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10 Routes in Rifle
While driving out of Rifle Mountain Park for the last time I look back at the canyon and my first trip to Rifle. This was my first experience living in this beautiful place— Two miles of cliffline on both sides, a creek parallels the winding road through the middle. The creek offers a constant stream of cold water, a subtle white noise, and a place to clean the chalk caked between your fingers and tape residue sticking to your legs.
The climbing is a crazy combination of technically dancing your feet through small and often greasy edges, while also powerfully squeezing pinches, sidepulls and odd meat-hooks.
It’s an easy place to be focused: access is easy, there is no phone service, nowhere to hide. In fact to climb well here you have to be focused, the minute you step off the ground its game on.
Experience is often predicated by expectations. I came into this trip with the expectation that the climbing was going to be really difficult, that I would need time to understand the style, and build the fitness. My earliest memories of Rifle came from an 2008 article in Climbing Magazine named ‘The Big D’. I was 14 years old when that article came out, I was obsessed with upside-down double knee-bars and crazy block features. Based on that article I set a goal of climbing ten routes 13d or harder during my six week stay in Rifle.
Pet Cemetery 13d-
Most people run to the classics when they first arrive in a new area, not me… My friend Joe, a seasonal Rifle resident hadn’t done this one, so we got to work cleaning and finding a sequence through scoops and roofs.
Quite different than the above route, this is a bonafide classic. A must do 13d in a land of must do 13d’s. When I arrived I asked friends for beta and was quickly run down with every hold, move and body position. This is what I learned most in Rifle, beta is CLUTCH.
Cracked Open Sky 13d-
Four bolts of hard bouldering, followed by a no-hands-upside-down-double-kneebar. Yeah, you read that write… this is Rifle. Joe has been trying a hard project that shares the start. Swapping leads with one of my climbing heros was special, his hard work and tenacity set a pace for my whole trip.
Waka Flocka 14a/b-
A classic at the Project wall, 35 feet of power endurance bouldering to a big jug. What follows is what I call “super duper hard if you don’t know it” or “if you know it, just don’t mess it up.” After learning the all the moves, I focused in on the lower boulder. A series of underclings takes you to punchy moves getting to the jug. I dialed this by climbing this section, lowering and repeating with limited rest. For me, this was the least Rifle route I did, the consistent hard pulling reminded me of the Red.
Living in Fear 13d-
NON-STOP STUNTING. This route tackles 60 feet of pure rock climbing, it offers very few opportunities of forearm relief. The minute you step off the ground the clock starts, at about 40 feet you have an angled shelf, here you can pretend to recover before launching off for the upper section. I learned just because you CAN stop and shake out, doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.
Living the Dream 14a-
Climb 80% of Living in Fear, but then break right for more hard sections and some soul searching through the upper technical headwall. Living in Fear took me four tries, but once I learned the Dream section it took me more tries to get back through the Fear section- talk about a mental game.
Roadside Prophet 14a-
A couple days before doing this one I fell at the last bolt, 120 feet off the deck, forearms bricked, and more sweat then I could handle. I took a rest day, and jokingly (seriously) told some friends that I wanted to send ‘Living the Dream’ and this one on the same day. I knew it was very possible, but also climbing two 120ft 5.14 routes is a heavy task. I climbed ‘Living the Dream’ that morning, took a mid day nap and ate a bunch of snacks, that evening I climbed ‘Roadside Prophet.’ Biggest lesson here- take naps and eat tons of snacks.
My favorite route in Rifle. A 15 year old Chris Sharma climbed the first ascent in 1996, if you haven’t seen the OG send footie, you’re absolutely welcome.
On my 5th try, I made it through the middle crux for the first time and was SO pumped at the last rest. Looking ahead I knew I had just a couple more hard moves before the anchors. Being at the slopey rest, I realized I was WAY too pumped to climb the final redpoint crux. In my head I told myself I would fall, but I decided to fight the mental battle and try to recover. I shook out until I started feeling a little more gas in my arms. After a couple grunts I clipped those two chains. I really learned to not let my head get in the way of myself, I realized I need to be confident, be patient and just try hard regardless of what might happen. I’m incredibly proud of climbing this route, especially in only 5 tries.
I went bolt to bolt learning the moves, being tactical, being smart. Once at the upper roof, I realized there was a large tongue hold that required a technical kneebar. I wasn’t wearing a pad and so I just pulled passed the move. I tied in for my second try, put a pad on and started the adventure. I made it through the first boulder, past the 2nd awkward scoop and found myself at the top. Pumped with the moves unprepared/undone, is not a good combo. I fell. I was frustrated with my lack of tactics, but climbed the route quickly after. Moral of the story, ignore Allen Iverson, practice is important.
Tomb Raider 13d-
Doing nine 13d’s wasn’t that cool, so I picked one that people said I would do fast…