Gateway Chimney East, 5.8
The urban climbing crowd shows up (dogs and boom boxes in tow) year in and year out to repeat climbs in a select section of the City of Rocks National Reserve. In reality, the better trad climbs are spread out all over the place and some of my favorites are located in the far reaches of Castle Rocks State Park. Kingpin and the Foil represented another one of those spectacular days where my partners and I not only had multiple walls with some classic routes to ourselves, but never saw another person on the approach.
The Foil and Kingpin (which share the same destination) offer up a beautiful aspen and wild flower lined hike up Johnson Creek
. Johnson and Stines Creek fork off of each other as they form the natural western border to Castle Rocks. There are few rock features west of the creek. Johnson Creek is fed from snow melt from the summit ridge-line above. A significant rock (perhaps 2nd in size only to Castle itself) is the Chessman
and to reach the Foil and Kingpin you have accomplished most of the hike necessary to reach the Chessman which is the highest (elevation wise) climbing objective in the park. However, most of the routes on the Chessman are south facing. The Foil and Kingpin are shrouded in the trees and offer a variety of sun and shade options.
It's Always Saturday, 5.9
Both of these objectives offer exceptional moderates. The Foil’s highlight is a slot through its south end that is named the "Gateway"
. There are five routes in this section, one on each side of the stem chimney as well as a good 5.10c bolted route on one of the arêtes. A worthy route on the east face (the guide calls it a north face but it faces more east than north)
route is a mixed line called “It’s Always Saturday”.
This is a challenging lead for the grade (5.9).
Expect approximately a 45 minute hike. Park at the main trail head for the Castle Rock massif itself. From the parking area, head northwest
on any number of trails skirting Castle Rock to the east. There is quite a bit of signage not to mention trails going ever which direction. You are looking to follow Stines and Johnson Creek northwest on an established trail
. Stay on the east side of the creeks. Make sure to follow Johnson Creek versus Stines Creek when they fork (Johnson is the most east).
You cross it a time or two but most of the time stay on the east side. You pass through a human sized gate (2015)
. The entire trail was in good shape in 2015. On your right is a needle feature located on the Kingdom. Continue on the trail northwest of the Kingdom. Hike northwest until you come to a fork or T in the trail that was signed for the Foil in 2015
. Turn left at the fork which heads SW. Fairly immediate you pass Kingpin’s west face on your left (these two features are just meters apart). For “It’s Always Saturday”, go off trail between Kingpin and the Foil and the route will be on your right. For the 5.11 sport routes and/or the Gateway routes, stay on the right side of the Foil. The Gateway is at the far end (south). It is a true slot that goes through to either side, a cool feature.
Route Description(s)Gateway Section, South End
Gateway- 5.10c**/ Gateway is a gem of a sport route located in a neat corridor (aptly named Gateway) at the south end of the Foil. You can get to it from either side of the formation . Gateway, the route, is a fully bolted arête on the southwest corner of the tower separated from the Foil by the slot. Fun stemming gets you off the ground to a committing move onto the arête. Fun balanced movement and positive holds (for 10c) lead through bolts to chains up and right well below the summit of tower feature. As is typical at City of Rocks, grades can be varied. This pitch is easier than “It’s Always Saturday” which is graded at 5.9 and located on the main east face of the Foil. Gateway the route is a must do, maybe deserves more than two stars for the coolness factor alone. Dow
Gateway Chimney East- 5.8**/ Neither one of these short routes (east or west chimney) are worthy of two stars as the guide suggests, but the gateway corridor adds flavor to them no question. Face the east side and chimney up placing gear in either wall. The intent of the east side is to find the cracks at center right on the upper east wall. Both of these walls have extensive rat nests (2015) and thus urine and feces. The climbing is quite easy for the grade. Rap off the anchors atop Chimney West. Dow
Gateway Chimney West- 5.8**/ Not a whole lot more interesting than Chimney East, but more crack climbing involved as you transition from the chimney stance earlier to a substantial crack that leads to the rap chains below the summit of this feature. Dow
Gateway Tower Crack- 5.9*/
Barbed Wire- 5.11a*/
East Face (called North Face in the guide), Left to Right
It’s Always Saturday- 5.9**/This is one of the more challenging 5.9 leads at the City or Castle. Look for the well bolted line on the middle east face. It is sustained and long with the crux down low but well protected. After the second bolt, traverse left on chossy and mossy slab. A crimp for your right fingers along with the start of the slight corner for your left fingers allows you to lay back and get your feet up the precarious face. An off-set .4/.5 cam protects this crux sequence well. From there the bolts are fairly frequent and the climbing stays interesting with another mini crux (more slab climbing) near the top of the vertical section and again, this protects well with a C4#.5. Those are the only two pieces I placed and one could rely exclusively on the bolts if they wanted to. A 70m rope makes the rap from the fixed chains, no worries. Dow
Notch Route- 5.7*/
The Edge- 5.10c***/Maybe the only route that is truly facing north on the Foil.
West Face, Left to Right
Easy Way Up- 5.7*/