OverviewNot to be confused with the Devil’s Kitchen Lemon Squeezer, the Rough Canyon Lemon Squeezer is very different than its Colorado National Monument counterpart. I have run into some confusion among locals between these two spots. Some people have heard of one and not the other or visa versa. Some people know of them but don’t know their names or have strange, different names for them. I have heard the moniker “Lemon Squeezer” attached to both of these spots for many years, and from more than one source. So that is the name I will stick with for both. To make matters even more confusing, it has recently been called to my attention that there is yet another "lemon squeezer" on nearby Mount Garfield AND and bike trail called "The Lemon Squeezer" which is also in the area. Someone needs to get more original with their names in the Grand Valley.
This route is tricky. Think of it as a combination of caving, bouldering, and scrambling. The unique character of the route makes it difficult to rate in terms of YDS or some other system. I would, however, say that you should definitely feel comfortable with class 4 climbing and tight, claustrophobic spaces in order to climb the Lemon Squeezer.
NOTE: This route is a bit dangerous. Several people have had to be rescued from here recently. This might be in part because the Lemon Squeezer is popular with college kids, some of whom were likely drinking before entering. Enjoy yourself but be cautious; a rescue from the heart of this unique route would be difficult and time consuming.
Getting ThereFollow Rough Canyon (see Rough Canyon page) for about a mile past the class 3 waterfall move and the exposed section of the trail. When the trail begins to drop down after the exposed section, leave the trail to the right and scamper up to the cliff base on the north side of the canyon. Though the entrance to the Lemon Squeezer is somewhat indistinct, it has become a rather popular destination, and you should see considerable signs of human activity leading to it. Discover the narrow entrance to the Lemon Squeezer and shed all unnecessary items. Backpacks will not work in here; it is simply too narrow.
The Lemon Squeezer RouteThis unique route consists of three “caves”, a spooky chockstone scramble, and a cool sandstone room. The excitement begins immediately after discovering the Lemon Squeezer’s entrance.
First Cave: Upon stepping through the entrance, you are in the first cave. Stem your way over a large boulder and turn sharply right into an even narrower slot (class 3). Now you have an understanding of what the route is all about. If this introduction section is too difficult or if the constricted space is already getting to you, end now: it gets worse ahead. Immediately after turning to the right, the cave in front of you suddenly pinches shut. You have to squeeze through a very narrow slot to your left to escape. This gap is not technically difficult but is probably the narrowest portion of the entire route. This part of the route is extremely tight for most climbers. Chubby or claustrophobic people need not apply.
Chockstone Scramble: Though you may feel some relief being out of the tight, dark cave, this next section is actually quite dangerous. Immediately after emerging from the first cave, you have to stem up and scramble over a series of chockstones wedged above the crack you just squeezed out of. Be cautious: not all of these chockstones are stable.
It's best to stay on the right blocks at the second chockstone scramble. The center ones are likely to fall down into the narrow squeeze section (make sure nobody's below). Immediately after this, the route squeezes left and a cool balcony is on the right.
Stemming into this slot and maneuvering past these chockstones is probably class 4. When you come to the wall, turn left into the second cave.
Second Cave: The second cave is taller than the first but darker, narrower, and longer. You will have to turn sideways for much of it. The good news is that you can use the narrow walls to brace yourself through some of the technical moves. Midway through this difficult and awkward section is the route's first crux (the crux if you decide to stop at The Room). Here you must perform an awkward move over a waist-high overhang in an ultra-tight position, using the smooth walls to brace yourself and stem over the rockpile. It is very dark in here, and if there is a point on the route where first-timers freak out, it's usually here. Once past this crux, duck through the exit gap into the room. The second cave is probably class 4.
The Room: After the second cave you emerge in a tall but somewhat narrow room. This room is not enclosed completely like the caves earlier but an overhang still blocks direct sunlight. A large fin of sandstone seals you in from a big dropoff on the other side. One daring side adventure is to scoot along the fin's edge. This will make all but the most exposure-hardened climber's stomach churn (See this photo)
Third Cave (and beyond): Many people choose to end their day at the room, but they are missing out on the joys/terrors of the third cave. The third cave is not as dark and narrow as the second cave but contains the most difficult and committing terrain on the route. The third cave consists of five "problems". The first two probelms are typical of what you have already encountered. The third problem, however, is more serious.
Here you must scramble up a steep boulder, using the crack between the boulder and the wall on climber’s left for purchase. The low visibility doesn't make it any easier. This move probably goes at 5.3 or some caving equivalent. A slip or fall here would probably not be good. All sorts of potential carnage, in fact, comes to mind at both this problem and the next: tweaked knees, twisted ankles, broken bones, rock pinnings, head trauma, etc. With care, however, the moves shouldn't be overly difficult.
The knife edge in the third cave (optional) has a large loose block at the start. Don’t trust it overly much. Also, it would be easier to reverse the knife edge on the way down as one could climb up a blocky section rather than lower onto the knife.
We were all able to squeeze beneath the 2 major chockstones in the third room (largest person 5'10" 160). The first is easily climbed over too via the left wall. The second is spooky and can be crawled under without even touching the big chock.
The fourth problem is the crux of the whole route. A large chockstone is wedged in the crack. Lines on either side are overhung. A possible squeeze underneath and behind the chockstone is very narrow and dicey. It is important to note that getting down the third and fourth problems is considerably harder than going up them. When descending the fourth pitch you must turn inward to face the rock and slowly lower/dangle your legs blindly in the dark. Dealing with this rock is probably 5.7 or 5.8 in difficulty. You could probably also think of it as a V0 boulder problem inside a cave with X-rated consequences. A fall here would almost certainly mean disaster.
The fifth problem is a short but difficult chimney climb that escapes the third cave. Anybody who wants to continue up the difficult terrain beyond this point can probably figure it out for themselves.