I had just come to the end of a wonderfully intense two years grinding away on a Masters in Math, recently lined up a teaching job for the fall, and had a summer off in-between. So it was the perfect time to pack my Subaru full of gear and embark on an adventure! But where to head first? Washington was still quite rainy, the desert was already getting too hot to climb, and the Sierra might be a bit much after having spent the spring just cragging on weekends. I decided that a good destination would be the City of Rocks. Just north of the Utah-Idaho border, "The City" is a mecca of fun 1-pitch climbs on solid granite chunks riddled with splitter cracks and varnished features.
So I put a partner-post on MountainProject.com, and by the end of the day I had a partner named Scott. A week later I met Scott in the Bath Rock parking lot. After an initial bad-weather day (a snowstorm!), Scott and I spent four full days climbing in the City together. Scott turned out to be a perfect partner. Not only was he a really fun guy to be around, but he had climbed at the City since the pre-guidebook days and knew where all the best routes were. He was the ultimate City tour guide! Also, on our third and fourth days, Mick from Australia and Dave from England (two really cool guys who Scott had met in Indian Creek a couple of weeks previous) showed up and joined us for some City cragging fun. Mick and Dave are really good good climbers, so I got to follow their ropes up some of the City's great harder routes.
This page gives a brief summary of the routes Scott and I climbed and some random photos during our days in the City. We climbed a total of 42 different climbs and 47 pitches over 4.1 days. A pretty good trip, I'd say! Thanks Scott, Mick, and Dave for the fun times! July 1 addition: I swung by the City a week later to climb one more day with Scott, Mick, and Dave; I added a route list and some photos to the end of this trip report.
DAY 0.1 (June 18)
New climbs: 1; Total pitches climbed: 1
1. Rebar Route, Bath Rock, 4th It began snowing just as Scott and I met in the Bath Rock parking lot at 10am. So we chatted a bit, then scrambled up the Rebar Route on the back side of Bath Rock (ten heavy-gauge rebar handles were installed in the early 80’s on the backside of Bath Rock) for a murky yet tantalizing view of the City, and then Scott went to scope out some free camping while I headed for the wi-fi and coffee pot at the Tracy General Store in Almo. One more day to wait to begin the summer climbing adventure.
a. b. c. d. e. f.
a. I arrived the evening before and checked the message board at Bath Rock just in case Scott had left a note. It was nice weather then!
b. The next morning we met at Bath Rock. A snow flurry kept our climbing ambitions to a scramble up the back side of Bath Rock, where we got a good view of the City.
c. Tracy General Store in Almo. This is the oldest mercantile store in Idaho still operating. They have it all: gas, post office, small but great selection of snacks and supplies, coffee, deli, wi-fi, friendly owners,... I probably wore out my welcome by staying here all afternoon paying just $1/hour for wi-fi and buying the occasional coffee or ice cream sandwich, but I was hoping that I'd be too busy climbing the next few days to camp out yet another day at the store.
d. Not often there are quick draws and belay devices at a general store!
e. The City has a colorful history. At Camp Rock, immigrants left records of their passing in axel grease.
f. The elevation of the City is in the 6000's.
DAY 1.1 (June 19)
New climbs: 8; Total pitches climbed: 11
2. Wheat Thin, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.7, trad (led by Scott) A City classic climb up an arching white flake. This route was on my "must-do" list so we did it first!
3. Conceptual Reality, The Gallstone, 1p, 5.9, trad-sport (led by Scott) Short crack to a short and well-bolted steep face above. We climbed this route as a quick detour after we descended the backside of Elephant Rock and were walking back around to the front-side climbs.
4. Rye Crisp, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.8, trad (led by Scott) Probably the coolest flake route at City of Rocks, a step up from Wheat Thin, with a fair amount of plug-and-go gear placements and laybacking if you so choose. Apparently lots of accidents occur at the lower crux. This was my favorite route of the day and favorite 5.8 of the trip.
5. Columbian Crack, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.7, trad (led by Steph) To get to the crack, chimney behind a boulder and climb up an ever-widening crack that eventually had me knee-jamming.
6. Just Say No, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.9, sport (led by Scott) Tricky start and up a blunt arête. The first bolt is high so Scott slung a chockstone as his first piece.
7. New York is Not the City, Bumblie Rock, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Scott) Sporty jugs and pockets and a single crux near the top.
8. Classic Route, The Lost Arrow, 2p, 5.7, trad (led by Scott) We were on our way to Stripe Rock, but couldn’t pass Lost Arrow spire by without climbing it. This is an exciting wandering route with several old pitons and a free-hanging rappel.
9. Cruel Shoes, Stripe Rock, 3p, 5.7, sport (led by Steph and Scott) A very well-bolted three-pitch wander up a face. Did I mention well-bolted?
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l.
a. Scott made fresh coffee every morning. He really was the perfect climbing partner.
b. Scott leading our first route at the City: Wheat Thin (5.7).
c. A photo of the cool flake feature of Wheat Thin. Really fun climbing.
d. View of the City from the top of Elephant Rock.
e. A spontaneous knot in the middle of the rope. Sometimes the rope has a mind of its own.
f. Heading to The Gallstone to climb Conceptual Reality (5.9) on the left prow.
g. Fun crack to face climbing on Conceptual Reality.
h. Elephant Rock as seen from The Gallstone.
i. Black and white version of the previous photo.
j. A climber on the cool flake feature of Rye Crisp (5.8), my favorite route of the day. Despite it's 5.8 rating, it's a challenging climb.
k. Hiking between rocks in the City.
l. Scott rappelling from The Lost Arrow.
DAY 2.1 (June 20)
New climbs: 12; Repeat climbs:
; Total pitches climbed:
10. Mystery Achievement, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.7, sport (led by Scott) A good juggy warm-up route. This route has been re-bolted, so it is not the R rating it used to be.
11. Twist & Crawl, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.7, sport (toprope) Sparsely bolted arête with a nice finger crack at the top.
12. Bloody Fingers, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.10a, trad (toprope) (climbed twice) Beautiful line, quality rock, varied and challenging moves. This City classic often has a line awaiting it, especially since it is top-ropable. Apparently several accidents have occurred on the bottom crux. So good, I had to climb again. 10a crack climbing is just pure fun.
13. New Toy, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.10b, sport (toprope) Steep and thought-provoking face climbing just right of Bloody Fingers.
14. Double Vision, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.10a, sport (toprope) This route has of shallow pockets which are great for the feet but not for the hands, so I did a lot of high-stepping and mantling.
15. Intruding Dike, Super Hits Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.7, trad (led by Steph) A popular route that follows a laser-cut quartz dike on the south wall of the corridor. It eats 0.5 and 0.75 cams. The downclimb to the west is a bit tricky.
16. Finer Niner, Provo Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.9, sport (led by Scott) A generic (though still fun) 5.9 sport climb.
17. Tennish Anyone, Provo Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.10a, trad-sport (toprope) Crack start to a steep bolted face above.
18. Triple Roofs, Provo Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.7, trad (toprope) This route was surprisingly fun and spicy. I would give it 3 stars and a solid 5.8 rating (instead of the 1 star and 5.7 rating in the guidebook). The climbing involves a lot of sporty moves entering and exiting cracks. Gear placements are not trivial.
19. Adolescent Homosapien (aka Adolescent Homosexual), Decadent Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.7, trad (led by Steph) One of the most enticing lines on the wall. An easy crack climb up to a steep stemming crux just before the finish.
20. Another Jay Goodwin Route (aka Abortions on Parade), Decadent Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.10c, trad (toprope) Sporty 10c climbing.
21. Life Without Sex, Decadent Wall at Breadloaves, 1p, 5.11a, sport (toprope) A strenuous roof move (11a) followed by rather fun 5.9ish climbing up to steep finish (high 5.10) on small varnished edges. I would give this route more than just the single star it gets in the guidebook.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h.
a. Bloody Fingers, a great 10a crack on Super Hits Wall.
b. Cool cubic jointing in some pegmatite formations at the base of Super HIts Wall.
c. View of the City from the top of Super Hits Wall.
d. Black and white version of the above.
e. Many (but not all!) of the City climbs have bolted anchors at the top.
f. A climber on Intruding Dike (5.7). This was a fun lead. The crack eats 0.5 and 0.75 cams.
g. Campsites in the City are quite nice (these are at the base of Decadent Wall in the Breadloaves area), but you need reservations.
h. Decadent Wall in the Breadloaves area. So much great climbing.
DAY 3.1 (June 21)
New climbs: 11; Total pitches climbed: 11
22. Rollercoaster, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.8+, sport (led by Scott and Mick) A great bolted warm-up route.
23. Private Idaho, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.9, trad (led by Dave and Mick) 5.9 crack climbing fun. A bit thin for gear in the first section.
24. Colossus, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.10c, sport (led by Scott, Dave, and Mick) One of the best and most popular 10’s in the City, with two sporty roof cruxes.
25. Gemini, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.12a, sport (led by Dave and Mick) One of the most often-tried 12’s at the City. Dave and Mick did a great job leading it, and I pulled my way through all the moves, but with a few rests. The moves are all doable, just big!
26. Coffee and Cornflakes, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Mick and Dave) Juggy steep climbing on a varnished face.
27. Domini’s Crack, Bath Rock, 1p, 5.10c, trad (led by Mick) Burley wide move entering the leaning hand-fist crack.
28. Skyline, Morning Glory Spire, 1p, 5.8, trad (led by Scott) A beautiful/exciting/moderate and therefore quite popular line up Morning Glory Spire.
29. Siesta, Morning Glory Spire, 1p, 5.11b, sport (led by Dave) Nice position on an arête with a difficult crux move (hard not to barn door). Impressive lead Dave!
30. Fall Line, Morning Glory Spire, 1p, 5.10b/c, sport (led by Dave and Mick) A popular bolt-protected venture just right of Skyline.
31. The Pygmies got Stoned, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Dave and Mick) A somewhat generic but still quite fun 10a face climb.
32. Pretzel Logic to Pocatello Punk, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.10d, sport (led by Dave) A somewhat contrived bolted route. Dave took the bold right-hand variation near the top through a flaring squeeze/crack. (“It was right hard, that!” says Dave). My small size allowed for a knee-bar at the crux.
a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k.
a. Three classic City climbs on Bath Rock are shown here: The crack running down the center of the photo is Private Idaho (5.9 trad), and to the left is Rollercoaster (5.8+ sport) and to the right is Colossus (10c sport).
b. Scott leading off Rollercoaster.
c. Scott on Rollercoaster and Dave on Private Idaho.
d. The gear placements are a bit tricky on the first part of Private Idaho....Dave's first two wires pulled out when the rope tightened as he lowered from the top.
e. Scott on the 10c crux roof of Colossus.
f. Mick at the 10c crux of Domini's Crack.
g. Steph climbing on Siesta (11b) on Morning Glory Spire.
h. Mick at the 11b crux of Siesta.
i. Hard not to barndoor on the crux!
j. Crack of Doom (11c) on Morning Glory Spire, which we did not climb but is one of the most beautiful and challenging cracks in the City.
k. Dave leading up The Pygmies Got Stoned (5.10a) on Elephant Rock to cap off the day.
DAY 4.1 (June 22)
New climbs: 10; Repeat climbs: 1; Total pitches climbed: 11
33. Funky Bolt, Parking Lot Rock, 1p, 5.9, trad (led by Dave) The route has funky gear placements and a funky move near a funky bolt. I’d call it 5.9+ for sure. Super fun though.
34. Just Another Pretty Face, Parking Lot Rock, 1p, 5.10d, sport (led by Dave) Brave lead to and over and along a lip, to a nice final face.
35. Tow Away Zone, Parking Lot Rock, 1p, 5.10a, trad (led by Mick) Cruxy start to an I-could-hand-jam-up-this-for-miles crack.
36. Delay of Game, Parking Lot Rock, 1p, 5.8, sport (led by Scott) Easy 5.8 face climbing with a nice position.
37. Batwings, Parking Lot Rock, 1p, 5.8, trad (led by Scott) This popular moderate route stole a star from “Delay of Game” next door (both are 3 stars in the guide, but I’d give Batwings 4 of the 6 stars for its greater variety and challenge).
38. Deez Guys, Slabbage Patch, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Scott, Dave, and Mick) 5.6 jugs with 5.11 overhanging angle = 5.10a fun. The character of this route is a limestone climb, just with granite holds.
39. I Can’t Believe It, Slabbage Patch, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Mick and Dave) The route climbs a smooth brown and white mottled wall and goes through a roof. Heel hook!
40. Mystery Bolter, Transformer Corridor, 1p, 5.9, sport (led by Scott) Up a slot to face climbing through dishes. This is a long route and the guide warns that two ropes are needed to descend – we busted out Scott’s 80m rope and were able to just make the rappel back down to the ground.
41. Chomping at the Bit, Transformer Corridor, 1p, 5.11a, sport-trad (led by Dave) Good stoppers in upper cracks. This was my favorite 5.11a we climbed at the City on this trip.
42. Bumblie Takes a Tumblie, Bumblie Rock, 1p, 5.11a, sport (led by Dave) Lots of big and dynamic moves, a good route to do while still fresh. Dave led this route in the full sun and after a full day of climbing, which was quite impressive.
Last Route. Wheat Thin, Elephant Rock, 1p, 5.7, trad (led by Steph) This City Classic was the first climb of the trip and as we drove past Elephant Rock at the end of the day we decided it only appropriate that it also be our last. Scott had led it the first time, so I led it this time. A great route to end a great trip. I’ll be back to climb it again someday I’m sure.
a. b. c. s. e. f. g. h. i. j.
a. Parking Lot Rock is appropriately named.
b. Dave on Just Another Pretty Face (10d). The crux is getting to, over, and along the lip above him in the photo.
c. Dave at the 10a crux of Tow Away Zone, a great crack climb on Parking Lot Rock.
d. The result of Dave forgetting his belay device and using carabiners and Munter hitches.
e. Scott at the first bolt of Deez Guys (10a), a fun sport climb at Slabbage Patch.
f. Scott climbing I Can't Believe it (10a), another fun sport climb at Slabbage Patch.
g. Scott on the 10a roof of I Can't Believe It. The holds are good at the roof.
h. Scott having fun at the start of Mystery Bolter (5.9) at Transformation Corridor.
i. Dave leading Bumblie Takes a Tumblie (11a) at Bumblie Rock. An impressive lead in the direct sun and after a full day of climbing.
j. On the drive out of the City we stopped and took a look at the 5.13 Le Boogyman on Treasure Rock. I'd love to see someone climb this.
When my 4.1-day City of Rocks adventure with Scott came to an end, I wasn't ready for it to be over. There were still so many routes to climb in the City! Plus I enjoyed hanging out with Scott and Mick and Dave. But I had other climbing adventures to pursue (namely, Lone Peak just out of Salt Lake City). But a week later, on my way out of Utah and back into Idaho (now headed towards the Sawtooths), I swung by City of Rocks found Scott, Mick, and Dave still there camped just where I'd left them a week previous! So I climbed another day at the City with them. Bonus!
BONUS DAY! (July 1)
New climbs: 7; Total pitches climbed: 7
43. Squall Line, Weather Wall, 1p, 5.10b, sport (led by Scott, Dave, and Mick) This climb was pretty sustained and I found it a bit tricky reading the moves.
44. High Pressure System, Weather Wall, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Scott, Dave, and Mick) A generic 10a sport climb.
45. Thunder Ridge, Weather Wall, 1p, 5.10a, sport (led by Dave and Mick) Varied moves with a non-sport-climb feel.
46. Storm Front, Weather Wall, 1p, 5.11b, sport (toprope) One crux move over a roof.
47. Yellow Wall, Yellow Wall, 1p, 5.9, trad (led by Scott) A unique and classic stemming exercise up the steep, colorful face. Really fun!
48. Patina Turner, Yellow Wall, 1p, 5.11b, trad-sport (led by Dave) Technical moves up a steep and smooth granite face with incuts, with a mix of bolts and small pro.
49. King of Suede, Yellow Wall, 1p, 5.10c, trad (led by Mick) Gotta love crack climbs!
a. b. c.
a. We amassed a painful collection of grass seeds on our socks on the 20 min approach to the Twin Sisters area.
b. Scott stemming up Yellow Wall (5.9).
c. Mick doing acrobatics during his rappel down Yellow Wall.