Blue Mesa Smear & Blue Balls from CO Hwy 92 - late...
The Blue Mesa area offers a handful of quality climbs that are worth adding to anyone's list. Tucked into the narrow Black Canyon of the Gunnison the lack of direct sunlight and cold temps keep many of these climbs in throughout winter. Overlooking Morrow Point Reservoir the setting is spectacular. Steep canyon walls and emerald green water provide the backdrop for some truly enjoyable climbing. Somewhat out of the way, you will likely have the climb, if not the entire area, to yourself. Climbing in Blue Mesa makes a great way to break up the drive from the front range to the Ouray/Silverton areas.
One of the longest, if not the longest, ice climbs in the state lies in this area.
It should be noted upfront that it is necessary to cross private property to get to most of these climbs. Most routes can be scouted from CO Highway 92, approximately 4.5-5 miles west of the turnoff from US Highway 50 (which is about 30 minutes west of the town of Gunnison). The first and most obvious climb on the south rim is Blue Mesa Smear with several others forming less consistently to the west. Once you identify your landmarks through your binoculars get back on US 50 heading west for about 4.3 miles from the intersection with CO Highway 92 and take a right on old US 50 (labeled 50E in the gazetteer) near the base of a small hill. A couple hundred yards down the road you will pass a ranch house on the right. If you see someone home, ask permission to walk on their property. 200 yards or so past this house the road wraps around the small hill somewhat protecting you from the line of sight from US 50. Park here. For some, the crux of the climb may be committing past the many posted signs and climbing over the barbed-wire fence lining the road. All of the climbs will take you through a small sage-brush mesa to the north, leading down to one of several drainages. Two ropes are needed for the rappel.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Blue Mesa (near Gunnison):
This "elusive" route as described by Jack Roberts in his guide is a great little route. The approach is relatively short --- only 45min. It can be done in two pitches with a 70m rope. P1 is WI3 and P2 is WI 4-5 ice. Great route....great fun. See the photos. ...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
It should be noted that the current owner of the private property here does not take kindly to climbers on his land. There are many stories of climber's vehicles being towed and or tires deflated, keyed, etc... In the past, the current owner's mother owned the land, and she did not mind climbers on the land. However, things are supposedly different now. I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure I am not.
This is a great area to climb, however crossing the private property has landed a few friends in jail and carries with it a hefty fine, so don't tresspass stupid! I have also spoke to a few people who have sought permission to access the area and were turned away quite hostily (Climbers go away!). I have heard of people bringing a boat to the base of Chipeta falls and rowing across from there. This is really the only acceptable way to access this climb, but the bottom line is don't tresspass and don't bother these people. This really shouldn't even be on this web site. Sorry.
If you drive just a bit past the private property you come to a drainage that meets the highway. I have hiked this all the way to Curecanti Needle. Some crags back there, public access to the ice, and a long slog to Curecanti.
By Leo Paik Administrator From: Westminster, Colorado Jan 20, 2004
Dear Concerned Citizen,
I differ with your opinion. This is exactly one way how a web site with information obtained collectively can be used to best serve the climbing community. It is a way climbers can learn from the experiences of others. Perhaps, in certain circumstances, when information is used wisely, it can reduce the friction between landowners & climbers. Thank you for your input, CC. Thanks, Matt. LP