Amphitheater Ascent

The Amphitheatre is a large cirque just south of Ouray. It makes for a large steep fortress of spires, cliffs and canyons that rise for about 3,000 ft. This is not a place for rock climbing, but mountaineering adventures. The rock (some type of welded tuff / volcanic ash) is terrible and gets worse the higher you go. The rock offers little in the way of cracks or protection. The wall is a geographic maze perched at a steep angle. There are likely hundreds of variations and hundreds of dead ends ascending the wall. I made a few phone calls to get information about this area, but not many people have actually completed successful ascents. Both winter and summer conditions provide their own sets of obstacles. There is a way up through the amphitheatre that apparently requires only a little scrambling. I don’t have information as of writing, but perhaps in a later version of this guidebook. Below is a description of a route I completed with Alan Cook that took us about 9 hrs. with a shuttle on either side. Be prepared for lots of scrambling on loose rock, more loose rock, dirt, forest, snow, waterfalls, and mud on 4th and easy 5th class terrain. Sounds good doesn’t it? Notice I didn’t mention solid rock?

Directions: Head south out of Ouray on Hwy 550. Go left at the sign for the Amphitheatre. Turn right at the first dirt road. You’ll want a reasonable amount of clearance to get up this road. Stay on the primary track until it ends at the base of the Amphitheatre wall. There are not many turn offs so there’s not much opportunity to get lost. You adventure begins in the river/stream below the end of the road. Suggested Gear: This is a pretty grey area due to changing conditions, but here some ideas. 60m 7mm or 8mm rope, half a dozen slings or quickdraws, cordelette or two, a small set of stoppers, tri-cams work well (not TCU’s), pitons work great, rain jacket, helmet, and a cell phone for a pick up at Bear Creek Trailhead.

Note: The amphitheatre would be a very difficult area to get rescued from. Maybe consider some sort of

helicopter insurance coverage if this is something that might concern you.


Extended Crossfit Workout Route #666 (7, 1,000m)

See the photo for reference.

1. Ascend the riverbed through piles of jumbled boulders and small waterfalls. Mostly 4th class with

the occasional boulder problem—get it? Hee hee!

2. A giant chockstone and waterfall blocks progress. A crack and fixed ropes on the left side of the canyon lead to a ledge. Bolts and a fix rope lead across the ledge, over an exposed step And to the top of the waterfall.

3. You’re now in a slot canyon and another waterfall blocks progress. Climb the right wall past a couple pins and bolts to the top of the waterfall. This section is loose ,steep and a little spicy. An experienced climber should be able to climb this in approach shoes. It maybe feels like 5.7 or 5.8 in approach shoes. Tri-cams work well for additional protection here (brown and red).

4. A small snowfield is the next marker. We were able to exit the snowfield via a snow bridge. The snowfield was about 60 ft. thick in mid-summer conditions during our ascent. If there is no snow bridge, either climb the waterfall, or it looks possible to traverse exposed slabs on the left.

5. A waterfall forces you to go right, cut back left to the top of the waterfall. Another waterfall blocks further progress. Ascend the wall to the right. The top bit is steep and loose. We cut back right some below the headwall and set up a belay on a small tree to overcome this section (5.4 R/X). Above is steep forest.

6. Ascend the ridgeline in the forest eventually working left back into the main drainage. It seems as there would be several options here as the drainage splits in several directions. We chose a 1,000 ft. snow couloir heading up and right.

7. Kick steps up the snow couloir.  Do your best to breath in the thinning air.

8. Once the snow ends, claw your way up dirt and mud to a false summit. There was about 3 options above this section. We chose the leftmost up an easy but terribly loose gully.

9. The ridgeline! Steep choss prohibits going any direction but down the other side. Down climb loose gully, with some snow, following the stream. You’ll need to wander around various and constant obstacles.

Descent out Bear Creek: Once down the hillside, follow the river downstream moving left onto game trails just before the river joins the drainage for Bear Creek. The river goes over a big waterfall before joining Bear Creek. Go left over the ridgeline into a big grassy slope. Continue downhill to the Bear Creek Trail. Follow this back to Hwy 550 which is a couple miles away.

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