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Rock Climbing Questions from Tourists at the Garden of the Gods

Tourists watch climbers on White Twin Spire in The Gateway at the Garden of the Gods on a busy summer afternoon. Photo @ Stewart M. Green

One of the chapters in a book of climbing stories, tentatively called Life on the Edge, I've been writing is called "Fear of Heights." It's about tourists and climbing esoterica at the Garden of the Gods, called one of the best city parks in the world. The Garden, one of America's oldest technical rock climbing areas, has over five-million visitors annually now, many of them from the flatlands of Kansas or Texas where the tallest mountain is a grain silo.

Anyone who regularly climbs at the Garden of the Gods. one of Colorado's most popular natural attractions, becomes an expert at answering tourist questions. Here's a brief dialogue from the chapter and a photo of a busy summer weekend below White Twin Spire:

“How do you get the rope up there?” asks the nice man from Toledo, Ohio. “We climb the rock.” “Oh, I wouldn’t want to do that,” says his buxom wife. “Does it break your nails?” “No, I chew mine down.” “Well, I’m glad you’re doing it,” the man wheezes, “so we can watch.” His five-year-old son wanders over to a boulder and touches the sandstone. “You get back over here now. Don’t you be climbing that rock.” It’s Labor Day weekend. Lots of tourists are milling as I sit on a rock wall below Red and White. My friends Mike and Allie are climbing the South Ridge of White. A white man, thirtyish and clad in a white t-shirt that says KCVU on the back, checkered shorts, and tennis shoes, is trying to climb on the base of Red Twin Spire in white Nikes. He says to his young son watching him. “Daddy’s thinking about climbing.” The kid says, “I don’t know how you’re going to get down.” “Oh my goodness, don’t do anything to get hurt,” says his chubby wife. “Daddy? Can I climb the rock?” asks the boy. “When I get down.” A slender woman walks by and looks up at Mike placing a cam. “Oooh, look at that.” Then a man with a stout paunch filling a gray t-shirt, sits down next to me, “Ya going up or coming down?”

Children clamber around a belayer and an expert explains the details of climbing to his wife. Photo @ Stewart M. Green

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