Otto's Route 5.9-
Independence Monument, Colorado Nat. Monument
About the Climb
Otto’s Route is a very unique and interesting moderate climb with a rich history. It’s one of the most accessible summit towers in the desert and shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the Colorado National Monument area. Otto’s Route is a great climb to start your desert climbing road trip! Otto's Route is a popular climb, because it is a good introduction for leaders wanting to get on their first desert tower, and because it’s also a good choice to bring less experienced climbers up to a great summit.
Otto’s Route follows a big ramp/chimney system up to a wild and airy final section just below the summit. The climbing is not very sustained because of all the drilled holes and chopped steps left by the FA, and the crux sections are well protected. However, even if this climb did not get the spicy rating, long runouts will be encountered on the easier sections and the rock has a somewhat sandy/slippery feel. Climbing Otto’s Route requires almost no crack climbing skills as it is more of a face climb than a crack climb. The drilled holes and pockets provide interesting stemming and fun pulling on unique features. This climb starts on the North Face and gets plenty of shade. It’s a great choice on warm days, but might be too cold on a winter day. Otto’s Route is pretty popular, especially on weekends. Get there early, expect other parties, or start later when the crowds are gone.
Following John Otto’s drilled holes and chopped steps makes you wonder what it must have felt like to climb this formation in 1911, pulling on pipes in cowboy boots. While some might cringe at the thought of climbing an almost completely manufactured route, others realize that John Otto was a visionary.
Camping is available along the Rim Rock drive inside the park for $10/night and includes a picnic table, grill, plus water and showers are available. You can also camp just South of Fruita on CO Hwy 340 at the State Park area, which is also $10/night. For free camping, turn West at the Horsetooth Public Lands sign about a half mile South of I-70 and follow this road until it becomes BLM land. It's not the most beautiful area, but it's free.
If you want to extend your day and climb another great moderate pitch at a similar grade, try Dihedral #1 (5.8) which is located on the popular slabs on the right side of the trail near the mouth of the canyon. Dihedral #1 is the obvious right-facing dihedral and is very popular. Rap from the 1st anchor. Several other quality pitches are also found in the vicinity. If you're fast and want to combine Otto’s Route with something a little more challenging and more difficult, you should try Fast Draw (5.10), located on Sentinel Spire just North of Independence Monument.
If you're heading to Moab, you should climb South Face (5.7) on the South Six Shooter, as well as all the other variations included on our GearLoopTopo. Other great desert climbs at a moderate grade include Stolen Chimney (5.10c or 5.9 A0) in the Fisher Towers, Kor-Ingalls (5.9) and North Chimney (5.9-) both on Castleton Tower.