“Give Your Sprinter to a Real Dirtbag!”
Some of these vans have so many gorgeous wood panels and stainless steel fixtures, they make my town house look a little dumpy
“There’s too goddamn many climbers,” I grumble to my wife, Nellie, as we drive up and down Colorado’s Rifle Canyon searching desperately for a place to park. The three-hour drive from Boulder has left me a little nauseous and grumpy. “I feel like I’m at a fucking cargo van dealership,” I say, as we pass an endless train of 4×4 Sprinters, shiny new Ram ProMasters, and the occasional Ford Transit, each taking up one and a half parking spots in the limited space that Rifle State Park has to offer.
Finally, after 30 minutes of patrolling the canyon, a Sprinter pulls out, leaving plenty of room for my trusty minivan. In fact, by blocking in the passenger side of the adjacent ProMaster, I’m able to leave enough room for another car to park next to me!
It’s a typical peak-season weekend in the beautiful-from-afar—but far from beautiful—limestone canyon that is Rifle. Which means hundreds of weekend #vanlifers from the Front Range to the Western Slope and beyond are here to test their gym-honed tendons on the chossy, blocky overhangs that are, sadly, some of the best sport climbing we have in America. Much like the parking in Rifle, the warm-ups are limited, and we spend a good 30 minutes waiting for our turn to climb on the Meat Wall, home to the greasiest, most polished moderate sport climbs in the world.
As Nellie and I wait, I marvel at two couples spread out at the base, complete with babies in blinged-out luxury strollers, several dogs, and some comfy-looking camp chairs. It’s a far cry from the scrappy dirtbag cragging scenes I grew up with. I eavesdrop on their friendly debate over the pros and cons of the Sprinter versus the ProMaster. It turns out the ProMaster has a square interior and is easier to build out, and maintenance is cheaper and more widely available. I assume—with no small amount of prejudice—that the couples are probably in the tech industry in Boulder and raking in nice six-figure incomes. Having finished their warm-ups, the two couples maneuver back to their massive vans.