Saturday, May 3, 2014


Olaf Mitchell on "Local Motions" at Morrison, Co. Photo by Brian Miquelan

By Olaf Mitchell

I started bouldering at Morrison in 1974 according to my journal from that period in history.

I was bouldering at the rocks on North Turkey Creek Road one day and I ran into Art Higbee.  Art had never been to the North Turkey Creek area before and he asked if I would show him around. He cruised everything that I showed him and thoroughly enjoyed the climbing there. After our session he suggested that I check out the bouldering at this place on the hogback at Morrison, Colorado that he and Dave “The Kid” Breasheares had been bouldering at.

Even back then there was a strong contingent of local regulars. Clay Sanford, Robert Anderson and a couple of other guys that I can still see their faces but names escape me at the moment.

After I found Morrison, I realized its potential as a tool to develop the power and endurance necessary to move up to the next level in my Eldorado climbing, so, I started bouldering there almost every day.
There was also a contingent strong and very talented climbers from Boulder that came down every now and then, usually, when it was too cold and snowy at Flagstaff. Jim Holloway, and Jim Michaels, were among that group of early pioneers. Dave Breasheares would boulder with us quite often along with Steve Mammon.

When I came on the Morrison scene much of “The Lobby” aka “Main Hangs” had been established already.  Breasheares had put up the classic main roof problem in the “Black Hole” area.

The south side aka “The Dark Side” had already been explored and most of those plumbs like the popular “Breasheares Crack” had been done by Dave and company already.   

Season after season ,I bouldered at Morrison on an almost daily basis.  I got pretty darn strong and mastered quite a few of the sequences. Some of them I am quite sure that I personally did the first ascent of, and many of the link ups as well.  

I was fortunate in that I got to boulder with a lot of great climbers at Morrison.  Many of them became my actual climbing partners and lifelong friends. 

Over the years many strong and innovative people came and went and each of them left their mark, ether by a new link up,  elimination or an altogether new line that had somehow been over looked.

Dan Stone a local Denver high school student with a gymnastics back ground showed up at Morrison one day and created “Magnum Force”.  This opened up a lot of possibilities for links and variations in that area of Morrison.

I started excavating what I called “The Cockpit”.  I understand it has evolved even more through the years.

The Reed brothers (Maurice and Doug) from Mississippi came on the scene and showed us all another level of talent with their endurance and sheer power.
It was about that time that Noel Childs a very talented local from Evergreen showed up on the scene.
The infamous Ken Trout made frequent appearances as well.
Sandy Stuart and a contingent of seasoned Swangunks veterans came around and took to the steep and strenuous roof problems with authority.
Rufus “Bam Bam” Miller moved down from Boulder and gave us a peek at the future with his unique power and level of fitness.
Annette Bunge a professor at Colorado School Of Mines along with Carol Black headed up the female contingent and from what I gather Annette still boulders at Morrison regularly.

I hesitate to keep mentioning names because there were so many that contributed and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. Let’s just say that almost everyone has frequented Morrison at one time or another.

Most of the regulars were content to keep working in the “Black Hole” and the “Wisdom Simulator” areas. I really enjoyed these areas also but I kept looking up to the next tear of massive roofs.
These routes were very steep and the quality of the rock seemed suspect at best. The use of a top rope was the only safe way to deal with these routes in my opinion.( Although later some of these routes were eventually wired and soloed.)
The first of the upper routes that I put up was “Hogback Momma” which turned out to be a real classic. The next one was “Local Motions”. I strung the rope and Rufus agreed to belay me. I fell off on my initial try and gave Rufus a shot. Rufus was successful on his first try and I did it on my second attempt.
The next one that I did was “Museum Piece” This one went up to the right of “Local Motions” and actually incorporated the use of some casts of ancient plant matter as critical holds. Several more classic top rope problems were put up as well. The Scoop for one. That was Rufus's creation. 

We did a bunch of bouldering all along the north side and some of the most fun problems were the routes down by the road. When we first put these problems up the road was 6’-8’ lower so the climbs were quite spicy. By today’s standards they would be considered high ball. When the road was reworked due to flooding the state engineers raised its elevation considerably. The routes are still fun but much safer now.

Morrison was not only our bouldering area but it was our social world. We met our future climbing partners there. We planed our weekend climbing adventures. We exchanged bata and topos on the new routes that we did and mostly we hung out, often till way after dark.

In June of 1985 I moved into a house at the base of the bouldering area and it had a detached garage. That garage became our club house for a while. If someone was late getting home it was a good bet that they were hanging out at the club house having beers and talking about climbing after the evening bouldering sessions.  
Living at that house was really cool. You could hear the concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater clearly from the front porch. I could just grab my shoes and chalk bag and walk up the hill to the rocks for a session.

I remember one summer Noel Childs and I were working together on a construction project for Uncle Dick in Denver. We would meet at the rocks in Morrison in the cool morning and send a few problems before work. That time of year it would be too hot to boulder after work until way late in the evening. Noel didn’t especially like this schedule all that much but he did it anyway.  One of those mornings I was already going at it by the time Noel got there. I had already done a few problems that I had wired and I was doing this steep, hi-ball, sloping, semi- dyno route that I had linked up.  I called that route “Power Punk”. Well, as Noel was walking under me I greased off the last move and landed right on him. It’s lucky that he wasn’t hurt! He broke my fall and kept me from getting really hurt. The funny thing is, he didn’t even know I was above him, till I landed on him.

Some of my most memorable sessions were on windless sub- freezing winter days. Morison bouldering area  turns into a natural oven when the sun hits the rocks. We would often boulder for hours shirtless or in just a tee shirt. On those really cold days the place would get pretty crowded. We always enjoyed it because we had everything wired and we were pretty bad sandbaggers back then.

I had the moderate problems and traverses so wired that I would often boulder barefoot. One day I was doing this highball problem that I often did. It’s just to the left of the main hangs. Well this time I got griped so I decided to reverse the moves. That was a mistake because this overwhelming since of insecurity came over me. I was bare foot and getting really pumped. I yelled down to Noel and Chip Wilson that I was going to come off and would they please gather all the packs they could find and place them under me.  They did what I asked and gathered quite a few then I let go. I landed bare foot and their pack placements were spot on. I was embarrassed but unscathed. That was probably the first time a crash pad was used at Morrison.

We used to go over to the Morrison Inn after bouldering to have a few pints of draft beer or margaritas. On several occasions our brand humor wasn’t appreciated by the management and we were asked to leave. After a while they always let us back in. I remember one particular time the manager came over to us and asked why we hadn’t been in for so long. We said, “That’s because you kicked us out! Don’t you remember?” He said that was only for a while so behave your selves!”  We were pretty rowdy back in those days!

Some of the people that I remember hanging out with us at Morrison were:                                             Noel Childs, Tom Brassel, Annett Bunge, Christian Griffith, Eric Weinstein, Dan Stone, Scott Woodruff, Buc Taylor, Carol Black, Steve Morris, Sandy Stuart, Rufus Miller, Pat Peddy, Jerry Rock,  David Breasheares, Maurice Reed, Doug Reed, Tarris Skibeki, Mike Lane, Ken Trout, Kirk Miller, Steve Jones, Ann Lebold, Chip Wilson, Bruce Sposi, Ed Garrity, Bob Williams, Robby Baker, Rusty Kirkpatrick, Dunkin Riley, Peter Prandoni, Dan Hare, Pat Adams, Lynn Hill, Steve Matous, Jim Garber, Peter Hubble, Richard Collins, Andy Petefish, Strappo Hughes, Deek Cook, Bud Liest, Brent Bingham, Dave Twinam, Andy Phillips, Allen Hill, Dale Goddard, Steve Mamman, Charlie Fowler, Bob Horan, Tom Kelly, Bill Myers, Allen Lester, Mike Storeim,  Henry Lester, Mike Brooks, “Clean” Dan Grandowsky, Mark Rolofson, Mark Sonnefield, Bob D’Antonio, Brett Bristle, John Durr, Bruce Morris, Dave Bell, Harvey Miller, Bill Figus, Lee Marsh, Chip Chase, Dan Michaels, Kyle Coplin, Chip Rutgrober, Skip Gairn, Rob Bower, Jane Constantino, Mike Bearzi, and Catharine Freer,
Olaf Mitchell  at Morrison, Co, Photo by Henry Lester

Duncan Riley at Morrison, Photo by Olaf Mitchell