Golden Hour: Eldorado Canyon

Golden Hour: Eldorado Canyon

I visited Eldorado Canyon for the first time, about 20 years ago. The style of climbing in ‘Eldo’ is not everyone’s cup of tea—it is an acquired taste; you either love it or you hate it. I instantly fell in love with it and as a result consider it a sacred place. Located a short drive from downtown Boulder, CO it’s a climber’s dream. As you enter you are abruptly surrounded by towering sandstone formations on both sides. Walls are streaked with vibrant swaths of green and yellow lichen and Redgarden Wall, the canyon’s centerpiece, towers overhead like an NYC skyscraper. Directly across the canyon on the other side of South Boulder creek is the slightly smaller formation called the Bastille, a destination to escape the scorching summertime temps, since it faces mostly north.  

If you’re looking for a sport climbing clip-up you may want to skip this area and head over to nearby Boulder Canyon. The holds and edges are sometimes unusual and face the wrong direction! The gear, or sometimes lack thereof, can be quite challenging to place and requires skill and finesse. I’ve heard of 5.13 sport climbers being nearly shutdown on 9+/10a gear routes because of their runout nature. The climbing in Eldo has been described as 'Mad dashes between good stances'. Even the bolted routes can sometimes be quite heady and require mental stamina. 

I began to photograph climbers in 2009 using an inexpensive point-n-shoot camera. I soon realized my passion for it was growing, so I invested in a DSLR body with interchangeable lenses. I’m always looking for new opportunities and different angles to photograph. Capturing the right shot can be challenging at times, but being been a climber for over 20 years has helped immensely when rigging and ascending ropes. That experience often enables me to get right on top of the action. I can usually accomplish what I want with one medium telephoto lens, one wide angle lens, and decades of climbing experience.

The bright greenish-yellow against the red sandstone makes Eldorado Canyon one of the more photogenic climbing areas in the front range of Colorado.  Late day sun is hard to beat as much of the canyon walls face south and west—The Golden Hour.  Just as the sun is about to drop below the horizon, the walls will glow a brilliant orange and if you’re lucky and shooting in the right direction, you can have the snow-capped mountains in the Indian Peaks wilderness as a backdrop.  When a climber on a classic run out route is thrown into the mix, you may walk away with something truly special. 


Climber and photographer originally from North Carolina, living out west since 1995 and currently residing in Westminster, CO