Zapata Falls (WI2-3)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.61950°N / 105.5535°W
Additional Information Route Type: Ice Climbing
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Less than two hours
Additional Information Difficulty: WI2-3
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 1
Additional Information Grade: I
Sign the Climber's Log


Zapata Falls is located near the Great Sand Dunes on the flanks California Peak in the Blanca Massif. While certainly not a destination area for ice climbers, the climb's location alone makes the trip worth the effort. As South Zapata Creek flows down California Peak, it passes through a spur and into a small "slot-like" canyon at the base of the mountain. The resulting 40 foot drop is Zapata Falls. Since the falls are inside a shaded canyon, the climbs tend to form earlier and stay in later.

Blanca PeakThe Blanca Massif rising above the intersection of Highways 160 and 150.

Great Sand DunesLooking down on the Great Sand Dunes from the road to Zapata.

Getting There

From Highway 160, turn north onto Highway 150 like you're heading to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Look for a sign to Zapata Falls on the right side after a few miles. Follow the gravel road to a parking area and trailhead. Zapata Falls is located an easy half mile up the trail from the parking area.

San Luis PanoramaSan Luis Valley from the Zapata Falls Trailhead.

Zapata Falls TrailheadTrailhead Marker
Zapata Falls TrailEntrance to Falls
Entrance to Zapata FallsZapata "Slot"

Zapata FallsFirst view of the Zapata Falls

Route Description

There are three distinct lines on Zapata Falls - Left, Center, and Right. The Right line is the longest, while Center and Left are the steepest (albeit pretty short).

Two bolt anchors are located at the top of the right and center/left lines. If you want to climb the bulges on the far left side, be prepared to establish your own anchor.

Finally, be prepared for running water under the ice, especially early and late in the season.

Zapata Falls Right (WI2)

Climbing Zapata FallsStarting Up
Zapata Falls (WI2)Near the Top
Zapata Falls Right (WI2)Near the Anchors
Zapata Falls Right (WI2)Clear Ice on Right

Zapata Falls Center/Left (WI3)

Zapata Falls Center (WI3)Traverse
Zapata Falls Center (WI3)Steep Start
Zapata Falls Center (WI3)Short Climb
Zapata Falls Center (WI3)Anchors

Essential Gear

A 50m rope would be plenty long along with 2-3 ice screws and material for the bolted anchors.

External Links

Zapata Falls info on Mountain Project: Zapata Falls