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.
The Blanca Massif rising above the intersection of Highways 160 and 150.
Looking down on the Great Sand Dunes from the road to Zapata.
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 Valley from the Zapata Falls Trailhead.
Trailhead Marker |
Entrance to Falls |
Zapata "Slot" First view of the Zapata Falls
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)
Zapata Falls Center/Left (WI3)
Starting Up |
Near the Top |
Near the Anchors |
Clear Ice on Right
Steep Start |
Short Climb |
A 50m rope would be plenty long along with 2-3 ice screws and material for the bolted anchors.
Zapata Falls info on Mountain Project: Zapata Falls