Independence Monument, a 350-foot-high sandstone tower in Colorado National Monument, boasts a colorful climbing history that began with its first ascent by eccentric John Otto in 1911. Otto made the daring climb by drilling holes by hand and pounding pipes into them to create a ladder to the summit. He hoisted an American flag atop the spire on June 11 to celebrate Flag Day. Here’s the story of Otto’s perilous climb. Colorado National Monument was the brainchild of the forward thinking John Otto. It was preserved as a national monument in 1911 largely through his efforts. This trailblazer, promoter, patriot, outdoorsman, and climber settled in Monument Canyon in 1906, living in a tent below Independence Monument. In a journal in 1907 Otto wrote, “I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”

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