|Activities:||Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Big Wall, Scrambling|
|Season:||Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter|
|Elevation:||5500 ft / 1676 m|
I would like to briefly describe a few rock climbing places located west of Telluride, in the remote area of the state of Colorado. There are no big towns in this area, no industry, one may feel lost in time here. You will encounter small poor communities, and feel nearly like visiting a third world country. You will see more elks on the roads than cars. You may get lost in the search of your destination. I hope these qualities will keep crowds away, but the area is so spectacular that it does deserve a mention on SP.
The climbing is excellent, mostly on sandstone and is spread over many many miles in several different locations. One can spend a lifetime exploring all areas, and the potential for establishing new routes is endless. Too many crags, and not enough climbers to test it all. 4WD vehicle is required for some of the crags, but many are accessible by normal vehicles on well maintained dirt roads. This is not a place for beginners. Do not expect any help in case of emergency, and do not expect a cell phone coverage. Bring all you need with you.
If searching for this area on the map (click on the link The Wild Wild West below - it has a crude map and location of the area), look west from the small town of Norwood, several crags are surrounding small communities of Naturita, Bedrock, and Slickrock, some crags are miles away from any human habitation. Most are accessible by dirt roads, and most are very pristine and offer great solitude. Be cautious of the weather changes, although the setting is desert like, it can rain here and the roads can become impassable (especially 16Z crag).
Charlie Fowler described these areas in his book The Wild Wild West Rock Climbing in the Wild West End of Southwestern Colorado. Mountain Projects mentions some of the routes and crags. Psycho Tower became recently a popular destination since it was published in Climbing magazine and the tower and its small summit is really spectacular. And who would not want to climb a route named Psycho Path? At 5.9+ it is one of the easiest towers to be reached.
Seasons: Climbing is possible year round, but the prime time is early autumn and late spring. Summers tend to be hot, and winters cold if climbing in the shade. May and June see swarms of gnats and other annoying insects, bring a lot of insect repellent.
Services: there is not much around. Norwood, Nucla, and Naturita have gasoline and small grocery stores, especially Naturita and Nucla are very poor. Do not expect much in regards to dining out. Plan to camp out and bring all your food with you.
Climbs range from short one pitch to a 350+ feet multi pitch. Some are bolted, some are trad. Most can be climbed with one 60 meter rope; 70 meter rope is recommended at Red Rocks area. Most routes are equipped with fixed belay/rappel stations, however some routes at the Lost World, Atomic Energy Crag lack top anchors due to soft rock - bring a long rope to anchor off trees.
There are more than 500 recorded climbs here + tons of bouldering.
The best available guide is above mentioned book by Charlie Fowler and Damon Johnson.
Stewart Green in his Colorado Rock Climbing Guide describes a few crags from this area.
Elevation: Elevation changes at different locations. Paradox Valley is roughly 5500 ft, Big Gypsum Valley is 5700 ft.
Some Images from Climbing at Sunshine Wall
Some Images from Black Wall
Some Images from 16Z crags