The Tiger Cliff: An Elusive Wall Pioneered in the Heart of the Rockies.

David Fay getting into the crux of Amba 5.12 Photo Credit by Justin Talbot

David Fay getting into the crux of Amba 5.12 Photo Credit by Justin Talbot

There is a saying around Leadville that if it weren’t for just one thing each climbing area would be world class. For example if the routes at Granite were longer than 15 ft, it would be mega-classic. Or if the Cecilville Slab was 10° past vertical, instead of 10° less than vertical it would be spectacular. Well this past summer a small band of tigers may just have defeated the paradigm.

 

With the knowledge and assistance of local developers Justin Talbot and Rob Dillion, Chris Barlow, Becca Shild, Matt Zia and I set off for what was soon to be dubbed The Tiger Cliff. We rendezvoused at the High Mountain Institute enveloped in clouds, unsure of our decision to continue. After hiking past Timberline Lake in search of the rumored wall, blue skies assured us we had made the right call. Basking in sunlight Chris and Becca found a moderate route to the rim so they could drop in on the king ling—the longest and most improbable line linking incipient cracks between black and tan streaks.

 

David Fay on the FA of The Gold Card, Matt Zia in the foreground Photo Hannah Trim

David Fay on the FA of The Gold Card, Matt Zia in the foreground Photo Hannah Trim

Meanwhile I began picking my way up the obvious left leaning crack splitting the face. Bulletproof rock, bomber gear and wonderful movement brought me to sloping ledge below a clean, blank dihedral. After moving into this dihedral and retreating, I opted to follow the positive features out left. I took my time, enjoying each move and each moment as I climbed upwards through the roof to the top. Matt followed this pitch helping to establish The Gold Card Indirect ground up.

 

After touching back down I found out that Chris had put in three bolts just to the right of The Gold Card. Becca and Chris had rehearsed the moves on this route and were moving on to try the moves on the king line (later to be dubbed Amba after the great African tigers). Liking rock climbing how I do, I was jonesing and couldn’t sit still. I wanted to be the first person to lead something else. After pressuring Chris  he let me get on the mixed line he had bolted. I flowed through the lower sections only to fall on the last hard move. I offered Chris a belay—out of generosity and so that I could be on the first ascent team. He tied in and climbed through the lower crux moving on to place some tricky gear in overhanging terrain. After resting at the jugs, Chris committed to the redpoint crux, moving smoothly up to the anchor.

 

David Fay entering the crux on the FA of The Gold Card. Photo Hannah Trim

David Fay entering the crux on the FA of The Gold Card. Photo Hannah Trim

On the hike out, our small band of tigers began brainstorming CC related route names. ‘8th Block’ would have to be real easy. ‘Block Break’ would describe a precarious rock on the route. ‘8th Block Break’ would be pure fun, lifestyle edition. Chris came up with a good one—and the name of his route—‘Respect Your Elders’.

 

Combining stunning scenery, a range of difficulties and consistent quality, Tiger Cliff stands against the Leadville paradigm as a premier Colorado climbing area.

 

The Gold Card Indirect 5.11- FA David Fay

The Gold Card Direct 5.12- FA David Fay

Amba 5.12 First Ascent Chris Barlow, 2nd Ascent David Fay

Respect Your Elders 5.12-  First Ascent Chris Barlow

David Fay on the FA of The Gold Card. Photo Hannah Trim

David Fay on the FA of The Gold Card. Photo Hannah Trim