Forearms pumping. Legs jackhammer. A step in the wind and a toe hold. Chalk up. Surprise summit. Feel the gravel in your toes and the sweat on your fingertips. See the world fall away beneath you and open your heart to the sky. This is the passion, the lust, the pure adrenaline that defines rock climbing. An addicting, life-threatening, power pumping niche sport that cultivates a community of incredibly dedicated athletes and adventurous souls.

“There are only 3 real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games.” – Hemingway

Where better to get into this intense sport than Boulder, Colorado? With world class mountains and everything available from classic beginner routes to kick-ass 5.11 climbs, it’s the perfect place to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The Colorado Mountain School is the go to school in the area—they have dominated the industry since 1877 and have been Rocky Mountain National Park’s exclusive technical climbing concessionaire since the Park’s creation in 1915.

Climbing is about fun and adventure, and no place tops Boulder’s backyard for its incredible variety of world-class climbing: Boulder Canyon, Eldorado Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park. These are places where the outdoors is still king, the sky is open and blue, and classic climbs abound.Colorado Rock Climbing

These are the places where climbers have long sought something beyond the ordinary, something deeper. You’ve got to dig a little, go around the next bend, to find the greatest gems. They don’t jump out at you, but they’re there for you to discover, to climb and enjoy. Isn’t discovery the whole point of the journey?

Colorado Mountain School is the largest guide service in Colorado and has more AMGA and International Federation of Mountain Guides Association certified guides than any other guide service in the state. They are the exclusive climbing concessionaire for Rocky Mountain National Park and have developed the most complete outdoor climbing curriculum in the United States. You can do everything from Intro Rock Climbing, Big Wall Clinic to Intermediate Techniques Seminars or a custom day out with your own personal climbing guide. A custom day out with one of their bad ass guides can be anything from super easy to ultra desperate. It just depends what you’re body and brain can handle that day.

We stole Joey for a day and headed to Eldorado Canyon for a classic 5.5 beginner’s route aptly named Swanson’s Arete (technically named for Colorado native Jon Swanson, but Ron Swanson also seems an appropriate namesake).Colorado Mountain School

Dirty chimneys, new techniques, graceful moves and a guide who inspired self-assurance and confidence the entire day made it the experience of a lifetime. You certainly don’t want to slip and weight the rope, but knowing that if you do, a guide like Joey has your back just makes you all the more sure of yourself and your abilities. A pre-climb interview is conducted at the school, and your guide will get a feel for your climbing level, indoors and/or outdoors to figure out the best route to take you on.

There so much more to climbing in Colorado than summiting a mountain; there’s a spirit of the West, a culture that values recreation, takes its time and considers what you have to say. Here things are fresh. Guides are professional yet passionate, and natural climbing lines remain free.

Climbers have always felt at home here. Yosemite pioneer Tom Frost wrote back in 1977: “Colorado’s cliffs, located on the spine of the continent, have become the crossroads of American climbing. It is felt by many that Colorado is the subculture center of the climbing community; where climbing is a more serious way of life, and lived more fully by sizeable numbers of participants, than at any other place in the nation.” You’ll feel welcome too.