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The El Malpais climbing area extends for twelve miles along Hwy 117 on the easern edge of the lower Grants lava flow from which the name was taken. The climbing is on soft sandstone and is comparable in quality to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The area was first explored, starting in the Fall of 1975, by David Dahrling and David Baltz who had established thirteen moderate trad routes by December of 1976. Further action in the late '70s by Paul Horak, Mark Dalen, Charlie Ware led to additional routes, as well as visits by such out-of-state luminaries as Andrew Embick, and Earl Wiggins. Because of the intimidating nature of many of the lines, the area has seen very limited development since, in spite of the enormous potential. The vast majority of the established routes are crack climbs, entirely unlike the uniform cracks of the Indian Creek variety, but of a more varied and technical nature. Due to the soft rock, bolts and other fixed protection are rarely encountered, but nuts and cams work well. There is also excellent bouldering, the approaches are short--at most fifteen minutes from the car--and the climbing season runs from February through November.
Drive west on Interstate-40 from Albuquerque to the Hwy 117 exit four miles short of Grants. Drive south on Hwy 117 for 4 miles until past the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook turnoff. The first few miles are part of the Acoma Reservation and marked 'No Trespassing' even though much of the area is public land (National Monument and designated wilderness). As one approached the largest natural arch in the state, a sign will mark the beginning of unrestricted climbing.
19 Total Routes
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Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for El Malpais:
Checking to see if this is an FA on a different route V2+ 5+ Boulder, 15'
Checking to see if this is an FA V3 6a Boulder, 10'
Surfin' the Turf 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b Trad, 3 pitches, 250'
Easy Come, Easy Go 5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b Trad, 1 pitch, 150'
Rotten Peach 5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c R Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
A Moment's Respite 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a PG13 Trad, 2 pitches, 220'
Trudy Buns 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 50'
Screaming Yellow Yum-Yums 5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a Trad, 1 pitch, 100'
Icebreaker 5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a PG13 Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
Mt. Cosmic Debris 5.10 6b 20 VII- E2 5b Trad, 1 pitch, 150'
Overdrive 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
Sword of Cimmeria 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
New Frontier 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b Trad, 2 pitches, 200'
The Mushroom 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b Trad, 1 pitch, 60'
Strensuous Curve 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c R Trad, 1 pitch, 120'
Breech Baby 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ E3 5c Trad, 1 pitch, 100'
1096 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- E4 6a Trad, 4 pitches, 350'
Crack of Heraclitus 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a R Trad, 3 pitches, 250'
Featured Route For El Malpais
Screaming Yellow Yum-Yums 5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a NM : New Mexico, I-40 Corridor : El Malpais
Climb the finger/hand crack for 45 feet to a ledge (5.9+). Traverse right on the ledge and thrash up a wide crack (5.9) and around the corner.Descend by tunneling down the back side of the spire....[more] Browse More Classics in NM
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