The most beautiful hiking at the City of Rocks can be found in what Bingham labels the North Fork Circle Creek area. One of the larger faces at the City is named Steinfell’s Dome which is accessed via a separate and dead end road named Circle Creek Overlook. This road is a right hand turn before you make the main City of Rocks right hand turn. It is well signed and this trailhead services both the Steinfell area as well as the outback objectives to the east of the main reserve. Stripe Rock, the Great Wall and Tahitian Wall are several of the main climbing areas, but the rock croppings laid out in these huge flowering meadows are vast and varied. Stripe Rock centers the area and gaining its summit gives you a solid scouting opportunity to determine where you are going next.
Great Wall and Grey Wall are to the north of Stripe. Great Wall is actually the smaller of the two and is further west parallel to Grey. What drew me to this remote feature at the City was a route named Three Star Corner (5.10a). Bingham gives this trad route the maximum stars in his local guide and quotes someone as saying “one of the best crack pitches in the park”. Well that is an overstatement to say the least but it was an enjoyable corner climb, not really a crack/splitter climb, short and not near worth the praise given above. It did not deserve three stars either. It should be named “two star corner” at most. There was no trail to the base of this climb and I was cleaning the corner on lead, leading me to suspect it is rarely climbed. There are supposedly several good 5.9 tall and bolted run-out routes to the left on the main face (west) but I have not explored them to date.
Park at the Circle Creek Overlook Trailhead at City of Rocks. Follow the road beyond the gate northwest from the parking area. Take a left through another gate following the road through huge meadows. Continue west and soon you will easily make out Stripe Rock as the dome shaped feature with a huge dike running up its left side (the “stripe). Turn right after Bucket Land (all well signed in 2013) and proceed through another gate at the creek. Split right bypassing Stripe’s access across the creek and follow the trail on the right side of the creek. Great Wall is the lower wall and Grey Wall is the upper one. To reach Three Star Corner, locate the huge triangle cut out on the lower right face. Aim through the burnt out forest to the base of this large roof. Three Star Corner climbs the right facing corner up the left side of this feature (not right side as Bingham states) . The other routes can be accessed by following the base of the wall left (north).
Route Description(s)West Face
Routes Listed Right to Left
- Three Star Corner- 5.10a***/”One of the best crack pitches in the park” is not a proper assessment neither is Bingham’s three stars. This is worth two stars at most and barely worth the effort to hike up to. It is a corner, not a splitter, and thus barely classifies as a "crack" climb. It is made up of a unique multi-roofed corner with mostly finger jams and laybacks at the cruxes, but is also relatively short for all the praise in the guide. It was quite dirty when I climbed and had no discernible trail leading up to it. I speculate it is rarely climbed. Most of the other routes on the Great Wall (which is remote by the City standards) are bolted 5.9’s, therefore this (stout for the grade) 5.10 trad route gets little notice. Finding it is easy, look for the huge triangular roof on the far right shoulder of the Great Wall. Walk straight up to it. The rap hangers are a bit hard to see. The crux is close to the deck, a tight dirty finger corner. The upper part is really nice finger jams. The final slab traverse right to the anchor might feel a bit exposed for someone lacking slab skills. Single rope rap. Dow
- Waterstreak- 5.10a*/
- Modelo- 5.9**/
Located in a large left facing cornerwhich is left of a striking roof feature on the right side of the main wall. This route is 260’. With a 70m rope, I made it to small ledge(230’) with good medium pro for an anchor. I was notas comfortable with my second simul climbing this one because the startis the stoutest part of the pitch. However, we were both comfortable soloing the last 30’ and thus un-ropedat 230’. I originally started up thetrue corner until my partner pointed out the outstanding flake system to myright. This fantastic varnished flakesystem with a hand crack in it is the route. Due to the jugs this would be a 5.8 many places. Once you get through this outstanding start(cracks through flakes), you pull out right and continue up to the obvious widecrack above. Everything goes prettyquick and easy to the belay (but sustained “fun” if nothing else). If you combined this start with the finish onYahoo, you would have one of the best 5.9 pitches at the City. There is more than a normal amount of ratpiss on this route. Trad. Dow
- Yahoo- 5.9**/Located just left of Modello in an obvious crack through a small roof. This route is 275’ and I did run it to the top of the formation in one pitch with my partner simul climbing through fairly tame ground. However there is much more rope drag on Yahoo than Modelo. This has less to do with extensions and more to do with how much rope is dragging against the ramp start. I advise doing it in two pitches. I unnecessarily ran most of it out because there was too much rope drag. The top part of this route had a ton of fun stemming at the grade as you maneuvered through several bulges on steep positive rock. A counter weight belay on top with one C4#.4 in the floor. Trad. Dow
- Ye-Haw- 5.9+R*/
- Old Route- 5.9R***/This route is located on the left side of the wall. It is the only bolted route on the wall (2015) so it is easy to find. However, after the first two, the 3rd bolt is very difficult to pick out. This is a mixed route and there is at least 60’ between the 2nd and 3rd bolt. The first bolt is accessed from traversing in from the left below a moss filled crack system above on the left side of the wall. The 2nd bolt continues a rightward traverse. Keep angling up and right finding several good placements (C4#.75 and .5). Follow the positive ground and trust there is a bolt up and right. The 3rd bolt starts the vertical 5.9 portion of the climb. There are two more bolts to a chain anchor. Only the last pro bolt and the anchor itself have been replaced. The first four bolts have fully rusted stems. You cannot rap this route with a 70m. I left a leaver biner on the 2nd bolt that a 70m just reaches from the fixed anchor. It took courage to rap on it though and would take more courage to fall on the 3rd or 4th bolt. I advise staying off this route until it gets retrofitted. Mixed. Dow