Three years ago I was introduced to the South Platte of Colorado with a trip out to climb in the magical Cathedral Spires. The trip began by dropping onto the rural road that follows the west arm of the Platte River. I knew then that this was a special kind of place. The narrow road winds around dilapidated cabins built on boulders of solid rock foundation, and hugs the river mimicking the flow of its every bend. Hillsides rise steeply from the edges of the pair positioned at the base of the narrow valley, and bold granite formations stand like castles at the tops of those hills. Within an hour we were out of the city and parking at the base of a sandy trail scratched into the sediment and leading what seemed to be straight up the hill to the most grand of the castles in the neighborhood – the ever glowing Cynical Pinnacle. Summiting the pinnacle on that day encompassed all that keeps me coming back to my climbing shoes and harness – staggering views, bad-ass crack climbing and a good friend to share it with. After battling a few hard-nosed pitches we spun circles atop our castle taking mental images of one of the most beautiful panoramic scenes in my personal collection.
That first trip to the spires we climbed the ultra classic “Wunch’s dihedral.” Last year, my friend Rob Kepley and I climbed what must be one of the best un-sung finger cracks in the state on the Bishop. A few months ago, I joined a new friend Mike Morin to sample the out of this world slab climbing on the infamous Dome. Classic after classic the Cathedral spires grew to be my favorite retreat on the Front Range.
Since the first time I thumbed through Jason Haas’s guide to the area I have had my eye on the all-but-forgotten aid climb, “Buffaloes in Space.” In October, I finally made it out to take a closer look at the un- free climbed line on the Cynical Pinnacle – a clean, steep headwall marked by technical crack climbing and laser cut edges. The line fit in with its neighbors perfectly, and turned out to be another ridiculously good rock climb on one of the proudest pieces of rock on the Front Range.
The following months were spent daydreaming about that hidden gem tucked away from common views on the north side of the pinnacle. Most of my early efforts were spent dangling from a static line working out the technical sequences solo. With a final exam in pathophysiology approaching, progress on the route was slow. Snow started to fall and the climbs shaded nature had me begging for a few warm days. After final exams and the holidays had passed I was given exactly what I asked for – blue skies!
In the end it was a few good friends and the extra energy they brought that made the difference. Two short winter days of attempts with help from Dave Vuono and Joe Mills to stay psyched and some afternoon sun made it happen. On my second try of that second day it all felt just right and I was able to snag the first free ascent on one of the sweetest pieces of rock I have ever climbed on.
The free line breaks left away from the original aid seam high on the headwall climbing through endurance testing edges and side pulls (originally an Andy Donson vision).
Climbing in the spires has always felt a little more raw than what most of Colorado’s cragging has to offer. “Buffaloes in space” packs all the necessary ingredients to be the “route to do” for those looking for a little extra challenge with all the familiar qualities of a classic Cathedral Spires climb. I wont forget it any time soon.