During our stay in Rifle, CO we met two really nice guys named Remo and Miguel. Remo was from Switzerland and Miguel, Spain – they made the journey to Colorado to climb for ~6 weeks. This excursion led them to Boulder Canyon, Eldo, Clear Creek, many more and Colorado National Monument, an area that we were not very familiar with. They both exclaimed you have to check out Otto’s Route on Independence Monument, it climbs this amazing desert tower and was put up in the early 1900’s.
The story goes, John Otto found the redrock canyons in 1906 and stated “they (canyons) feel like the heart of the world to me… it should be a national park.” The following years he lived alone in the canyons building trails and fundraising. Finally on May 24, 1911, President Taft signed a proclamation that established Colorado National Monument. Otto always had a deep yearning to climb Independence Monument, a free-standing tower [or fin] of rock in the middle of the canyon. So on July 4, 1911 he set out with a pick ax, steel bars and cowboy boots – he established a 4 pitch line that goes at 5.9 (by today’s standards).
We decided to make the stop on our way through Grand Junction and what an spectacular divergence in our path it was. The approach weaved through the base of the canyon revealing massive sandstone towers and splitter cracks that stretched on for ‘miles’. A place like this would keep my soul busy for quite sometime. The summit of the climb opened up to a magnificent view and I realized immediately what Otto meant when he said “the heart of the world…”. We filled out the registry and I discovered two dice in the bottom of the box. For anyone that’s ever summitted a peak or mountain with a summit box, you know you find a wide array of knick knacks and honestly just random junk people have left. I looked over at Casey and said ‘call it’, she exclaimed 7! The pictures should tell the rest of that story; it’s times like these that everything feels right and falls into place. John Otto was a visionary and a great explorer of his time. I am very grateful to share in a part of history with him.