Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Rifle Canyon, Colorado is home to some of the most popular limestone routes in North America. Early this morning, reports emerged from the Rifle Climbers’ Coalition (RCC) that bolts throughout the canyon had been mysteriously chopped in the night.
“They’re almost entirely gone,” lamented Charles Green, long-time climber and a board of director of the RCC. “The only routes left intact are a few one-star 5.9s in the Sno-Cone Cave.” The Sno-Cone Cave is notoriously glossy and where one climber allegedly contracted hantaviruses last year.
Early routes in Rifle Canyon were established in the mid 1980s. The canyon has since blossomed into a mecca of some of the hardest lines in North America, infamous for their incut pockets and awkward, blocky features. Although in an interview, Adam Ondra called the Canyon “chossy,” it remains a bookmarked destination for many international climbers.
“I just don’t know who would have done this,” Green said. “This place is so special. Why would anyone want to desecrate it?”
The RCC has reached out to the city of Rifle, who owns the Canyon, to form an action plan. While the city has yet to respond, restoration will presumably take place in the coming months. According to Green, expect to see a Rifle Canyon GoFundMe page up soon to front the cost of replacing hardware. The RCC will need to raise $5,000 in its first round of fundraising, to get the classics back up by early spring.
Locals are understandably distraught. Brad Carter, 41, has been frequenting the crag since he discovered climbing in his 20s. “I was definitely going to send Bottom Feeder this upcoming season,” he said. Bottom Feeder is a 2.5-star 5.11b on the Project Wall. “I’ve been so close the past five years… But this was totally going to be my year,” he added.
An investigation into suspects has only just begun, but locals were quick to voice their opinions. Carter’s girlfriend, Bonita Naef, pointed to a newly formed Facebook group, The Crusty Trad Dads. “Those guys are obviously sick of being made fun of by all of us sport climbers. We should have seen this coming,” she said.
Thomas Adams, another local, suspects it goes deeper. “The government wants climbers out of the canyon so that they can start testing classified equipment. The timing makes sense, since the Covid-19 vaccines will turn everyone into zombies. Rifle Canyon is the perfect site to test out wall-scaling appliances.” Adams was also quick to note that he’s not getting a vaccine, so he’ll keep an eye on the canyon for suspicious activity.
Stay tuned for updates on the RCC’s re-bolting initiatives and a link to the GoFundMe page.