Lucifer, so the story goes, in his pride rebelled against God and was banished from Heaven. But although he lost the battle for mastery of the heavens, it seems he won the battle, in more ways than one, for men's hearts and minds, as is apparent from the long list of places named for him or for his place of primary residence and the relatively short list of places named for his adversary.
So give the devil his due, or at least have some sympathy, and some taste.
Devils Kitchen in Colorado National Monument is a group of free-standing boulders and red spires. There is a little scrambling there (I was able to get up some of the smaller outcrops), a little more potential for bouldering, and a lot of potential for technical rock climbing. The approach is short (0.75 mi) and easy, so it makes an ideal place to visit when one wants to play on some cool rock without spending much time and effort getting there.
Most of the hike to the formation is on a gentle trail. Near the rocks themselves, the obvious trail disappears and becomes a cairned route. Here, the route becomes a little steeper, but it doesn't last long. You soon reach the base of the big pillars, and the route ends in a sandy, shaded grotto in the rocks.
On Rockclimbing.com, I was able to find an entry for Devils Kitchen, but there were no routes (and no other information) listed. The tallest of the spires rise about 100', and my non-expert eye guesses that climbs on them range from at least 5.8. On one spire, I did find a crack that seemed to be in the 5.4 range leading up to higher slabs and walls, and the higher portions looked exposed but climbable for people used to Class 4 and soloing low Class 5, but getting up the initial few feet into the crack was difficult and somewhat exposed, and I decided it wasn't worth it, so I really can't comment more than this on my observations of the route. For those who are curious-- the crack was on the right side after scrambling up through the grotto inside the Kitchen to the opening accessing the other side.
On Mountain Project, there are two climbs documented-- Boogie Down (5.9, A0, 2 pitches, 90') and Future Reference (5.10b, one pitch, 50'). See this page for more details.
It is my hope that someone will climb the spires here and either put up route pages or ask to take over this page and develop it accordingly. For now, this page puts the location on the "SP map."
Before you do climb here, though, and especially if you are considering putting up a route, consider the following climbing regulations, copied from the NPS Site for Colorado National Monument:
* No new permanent climbing hardware may be installed in any fixed location. If an existing bolt or other hardware item is unsafe, it may be replaced following consultation with park staff. This will limit all climbing to existing routes or new routes not requiring placement of fixed anchors.
* The use of power tools to facilitate the installation of rock climbing hardware or for any other purpose is prohibited.
* Climbing anchors and/or protection points may not be placed with the use of a hammer except to replace belay and rappel anchors and bolts on existing routes, or for emergency self-rescue.
* The use of permanent anchor fixtures and hardware shall be installed or used for the protection of climbers on established climbing routes only, and only where such hardware devices now exist.
* Software (webbing, accessory cord, etc.) that is left in place must match the rock surface in color.
* The installation or use of permanent anchor fixtures and hardware must be brown or black.
* Fixed ropes should not be left in place for more than 24 hours. Fixed ropes left in place longer than 24 hours shall be considered “abandoned property” and removed.
* The physical altering of rock faces such as chiseling new holds is prohibited.
* The intentional removal of lichen or plants from rock is prohibited.
* Camping on the summit of Independence Monument is prohibited.
* Chalk used for climbing must be of a color that blends in with the native rock.
* The following areas and exposures are closed to recreational rock climbing:
1. Any exposure above any tunnel portal, aboriginal rock-art site, the Balanced Rock in Fruita Canyon, and Mushroom Rock below the northwestern rim of Monument Mesa near the mouth of Monument Canyon
2. Any area which has the potential to disturb naturally occurring wildlife activity, such as, but not limited to, feeding, mating, or nesting activities
3. Any climbing activity in an area which has the potential to damage an archeological site, historic structure, or paleontological resource is prohibited.
Devils Kitchen Picnic Shelter
Across the road from the Devils Kitchen trailhead, you will find the Devils Kitchen Picnic Area, and there you will find the Devils Kitchen Picnic Shelter, built in 1941 and placed on the National Register of Historic Structures in 1994. Built by the CCC, much of it from rock cleared during the construction of Rim Rock Drive (the scenic road through Colorado National Monument), it has three sandstone fireplaces.
The site is popular and supposedly serves over 100,000 people yearly. However, in August 2009, vandals struck:
"On Monday night, August 3, or early Tuesday morning, August 4, vandals wantonly damaged part of the Historic Devils Kitchen stone picnic shelter in Colorado National Monument.
Vandals walked into the area past the locked gate. Vandals proceeded to break 21 panes of glass, some original to the building as well as a mirror. They also broke into a service closet, emptied a fire extinguisher onto picnic tables and the ground area, broke door handles and latches, scattered debris, and left human excrement in their wake." (quote from source linked below)
It is a reminder that there is an element out there that has no respect for natural or cultural history-- the same types that write over rock art and rip tracks through pristine terrain-- and that we need more natural and historical preservation (and protection), not less.
There are some trailheads outside the monument, but the vast majority of visitors enter via Rim Rock Drive, accessed via Fruita and CO 340 from the west and via Grand Junction and Monument Road from the east. Signs in Grand Junction and Fruita direct drivers to the entrances.
The parking area is on the south side of the road just inside (less than a mile from) the park's eastern entrance.
Beyond the Kitchen
I was frustrated that I was unable to climb much here without the protection of a rope, so I set my eyes on a small mesa just south of Devils Kitchen (seen above).
This turned into a nice little scrambling and route-finding adventure. Small cliff bands frequently block what look like obvious routes and force one to search for a break or an alternate route. There wasn't much sustained scrambling, but what I did find fell into the Class 3 and 4 range, and the isolation and views at the top were worth it.
I went up more or less along the left (west) side of the northern face, where there were some long dropoffs into No Thoroughfare Canyon, and returned along the eastern side of the formation, where there were scenic cliffs and views of a different canyon. I occasionally found some use trails on that eastern side, but for the most part, I was all on my own finding my way, and the "mountain" showed no other obvious evidence of human visitation. It was well worth the effort.
$7 per vehicle entrance fee. $4 for hikers, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Annual pass available for $20, Interagency Pass (good for entrance fees at most federal recreational sites) available for $80.
Saddlehorn Campground, by the visitor center and close to the west entrance, has first-come, first-served sites, running water, and flush toilets. There is a nightly camping fee.
Take Care of the Crust
As much as possible, avoid stepping on the biological crust out here; it is alive and is critical to the desert ecology, and it is fragile. If the soil looks lumpy, dark, or crusty, avoid it. Better yet, try to stay on exposed rock and in sandy washes as much as you can.
More about the crust...
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