Big Block climbing area is one of the few outdoor sport climbing areas close to Albuquerque. With a short, easy approach it is a popular destination. The area is rather small with a handful of bouldering problems and some good sport climbing on excellent limestone. The area gets its name from the enormous block of limestone in the middle of the climbing area. This block is large enough to have 3 short routes and some bouldering.
Big Block Climbing Area
From Albuquerque head east on I-40 to exit 175 (Tijeras). From the exit head south on Route 337. When exiting stay right to avoid the turn onto Route 14 North, however, keep to the middle lane. At the stoplight you will need to be in the middle lane since the other lanes are left turn only or right turn only. Once you pass through the light on Route 337 continue for 4.8 miles. You will pass Tunnel Canyon at 2.6 miles and Otero Canyon at 3.9 miles. The parking area is very small and is on either side of a hill cut. The first (northern most) side of the hill cut is the better parking area. In total there is only room for a few cars.
From the parking area go south and climb down a few small boulders. There is an old overgrown road. Follow the old road to a path that leads down into the valley an over a creek. The first wall in front of you will be Main Wall. All of the climbing area can be seen on the approach. The approach takes five minutes or less.
Click each image for a description
Big Block Climbing Area overview: Click for a larger version
The routes in the area are all single pitch routes on limestone. The canyon does not get a lot of sun and is at a higher elevation than Albuquerque. Winter climbing here can be done on nice days but it usually stays cool in the valley and the lack of sun can keep the rock very cold. However, this makes this area an ideal summer crag since it does not get too hot like rest of Albuquerque.
Note regarding ratings: I have been unable to find a printed guidebook to this area. The difficulty ratings have been determined by gathing information from the Rockclimbing.com entry for Big Block, other climbers, and lastly, my own personal climbing experience in this area. If you feel a difficulty rating listed here is in error I'd be happy to check things out and include your input.
All routes are in order from left to right as the climber looks at the wall.
Big Block, 5.7- - 5.7+
Big Block routes
Big Block 1 - 5.7+:
A very short route to the highest point on the Big Block. Very crimpy but it is about 15 degress less than vertical. Up 3 bolts to chain anchors.
Big Block 2 - 5.7+:
Another short route just right of Big Block 1. Same angle and crimpiness as the first. Up 3 bolts to chain anchors.
Big Block 3 - 5.7-:
At about 25ft this is the shortest route on the Block. Still crimpy but there are a few larger holds. Top-rope only. There is one bolt at the top with a hanger and a second bolt without the hanger. I put a girth hitch on the bolt without the hanger and used full length runners to build an anchor.
If you choose not rap down you can climb down the block's north side. There is one move that requires a bit of a reach but if you're 5'6" or taller you can make it.
There are also numerous opportunities on the block's west side for bouldering. The block leans back on this side by about 40 degrees.
Main Wall, 5.10a-5.12a
West side Main Wall:
There are numerous bolts on this side but no obvious routes. Please let me know if you have any additional information.
NM St Rt 2 and Unknown 2 detail
Unknown 1 - 5.11c:
Up onto the large ledge then up the face to a large roof. Top rope from chain anchors and one bolt at the roof.
New Mexico State Route 1 - 12a:
Up onto the large ledge then up the face to a large roof. Top rope with one bolt at the roof.
Unknown 2 - 5.12a:
Up onto the large ledge then up the face to a large roof. Up 4 bolts to chain anchors.
New Mexico State Route 2 - 10a:
A very popular route. Up onto the large ledge and then up the dihedral. Come around onto the face then to the top. Up 4 bolts to chain anchors.
Unknown 3 - 5.10c:
On the west side of the Main Wall near the Dihedral Area. Up 3 bolts to chain anchors.
The center of Main Wall has a small cave just off the ground. There are many bouldering possibilities in here as well as the other lower sections of Main Wall.
Click image for larger version; Bolts are circled in red
This area has a short climb up the dihedral that allows access to the top of the Main, High, and Undiscovered Walls. The climb up the dihedral is short and is a low class 5 climb. This allows for top rope setups for some routes on the Main or High Walls or any routes on the Undiscovered Wall.
High Wall, 5.10a-5.11c
Route 1 - 10a:
Take one step up onto the large ledge, the crux is next. Getting past the large overhang can be tricky, although I've seen it done a few different ways. Once past the first bolt the climb is straight forward. Up 4 bolts to chain anchors.
Route 2 - 9+:
Similiar to Route 1 but the overhang is easier. Past the crux there is some nice face climbing with good holds. Up 5 bolts to chain anchors.
Route 3 - 11b:
Thin face climbing to some ledges at the top. Up 5 bolts to chain anchors.
Route 4 - 11c:
Thin face climbing to some ledges at the top. Up 4 bolts to chain anchors.
Route 5 - 11b:
There are two ways to start this one. Either start just below the first bolt and climb straight to it or hike up the ramp to the climbers right and out to the first bolt. Like the previous two routes the remainder of the route is a thin face climb. Up 4 bolts to chain anchors.
Bolts are circled in red
There are no established sport routes currently on this wall. However, it is possible to set up a top-rope by going up the dihedral between Main Wall and High Wall. The routes on this wall likely go at 5.12ish.
This area contains only bouldering problems. Since it is located across the creek most people don't bother stopping. The wall is only 6-8 feet tall so bouldering problems are short. One more popular option is to do a traverse of the area. The V0 traverse is about 70ft long and is the same difficulty from right to left as it is left to right.
Most of the climbs are short so a 60m rope is plenty. A half-dozen quick draws will cover any route at Big Block. If climbing on Big Block itself a few long runners are recommended. A crash pad would be a nice addition if you plan on bouldering.
There is no camping in the immediate area however there is camping very close by. Camping can be found at the base of Cedro Peak at the Cedro Peak Campground. Check the following Forest Service website
for prices and more information on this campground.
Local weather: Albuquerque
Local Search and Resuce Team: Cibola SAR
Cibola National Forest - Sandia Ranger District
entry for Big Block