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Itai Axelrad

Rocky Mountain National Park

Our trip to Colorado was moments away from being canceled due to suspect weather but our restlessness got the best of us. What’s the worst that could happen? Even if we got rained out every day, sitting in a cabin in Estes Park sounded far more pleasant than sitting in traffic in Los Angeles.

Off we were from sea level to the mile high city and beyond. The hike to Lower Chaos Canyon in the park is a steady 30 to 45 minutes of well-maintained trail hiking out of the Bear Lake parking lot. The scenery along the way is simply breathtaking, or is that the altitude?


The climbing itself sits a few minutes off a social trail in a talus field surrounding Lake Haiyaha. (How the hell do you pronounce that?) The alpine setting makes the weather variable and unpredictable and during summer time very thunderstorm prone. It stayed warm (too warm) and relatively dry enough for us to get at least a few hours of climbing in each day before being rained out and soaked to the bone on the hike down.

Lake Haiyaha
Itai on Running Scared, (V11).

The hike to Upper Chaos on the far side of the lake requires an additional 30 minutes of hiking on social trails and talus fields but is certainly worth it. Even though we were able to climb, the weather was far from ideal so we spent our time in Upper Chaos chasing shade and keeping an eye/ear out for thunderstorms. Our choice for climbs was limited by the lack of pads but we made due with a long day of hard lowballs. Check out the videos page for Eden’s send of Friday the 13th (V10). We finished off the session with the stand start to the iconic crimp testpiece, Jade. It was both humbling and inspiring to see the climb in person after watching countless videos of it over the years.

Eden, flipping through the guidebook in Upper Chaos.
Itai on the stand start to Jade, called Green 45 Stand (V10).

We got some momentary relief from the smooth and frustrating gneiss rock in Chaos Canyon by hiking out to the Tommy Caldwell classic called Lonestar or Stinkbug.

Eden on the last move of Stinkbug (V10)
Itai, on the same.

Upon realizing that it was too hot during the day to climb any of the hard lines we had our eyes set on, we purchased some lanterns in town and readied for a night session on our last day. I was able to send the annoying technical testpiece of the park, Nuthin’ But Sunshine and Eden came agonizingly close to sending too.

Itai, on the last hard move of Nuthin’ But Sunshine (V13)

Unfortunately, our time was up but we had a blast and are already thinking of returning in spring or summer. It is practically fall now so we have plenty of projects back in California to occupy our minds until then.

- Itai