East Animas Climbing Area

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.31830°N / 107.836°W
Additional Information County: La Plata
Activities Activities: Hiking, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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East Animas Climbing Area
East Animas Climbing Area
East Animas
- nice climbing area in the close vicinity of the historic Durango, Colorado. You will find some nice cracks and face climbs, just a few miles east of town. Climbs are from 1 to 2 pitches long on a sandstone. The rating is ranging from 5.6 to 5.13. Locals recommend Watch Crystal area as being the best, and probably the best rock in the Durango area. I climbed only at Apple Cider area, but am hoping to return and explore other crags.

I am not aware of any climbing guidebook describing this area. Stewart Green does not mention it in his  Colorado Rock Climbing 2nd edition. Mountain Project describes 109 different routes, and is the best resource I could find.  

The area provides beautiful views of the Animas River and La Plata Mountains. The approach crosses private land, so please stay on a well established trail, which Access Fund helped to negotiate with land owners. The actual climbing is located in the San Juan National Forest. 

Durango, Colorado is a great little city, with charming historic downtown and famous narrow gauge Durango Silverton train popular with tourists and providing access to remote peaks of the San Juans, including Chicago Basin and Grenadier Range

Getting There

To find the area drive north on County Road 250 for 2 miles north of Florida Road (15th street at Main Ave). Find a small and well marked parking area across from the Fraser Ranch. From here it is a steep uphill to the cliffs (it brings you to the Watch Crystal). The trail is well established, including a nice bridge crossing a small creek. The first section of the trail crosses a private land, so please be respectful of that privilege. 
Approach trail
Approach trail

East Animas Climbing Area
East Animas Climbing Area

Approach trail
Approach trail


Rock: sandstone
Difficulty: from 5.6 (only one route) to 5.13, most routes are 5.8 to 5.11 range. 
Length: 1-2 pitches
Type: mostly trad, fixed anchors at the top of the climbs, and a few sport routes
Approach Time: 10 to 20 min
Elevation: 7700 feet (= 2,347 m)

Apple Cider area
Apple Cider area

Start of Apple Cider
Start of Apple Cider

Apple Cider 5.8
Apple Cider 5.8

Chimney on Apple Cider
Chimney on Apple Cider

Apple Cider area: at least 21 routes on this formation, named after the classic Apple Cider 5.8. Some climbs are multi-pitch. I will mention a few higher rated climbs from this area.
  • Apple Cider 5.8 - trad, 2 pitches. You can start on a large right facing flake (easier) or go straight up slightly to the left of the flake (little more difficult). Move up and past the roof, again you can go either on right to gain another crack, or on the left. I have tried both variations, and find it about equally challenging. Follow this to a chimney, which leads to a ledge on the left and a bolted anchor. The trick is to face right in the chimney, a couple of awkward moves will get you to a nice hand holds and a mantle move to the ledge. There is a 2nd pitch, which I have not done, with fixed anchors at the top. Protection: trad rack with up #4 camalot. 
  • Texas Sucks 5.9+ - trad, one pitch, handcrack, located on the left side of the Apple Cider area, and just to the right of a right facing corner. Climb the hand crack up to the right facing corner, near its top traverse right around a prow and down climb a short crack to a nice ledge with anchors. 
  • Travels with Charlie 5.7 - trad, 2 pitches. Same start as the climb Easy to Remember, between Texas Sucks (to the right of it) and left of Apple Cider. Go up a right angling ramp past a ledge to a belay behind a large boulder. Pitch 2 traverse to the left on a sloping ledge and moves up and around the corner.
  • Easy to Rememer 5.10a - trad, one pitch. The same start as Travels with Charlie. Climb up the stemming dihedrals. Small gear to protect finger sized crack.
  • Green Puke 5.9 - trad, one pitch. Starts on the right side of the Apple Cider. Start with a low overhang, gain a crack system and follow it to a roof, move left and continue up racks to the top of the wall. 
  • Birthday Crack 5.9 - trad, this is a 2nd pitch to Texas Sucks or Easy to Remember. Hand crack to fingers to a large ledge at the top. 
  • Punta Magna 5.11 PG13 - trad, starts just to the right f the large flake for Apple Cider. Climb up a large left facing dihedral. 

East Animas Climbing Area
Watch Crystal Area

The start - Simians to the Sun
The start - Simians to the Sun

Yellow Pages 5.6
Yellow Pages 5.6

Simians to the Sun 5.9+
Simians to the Sun 5.9+

Watch Crystal: this is the first prominent area you get to when you hike up the access trail. Most of these routes are 2 pitches, and some of the local classics are located here: Simians to the Sun, Watch Crystal Crack and Durangotang. There are at least 23 routes. 
  • Yellow Pages 5.6 - trad, one pitch, probably the easiest climb at East Animas. Good climbing, great intro leading. Located on the right side side of Watch Crystal.
  • The Black Arete 5.8 - also one pitch, short, only about 50 feet long, this starts at the top of the 2nd pitch of Push-Me-Pull-You. 
  • Simians to the Sun 5.9+ - 2 pitches, 250 feet, very nice route, one of the classics. The first pitch is all trad and had 9+ and 10+ variations. 
  • Push-Me-Pull-You 5.10a - 2 pitches, 200 feet, first pitch is 5.10a crack, 2nd pitch 5.8. 
  • Double Exposure 5.10 - sport, one pitch, located on the far right of Watch Crystal, and it goes around corner. It features overhanging crimps and jugs. Start is the same as Yellow Pages.
  • Apes of Wrath 5.10 - sport, 2 pitches, 250 feet
  • Durangutan 5.10c - 3 pitches, trad, 2nd pitch is bolted and little run-out. 
  • Picto Crack 5.10c - one pitch, short only 40 feet, this route is done as the 2nd pitch to Yellow Pages. 
  • Watch Crystal Crack 5.10d - trad, 2 pitches, 200 feet, start is the same as Simians to the Sun. Another local classic. 
  • Primate Highway 5.11a - 2 pitches
  • Crime & Punishment 5.11a - Sport, one pitch, 150 feet
  • Doctor Doolittle 5.11- - sport, one pitch, 50 feet, located to the left of Push-Me-Pull-You. This climb goes over an obvious roof.
  • Evolution 5.11b - sport, one pitch, 100 feet
  • The Kong Route 5.11b - trad and sport, 2 pitches, 250 feet
  • Jailhouse Monkey 5.12a - 2 pitches
  • Martyr's Crown 5.12a - one pitch
  • Power Glide 5.12b/c - sport, one pitch, 50 feet
  • Hidden Gem 5.12d - sport, one pitch, starts to the left of Push-Me-Pull-You, and shared anchors with this climb + Doctor Doolittle.

Red Tape

Parking is well signed and is free. There is no charge to access these cliffs. 
The access to the cliffs was a problem in the past, but now it is all legal. 

Boxelder bugs sunning on the rock
Boxelder bugs sunning on the rock

The boxelder bug - there were huge aggregations of these bugs sunning on the rock. 
This made climbing slightly challenging since I was afraid to smash those creatures. 
These insects feed almost exclusively on the seeds of Acer species. They are not known 
to cause significant damage and are not considered to be agricultural pests. 
They may form large aggregations while sunning themselves in areas near their host plant.
However, their congregation habits and excreta can annoy people. This is especially a 
problem during the cooler months, when they sometimes invade houses seeking warmth 
and place to overwinter. They remain inactive inside the walls while the weather is cool. 

When to Climb

Winter - on sunny days and south facing crags, pleasant.
Spring and autumn are the best.