Todd Goss and Anthony Jones started developing the first basalt rock area in St. George in 1995, knows as Black Rocks. St. George, Utah is surrounded by climbing walls on all fronts with Black Rocks and Chuckawalla Wall north of town competing for most popular crag. Ease of access to both is no doubt partly responsible. A minimum of 65 published routes line both the north and south facing walls of Black Rocks giving up ideal conditions in both summer and winter for all abilities. However, Black Rocks is now closed to any new climbing route development.
Black Rocks is within the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a 62,000+ acre scenic wildlife reserve set aside in 1996 to protect the desert tortoise among other sensitive desert species. Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is the cornerstone of three separate and distinct ecosystems, the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Due to this unique merge, several endemic species, those which can be found no where else in the world, are found in the reserve.
There are 65 short sport routes featured in Todd Goss’s new edition guide book, “Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah”. This recent edition was published in 2006 and I highly recommend it. I have climbed many of the south wall routes. These are all short sport routes. I found the grade pretty much dead on relative to the routes I have led.
Black Rocks does not offer the serious trad opportunities that can be found at Bluff Street Crags back in town nor the multi-pitch routes in Snow Canyon State Park, but does offers more route choice and better quality rock than what is found at Green Valley Gap or any of the other sport climbing crags in and around St. George.
Routes are Left to Right
- Jerry’s on Deck- 40’- 5.10a/ (photos) Last route to the west on the sunny (north) side of Black Rocks. Fun start, but the whole route seems more like a 5.9 or less to me. Four bolts to rap anchors.
- Hippy’s at Bat- 30’- 5.10a/ (photos)Second to last route to the west on the sunny side (north) of Black Rocks. Scramble up a short heap of rocks to the base of a shady wall. Four bolts to rap anchor. Stem the lower section and then nice pockets on a verticle to slightly overhanging wall.
- Mickey Mantle- 35’- 5.10b/ (photos) The 5.10b's go easy for the grade at Black Rocks in my opinion. This is the third route from the west on the sunny wall (north). Small crimps to mantel and pockets through 3 bolts to anchor.
- Particulate Matter- 40’- 5.11b/
- Keystone Arete- 40’- 5.10b/ (photos) My favorite route at Black Rocks thus far. Fun awkward moves up the arete, moving back and forth via these large off centered blocks. Four bolts to rap chains.
- The Nest- 40’- 5.7/
- Degenerate Matter- 40’- 5.10c/
- Dark Matter- 40’- 5.10c/ (photos) Decent route. Little overhanging, thin crimps through three bolts to cold shuts. On the easy side of 5.10c.
- Galactic Cannibalism- 40’- 5.10b/ (photos) One of my favorite routes at Black Rocks north, located in between Moses Had a Stick Clip, 5.10a and Dark Matter, 5.10c. A classic on lead, sustained finger pocket 40'er. Eases up towards the top. Middle is the crux. Four bolts to cold shuts.
- Moses Had a Stick Clip- 40’- 5.10a/ (photos) Unlike the name implies, I do not believe this route needs to be stick clipped. This is a fantastic arete line out of a number up and down Black Rocks north. Start with a slightly loose corner piece, move up somewhat overhanging ground through the first bolt, staying mostly on the left side of the arete with the finish on the left side straight up. Four bolts to chains. Fun route.
- Jesus Wore Tevas- 40’- 5.10c/
- Oh Shit- 40’- 5.10b/ Easier than most 5.10b's at this crag. Fun overhanging start, but positive holds. Second 2/3rd go with positive pockets and edges. Avoid stemming, not part of the route. Five bolts to loose rap hangers.
- Oh My Heck- 40’- 5.10a/ The arete version of Oh My Hell, clip the same bolts, but stay on easier foot holds to the left until the finish. Same shart, then move over left. Five bolts to chains.
- Oh My Hell- 40’- 5.10c/ One of the better routes. Easy start, then gets a little crimpy. Crux move about 2/3rds up. Counter balance here and there through five bolts to chains hanging down.
- Camlock- 40’- 5.10a/
- Lunar Orbit- 40’- 5.10b/ Quite sustained pockets and edges through 5 bolts (vs 4 in the book). Several loose blocks up high that don't come out yet (2008).
- Objective Reality- 35’- 5.9/ (photos). The worst of these three climbs that share the same anchor. Not very aesthetic really and kind of a weird lead to keep it true, use some gear and get back right to the anchor (photos).
- Solar Eclipse- 35’- 5.10b/ A tough short and sparse face climb for the grade. Four bolts to shared anchor with route above and below. Several of us feel this is quite sandbagged if you truly do not use the corners at all. (photos)
- Unknown Reality- 35’- 5.9/ I recommend this rare trad route in Black Rocks. Three routes share the same top chains here (Solar Eclipse and Unknown Reality). This crack starts out wide as you place a larger piece underneath a bulge (crux) and narrows as you ascend. Some fun hand jamming and stemming to be had (photos).
- Black Dwarf- 35’- 5.9+/ Four bolts to anchor. Fun move over bulge as I recall (photos).
- Sungrazer- 35’- 5.8+/ One of two 5.8’s on the wall, thus quite popular. Rated tougher than Black Hole Sun, I thought it was easier and easy for the grade. Three bolts to the anchor. Edges and pockets up a seam (photos).
- Black Hole Sun- 35’- 5.8/ Both of these 5.8’s are a little polished, but still worth it. Four bolts past edges and pocket to anchor (photos).
- Nuclear Decay- 35’- 5.9/
- Gravitational Attraction- 35’- 5.11b/
- Casual Slander- 35’- 5.9/ I recommend this route. Finger crack to great pockets. Three bolts to anchor (photos).
- Standing on Faith- 35’- 5.7/
- Volcanic Therapy- 35’- 5.7/
- Cyclops- 35’- 5.10a/ Just about my favorite route on the wall. This route represents, you guessed it, a Cyclops. Three bolts to anchor. Use edges to maneuver past the “eye socket” (photos). It is directly across from where you enter the canyon.
- Extinction- 40’- 5.10a/ (photo) I feel this is definitly sandbagged for a 5.10a, again, compared to 5.10a's on the south wall. Gets really crimpy in the middle throwing two hard crux moves at you, one after the other. The trad route next to it, goes much easier, but they are both rated 5.10a.
- The Stem from Heck- 40’- 5.10a/ (photos) Trad crack stuck between a ton of sport routes on the north wall. Seems easy for 5.10a, particullary compared to 5.10a's on this side of Black Rocks which seems a little sandbagged to me. Takes nice gear whenever you want it, mostly medium, to a small overhang that is real fun to stem, thus the name I guess.
- Polluting the Gene Pool- 40’- 5.11a/
- Run Bunny Run- 40’- 5.9+/
- Hippy’s Wrath- 35’- 5.11c/
- New Age Disciples- 35’- 5.10b/
- Indifference- 35’- 5.9/
- STD- 30’- 5.10c/
- FYM- 30’- 5.8/
- The Fella’s- 35’- 5.9/
- Stick it Dude- 40’- 5.11c/
- Jumping to Conclusions- 45’- 5.12c/
- Flying off the Handle- 45’- 5.12b/
- Galactic Acid- 45’- 5.13b/
- Slap Happy- 40’- 5.12c/
- Flirting with Mutants- 40’- 5.11b/
- Ginsu- 35’- 5.11c/
- Mission Impossible- 35’- 5.10b/
- Entropy- 35’- 5.9/ (photo) A nice break between the more challenging routes on the North Facing Wall. Positive holds through four bolts to anchor. I do feel the routes are a tad sandbagged on the north facing wall compared to the south facing wall of Black Rocks.
- Atlantis- 35’- 5.10b/ (photo) The true start is to the left...if you go right, you are cheating the route. There is only one unlock to the first move...took me a while to find it...sort of a layback move. Be patient, fun, once you get it. Sustained past edges and sharp pockets past four bolts to anchor.
- The Beginning- 40’- 5.10b/ (photo)Tough sustained lead for the grade put up in memory of Kevin Mohammed. Physical crux to start, but with a nice hand pocket to the right and reach up to a thin edge to the left. Then about 2/3d's up, the true crux is a spread eagle leverage move back to the left to get under some hands, but little if any feet as you hoist above the mini roof above on a huge pocket, but little else.
- Your Problem- 50’- 5.12c/
- What was I Thinking- 50’- 5.10c/ (photos) This route is difficult for the grade. Borders 5.11 in my opinion. Starts out with ease through fun overhang, but about 2/3rds up gets pumpy and sparse and stays that way (or maybe I was just done for the day). You have to make a mantel move or two onto very small features and then a fist jam onto another overhanging big move to finish. Great shady side route in the winter towards the end of the day. Nice and warm in February we found after the sun hit it for at least an hour.
- Welcome to Black Rocks- 50’- 5.10a/ (photos) Fun route on the shady side that gets good sun in the late afternoon during the winter months. Starts out with an undercut overhang and then lays back fairly easy via six bolts to anchor.
- The 5am Lookouts- 50’- 5.10a/
- Split Decisions- 50’- 5.10b/ Decent route, worth adding to Welcome to Black Rocks. Just to the right of Welcome, small overhang, then trend out right (two routes share same start). Interesting dark black face crimps and holes traversing right to anchor.
- Singularity- 35’- 5.10c/
- Event Horizon- 40’- 5.10d/
- Critical Mass- 40’- 5.10c/
- Neutrino Drizzle- 40’- 5.10b/
- Vacuum Genesis- 40’- 5.10d/
- Blank Czech- 40’- 5.12b/
- Escape Velocity- 40’- 5.12a/
- Primeval Atmosphere- 40’- 5.11b/
- Primordial Soup- 40’- 5.10b/
- Subdivisions- 40’- 5.9/
- Chromatic Aberration- 35’- 5.9/
Getting ThereDrive north on Bluff Street (Route 18) beyond St. George proper. Two miles beyond Sunset Blvd the road starts to descend to cross the canyon floor. There should be a “Falling Rocks” sign on the right across from a small dirt pull out to the left next to a paved bike path. Park here and head up the hill (north) along the bike path for just a short distance looking for the step through access along the fence that marks the Red Cliffs Preserve boundary. There are trail signs posted and pets are allowed on leash on this trail. Follow the trail as it winds north and drops right down into the climbing section of Black Rocks. You descend the north wall and either cross to the south wall or stay along the north wall. The routes on the north wall start immediately as you get to the base. The south wall routes start directly across from where you descend and both walls run west from there. It is imperative that you stay on the existing trails to avoid damage to the desert terrain, damage that can last for much longer relative to other environs.
Red TapeBlack Rocks is closed March 15-June 30.
Black Rocks is currently closed to all new development as well. Parking is allowed in designated areas only. Overnight parking for backcountry camping, hunting, or shuttling is permitted. No camping is permitted in the parking areas. All pets must be on a leash to prevent wildlife disturbance and to avoid conflicts with other people. In the Lowland Zone, campfires are restricted to established fire rings within official campgrounds. Campfires are allowed in the Upland Zone, but may be subject to closures for high fire danger.
The rock at Black Rocks is stronger than most of the local sandstone, however, as with most of the climbing in and around St. George, you should avoid climbing for at least 24 hours after any rain.
My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive. The best breakfast and coffee (Italian espresso) can be had on Main Street at the Bear Paw Coffee Company. The Outdoor Outlet is one of my favorite independent climbing stores anywhere. They know the climbing area well and have a great selection of gear at competitive prices.
When to ClimbI have climbed in Black Rocks for years during the winter months and have always found the south wall an inviting place to climb. The climbing is good all year round with the exception of daytime during the summer months. If you are climbing anywhere in southwestern Utah during the summer months, you more than likely better get up early and finish your climb early. The walls can get brutally hot.
Camping/LodgingThere are three campgrounds within the city limits of St. George none of which I have experienced. Temple View RV Resort at 975 South Main Street; Settlers RV Park at 1333 East 100 South; St. George Campground at 2100 East Middleton Drive.
Of course my druthers would be to stay at the campground in Snow Canyon State Park. This has to be one of the finest State campgrounds anywhere with direct access to tons of climbing routes. The campground is open all year, no holiday closures. There is a limit on your stay of 5 days. They have 33 total units, 17 of which are reserved for the big boys (RV’s) with utility hookups. The tent sites were $14 in 2005. Drinking water is available on site along with vault toilets and even showers. The running/hiking/equestrian trail system is pretty cool and as long as you don’t run into the occasional Segway group, the whole park is usually very quiet, particularly during winter months.