Rifle over the years has become one of the most popular summer destinations in the Western United Sates. The two-mile long canyon is full of variety and a great community of climbers that gather there year after year. Many people are locals, from Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Boulder, Vail, Grand Junction and, for the most part, make for a great experience. Aside from the people, the area is beautiful, full of lush green vegetation and trees split by a crystal clear stream.

 Jon Cardwell on Bad Girls Club (9a), Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado.
Jon Cardwell on Bad Girls Club (9a), Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado.

The climbing is notoriously cryptic, with odd, blocky features. Rifle has contributed to a major piece of colorado climbing history with test pieces such as The Beast (5.13a), Slice of Life (once considered the first 5.14 in Colorado), Living in Fear (5.13d), and Tomfoolery (5.14b). Each holds its own unique challenges and are great examples of what climbing in Rifle is all about. I myself have spent many years climbing in Rifle and it has played an important role in shaping the climber I am today.

Last year, Joe Kinder bolted a line in the Wicked Cave which he dubbed Bad Girls Club. I first tried the route in June with Dave Graham. At first we were skeptical, but then after a couple days we had the moves figured out. For one reason or another, I left it unfinished for the season; the boulders at RMNP and different crags were calling my name. Shortly after, young Matty Hong completed the route for its first ascent and suggested 9a (5.14d), which would make it the first of its grade in the canyon. Historically, this meant a lot to many of the climbers and people began trying the route more. Over the course of the month it saw repeats from Jonathan Siegest and Joe Kinder. The news motivated me, but unfortunately the season was winding down and I was forced to wait.

Just a couple weeks ago, after word from the locals that Rifle was unusually dry for the season, I drove out to investigate. I spent the first day putting my draws back on Bad Girls Club and surprised myself by reaching the last crux on my first attempt. I knew the route was possible now, but I had to take a few days off for work in Boulder. Two weekends later I was back, and after three more attempts (one ending with a fall at the very last move), I managed to make the fourth ascent! Its climbs like this that keep me returning to Rifle, plus I had a great crew supporting me. Thanks Chelsea and Hayden and also Joe Kinder, for the vision.

Until next time!

--Jon Cardwell