Top Ten Sport Climbing Areas In Colorado

Updated on September 25, 2014

Rock Climbing Colorado

Colorado, one could easily argue, is home to the best rock climbing in the nation. From limestone to granite, from crack to slab to steep overhangs, from short single pitch sport lines to long multi pitch trad. classics to even longer multi day big walls, Colorado has something for every type of climber. This page focuses on one type of climbing only – sport climbing, which also happens to be my favorite kind of climbing.
In spite of the fact that I have been climbing for over 18 years, I have not visited every single rock face in the state and therefore can only decide based upon what I have climbed, what the top ten sport climbing areas are. This page is simply my personal opinion. If I have missed your favorite climbing area in the state, please feel free to tell me about it and I'll certainly plan my next road trip there! In addition, since I do not climb above the grade of 5.11c, I have not chosen any routes above that grade as my recommended favorites. What I have chosen are areas that I believe are well worth a visit and routes that are fun, safe, classic lines, well worth climbing.

Rock Climbing Colorado - A Great Guidebook

Planning a climbing trip to Colorado? Don't come without the most essential piece of gear - a guidebook. This book is the only guide available that covers all the major climbing areas in the state with routes ranging from 5.0 to 5.14--including big cliffs and faces of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to the smaller crags and outcrops of Pikes Peak, Boulder, Rifle, Shelf Road, Elevenmile Canyon, and much more.

Rock Climbing Colorado (Regional Rock Climbing Series)
Rock Climbing Colorado (Regional Rock Climbing Series)
In all 37 areas covered, this guide provides first-hand information for area overviews and climbing histories, route betas and topos, detailed maps, and photos. Also included are suggestions for equipment and approach and descent information as well as listings for shops, gyms, and guide services. Rock Climbing Colorado is essential for planning your next trip to one of Colorado's premier climbing areas.

#10 The Ironclads

Located just outside of Allenspark, climbing at The Ironclads offers both short and long sport routes at a higher altitude. The climbs are set in a pretty forested setting and the rock is nice solid granite. Technical face and slab climbing make this an enjoyable outing.

The downside to the area is that climbing is rather spread out and a 4 wheel drive is needed to access some of the areas. Many people come to this area for off roading and as a result, the area has become abused with eroded trails, social trails, broken glass and trash.

Three of my favorite routes at The Ironclads:

Fire Widow aka Gypsies in the Palace 5.10c Located on the Ironsides formation. Long a little run out but crimps and underclings make the climbing near the top super fun.

Alloy Madness 5.10c Located on the Ironsides formation. Long, a couple of small roofs and some fun balancey moves.

Stock Still and Stoic 5.10b Located on the Punk Rock formation, Short but fun moves

In this photo Chrissy Biggs on typical Ironclads granite

# 9 Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek canyon climbing is located along highway 6 from Golden to I -70. While there are some spots with loose rubble in the canyon, it turn out to be mostly solid and nicely featured gneiss and there are actually hundreds of routes on multiple rock formations of all grades to be found. The short approaches and close proximity to the Denver-Boulder area make Clear Creek canyon a great after work climbing destination. In addition, many of the rock faces are south facing and therefore Clear Creek canyon can be a year round climbing destination. The main downside of the area is, of course, that you are basically right next to a major highway, your view is pretty much the highway, and the sounds of nature are most often overshadowed by the sounds of continuous traffic. Some formations in the canyon, however, such as the Highlander wall, featured in the photo, are a hike up above the canyon far enough to give you a more scenic and secluded feel.

Three of my favorite routes at Clear Creek:

Refer Madness 5.11b Located on the Wall of The 90's. Excellent sustained vertical face climbing

Radometer In The Red Zone 5.11c Located on the Little Eiger wall. Gets progressively harder as you go up.

Mineral Museum 5.9 Located on the Crystal Tower wall. Climbs through a cool pegmatite band

For more recommended routes and information about Clear Creek visit: Colorado Mountain Project - Clear Creek Canyon

In this photo, Rudy McEntire climbs high above the canyon floor at the Highlander crag, Clear Creek Canyon

# 8 Boulder Canyon

I live part way up Boulder Canyon and as a result have climbed everything within my ability a million times over. In spite of that, I can still say that Boulder canyon is an excellent place to climb and many of the routes are truly classic. There are multiple crags all along the canyon corridor facing all directions making it possible to climb year round if you follow the sun. Located minutes from downtown Boulder, this area is definitely a favorite for the locals and you can expect crowds at every single area on a nice day.

The rock type is granite, smooth in places but for the most part highly textured. There are easy to challenging sport climbs all throughout the canyon, and new development is still going on. Unlike Clear Creek canyon, most of the crags are up and away a bit from the road allowing for a more scenic setting and less road noise.

Three of my favorite routes at Boulder Canyon:

Kate Moss 5.10c Located on the Black Widow Slab. Long, nice face and slab climbing

Satyin'Alive 5.10a Located on the Tonnere Tower. Fun moves, face climbing, stemming and some laybacking

Lust 5.10c Located on the Avalon formation second tier. Long and varied

In this photo: Josh working a challenging roof section (5.12) at the Animal World Crag, Boulder canyon

# 7 Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is an exceptionally pretty area located just south of Estes Park above Lilly Lake. The climbs are short, steep, slabby and fun on west facing sunny rock. The views of Longs peak and the Diamond are spectacular as are the wildflowers and the lake below. The approach is relatively short. Dogs and camping are not permitted in this area. Parts of it lie within the Boundary of Rocky Mounatin National Park. Jurassic park makes for a great full day outing.

Three of my favorite routes at Jurassic Park:

Edge of Time 5.9 Located on the Fin formation. While I do not like the run out getting to the second bolt on this climb (also the crux), the climb, pictured on the front cover of one of the old guidebooks for the area - Gillett's Estes Valley guidebook - is a super classic superb route

Dynanometer 5.11b Located on the Fin formation. Follows a pocketed wall with fun moves.

Critical Morass 5.10d. Located on the Big Ass Slab formation. Follows a beautifully clean line up a blank looking slab

In this photo: the classic Edge of Time, Jurassic Park

# 6 Lime Creek

Another beautiful semi alpine crag located at high elevation. Due to a bit longer and more involved drive, this area has fewer crowds making it quite nice, and a very good choice for a weekend destination trip. The climbing is perfect bullet proof, well bolted limestone. Camping, which is especially nice during the fall when the Aspens are changing, can be had right at the entrance to the canyon close to some of the first routes, making for an easy approach.

Three of my favorite routes at Lime Creek:

Corporate Greed 5.9 Located on the The Punchbowl formation, short but fun

Uckfay Ushbay 5.11a Located on the North Wall formation, climbs an excellent panel of smooth, clean gray limestone

Tears 5.11a Located on the North Wall

# 5 Devils Head

Devils Head is located in the South Platte and is a relatively new climbing area. The area is large with a high concentration of high quality routes on solid granite fine-grain textured rock. The climbs are very featured with roofs, cracks, edges and flakes making for some excellent face climbing.

Another plus is that the area is largely on South and East Facing slopes, deep within the forested Devils Head Mountain making for excellent views of Pike's Peak and the Rampart Range Hills and a serene climbing experience. The area possesses well over 100 routes, with the balance of new routes being well protected bolted sport climbs. While the emphasis in climbing is largely on the more difficult upper 5.11 and 5.12 range, you can find high quality routes of all levels here.

Three of my favorite routes at Devils Head:

Shady Character 5.10d Located on the Shady Lane formation. Overhanging and pumpy

HIgh Plains Poser 5.10c Located on the Crag Ranch formation. 2 pitches with interesting holds and a tricky crux around an arete

Topaz Located on the Headstone formation. 2 pitches with slab, roofs,crimps, flakes, layaways, - dosent get much better than that!

In this photo Rudy's lookin' good on a 5.12 at Devils Head

# 4 Rifle Mountain Park

Rifle Mountain Park is a climbing destination on the western slope which draws climbers from all over the world. As such, many would argue that it deserves the number 1 spot on this page. I have ranked it at number 4, because, although it is unarguably world class, it is a place that mere mortals such as myself do not venture to that often, the routes are just too darn hard.

The overhanging caves and walls of Rifle provide and array of crimps, jugs and blocks to pull on all while in the near horizontal position. One thing's for sure, climb here and you will radiate strength from your core out to your forearms. Even though the steep, solid limestone provides rock solid, high quality routes, many have seen so many ascents that the foot holds resemble sheets of ice they are so polished.

My favorite routes mentioned here are sometimes referred to as the "warm up" routes, some, but for me they are classics.

Three of my favorite routes at Rifle Mountain Park:

Eighty Feet Of Meat 5.11a Located on the Meat Wall. Even though the footholds are polished from so many ascents, this line is super fun, sustained and truly classic.

Feline 5.11b Located on the Ice Cave Wall. Challenging moves with some rests in between.

Rumor Has It 5.11b Located on the Sapper Cave Wall. Involves a burley layback to a jug, super fun.

In this photo: Aeon Aki Sends a typical blocky overhanging route in Rifle Mountain Park

# 3 The Monastery

The monastery is located up past the small town of Drake sort of above the Big Thompson Canyon close to Estes Park. Climbing at The Monastery is on beautiful igneous schist and gneiss that shimmers golden and grey hues in the sun. It is steep and edgy on some sides and slabby on others and there is great friction. I'd call this a summer climbing destination as it is located at 8,000+ feet and can get cold on a cloudy day, or snowed in in mid-winter. Many of the dozen or so crags have excellent South faces however, that remain dry for a large part of the year. Most the routes were established by Tommy Caldwell, one of the worlds best climbers, so you can expect some long hard routes.

The approach to the monastery is not one of my favorites I must admit. Although the views of snow capped peaks and distant mountains are beautiful and the wildflowers are stunning, the hike is rather long and ends up being uphill both ways as the terrain is rolling to get there and back. That being said, the routes are truly magnificent and the whole outing makes for a great long day.

Three of my favorite routes at The Monastery

Solemnity 5.10a Located on the Outer Gates formation. Long, shares an anchor with Inner peace

Inner Peace 5.10b Located on the Outer Gates formation. Long, fun moves

Tabula Rosa 5.10c Located on the Vestibule formation - nice thin moves, balancey and sustained. (The photo shows me on this route.)

# 2 Independence Pass

Independence pass is located east of Aspen off the super-steep CO Highway 82. The area includes many crags between Aspen & Twin Lakes and includes not only sport climbs but trad climbs and bouldering as well. The rock is mostly granite but some areas have both compact granite and metamorphized gneiss. The rock is very featured and some areas are very overhanging. This is another area at high elevation (9,000+ feet) and therefore best during the summer (the road is actually closed from mid October through mid May.)

The beauty of climbing along Independence Pass lies in its variety of different crags, from those small in size and difficult, to those large in size with lots of variety in grades. The Grotto Wall offers the highest concentration of routes and my favorite wall is Monitor Rock which has virtually no approach and a good West face. The views at every crag are stunning, quaking aspen trees, beautiful wildflowers, a roaring creek, alpine tundra. This is the Colorado Rockies at its best. There is also ample camping in the area making this destination a great one for a full weekend outing.

Three of my favorite routes at Independence Pass (All on Monitor Rock):

Squid Kid 5.10a long (70 m rope needed), varied moves

Silver Dollar 5.10d enjoyable face climbing, crux at a steeper section near the top

Twin Flakes 5.10b/c Steep left angling dihedral

(Cryogenics 5.10a is the ultimate classic trad line on the Grotto Wall, just had to mention it too.)

Photo from Rob Dillon, Colorado Mountain Project

# 1 Shelf Road

While I was making this page, I changed the order of the crags a few times, I added and deleted a few areas, but one thing never changed, one thing was clear from the start, the number 1 sport climbing area in Colorado - Shelf Road. Ahhh, Shelf Road. My very favorite place to climb hands down.

Shelf Road is located in Colorado's "banana belt" south of Colorado Springs near Canon City. Because of its location and the fact that many of the crags face south, this area is a prime winter climbing destination. Nothing beats being able to climb in a T-shirt in the middle of February, especially when other parts of the state are bitter cold or snow covered. It's like a mini oasis of summer right when you need it most.

Shelf offers literally hundreds of climbs to choose from at all grades. All climbs are long, safe and well bolted on solid limestone.
Crimpers, pockets and edges with excellent friction abound. The approach to the various cliffs is short and pleasant, and the camping quite nice. The view is also spectacular.

My 8 favorite routes at Shelf Road (had to go for 8 here as 3 just wasn't enough)

Gastoned Again 5.9+ Located on The Gym wall. Super fun very long route with, you guessed it, lots of gastons.

The Raw and The Roasted 5.11b Located on The Gym wall right next to Gastoned Again. Super fun face climbing.

Dihedrus 5.10c Located on Cactus Cliff wall. Nice dihedral with stemming and fun sustained climbing

Blackmans Burden 5.10b/c Located on Cactus Cliff wall. Engaging movement

I Claudius 5.11a/b Located on Cactus Cliff wall. An actual crack climb amongst all the face routes.

Unusual Weather 5.11c Located on The Bank formation. Super fun,long, nice crack at the top.

Suburbia 5.10a Located on the Sand Gultch wall. Excellent, sustained long route in the morning sun.

Love Pump 5.10c Located on The Menses Prow Formation. After a hard start, fun face moves.

For more recommended routes and information about Shelf Road visit Colorado Mountain Project - Shelf Road

I would love to hear your comments!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Thanks For Visiting

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Haha! The best area in CO for sport climbing isn't even in here.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Clear creek is a PILE. But hey as long as people think its good they stay away from good crags. Nice article though.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Colorado is beautiful.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for all of the very useful information. We are on vacation from Michigan. While trying to figure out where we were going to climb today, we came across your page. After reviewing all of areas, we ended up at High Wire Crag in Clear Canyon Creek. What an epic day! We are going to take your advice and head to Shelf road on Friday. Thanks again!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow - this looks like a bit too adventurous an activity for me. Maybe someday when I get more upper body strength... and a little less of a fear of heights. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • CampingmanNW profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens again, to repeat myself. Having grown up in Wheat Ridge, I loved Clear Creek. I haven't been there in years (job and life took me elsewhere) but my spring and summer's of "tubing" clear creek as well as climbing, remain fixed in my memory record. Thanks again for a great lens.

    • profile image

      Michey LM 

      7 years ago

      Great details, and supper pictures. Blessings! (By the way I use to climb mountains in Romania (Piatra Craiului) and Poland (Tatra) between 21- 29 years old.... so now I am not, but I love mountains and still hike with a great pleasure...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice for climers!

      Great lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow! Shelf Road looks and sounds amazing! Give me at least another Still working on my 5.9s!

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! Love the pictures and really want to climb in Colorado now...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always wanted to rock climb..looks like fun

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Colorado is my favorite place to go. Love it.

    • Thrinsdream profile image


      8 years ago

      I am not sure what the levels of difficulty refer to or the specific terms but this is a beautiful article, over viewing the most stunning scenery. With thanks and appreciation. Cathi x

    • SaintFrantic profile image


      8 years ago

      Scarred of heights but always admired the rock climbers.Amazing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, My heart just skipped a beat after visiting your lens, great info with great pics.. :)

    • vividviolet profile image


      8 years ago

      Those photos are breathtaking! Lime Creek would be the one I would go to.

    • kindoak profile image


      8 years ago

      Lime Creek looks awesome. Too old for these kind of adventures now but wish I had learned to rock climb, I can see why it gets people hooked.

    • profile image

      seeker2011 lm 

      8 years ago

      I am a hill climber and that is as steep as I go. You have my respect for the skill and bravery doing what you do. Looks like beautiful country side.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always wanted to try rock climbing!

      Think i would have to do some indoor training before attempting any of this!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      amazing. nice right up..

    • jed78 profile image


      8 years ago

      Love colorado!, just not that much of a daredevil!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens!

    • MissionBoundCre profile image


      8 years ago

      Jurassic Park is Real! Very cool lens.

    • SayGuddaycom profile image


      8 years ago

      FANTASTIC! As a former climber I must say this lens really had an impact on me.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great sport but it is really high :)

      (scared of heights)

      Great lens :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A great lens. I use to be into rock climbing here in Australia many years back but as I got older I fell out of it. When I read lens like this it makes me want to get back into it! :-P

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good lens! I wish I could climb :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      These places look spectacular!

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image


      8 years ago

      I grew up in Colorado Springs & now am in Washington state. I love it here but miss Colorado. You can add #11 to your list with Garden of the Gods in the Springs.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens.

    • writerkath profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens and photos! I worked at the Lane Guest Ranch for years (outside of Allenspark) and because I wasn't a climber, it never occurred to me that there was so much rock climbing. My husband - who is a climber - has been on the diamond on Longs Peak (He says, "failed at a winter attempt"), routes in Boulder Canyon, various routes on Owls Head and Lumpy Ridge... We have friends who are avid climbers who live in Nederland as well. Great stuff! *Blessed!*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I could see myself doing this, with headphones in my ears listening to country music! *blessed by a squid angel*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow what a lovely country. I hope I will be able to visit it some day. Great sport, and beautiful pictures.

      Great lens!

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 

      8 years ago

      Climbing and me? No way. But this lens is great. I have enjoyed reading this.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm fascinated by rock climbers. I like to take photos of them when we visit Zion National park.

    • aksem profile image


      8 years ago

      What a beautiful sport!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      first of all thank you very much for putting this together. I'm thinking of moving to colorado and I love sport climbing. An place in particular where you would choose to live? thanks !

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Where you ever afraid of heights?

    • BestRatedStuff profile image


      8 years ago

      This looks like great fun. I love the scenery as well, wish I could take this up.

    • Lee Hogg Williams profile image

      Lee Williams 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I've WALKED up & down mountains, but never actually CLIMBED any - but it looks like fun!

    • dogface lm profile image

      dogface lm 

      9 years ago

      Wow, nice climbing areas, but very dangerous as well!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      One word...scary! Think I'll feature this lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      9 years ago from Colorado

      I'd love to be able to do this type of climbing, but lately I have been having way too much vertigo. I'll stick to climbing the Colorado 14ers. Great lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      great lens i love to climb im an ex-marine whos done a bit all over the world , have you ever climbed an ice wall? where do i get the boxes round my writing like on your cool lens ot looks great, well done cool work

    • JublyJem profile image


      9 years ago

      I started indoor climbing about 3 months ago and im loving it! haven't been outdoors yet! colorado looks amazing! great page!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great page - i love rock climbing and would love to go to Colorado to climb!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      cool idea... but I guess I'm not brave enough to do rock climbing

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I like the idea of rock climbing, however since I am afraid of heights, I think it will never be an option. Some great looking places listed here!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Crazy cool fun, Awesome Lens....

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      great info! i enjoyed reading it, love to live on Colorado, nice places there

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information... I think that I'll try this sport soon!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I used to live in Colorado. Did a bit of climbing myself. I think you did the state justice:)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      looks scary!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Uhhh, that looks so dangerous! But I guess exciting also! Great!

    • drs2biz lm profile image

      David Schroeter 

      9 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      I'm on a quest for Kipsy. This seems like a perfect lens to send her to for inspiration to lose weight!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      I would've guessed Colorado had this many great rock climbing sites. I've never done it, but it looks like a thrill. I was in Rocky Mtn National Park in 2002, it was breathtaking.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a great Squid. Its like having a close friend who will tell you the most fun climbs, what other aspects of the outing to enjoy: scenery, flowers, etc., which climbs are doable in winter and which ones are not! The pictures provide additional information about the areas. Very well done!!

    • Happiegrrrl profile image

      Terrie Marcoe 

      10 years ago from Gardiner, New York and Joshua Tree, California

      Some day I simply MUST find my way to Colorado!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      nice stuff man

      ive been aspiririg to do that kind of stuff for a while now

      so far only outdoor bouldering

      no lead yet

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      10 years ago

      i'm back for a visit. This is one of my favorite lenses. Blessed!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 

      10 years ago

      Nicely done! Blessed by a squidangel

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      10 years ago from UK

      Squidoo needs more excellent Sports lenses. You've shown how it's done with this informative and personal account of an amazing sport. Delighted to add *~*~ Angel Blessings ~*~* to those you have already received.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens. I've always wanted to try rock climbing. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • justholidays profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm not a fan of mountais or climbing but I'm definitely fan of this well done lens!

      Squidangel blessings.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

      Wow! I would totally fall! This is a really awesome lens and I will just sit back and enjoy living vicariously through you! Congratulations for being chosen top Local lens in the Giant Squid Challenge! Angel Blessed and added to my Squid Angel Mouse Tracks lens.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      My goodness this is a wonderful lens on Sports Climbing in Colorado! Blessed.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Well Done! Looks to scary to me. My girls would love it, they climb indoors. We have only been to Colorado for skiing. Blessed by a Squidoo Angel

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I cannot imagine me rock climbing, but wow, what gorgeous views!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Although I've climbed around on lots of rocks backpacking and on horseback, I can't technically call myself a rock climber. Colorado is one of the most geologically diverse places I have ever been and as your lens points out beautifully is a paradise for rock climbers and lovers of the outdoors period.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Outstanding! I climb the Boulder area and didn't know about half of these places (or routes)! I liked the fact that a couple of token 5.9s were included to inspire the vertically challenged.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      10 years ago from Washington KS

      VERY WELL DONE!! Beautiful pictures, excellent descriptions.

      I've never been to Colorado, and wouldn't rock climb if they paid me, but sure did enjoy visiting vicariously through your lens. 5 and fave.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      10 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow, this is a beautifully crafted lens on Rock Climbing Colorado. Your Top Ten Sport Climbing Areas In Colorado photographs and information was most interesting. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      10 years ago

      What a great lens. We live near the top of Boulder Canyon and love it. Not much into rock climbing but we have horses and trail riding in this area is amazing.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      10 years ago

      That is a lot of places to rock climb for one state, but Colorado is the Rockies isn't it. Man, and I lived there briefly as a child in Denver.


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