Granby teen thrives on the freedom of the heights |

Granby teen thrives on the freedom of the heights

Photo by Colorado Mountain School guide Eli Helmuth of

Jason Mines, a 2007 graduate of Middle Park High School, is not hard to spot when he’s in Granby ” his 6 foot, 7 inch frame, size 16 shoes and long flowing blond hair tend to stand out.

But stretched on the east face of Longs Peak, his height is dwarfed by Rocky Mountain National Park’s highest mountain and the 16th tallest peak in all of Colorado.

The alpine-climbing enthusiast has multiple routes under his belt utilizing technical alpine, rock and ice climbing he learned at the Colorado Mountain School of Boulder and Estes Park, then practiced on Ouray’s Ice Park, Boulder Canyon, Mexico’s High Volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Orizaba and, closer to home, Longs Peak Kieners Mountaineers Route in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is vastly different from the popular Keyhole route most use to the summit.

In mid-May, Mines took his ventures a step further, enlisting the experience of world climber and expert Colorado Mountain School guide Eli Helmuth, one of the top guides in the United States.

Roughly 70 percent of the school’s guiding business accesses the great alpine cirques, rock spires, bowls, glades and peaks in the Park.

“There is no place else in the country that has this much great rock, ice and mountain climbing that is accessible year-round that is also close to a major city and international airport, which makes it a world-class climbing destination,” Helmuth said.

Rocky Mountain National park has been a draw to climbing adventurers since the 1800s.

Mixed climbing requires the use of crampons and ice tools to ascend steep routes that feature rock, snow and ice.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, Mines experienced a mixed climb on Hallett Peak above Emerald Lake in near-perfect weather before embarking on a late-May challenge up Longs’ east face. The climb is called Notch Couloir, described as “the obvious cleft which strikes a gash in the heart of this magnificent east face,” according to Helmuth (Web site is

The climb includes a 45-degree Lambs Slide and the treacherous traverse on Broadway Ledge, which Mines and Helmuth negotiated in the lingering late-season snow.

In the Park, Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Notch Top are the more well-known mountaineering challenges, according to Mike Alkaitis, who has guided for 18 years at the Colorado Mountain School.

And for the craggier experience, experts recommend Lumpy Ridge on the Estes Park edge of the Park, composed of 30 south-facing granite domes and spires.

The Park is also a popular spot for bouldering, allowing climbers endless quests for practice.

“It’s definitely one of the unique places to go in the country,” Alkaitis said of RMNP. Alkaitis spends about 30 percent of his own free climbing time within the Park’s boundaries.

As far as going vertical, “my favorite route in the Park is Yellow Wall on the Diamond of Long’s,” he said.

For a Yosemite climbing rating system starting at 5.0 where most utilize rope, the Diamond starts at 5.10 and goes trough 5.13, meaning difficult to very difficult, although one online account calls the rating 5.13 “verging on science fiction.”

“If people are going to go there, I would recommend hiring a guide to give them a much better chance of success,” Alkaitis said.

Shortly after his adventures in the Park, Mines, who attends school at Montana State in Bozeman, headed north to work on an Alaskan fishing vessel for six weeks where he is now.

But according to his dad, Granby business owner Kevin Mines, the younger Mines already has more climbs on his list for when he returns, such as the Stettner route of Lone Eagle Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Montana’s highest peak Granite Peak and perhaps high-altitude volcanoes in Ecuador.

For climbers, the passion lives large.

“For me, climbing is a type of ‘moving meditation,’ Helmuth said, ‘and it brings me in better touch with my surroundings and myself through concentrated focus and awareness of my surroundings.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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