Alyse Dietel confronts the sloper crux of Return to Sender (5.12a), a once-obscure route from the 1990s that is now a popular warm-up thanks to the addition of perma-draws, chalk and cleaning. Dave Bingham originally bolted the route, named it Cap Gun, and rated it 5.11d—though many climbers today swear that it’s 5.12b—and it sat unrepeated for years until Jeff Achey and Lee Sheftel trundled lingering choss and moved a few bolts. Still, the route was rarely climbed. Several years ago, the Rifle Climbers’ Coalition added perma-draws to spread out traffic and entice people into climbing this chossy obscurity as often as its perennially-popular next-door neighbor, Firearms (5.12a). Sure enough, the tactic worked and now Return to Sender is one of the best low-end 5.12s in the canyon, taking steep, pumpy jugs at the start and finishing with a cryptic sequence on slopey sidepulls and high feet. Photo: Christopher Beauchamp.
Eighth Day (5.13a), the first route ever attempted in Rifle Mountain Park, and one of America's greatest sport climbs. Photo: Christopher Beauchamp.
Nina Williams on Rehabilitator (5.11d), Project Wall. Photo: Philip Quade.
Belay glasses are now a common sight at sport crags, as climbers like Marcus Garcia, a longtime Rifle climber who doesn't know the word quit, use these facial periscopes to give their necks a break. Photo: Zach Mahone.
Nina Williams balances her way up Rumor Has It (5.11b), the first route redpointed in Rifle, and still one of the best. According to Mark Tarrant, who with Richard Wright climbed the route in 1991, “Rumor Has It” was the name of a band playing in Rifle at the time, but it fit an area that was destined to be great. Photo: Tim Foote.
There aren’t many big, tall climbers who climb really hard, but local Simon Longacre defies those gravitational boundaries by dynoing his 6’3” self through the opening boulder problem of Simply Read (5.13d)—which, by the way, is pronounced as “red,” as in, that crux was read as simply as a children’s book. Assuredly, the cryptic beta on this route is anything but child's play. Photo: Nick Zepeda.
Dave Pegg was a beloved friend, dog-parent and all-around character who did more for the Western Colorado climbing community than just about anyone else, from developing hundreds of excellent new routes, to building the strong relationship with the Rifle park officials that climbers today respect and enjoy, to writing and publishing the Rifle guidebook. Losing Dave to suicide was a blow to the community here, but his memory lives on. Nearly a hundred climbers attended the summer 2015 installation of this commemorative plaque beneath The Gayness (5.14a), Dave’s last hardest redpoint. Photo: Jeff Lewis.
Sasha DiGiulian shows off her natural strength on Steroid Power (5.11d), one of the few popular warm- ups on the Meat Wall that doesn’t have perma-draws. Fortunately, the clips are as easy to hang as the roadside crag is to approach. Rifle Creek feeds into one of Colorado’s largest trout hatcheries, situated at the mouth of the canyon. The hatchery, as well as the first two miles of cliff line, is owned and managed by the Colorado Department of Wildlife and Recreation. Alas, this stretch of prime limestone is closed to climbing. Photo: Corey Zukie.
Nina Williams tunes in to the celebrated 7 P.M. Show (5.14a), first climbed in 1996 by visiting French climber J.B. Tribout. (On the evening he sent, there was a big crowd with cameras; hence, the name). The route was originally 5.14b, but the discovery of kneebars and kneepads have brought it down to 5.14a. To date, only three women have climbed this route: Emily Harrington, Jen Bisharat and Aly Dorey. Photo: Steve Rokks.
Lee Sheftel started climbing at age 36, did his first 5.14 at age 59, and now, at 70, he continues to chuck laps on 5.13s, such as Pumporama (5.13a). Sheftel figures he's done Pumporama (5.13a), shown here, at least 100 times. This June, a few dozen climbers gathered in the park to celebrate this leading senior's 70th birthday, with chocolate cake and lots and lots of candles. Photo: Elizabeth Flournoy.
Libby Sauter gets major helmet points on Return to Sender (5.12a) in the Ruckman Cave. When she’s not clocking all-female speed records on the Nose of El Capitan, Sauter travels to war-torn or impoverished areas in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, where she works as a children’s cardiac nurse. Simply Rad. Photo: Steve Rokks.
Dietel on Return to Sender. Dietel and her mother have matching tattoos on their left shoulders that say “kekuatan," the Indonesian word for "strength,” as a tribute to a harrowing ordeal Dietel's mother endured in her early 20s when she became lost at sea for days in Indian Ocean after the motor of her fishing boat died during monsoon season. Ultimately, she and her friend, and the two hired Indonesian fishermen—having rationed peanuts and toothpaste—washed up on the shore of an island off the coast of Sumatra, mere days before their memorial service was to be held in California. Dietel says the tattoo is a daily reminder to always be strong like her mom. Photo: Alex Amundson.
Longacre continues up Simply Read (5.13d), a route recently extended by Chris Weidner to the top of the Project Wall, creating a meandering 250-foot journey dubbed Simply Redlined (5.14a). Photo: Byron Prinzmetal.
You may not have heard of Brandi Horn, but she is emblematic of the type of strong, driven adventurer you meet at crags around the world. Horn started climbing only five years ago, teaching herself to boulder. Since then, she’s changed her career path, from managing properties in the Vail valley to becoming a nurse. “I believe we should be learning and exploring our whole lives,” she says. “We have been given this one life, and this life should not become stagnant.” Here, she works out the beta on Bite The Bullet (5.13b/c). Photo: Heather Supinie.
Nathan Price on Slacker (5.12d), a 50-foot bouldery route in the Wasteland. This one might be the least pumpy upper-end 5.12 in Rifle. Photo: Irene Yee.
Sasha DiGiulian and Rumor Has It (5.11b). Photo: Jeremy Joseph.
Libby Sauter, Street Knowledge (5.12b), Ruckman Cave. Established by the duo Mike Pont and Pete Zoller, Street Knowledge, a 30-foot bouldery warm-up on juggy pockets, resides under a six-foot roof and therefore never sees a drop of rain. Incessant traffic has polished the holds into a mirror-like finish that many climbers have come to associate with Rifle. Photo: Adrienne Robinson.
Simon Longacre tries not to explode out of his knee scum on the 7 P.M. Show. Photo: Fred Berman.