All that Noise: A Summertime Rant from Estes Park

A party on the Upper Great Face, seen from atop the Lower Great Face at The Crags, Estes Park.

A climber on the Upper Great Face, seen from atop the Lower Great Face. The Crags, Estes Park.

Audibly, I suppose today in Estes Park was like any other here in summer, with blaring sirens, incessant noise pollution from everybody with a compensatory complex and a Kid Rock fantasy (giving double meaning to the term “hog”), and, of course, the town’s summertime mating call: car alarms. As climbers, however, we can usually get away from such obnoxiousness. At least some of it.

I love climbing for a lot of reasons, including the silence. There’s silence like the absence of human noise, replaced by the sounds of birds and the wind. It enhances another silence, an invaluable silence: the quiet in my head while climbing. The greater experience of climbing, of course, extends far beyond the physical. After all, I can do cool moves in a climbing gym, which I enjoy and do regularly, but getting outside, away from the road, is different. I tend to think that climbers who venture beyond the trailheads share these values. It often lends itself to an immediate connection, knowing you’re there for the same reasons. That very thing happened today, in fact, up high at The Crags. We’d done some climbing, saw another party across the way, enjoyed a friendly chat, then the afternoon storms came. They headed home while we waited out the rain, and then began hiking toward a sub-section called Wizard’s Gate. It has terrific climbing, and, with a 45-minute approach, a great vibe with glorious views. One of my favorite summer spots in Estes.

As we rounded the corner, we heard something different, another party. Orgasmic-sounding grunts from her. Loud “Yeah, fuck yeah!” repeating from him. My climbing partner and I exchanged puzzled, bizarre looks. Then they came into view: they were in the cave area, which probably magnified their sounds. No, they weren’t fucking. She was climbing. Trying hard (which is rad, of course – there’s my obligatory nice statement), with him completely unaware, it would seem, of his location or of even the slightest possibility that anybody but them might be trying to enjoy the day within, oh, like a couple of miles. Maybe Rifle was closed for the weekend, I don’t know. She kept going, kept trying. He kept bellowing. Like, top of his lungs bellowing, “Fuck yeah, you got his! Breathe, breathe, you own this, it’s all you,” “You’ve earned this, relax, yeah, get it back, FUCK YEAH!” and, my personal favorite from the day: “Stay positive, you’re here for the right reasons – to fucking crush this thing!”

Hey, I’m all for encouragement. But when you’re out there, just so you’re not the climbing version of the jackweeds on their obnoxious Harleys, I’ll offer some advice: Maybe think about fucking crushing the silence button. Just a little bit. Not meaning destroy the silence, no, definitely not that. I mean “crushing” in the annoying parlance of our (climber) times.

Anyway, so then, finally, we heard her first words: “Fuck. Let me down.” She was close, good effort. Maybe next time. A blissful silence followed as she lowered and they made out at the base (I’m not making this up), and once again I could hear the birds singing. Ahh, so nice. For a couple of seconds, anyway, until they were drowned out by douchebag Neanderthals in pirate costumes roaring through in the valley below, advertising their diminutive manhood to the world.

Who, I wonder, wants to be like that?

On days like this, autumn can’t come soon enough.

13 thoughts on “All that Noise: A Summertime Rant from Estes Park

  1. Very good rant. Knowing when you can spout out obscenities and when it’s not the right time is tough. Luckily in MT we rarely have other climbers with in 30 miles of us. 🙂

    • thanks! ranting seems to be a specialty at times; though i’d been out of practice for a bit, glad to hear i might not have lost too much. yeah, i hear you on the obscenities. as one who curses regularly, in the cases i was ranting about it certainly wasn’t the f-bombs that fuckin’ bothered me so much. it was the volume, the goddamned noise pollution, which is particularly obnoxious when you’re out in an otherwise tranquil setting. ick.
      i know what you’re saying about good ol’ montucky — love it up there. it’s where i learned to climb, in fact, back in the 90s when i lived in missoula. some of the best times of my life have been climbing in the bitterroot, glacier, and hyalite. man, you’ve got it good up there — and quiet!

      • Ok, bare with me. I grew up in a very conservative christian home and probably didn’t really start swearing till high school. Which I think is pretty normal for kids. But the tough part is that coming home, I would not swear at all. Always knowing who you’re around and what’s ok and what isn’t is tough. Especially when it comes to a quick reaction followed by an obscenity. I still climb with my Dad and in order for me to yell out a FUCK, something REALLY bad has to have happened. eg, He knocked a boulder loose above me 6 pitches up the NE ridge of Bugaboo and it nearly took my head off but, thank goodness, only broke my foot. I swore and swore and swore. HAHA!! It was funny cuz I would keep apologizing to my dad and he just kept saying it was ok. He understood. It’s all about knowing your surroundings. If I’m in the gym, no swearing. If I’m outside, it depends on who I’m with and who’s around me. Sometimes I’ll even bring out the music. Unless there are others, then I leave the music in the bag.
        Also, Dude, you gotta come up to try out some of the new routes that are being put in just north of Whitefish. A guide book is being published next year but if you just go into RMO in Kalispell. They can help you out. Or just email me. Tons of potential too for some very hard, stellar routes. The area is called Point Of Rocks.
        Keep on keeping on!!! Cheers!

  2. hey kelly, my buddy and i were the ones you talked to on the upper great face! Glad we didn’t have to deal with the screaming couple. Nice meeting you. Is the picture at the top of the article from that day?

    • hey greg! thanks for the note, and nice meeting you guys. yeah, that’s you (i think you climbed that pitch first?) in the photo. i’ll email it to ya. indeed, notwithstanding the obnoxious shouts, was a wonderful day. i love it up there.

      • Kelly,
        The rant definitely made me laugh out loud, especially since (and I’m not embellishing here) after hearing a particularly loud Harley roll through Greg quipped in response, “How small is your penis?”.
        Thanks for the pics, Greg fwded on the 2 you sent to him.
        Great running into y’all,

      • thanks, brent, great running into you two as well. that’s classic about greg’s quip with the harley! guess it’s fairly obvious, no?

  3. Hey Kelly,

    Nothing like a good rant to keep the mind limber. Yours reminds me of times I worked in Yosemite Valley in the Medical Clinic as a PA. I hadn’t ever been to Yose in the summer and was at first confounded, then angry and finally downtrodden and depressed at the Calcutta-like experience. Couldn’t go a few minutes without hearing someone hitting the alarm key for their car which then emits a horn blast to let all know the car is locked and alarmed. And I was always impressed at the kindness of strangers playing music on their car stereo for others at the campground. During one stint of shifts up there, it was wretchedly hot during the day, over 100 degrees. There would be only mild relief come nightfall. I recall once leaving the Ahwahnee bar late after a long, busy shift in the clinic. A night thick with warm air, it was also blessedly quiet as everything had seemed to go underground. I swung my leg over my bike and pedaled down the road from that fancy hotel and swung onto the path leading towards the employee housing. There were no street lights on the path and it was shrouded in trees and there was no moon. The night seemed to swallow my bike’s headlamp, and I could see little beyond the front tire. Occasionally, a break in the trees allowed in enough light to see the way. But for those few moments, the valley had turned back the clock and was empty of people like it was hundreds of years ago. I slowed my pace and coasted, as much for fear of riding into a furry face full of bear or a block of granite and becoming a patient in my own clinic as I did to savor the quiet and let it draw out, knowing the rarity of this experience in the summer. I’d spent time there in the winter as snow fell and carpeted the valley so that one could nordic ski the roads when no cars could drive them. I didn’t think I’d find that stillness in summer, but Yose surprised me.

    Anyways, always enjoy your writing. Hoping to catch more in the future.


    • right-on, dave, and thank you for the glimpse into beautiful and, unfortunately, it seems, rare experiences in yosemite. what a great description. thanks for that! take care, kelly

  4. All thru my first 18 years living in Estes Park I looked and dreamed of climbing in The Crags but was busy with Lumpy & the high peaks. I had only made one early excursion up there and was overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the area. Then around 2005 hooked up with local legend, author, and developer of over 50 of the routes in The Crags, Scott Kimball and together we made a half dozen outings up there. See his Rock & Ice magazine “Endless Weekend” article/topo. Over the next few years I added another dozen visits. The echo & cacophony from Harley’s on Hwy 7 might make you mentally puke, but I agree that ‘sex bellowing’ your way up a rock route seems a bit neanderthal if not unproductive. But the Wizards Gate is “front-country”, which makes it easy access. Lets hope the grunting, boom-box-toting, urbanite, glam-climbers, only muster one visit and just hate that sick bushwack approach. Im glad The Crags are so expansive as it allows us all space to spread out and to feel like we’re lost in the alpine. PS: I was equally audio shocked at clearly hearing the arena announcer at the Wind River Ranch call out the rodeo on their PA-system one summer weekend. It made me grin.

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