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Q&A with a Cool Coloradan: Brady Robinson

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Independence Pass Photo: Michael Allen

While Brady Robinson has ascended rock faces all over the world — from routes in his former home in North Carolina to Chile’s Cochamó Valley — he has a soft spot for rock climbing in Colorado. Robinson is the executive director of Access Fund, a Boulder-based advocacy organization that protects climbing access and the integrity of America’s outdoor climbing areas. Here he offers insight into his favorite local climbing routes and why Colorado is the perfect home base for adventurers.

Your climbing career spans 30 years — tell us what makes climbing in Colorado so special.

The rock in Colorado is great, and its proximity to urban areas is good. There’s just a lot of rock, and the weather is so stable that you can go climbing every month of the year. There’s a great combination of varied climbing — bouldering, sport climbing and long traditional routes —they’re pretty easy to get to from the Denver/Boulder area for the most part. And you can’t beat the climate.

Why did you decide to make Colorado your home?

I’ve been here since fall 2007. I like the culture of Colorado. There’s a lot of optimism and entrepreneurial spirit here. You can make some phone calls, get a few people together and start a company. There’s just a real sense of possibility here, and that’s something I’d have to say is different from my experience living in the southeast.

You’ve participated in many adventure races and events, from the Longs Peak Triathlon to Colorado Trail Race. Which one is your favorite and why?

In the Longs Peak Triathlon, we rode our bikes (38 miles) from Boulder and climbed the Diamond of Longs Peak, a technical, hard-climbing face on the route. I think the concept of riding your bike to a place, then doing something recreational and riding home is really fun. It took us about 16 hours, and we just saw so many cool things. We rode up to Lyons and up St. Vrain Canyon and got to experience the change in the landscape as we came up the foothills of Longs Peak and hiked in. You really experience the change in the landscape in a much different way than when you’re in the car.

What makes challenging adventure races like the Colorado Trail Race, a 500-mile trek on the famous trail that runs from Denver to Durango, worthwhile to you?

The Colorado Trail Race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I did it because I’d lived in Colorado for about seven years at the time and felt like I hadn’t seen the state — and there’s just this world-class trail system going through it. My goal was to finish the race in under a week. I thought, “How else could I see the state in such an intimate way in only a week?”

What should others know about the Colorado Trail?

The Colorado Trail is such an incredible asset. You can do the whole thing as a push or a race, or hike it at a more leisurely pace. You can take it in bite sizes — a lot of the segments can be broken up into smaller segments — and you can even do some parts of it with your kids. There are just so many variations.

How do you fit Colorado adventures into your busy schedule?

I’m actually going to climb The Naked Edge route (in Eldorado Canyon State Park) later today. The Naked Edge is a route that has a lot of meaning and history. By modern standards, it isn’t considered to be that hard, but it is one of the most famous and beautiful harder traditional routes in the state and in the country.

To me, that’s the essence of what makes Colorado and Boulder so great. I can put in a full workday and get in some world-class climbing. More than any other place I’ve ever lived I can still fuel my outdoor pursuits and passions and have balance in my life for other things. And to have a really big climbing route like The Naked Edge memorized to a point where I can climb it very fast and efficiently and do it in a few hours in the afternoon is just really gratifying.

What tips do you have for climbers who want to pursue the famous Naked Edge?

Climb some moderate routes in Eldorado Canyon first. Start with the easier stuff and get a feel for it. The rock in Eldorado Canyon is different than any other places. It can be a little fractured, there’s types of rock changes and some are slipperier than others, so I recommend taking an incremental approach and building up to it. You don’t need to build it up in your mind as this huge thing you have to train years for, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s first route in Eldorado Canyon. 

What other recommendations do you have for those seeking incredible climbing experiences in Colorado?

It really just depends on what you want to do — the state has so much to offer. I don’t even know where to begin. One of the things that really defines Colorado climbing is Rocky Mountain National Park. There are so many routes in the park that aren’t that difficult technically; they just offer an incredible experience and approach. Shelf Road in Cañon City is another popular one for beginners.

I recommend that beginners go to the Mountain Project, an online guidebook of climbing routes and information, and look around at all of the climbing areas Colorado has to offer.

Why is it so important to experience and protect our natural landscapes?

To love a place, you have to know a place — and outdoor activities aren’t the only ways but good ways to get to know them. Once you have these sorts of experiences in the outdoors, it becomes a part of who you are and if these places are diminished, you yourself are diminished, too.

Get out and enjoy them. But also learn about them and support the organizations that support them. It’s simple: Be a user but a responsible user. There’s a lot of information out there on how to do that. Striving to be a responsible user and understanding what that means is a good place to start.

Learn more at Access Fund.

Watch a video of Robinson ascending The Naked Edge with blind climber Erik Weihenmayer >>

Learn to rock climb in Colorado >>

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