Dead Cholla Wall is located outside of Taos, New Mexico in the Rio Grande Gorge. This area is popular due to the short hike and the solitude and tranquilty offered by the canyon. The area offers beautiful views of Taos and Wheeler Peak to the East, and the Rio Grande River lays 600 feet below at the bottom of the gorge.
This area is composed of 60' black and red basalt rock, and like all New Mexico's basalt cliffs, the area above and below is covered in loose, dangerous rocks that can come free at the slightest touch. Please take precautions when walking too and from the area along the West Rim Trail not to accidently send any rocks free into the fall zone of the climbers below. There are more then 25 bolted routes, and several crack climbs that accept gear. Most of the climbing is on small in-cut holds, along with cracks that vary anywhere from finger jam to arm bar size.
This area was discovered in 1989 by Ed Jaramillo and Cayce Weber while looking for a good spot to develop sport climbing in the Northern New Mexico area. It was widely favored by the two because of the quality of rock, views, and of course the multi-faceted climbing it provided. They named the area Dead Cholla Wall after a large dead cholla cactus that was along the trail on the approach to the area. The crag started out with many routes in the 5.10 to 5.11 range but has been widely expanded to include a range of routes varying from 5.7 to 5.12-
Getting to the Crag
Directions can be followed coming from Taos or heading from Espanola, either way while on Highway 68 turn north in the town of Pilar, at the Rio Grande Visitor Center, onto Highway 570. Drive along Highway 570 which is paved for about six miles, gently winding along the banks of the Rio Grande River. At the Taos Junction Bridge you will cross over the river and the road becomes Highway 567. Highway 567 is unpaved and often closed in the winter months. Head up the West Rim of the gorge on Highway 567 for another 1.7 miles until you crest the gorge and the road becomes paved again. Continue on the pavement for another 0.4 miles, look for a sign "West Rim Trail" that also has a dirt road to the right. Take a right here and continue down until you reach the parking lot. The trailhead is on the south side of the parking lot and has another sign stating "Dead Cholla Wall 1/4 mile". Hike along this trail which runs on top of the crag for about 5 minutes, the trail will make a sudden quick series of switchbacks towards the end to get you to the crag face.
Routes are listed from left to right as you face the wall.
Where are the Bolts
- 5.11a Jam a 40-foot finger crack. Gear route.
- 5.9 Hand and finger crack. Gear route with anchor
- 5.10b One of the best crack climbs here. Gear route.
- 5.10+ May need gear before first bolt. 3 bolts to 2 bolt anchor.
- 5.12- Runout and difficult. Gear route with anchor
- 5.11a Up and arete. Need small placement for first 20 feet. 5 bolts to anchor
- 5.10c Finger crack up to prow. Gear plus 2 bolts to anchor.
Cholla Back Step
- 5.11 Climb the corner. Gear route to anchor.
- 5.11d Steep face with layback. 5 bolts to anchor.
- 5.11 Shares first bolt with Gorge Yourself, then left up steep red face. 4 bolts to anchor.
- 5.10d Wires and TCU's needed after two bolts. Anchor
- 5.11 Climb the Red Streak. 4 bolts to anchor
After the Pillar Came Down
- 5.10b/c Face climb up thin crack to dihedral. Gear route with no anchors. Belay from top of cliff.
- 5.12 Steep Face up red wall. 6 bolts to anchor
- 5.11+ Thin crack and corner route. 5 bolts to anchor.
- 5.7 Face climb right wall past two bolts and then up the crack. 2 bolts to anchor.
- 5.10+ Small holds and smears. 5 bolts to anchor.
One for the Book
- 5.8+ Hand Crack. Gear to anchor
Corrido Del Norte
- 5.11 Pale face right of corner. 4 bolts to anchor.
Back to the Creek
- 5.11a/b Scramble up loose low angle rock and clip a bolt in an inset corner. Jam the overhanging finger crack (gear) to a ledge. Continue straight up past three more bolts to a two bolt anchor.
- 5.10+ Face moves past crack on right. 3 bolts to shared anchor with No Waitng.
- 5.11 Face climbing up white streak. 5 bolts to anchor.
Fesival sin Peliculas
- 5.10b Good pro. Gear route no anchor.
- 5.11a Long reaches and lots of stemming up pale face. 5 bolts to anchor.
- 5.10b/c After second bolt move left to thin edging. 4 bolts to anchor.
Somebody Loaned Me a Bosch
- 5.11a Start up Doc's Dangle but move up right after first bolt. 4 bolts to anchor.
- 5.11 Face climb to the right or crack. 4 bolts to anchor
- 5.11 Steep face climb up arete. 5 bolts to anchor.
Restrictions and Camping
Dead Cholla Wall is located on BLM land so primitive camping is limited in the immediate area. A great and logical choice is to camp at any of the developed fee sites in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Please do take precautions as to limit your speed through the village of Pilar.