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New Garden of the Gods Sign Explains the Mysteries of Climbing

Rock climbing is a mystery, a complete and total mystery to most of the American public. The average tourist can watch climbers, see the foot and hand techniques, the rope work, the gear, and still not have an elementary grasp of climbing.

To flatlanders, those land-locked folks from Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Florida, and Illinois that I encounter at the Garden of the Gods, climbing is a mystery. A group can be standing on the paved footpath that encircles the central Garden zone, watching climbers edging up the vertical sandstone faces, clipping the rope into fixed pitons, anchoring into bolts on tiny ledges, and still not understand how climbing is done, let alone know the answer to that enigmatic question: Why?

To answer the questions posed by millions of visitors to the Garden of the Gods, the Colorado Springs parks department has finally installed a sign that explains how the rope gets up there, how climbers help preserve the rock resource, and the "Tools of the Trade," which explains the arcane equipment that climbers use for safe ascents.

The sign has been in process for several years, which began when park ranger Wes Herman proposed it and then got together with Brian Shelton and me to talk about what should be on the sign. He wrote the copy and Brian and I edited it for accuracy.

Then I shot the photos for the sign, going out for an afternoon with Isaac Hamilton and CJ Sidebottom, who posed as expert models. Isaac was a particularly good sport, taking a dozen leader falls for me to click the right photograph.

I went out to the Garden of the Gods for a snowy birthday walk in early February and found that the sign has finally been installed at an overlook below the west face of North Gateway Rock.

So, if you have any questions about climbing and how the heck we get the ropes up (no, it's not with trained pigeons), then the new sign will help you understand the mysteries of climbing...

Below: Stewart Green and the new climbing sign at the Garden of the Gods below the west face of North Gateway Rock, Colorado.


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