|'Project Wall crag' at Rifle|
|Rock and sunshine ... heaven ;)|
|Belaying in style 1 meter from the road - Project Wall crag|
|Rone Thompson on Irie Meditation (5.11d)|
The style of the climbing varies from crag to crag, but predominantly you looking at an obscene use of kneebars on the steeply overhung routes (bring your kneepad!), with large moves between flat or sloping laybacks. On the vert or off-vert the crimpers start to kick in, but it's still a lot about them laybacks. There are no tufa features on this limestone, and not many pockets either. For me I definitely needed a bit of time to build up some crimper strength, and to get used to the layback-dominant style of climbing, which often means tricky footwork and off-balance slapping between grips. It was super fun though, and the routes were all well bolted.
|The Royal Seat at Anti-Phill Wall crag|
|Our campervan which we hired in Los Angeles|
I found the grading to be quite solid and you really had to work for a tick. As I got more familiar with the rock and the style of climbing this did ease up a bit, but the grades still felt pretty hard. I chatted with a number of other first-time-Rifle'ers from all over the world and it seems to be consensus that Rifle's grading is quite staunch.
However it's not all about the grade, at least not for me, and Rifle offered some really stunning routes with great climbing, so it was just good times!
HOW TO GET THERE
For travel in the US I would definitely recommend a car. Well, to be honest that's all we used so I couldn't really comment on feasibility of getting around using train and bus. If you don't have a car, but can manage to get to Rifle town, then it would be possible to hitch out to the park and camp there. There was always climbers around, even mid-week, so you might even manage to hitch a ride into town and back to get supplies.
|Feeling da rock in Yosemite National Park|
|Our camp at Rifle Gap State Park|
As mentioned above, Rifle Mountain Park offers rustic campsites from which you can walk to the crags. I think they are only first-come-first-serve, so you cannot pre-book. Alternatively there are 2 campgrounds to choose from outside of the park: Rifle Gap State Park and Rifle Falls State Park.
We stayed at Rifle Gap and it was perfect. Price was $16 for a primitive site, which means no electric or water hookup. Each site had a picnic table with roof shelter overhead (more for the sun than rain!) and a fire pit. There was running water and treated drinking water, and the showers cost $1 for 4 minutes.
|Bryce Canyon National Park - absolutely breath-taking|
If you have the dosh then there are a number of motels in Rifle, prices ranging from $64 to $99+ a night.
The Rifle Mountain Park guidebook by Dave Pegg seems to be the best one out there. If you're only there for a short time, or if you're traveling like we were and couldn't afford to add another book to an already overweight backpack, then you can get the guidebook on your mobile phone through the Rakkup app. It's a lot cheaper, especially if you go for the 2-month subscription book at only $9.99. This is what we used and the app was great, with good pictures and descriptions for finding the routes, and good beta on the routes (length, bolts, stars, general features etc).
|Yosemite National Park - To infinity and beyond!|
There is a large City Market supermarket in Rifle town which has everything you need at good prices, plus a bakery which produces some very tantalizing goodies which maybe you don't need but will definitely want :) The town also has a few liquor stores, laundry, post office, and other bits of bobs. It's also got a movie theatre and various take-away joints.
The one thing to note is that you cannot buy any climbing chalk in Rifle. The closest outdoor shop that we found that sold it was in Glenwood Springs, about 30 minutes from Rifle (Summit Canyon Mountaineering).
WHEN TO GO
From what I've heard, Rifle is a popular summer destination crag. This is because you are guaranteed to be able to find shade no matter what time of the day it is ... with one side of the gorge having shade in the morning and then it moving over to the other side of the gorge for the afternoon. It's also at a slight elevation so the temperatures are slightly cooler. I'm not actually sure about what conditions are like for the rest of the year, since we were going in summer I just researched that. You'll have to do your own bit of Googling to find out.