There’s a lot of places to climb in the Front Range of Colorado, but Castlewood Canyon State Park is unique among them all. The first reason is its location; Castlewood is one of the few climbing areas in the front range, that is not actually in the mountains. It sits out in the plains to the east of Castle Rock, about 45 minutes from Denver.
Mike Burdon running it out above some gear on Another World (5.11a PG13).Photo by Joe Lovin
Jacob Peyton on Bozo No No (5.11b)
Joe Lovin sending The Travesty (5.12d). Photo by Mike Burdon.jpeg
Mike Burdon highballing on Daddy Cool (V2 X). Photo by Aleks Grocic
Chris Lopez on Phalloid Void (5.10c). Photo by Mike Burdon
Megan Lee on Outer Mongolia (5.10b). Photo. by Mike Burdon
Castlewood is also unique in its rock type. While a variety of sandstones, granite, gneiss and basalt can all be found in the Front Range, this is one of the only places to climb on conglomerate. This style can be tricky at first, but super fun and rewarding for those who have spent some time with it. It involves cranking on cobbles, sinker pockets, crisp edges, beautiful alligator skin and some wild looking features!
Castlewood has long been known for its bouldering, which is fantastic in both quality and quantity. As a previous guidebook author once marveled, the bouldering here is “inexhaustible!”
The more one seeks, the more one finds! But Castlewood is not only a bouldering area! There are over 130 sport routes, more than 200 trad climbs and still tons of potential for new routes of every style.
Due to its proximity to Denver, Castlewood has been a popular recreation spot for families and beginner climbers. On any given Saturday you’ll see a bunch of families toproping at the Grocery Store Wall, or the Boy Scouts out learning to rappel. Recently, however, there has also been a resurgence of more serious climbers, realizing the park’s untapped potential for new sport climbs, hard boulders and serious trad climbs. In the last year there have been many new routes developed; trad climbs as hard as 12a R, sport climbs up to 13a and boulders in the double digits! Castlewood is not just for kids.
The Wood also provides an opportunity to get off the beaten path. As crags like Canal Zone and the Graveyard are becoming increasingly overrun with the ever-growing number of Denver climbers, Castlewood Canyon remains a place of scenic solitude, where one can enjoy a quiet climbing experience away from the crowds and highways.
So whether you’re looking for some adventure and exploring, bolt protected pocket-pulling, cranking on cobbles, or a chill day in the forest, Castlewood has what you’re looking for and I hope this guidebook helps you find it.
The Wood: Climbing in Castlewood Canyon by Mike Burdon was last modified: April 20th, 2023 by makb
Back in 93, when Troy Johnson and I made our first pilgrimage to Smoke Hole Canyon, there was a ragged piece of white tat hanging from a rusted piton up in the deep green Entrance Arch dihedral that would eventually become the start of Hunting Unicorns. Climbing, long slumbering in the shadows, had returned to Smoke Hole Canyon.
The first bolted lines would go up in Copperhead Cove soon thereafter, including Faces in Stone and the start of Bad Drugs. Then other routes at other canyon crags called us away, and the challenges of access between floods kept us away. We scattered to the four corners in 1995, and I spent six years exploring the Four Corners region.
In 2009, Cindy Bender and I put up our first route together on a tall, roof stacked corner in the Cove, and called it Going on a Bender. In 2011, we moved to Arizona, and the Cove went back undercover.
Flash forward to 2017; I returned to cleaning and drilling lines at the Cove and Jake Hill with Michael Holmes, J. and Ben Feher. More recently, Virginia activist Mitchell Goldman joined the fun, adding the mixed lines Flagman and ADrop in the Ocean.
Today, three decades after Troy and I first drove into the Canyon, the Entrance Arch has 30 routes of its own, with 16 more lines waiting at Copperhead Cove, and 9 instant classics at Jake Hill.
If you are a new Smoke Hole climber or have not previously downloaded the guides, grab them today to get the best tools for exploring Smoke Hole’s crags, old and new. Your purchases help support trail work and other stewardship efforts in the canyon and at nearby Reed’s Creek, while giving you all the best beta on route development, camping, parking and access issues.
Come explore the best of the old, and the new, at the Entrance Walls of Smoke Hole Canyon.
Smoke Hole Canyon: Entrance Walls, Copperhead Cove and Jake Hill was last modified: March 18th, 2023 by Mike Gray
Last Chance Canyon is a true gem of New Mexico climbing. Located deep in the Lincoln National Forest and with the closest “town” being the very small community of Queen (population 50 and formally classified as a ghost town) the feel of the area is remote, isolated and very peaceful. The canyon’s limestones walls hold over 100 routes, in the range of 5.3-5.13+ from thin vertical face routes to jaw dropping jug hauls out monstrous caves the place has something for everyone of all abilities. The limestone within the canyon varies in quality from average to bullet hard top tier seemingly belonging in Spain, the majority of established routes are on fantastic stone. All of these goods are spread out over 16 crags amongst the beautiful winding canyon floor and relatively close together, once in the canyon (10-15min walk) it’s never very far from one crag to the next.
Last Chance Canyon Sits at 5,706ft altitude, In the summers it can be much too hot for climbing but in the fall, winter and spring it is prime time, because of the nature of the twist and turns of the canyon there is always a wall you can go to for sun or shade no matter the time of day depending on your preference. These attributes coupled with the remoteness of the area make this a fantastic stop for the winter climbing road tripper, ample sun, good rock and no crowds what more could one ask for.
If planning on staying at the canyon for longer than a day a few things to keep in mind. There is no water or toilets so come prepared. The nearest larger town is Carlsbad 1 hours’ drive away which has all the supplies you could need. The dirt road leading to the parking/camping area is rocky but generally passable by all vehicle types with proper driving, I witnessed a very new very low BMW creep its way into the park lot one morning. Don’t miss checking out this beautiful and unique area, you will not be disappointed.
Last Chance Canyon New Mexico Rock Climbing by Stu Smith was last modified: November 22nd, 2022 by squamishstu
The San Juan Mountains of Colorado rising to over 14,000’ are probably the prettiest in the state. A variety of exposed colorful rock layers contrast with the pines and aspens that grace their lower ramparts. Far from any major metropolitan areas, the air is fresh, and you can take a moment to take in your surroundings. Glacier carved valleys and cascading waterfalls surround you. Rock outcroppings protrude from the trees in almost every direction exciting the climber’s mind.
The geologic variety is as wide as the colors of rock in the San Juan Mountains. 1,400’ walls of quartzite and slate dating back 1.7 billion years have been uplifted and exposed in the mountain canyons and eroded calderas. Crags such as The Trough, Techno Crag, The RV Wall, and the Wicked Crag line the precipitous sides of Highway 550. You may see them, but the windy and exposed highway devoid of guard rails will keep your eyes from staring too long. The San Juans host some 20 calderas and some of the most significant volcanic events on the history of the planet. Like icing on a cake, the San Juan formation has left giant walls of volcanic ash at the tops of most of the peaks. While most of this layer is fractured to the point of being unappealing to climb on when it’s not froze in place, there are some dramatic exceptions to this rule. Most notably, the Hall of Justice is one of the more memorable sport crags you’ll find in the country. With routes up to six pitches in length, the dramatic exposure just walking the upper ledge will have your full attention. A host of long 35-meter pitches of steep pocked rock rise above and below this ledge.
Located between the upper volcanic ash and quartzite basement layers are a series of sandstone, limestone, conglomerate, shale and mudstone layers interspersed with igneous intrusions. You may be climbing on several different rock types throughout the course of a pitch at some crags.
For the more faint of heart, there are some of the most friendly and convenient options imaginable. Ouray’s Rotary Park crag hosts a bathroom with running water, barbeque grills, and over 50 bolted climbs between 5.2 and 5.12d rising just a few feet from your car. The Stripe Crag in Silverton lacks the amenities of Rotary Park, but also hosts a variety of grades with a short approach just outside of town.
When the high peaks unleash their fury, fair weather can often be found on the high desert Dakota Sandstone escarpments west of Montrose. A series of long east to west canyons offer mountain biking, off-roading, rock climbing and bouldering. The most notable is Dry Creek which features about 70 climbs between 5.7 and 5.13 overlooking a vast dry western landscape sloping down to the fertile farmlands of Montrose.
With Moab and Indian Creek only a 3-3.5 hour drive and the big walls of the Black Canyon sitting on the hill above Montrose there is no lack of full value year round climbing in the immediate vicinity. Locals don’t really take rest days here; we just change sports. You can river surf, ski, mountain bike, run, 4×4, run one of several via-ferratas, hike, paddle lakes and rivers, and soak in hot springs if climbing doesn’t suit your fancy.
Ouray isn’t just for Ice Climbing! was last modified: June 30th, 2022 by visualadventures
Le CEMA et la FQME sommes fiers et heureux de vous présenter un premier site d’escalade dans la région de Saint-Léon-de-Standon surnommé «petite Suisse». Cette région offre des paysages montagneux magnifiques. La Montagne du Soleil Couchant orienté face nord sera un oasis de fraicheur dans nos étés québécois chauds et humides. Le topo contient une trentaine de voie de 5.5 à 5.12 + fraichement équipé sur scellement. Le rocher volcanique de Saint Léon est particulier avec plein des belles prises et de trous. L’escalade accessible majoritairement uniquement en premier de cordée est de type sportif avec quelques voies trad classiques. Ce topo contient toutes les informations pour profiter de ce nouveau site. Ce topo sera éventuellement bonifié par l’ajout de d’autre site et secteur selon l’avancement des négociations et travaux du CEMA. Merci de nous encourager.
Québec: Saint-Léon-de-Standon Rock Climbing by Nicolas Rodrigue was last modified: September 14th, 2022 by nicomorne
Located under two hours from Anchorage, the season for climbing in Hatcher Pass may be short but one not to be missed. One of the best crags in Alaska, it boasts over 500 routes in multiple valleys of granite in an alpine setting where rolling green tundra contrasts against the dark gray bands of rock.
Prior to the mid 2000’s, Hatcher Pass was primarily old buttonhead bolts, cracks filled with moss, and a decent amount of runouts. The last ten years a few dedicated individuals led by the rebolting efforts of Kelsey Gray and Chris Williams and with support from their own wallets as well as the American Safe Climbing Association, have drastically changed the landscape of climbing in Hatcher. Many of the old buttonhead bolts are gone and replaced with stainless steel bolts and anchors. Old webbing that was once crusted with lichen, is now chain and rings. The return of larger numbers of climbers to Hatcher than ushered in a flurry of development across the valley with new crags and routes appearing every season. What was once an obscure area frequented by the experienced or those who already had knowledge of the area, is now a place where climbers of all levels can enjoy and learn.
Some of the highlights of the valley are areas such as Snowbird Slab, which includes routes from one to three pitches but has the greatest concentration of lines in the valley. 28 routes with grades from 5.6-5.10d make it a perfect day crag for getting lots of moderate lines. Other crags such as the Lost Wall or Renaissance Wall will test many climbers’ strength and abilities and the strongest may visit the Gargoyle for the full test. Don’t forget to bring your rack as well as quickdraws, while there are an increasing number of sport routes most of the lines will need at least one piece of gear and there are a lot of excellent trad climbs. A 70m rope is ideal but a 60m will work for many climbs.
The best season to visit is from Mid-June when the gate to Archangel Valley opens, and Mid-September when you can expect colder temperatures and the occasional snow. Boulderers will find the seasons to be longer as the snow landings can provide some excellent landings on taller problems. July is usually when the weather is best and the most climbers can be found.
Don’t let a trip to Alaska go by without at least a visit to this beautiful area.
Hatcher Pass Alaska Rock Climbing by Kelsey Gray was last modified: March 9th, 2022 by Prezwoodz
The gorge formed by the mighty Potomac River, carved a climbing area later to be a National Park just about a ba-zillion years ago. Great Falls National Park has a visitor’s center and several magnificent overlooks from which to view the spectacle of the great falls of the Potomac; even bigger during the spring runoff. Climbers and white-water kayakers alike are drawn to this beautifully secluded national park, one of many, just minutes from our Nation’s Capitol.
The rock climbing at the park is mostly on the Virginia side but there are a number of routes on the Maryland side as well. Most folks come for the top-roping since ropes are easily setup and the views are tremendous. Trad climbing and to a lesser degree aid climbing is not normally done since the shiest rock is brittle and easily flakes and breaks.
A modest fee is collected at the ranger’s booth but those who frequent the park purchase seasonal or yearly passes. The comprehensive but expensive Annual National Parks is valid; however, a cheaper annual C&O Canal Parks pass is also available.
Since most climbers’ top rope here you will mostly need gear for building anchors at the cliff tops. Warning: rock along the river generally does not hold trad gear, and it is recommended that climbers sling trees and rocks instead!
Although the Park Service has decided to not allow the placement of permanent hardware in this part of the country, i.e. bolted anchors, adequate protection is achieved using the natural protection found in trees, blocks, and rock. Many routes have adequate rock for placing pro as backup.
Be gentle on the trees please! They see lots of use. This means don’t saw the bark off by pulling webbing and ropes around them. Try not to compact root soil, stand on rock if possible. Soil erosion and the health of these trees is one area that the park is intensely focused on and, rightly or wrongly, much of the stress these cliff top trees are seeing is being attributed to us climbers.
Note: The park service is reviewing the impact of climbing and climbers throughout the gorge. PLEASE minimize your impact when moving around on top of and on the climbs. Observe all fencing and restrictions. The park has been very responsive to climber concerns over closures and has in all but a very few cases provided opening in fences to access the cliff tops for us. Consider being a good custodian and packing out an extra bag of trash from the cliff bases.
Great Falls National Park Rock Climbing was last modified: February 18th, 2022 by Marc Grunberg
Le Parc des Grands-Jardins et la Zec des Martres est un terrain d’aventure dépaysant à 15 minutes de St-Urbain. Venez grimper des voies mémorables dans un environnement grandiose! La nouvelle version du topo sur rakkup contient 125 voies (+ de 300 longueurs de corde), 160 photos et des informations détaillées sur les différentes voies, dont 23 nouvelles. Cette App nous permettra de faire des mises à jour régulières sans avoir à tout renuméroter et refaire la mise en page du texte et des photos. Impossible de se perdre grâce aux cartes GPS, vous pourrez accéder sans tarder aux classiques!
Québec: Parc National des Grands-Jardins Rock Climbing by Benoit Dubois was last modified: March 25th, 2021 by Benoit Dubois
Most people don’t know what to expect from a visit to the Sultanate of Oman. In fact, many people would struggle to position Oman on the map. Certainly, most people won’t be expecting to discover a diverse country with high mountains, a long rugged coastline, and of course plenty of desert. Muscat, the capital, sits between one of the coastal mountain chains and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. What’s more, the Omani people live up to their friendly reputation, held throughout the Gulf region. This new guide documents the fantastic deep-water soloing opportunities found along the Muscat coastline.
DWS has never been as convenient as it is in Muscat. You can literally take a taxi to the beach, swim to the rocks, and starts climbing straight out of the water if you wish. You don’t need any tricky logistics or specialist gear in order to start exploring these cliffs, although some planning and gear will allow access to the more complex sectors (and this guide explains how). With such easy access and friendly cliffs, Muscat is the perfect place to have your first DWS experience.
DWS can be done year-round, although the hot and calm early summer (April-June) and later summer (September-November) months are considered best by local climbers. There are crags and sectors for all conditions, sun and shade, sheltered and open, high and low tide. There are tall exhilarating faces, deep caves, expedition-like traverses and plenty of friendly low-balls. Over 200 routes and boulder problems up to V7 and F8a (5.13b) have been developed so far, with potential much for more.
The guide covers three main cliffs. Hire a boat from Qantab, a sleepy fishing village just outside Muscat, to access the tall and spread-out cliffs of Bar al Jissah. This area was the first to be developed, documented and published (thanks to Vincent van Engelen, Read Macadam and Jakob Oberhauser). The cliffs of Ras al Hamra are a short paddle from a downtown public beach and offer a friendly introduction to the sport, plus a few test-pieces. Nearby Qurum cliffs can be reached with a quick swim and provide several testing caves and shady faces to escape the hot summer sun. The new guide documents the latter two crags for the first time.
For a climbing trip unlike any other, try DWS Muscat.
Oman: Deep-water Soloing Muscat Area by Jamie Moss and Larry Michienzi was last modified: November 18th, 2020 by Jamie Moss
Weir, who in Quebec has never heard of it… I mean everyone goes there in February. You can even climb in December if the sun is out! The climbing is hard face, and the cracks pass though roofs. Chris Sharma apparently climbed LE Capitain but he just crimped the heck out of it and didn’t use the good holds!! There are only one or two easy climbs and they are all multi-pitches and exposed! I heard that Peter Croft soloed Black and White!
If you heard one you heard em all! Are they true or just myths! Well that is for a bear around the fireplace! What is important is that there is A LOT more to Weir than you’ve heard. Slowly but surely over the past few years Weir has had a facelift. There are now whole areas of moderate sport and trad climbs. What was often dirty and sketchy is now clean and fun.
Come explore and discover for the first time or maybe even rediscover all that Weir has to offer. Get of the beaten path and have fun climbing the new and older classic climbs.
Weir, qui au Québec n’a pas entendu parler de Weir. C’est LE spot au printemps. Certains y grimpent même en décembre quand le soleil et la température sont au rendez-vous! La grimpe c’est de la face dure, et les fissures passent des toits. Il y a seulement une ou deux voies faciles et ce sont des multi-longueurs engagées! Les rumeurs sur Weir abondent, Chris Sharma aurait grimpé la voie Du Capitaine en crimpant sans prendre les inversées. Peter Croft aurait fait Black and White en solo intégral.
Si vous en avez entendu une, vous les avez toutes entendues!!! Sont-elles vraies ou des mythes, ça, c’est pour les soirs autour d’un feu avec un bon verre entre les mains. Mais ce qui est important, c’est qu’il y a BEAUCOUP plus à Weir que vous avez entendu! Tranquillement au cours des dernières années Weir a eu une cure de rajeunissement. De nouvelles voies ont été ouvertes. Il y a maintenant des secteurs entiers de voies sport et trad modérés. Les voies sales et épeurantes sont rendues propres et plaisantes. Venez explorer et découvrir ou redécouvrir Weir. Venez surtout vous amuser à grimper tout ce que Weir a à vous offrir.
Québec: Mont Larose (Weir) Rock Climbing by Socrate Badeau was last modified: August 12th, 2020 by socratebadeau