Denver & Colorado

I live in and LOVE Denver. As much as I enjoy traveling, I am so happy to call Denver home. There is always something to do in this city! From racing to restaurants, there’s something here for everyone.

Here, you’ll find posts about my favorite things to do in Denver/Colorado.

Red Rocks: Workouts / Film on the Rocks

2011 Denver Out of the Darkness Walk

Bike Riding on the Cherry Creek Path

A Bachelorette Weekend in Vail

Denver Patio Ride

Canvas & Cocktails, Girls Night at Canvas and Cocktails!

Tease Studio (Pole fitness class!)

Bella Glass Studios

First Fridays: True Love Shoes  & Infinite Monkey Theorem

Indoor Skydiving

Yelp! Denver Events: Monster MashUp, Elite Event at Capital Grille

Rugby Games at Infinity Park

Gun Safety Class at Cherry Creek State Park

Get Out and PLAY! Colorado is one giant playground for people who love to be active and explore. 

Coloradocation (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

Glacading at St. Mary’s Glacier

Birthdaycation in Breckenridge! (part 1, part 2)

Learning to Winter Camp (part 1)

Denver Eats! There is no shortage of great food in this city.

Izakaya Den Sushi

India Oven

Banzai Sushi

Bull And Bush

Dining Out Paleo: Chipotle, HBurger, Garbanzo

Euclid Hall

Basic Mountaineering School: First Rock Field Day

Saturday was our second field day for Basic Mountaineering School, First Rock Day. This field day kept us a bit closer to home as we met in Boulder at the Chautauqua Park parking lot at 5:50 a.m.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

The parking lot sits at the base of the Flatirons, a very iconic view and well known view in Colorado; it was really neat to see it quiet, in the dark. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, we saw headlamps of people already hiking up the Flatirons trail and we waved to 5 other non-mountaineering-school cars as they parked to begin hiking before the sun had risen.

Our destination was a mile hike in to Crown Rock. Crown Rock is accessible by road (there’s a parking lot right next to it) but what’s mountaineering class if we don’t approach hike in?!

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Because Crown Rock is a super popular boulder and hiking trail, our instructors decided to set us up a few hundred yards away from Crown Rock. I’m not sure if this rock has a name but we situated ourselves here:Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

On our agenda? Practice climbing and belaying on a real rock (my first time!), practice escaping the belay and to practice rappelling.

First up, escaping the belay! We practiced how to escape the belay (removing ourselves from the rope system without affecting/dropping the climber we were belaying) and were required to demonstrate to our instructors that we could effectively complete the procedure, unprompted.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Escaping the belay practice.

Pretty sure we all enjoyed creating fictional stories as to why our belayer need to come attend to us – needed a beer, didn’t have enough ‘stoke’, taking a nap. But in all seriousness, I hope to never be in a situation where I’d need to escape the belay to help an unconscious or unresponsive climber.

While half of us practice escaping, the other half of us roped up and gave outdoor climbing a try. It was my first time climbing outside on a real rock (and climbing in mountaineering boots) and HOLY COW was it different than climbing in a gym! The mountaineering boots made it even more challenging but it was a lot more fun!

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

We had two different routes set up to climb – each pair climbed each route twice.

After a quick lunch break, we moved on to rappelling. To be completely honest, rappelling was (is?) the task I was most nervous about. In our reading, the chapter about rappelling makes it quite clear that this is serious business. One wrong move or careless mistake and you’re life is toast, basically. (I think the words in the book are ‘certain death.’)

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

We had 3 stations set up – low, medium and steep angled routes. I started on the (very) low angled route to get myself comfortable with the system and process. (The low angle is that little ditch area in the photo above.)

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Lucas on the steep rappel.

One I understood how rappelling worked and how I could control my speed, I was a lot less intimidated and I tried the medium and steep rappels.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

That’s not to say my heart didn’t pound the whole time, just that I was more comfortable with the heart pounding!

After we finished practicing, we learned how to build anchors, what different pieces of climbing protection are used for and what happens in a multi-pitch climb (a climb that requires more than one belay station). We finished the field day by flaking and coiling ropes (checking for knots/damage and then wrapping in a coil for carrying and storage). Holy arm workout! Flaking and coiling ropes is no joke – my arms are still sore!

We then packed up and hiked our mile back out to the Chautauqua parking lot to call field day a wrap.

Per BMS tradition, after our official field day ended, we hit a dive bar in Boulder, the Dark Horse, for post-field day refueling. I’ve been to the Dark Horse before and have to say that my favorite part of the bar is the bathrooms.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Do you go in the door your gender is pointing to? Or the door with your gender painted on it?! The answer is to go where the door is pointing but, without fail, people get it wrong and I can’t help but giggle watching an embarrassed man walk out of the women’s bathroom.

A tasty sandwich and beer later, the post-field-day/post-mealtime sleepies hit hard and I was thankful not to be responsible for driving back to Denver (thanks, Lucas!).

First Rock Day was far more exciting than Navigation Day – Alex and I came home from Saturday’s exercise really excited about outdoor rock climbing, ropes and mountaineering. Starting on a smaller rock really helped me get a feel for what these techniques will feel like and I’m excited to keep practicing and continue to feel more comfortable in high, exposed places.

Basic Mountaineering Class: Requirements Outside Scheduled Classes

Mountaineering school has sucked up almost every morsel of my free time the past 4 weeks. I’m definitely not complaining but I am looking forward to this intense period of learning tapering off.

Luckily, we’re on that horizon – on Monday, Alex and I took our knot tying test – and passed! – and our final classroom day and final exam is in two weeks. But for those considering the class (and my friends who’ve been wondering why I’ve been canceling all my plans), I wanted to share what is required OUTSIDE of the pre-scheduled classes.

When registering for Basic Mountaineering School, we knew we’d have weekly classroom nights (6-9:30 p.m. usually) and field days (like Navigation Day and tomorrow’s First Rock Day). What we didn’t know was that in addition, we also have weekly reading assignments (usually 4 chapters, ~100ish pages) in Freedom of the Hills (also known as the ‘mountaineering bible’), optional-but-not-really meet ups and at-home knot tying practice.

Basic Mountaineering School Mule Knot // lgsmash.com

Business casual knot practice at REI.

The Monday before last, 1 week before our knot test, our group met at REI to practice tying the 15 knots on our test. Our test required we know the 15 knots and be able to explain their uses so that’s exactly what we practiced.

Basic Mountaineering School Kleimheist Knot // lgsmash.com

Kleimheist-ing like a boss.

But before REI, Alex and I spent many nights and lunch breaks practicing our knots ahead of our meetup. We are both new to climbing so except for a handful of knots (figure 8, figure 8 retrace, figure 8 on a bight, overhand and double fisherman), we were starting from zero familiarity with names, uses or tying.

Another strongly encouraged meetup is ‘first rock wall night’ and ‘second rock wall night.’ On these nights, our group meets at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden (where CMC is headquartered and all classes are held) to use their way cool rock wall. Our first rock wall night was last Wednesday and we practiced tying in, belaying, climbing commands and escaping the belay. While climbing experience is encouraged, it’s not required for Basic Mountaineering School so students in our group range in ability from never, ever climbed before to solid sport climber. Alex and I are much closer to the beginner side of the spectrum, having gone to the climbing gym maybe 10-15ish times ever, but we’re quickly seeing improvement in our skills and technique.

Basic Mountaineering School Rock Climbing Practice // lgsmash.com

Climbing in jeans is not a thing except when you come straight from work and forget your gym bag.

Our second rock wall night will be a few days before our Second Rock field day at the end of April so we can become familiar with the techniques we’ll be practicing in out in the field.

I feel extremely lucky to be taking this class with Alex. Having someone else go through the same intense time commitment and learning the same information has been so helpful for both of us. Last weekend, when I struggled to understand a component of the ‘fall factor’ equation in my reading, Alex and I were able to talk through it and we both better understand the concept for it. (Although, looking now at that Wikipedia article, I could have answered my own question immediately!) And practicing our climbing techniques and commands with the person who will be our primary climbing partner is really great – we’re already becoming familiar with each other’s styles and preferences. But most students don’t take this class with a significant other; we are definitely the outlier.

If you plan on taking Basic Mountaineering School with the Colorado Mountain Club’s Denver Chapter - just know, it’s even more of a significant time commitment than initially presented on the schedule or website, especially in the first weeks/month. Despite the stress and lack of free time, to me, it’s worth it to have a super-busy 4-6 weeks to gain valuable skills that are already opening new trails in the mountains to me.