. The two joined another Boulder friend turning 30 in a birthday celebration. Surprisingly, the party had just about as many people originally from Seattle as were from Boulder, so we fit right in and caught up with a few old friends! Of course, no climbing party is complete without a little shenanigans! The two birthday-goers acquired tricycles for birthday gifts (though Arun bought Joe a proper trike while the other literally fell apart on the street) and engaged in some friendly "trike racing" on the local streets!

Trike Racing
Joe with his shiney new trike!

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) Wilderness.
Lindsey and Arun took some time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park while Lindsey's finger was in its early stages of recovering. The two took a lovely and casual six-mile loop hike to the top of Deer Mountain, breathing in the crisp air and admiring autumn's warning with golden aspen trees.

Beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park with fall colors

Lindsey's glorious reports excited Ben so much that they planned a return a few days later - of course, with some climbing objectives in place.  A list of 50 of North America's most stunning and impressive climbs was put together in a history and guidebook by Steve Roper and Allen Steck (in the late 70s).  This book has continued to open the adventure climber's imagination to these dramatic climbs (and pushed others to try some pretty cool feats - the Smiley's challenge for example).

One of these climbs follows the south face of the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park, so that seemed like a perfect outing for us to see more of the park and experience some of Colorado's alpine rock. Unfortunately, a strong wind prevailed through the night and into the
day, rocking our van back and forth and would have likely resulted in some pretty awful climbing conditions.  After an extended trip of gale force gusts in the Wind Rivers, we weren't as stoked to embark on another sufferfest as we would normally be.

The lower elevation climbing area of Lumpy Ridge sits just above the town of Estes Park, so
we changed plans and headed there for a good day of climbing.  Lumpy Ridge's granite domes and features resemble another area in Idaho that is both near and dear to our heart's - City of Rocks.  The granite is featured (providing great friction and adequate handholds generally) and
extremely compact and solid (great for placing protection).  And the setting is gorgeous in its own right.    

Lindsey crushing at Lumpy Ridge

Lindsey at the summit of the Bookend at Lumpy Ridge

That night, after a spendid dinner of tortellini, we fell asleep to the sound of elk bugling.  We couldn't help recall the memories of our trip to northern BC two years previous.

Elk in Estes Park

They bugled all night!!

RMNP is certainly an area that will lure us back to the Front Range in the future!

Sambataro Home Cooking...And Climbing Off the Calories.
One of the many perks of staying with the Sambataros was Arun's home cooking. Her family moved from India to Kansas City when Arun was only 7, but she hadn't forgotten the Bengali flavors!

Arun and Lindsey cooking up a storm!

Neve (Snow) and Lindsey. Lindsey fell in love with this cunning and playful kitty during our stay. He is so peculiar and so smart, not to mention always up to no good! She was able to teach Neve how to shake and got very close to a consistent roll over as well! Hopefully Neve's parents
continued with the training...The food in the picture is Arun's delightful curried potatoes and Bengali bread, luchi, similar to roti.

Arun's cooking was so good, that we had to keep up the climbing and training just to work off all the extra calories--we couldn't help but go back for seconds and thirds!

Lindsey and Joe ripping some pre-dinner push ups!

A rare moment for Ben: complete exhaustion! Had to capture it. Hiking out of Upper Boulder Canyon.

Ben climbing Iron Horse 11c on West Ridge, Eldorado Canyon

Lindsey on Yellow Spur, one of the classic-est lines at Eldorado Canyon

Eldorado Canyon climbs - almost always busy

Bringing Sarge back to Life
Our trusty van, the Sprinter, was aptly named Sarge by Lynne and Lindsey during the adventure into the Sierra Mountains.  The name has stuck, and he's been a champ throughout the trip and been patient as we learn his unique ways.  For the most part, the Sprinter is an extremely well-designed and efficient machine, but it's not without it's faults.  A relatively common issue that arises with mileage is the Black Death, a gunk that forms at the injector heads from the leaking seal on the injector body where the injector contacts the head.  Essentially, the engineers at Mercedes didn't spec the injector assemblies (bolt, seal, injector) as well as they could have and these become lose over time.  While we were doing some routine maintenance (oil filter, fuel filter and oil change), Ben checked under the head cover and found this:

BEFORE: Black death - the black gunk around the injector assemblies!

After some initial emotional shock (Black death, if not treated timely and effectively, can lead to serious engine issues), we got to work in researching and contacting mechanics.  Turns out that it was a job we might be able to pull off, but missteps could have pretty dire consequences.

Turns out that there is just the man for our job in Golden, CO - a mere hour from Boulder.  Dennis, an articulate and joyful Brit, runs a repair shop, specializing in European commerical and army vehicles (Unimogs, Sprinters, Pinzgauer). Dennis had plenty of experience with the Black Death and resolved this issue relatively painlessly and on budget! A huge shout out to Dennis and his crew!! Not only did they help us resolve this issue, he educated us on a number of matters and patiently answered Ben's myriad questions!

AFTER: Black death gone!

In addition to fixing this scary problem, we put in numerous rest-day hours and travel budget dollars tuning our home on wheels: changed the oil filter, fuel filter and air filter; got new tires on the back duallys; researched fixing our sliding door to work more smoothly and consistently (later fixed); prepared for an upcoming solar panel purchase and installation; and more minor tune-ups. Sarge was getting lots of attention!

Take Your House Guests to Work Day.
Avid fans and members of the Access Fund, we begged Joe to take us with him into work before we left Boulder. He happily acquiesced, and on our last day together before he head out on a business trip, we joined him to see what the Access Fund was like...behind the scenes:
Joe's sarcastic-meets-stoked humor as he let us invade his work space

Inside, we finally personally met the sharp and driven Executive Director, Brady Robinson, who was stoked about his recent TedX speech and getting the 2013 Conservation Team up and running after a successful first year. We also met other dedicated Access Fund employees and learned more about the heritage. Thanks for the Cliff Bars, guys! We brought them to a slideshow that very night to share and spread the word with fellow climbers.

Asa Firestone: The Bold, the Brash, the Beautiful?


Regular readers of our blog may recognize this face from our trip to the Cordillera Blanca, Peru.  We took advantage of Asa's current residence of Boulder to have a few short but fun visits with him--it's always good to reconnect with this man of wonder!   Along with showing us his favorite Boulder haunts, we joined Asa along with many of the late Gil Weiss' great friends for a celebration in his honor. Part of this celebration included a slide show of a team of friends who climbed a difficult first ascent in the remote corners in California's high Sierra mountains and dedicated the climb to Weiss.

Asa Firestone is the man behind Beyond Gear and co-founder the Centro de Escalada Urbana (CEU), a climbing school for at-risk youth in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Asa is super passionate for using adventure for good. Oh, and he also poses in flashy new outdoor clothing on his climbing expeditions because he's just that damn good looking!! "Dere-lict" THAT, Zoolander!!!

Asa Firestone, sexiest climber of the year! Asa on the big screen during one of the slideshows.

More goofy photos (and of course climbing pics) from our trip to Boulder, CO, can be found here:

Next: Good times in Kentucky and the Red River Gorge!! 
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Judy Atkinson on

Wow and WOW ... amazing as always!!

sally kunz on

What an interesting time you two are having with interesting friends! We were curious about the toys that Arun and Joe have on their wall.? Lindsey's finger certainly must have been painful! Sorry to hear about that.

benandlindsey on

Thanks for the positive feedback! Sally, are you referring to the first picture? If so, that's at the restaurant called Arugula ( Looks like a bunch of wine openers, etc. That restaurant was amazing and the owner was very down to earth. Finger's still strange, but able to climb on it with tape.

Aileen Peel on

Love reading of your adventures. Thanks for keeping us up to date. We are in Arizona at Gold Canyon now and if you are ever in the area or passing through let us know............we would love to see you.

benandlindsey on

Thanks for the offer, Aileen! We may actually be heading that way toward the end of November. Ben will email you if that's the case. Take care!

benglenn on

Looking great, guys! The rockies are breathtaking. Love the updates, keep em coming.

Dave Yount on

Whenever you got somebody that's not running away from you and knows about Sprinters.... .ask more questions!!! Stoked to read more about your Solar Panel upgrade to Sarge!

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