Gold Butte for climbers, not Gold Hill
August 14, 2009
The climbing area that Pitkin County might purchase (Aspen Times, Aug. 11) is called Gold Butte, not Gold Hill. It is the continuation of Red Butte on the north side of the Roaring Fork River. Photos No. 14A and 15B in Nick Lampiris’s 1980 book “Aspen High Country, the Geology” show the crag in its entirety.
During the summer and fall of 1964, I worked on a ski-trail cutting crew with Harvey T Carter, who was on the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol from 1956 to 1978. He was then 34 years old, and I was only 22. Harvey had been putting up first-ascent routes since he was a teenager in Colorado Springs. His career as a desert rock-climber was just beginning. I was strong enough and had enough talent to be invited to and share guidebook credit for one, and only one, of his first ascents in Bjornstad’s Desert Rock. Between 1964 and about 1980, he went on to bag more major first ascents in the Fisher Towers area than anyone.
How do musicians get to Carnegie Hall? They practice and practice. Good climbers get that way through dedication. Harvey and I would go to Gold Butte as soon as our vehicles descended the Summer Road to a gravel parking lot now occupied by the Little Nell Hotel. Starting on the east side of Gold Butte and going around the prow, he named the earliest routes Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Mo. The prow of Gold Butte that continues almost down to the river was called Dusty Ridge. “Mo” was a 5.8 chimney in the ’60s. Some time between 1965 and 1971 – I had left Aspen for six years – the south half of the chimney had peeled off in one piece, leaving the scar noted by Lampiris for his photo No. 15B.
I urge the county to purchase the land. Roped climbing at practice areas like Gold Butte is very safe. The routes are just high enough and hard enough to make novices pay attention. The crag is small enough for climbers to walk around either end of it to start a different route. The routes were established 40 years ago and are kept clean by high traffic. It’s less than 100 yards from the McLain Flats Road.
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