There are two sections to this area, one area is sport, while another is traditional. The climbing here is really fun, steep, and full of boulders and pockets.
The "trad" area has less steep, moderate routes and is a great area for the beginning traditional climber to learn his or her skills.
The sport area contains well protected, cobblestone sport climbing with routes up to 5.13. If you have ever been to Maple Canyon in Utah, this place is very similar, but not quite as steep, and the area is not nearly as large.
- "Taos Rock Climbs & Boulders of Northern New Mexico" by Jay Foley, Sharp End Books, 2005.
- "Rock Climbing: New Mexico" by Dennis Jackson, Falcon.
Both El Rito climbing areas are just a few miles north of the small community of El Rito.
To get to the El Rito climbing areas travel north on FR 44 from El Rito. At the intersection for road 248 stay to the right (the sign for 248 was in the middle of the fork and unclear which road was 248 and which was FR 44). Continue on FR44, you will pass spur road 44A on the left. Park here for the sport area.
To reach the trad area, go about .6 miles further on FR44 and you will come to an unmarked road on the left. This is the road to the trad area. Take this left and drive about a mile until you get to the gate mentioned in the guide book and park on the right (obvious parking area). High clearance is necessary, or walk the road where it starts to get bad (it will take less than 30 minutes). A cairned trail leads east toward the trad cliff.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for El Rito:
The route trends left following a leftward ascending seam/corner. Encounter tricky moves involving figuring out the sequence for your hands around the third and fourth bolts. Then enjoy a steep finish with big jugs with one last "make you think" move near the top. Enjoyable. ...[more]Browse More Classics in NM
The conglomerate climbing here is very similar to Maple Canyon, UT, except no crowds.
By Monomaniac Administrator From: Morrison, CO Jan 10, 2007
I've climbed almost every route at El Rito and I;ve never pulled off a cobble, or seen once come off. If I were you, I'd be more concerned about the sandstone matrix. But it all seems really solid to me.
So El Rito next week..issues with climbing there re: cold and access? We were there in April last year and it was perfect. Temps look like they'll be high 40's...too cold? Also, I can't remember how bad the road was out there. Will the snow be too much of an issue? TIA.
By Monomaniac Administrator From: Morrison, CO Feb 19, 2008
Hard to say, this time of year. I haven't been out this winter. I've climbed there in November before, but it was pretty cold. Most of the good cliffs face west, but the Super Slab & the Schoolhouse Slab face South, so they would be ok if its sunny.
The real questin will be the road, as you suggested. That road can get really muddy at times. I would be worried that snowmelt will make the road a mess.
Supplemental directions: To get to the trad area travel north on FR 44. At the intersection for road 248 stay to the right (the sign for 248 was in the middle of the fork and unclear which road was 248 and which was FR 44). Continue on FR44, you will pass spur road 44A on the left. Go about .6 miles further and you will come to an unmarked road on the left. This is the road to the trad area. Take this left and drive about a mile until you get to the gate mentioned in the guide book and park on the right (obvious parking area). Look for the fire ring on the southeast corner of the parking area and follow the cairns to the wall. The trad wall is east and south of the fire ring.
I did not find Jay Foley's Taos Rock guidebook to be helpful while climbing in the Taos area and feel that better, more detailed directions and route descriptions can be found online rather than in that book, both at naclassics.com and here on mountainproject. Perhaps the Foley book could be a supplement if you really wanted to buy it.
I was frustrated with Foley’s Taos book mostly because the directions to every area we went to were vague at best and left a lot of room for interpretation in how to get there. We had to ask for help several times. For future editions, it would be helpful to note that the directions seemed like they were written for locals only, who were already familiar with all the unmarked dirt roads and country highways rather than out-of-towners. Same goes for the route information, if there even was any. I guess it’s best summed up in the El Rito chapter when it says for “detailed route descriptions visit Gary Clark’s website at www.naclassics.com/elrito”. I'm confused why I should visit a free website rather than consult the guidebook I purchased for route information. All the locals we ran into sympathetically laughed when they saw us using the Sharp End book and one of them was gracious enough to let me keep the print out from Clark’s website – thanks Mark!
If I could do it over again, I would have saved my money and simply looked at the information online, both at naclassics.com and on this website.
Scott, Welcome to MP and thanks for your opinion (even though it came off a touch harsh when I first read it) but I think my point is still valid. Given 'Taos Rock' is in the first edition, I agree it could be improved on. When it came out a few years back (2005) it was, and I would argue still is, the most complete book on the subject for this area and a real gift to our climbing community. I think Dennis Jackson's statewide book is also done well (with some limits by scope he would probably admit) but Jay's book tried to make available every route in the county.
Jay, Bob D'Antonio, Joel Tinl, Dennis and a few others have since tripled the total number of pitches in the county and some of that is listed here. I agree on the difficulty of finding one's way around NM, I still get lost, but I have checked the directions and I think they are pretty sound. As for the route descriptions, aren't they all shown as photos?
I, for one, have been impressed by the effort these guys have put in. Salud y paz, Mike
Please see the ?Taos Area? page for additional comments
Ron, I've been going to El Rito sport and trad areas for years including overnight camping and never had a problem personally or known anyone that has had a problem. In my opinion the theft issue is over-hyped.
Thanks Jason - information greatly appreciated! i'm definitely not one of those paranoid people that would blow off a trip altogether based on rumors but i will definitely be a little more relaxed ON my trip thanks to your information! So - thanks again! Happy Climbing!
BE AWARE OF THE LOCALS! My trip to El Rito ended with an indirect direct threat by one rancher and a confrontation with another one about a calf. As my friend and I were leaving, we pulled off the side of the road to allow a truck and trailer coming the other way pass. As we were pinned down, the rancher took the liberty to inform us that we need to make sure to keep our speed under control (even though I felt like I was not speeding) and that I need to tell all my friends, that means you guys. He ended this condescending speech with “if something happens, like you hit a cow or a person, you are going to be in a lot of trouble, not just with the law.” I got the feeling that he was not necessarily irate at me specifically, but that the people of El Rito do not like foreigners in their area, especially if we are driving more than 5 MPH.
The second incident happen a couple miles down the road where there was a calf on the side of the road and I was trying to pass it. I thought I was not being threatening to the cow and I was just trying to pass it, but apparently a second rancher thought differently. He rode up on his horse, with lasso and all, and yelled at me for chasing the young cow. I thought I was driving appropriately around the cow, but I guess not.
The moral of this trip is that you should be respectful of the people in the area so that me and "my friends" don't get a bad rap with the locals. So drive VERY slowly on the road from El Rito to the climbing area and be very careful when driving around cattle. Other than that, the climbing is good.
I'm gonna go ahead and second the warning about the denizens of the El Rito climbing area. Another climber (a lady) and I were there ready to depart when these two guys in a red F150 pickup approached us. They were very strange -- asking us what we were doing -- weren't we afraid of dying -- would we be willing to sell her dog -- did we want to buy their dog -- were we "eachother's ladies." Their looks were not friendly or welcoming. They did not smile or laugh. Basically it was a WEIRD ENCOUNTER. We both thought they were gonna get out of their truck and try something with us. Even though we knew we could take 'em it wasn't a pleasant experience.
Last summer I frequented El Rito about 4-5 times and never had any problems but maybe the people there are getting tired of the traffic.
That's creepy, Amanda. You'd kick their asses! Reminds me of the types of encounters we'd have in our snake hunting days. We befriended a snake hunter/business connection in Ca. who lived on the Rez (man, his family was CRAZY, very bizarre!)so we could have access to key areas to look for Red Rubers, which at that time there was a high demand for them; in, and outside the US. He'd "escort us", and tell us where bodies are, or have been found, and warned us about people who were watching us. He didn't smile when he'd tell us, so I was hypervigilant when we were out hunting with him. I'd always breathe a BIG sigh of relief when we drove out of the danger zones. I have some friends from some of more unfriendly areas in NM, and from what they tell me, it ain't no joke! Be safe.
The local thing is for real. I have a friend who had a long conversation with a local ranger, who said that they've had problems where local hoodlums flag down cars along the road as if they need roadside assistance, then rob people with weapons. The ranger was very clear about recommending NOT stopping, but simply blasting on through as quickly as possible. I'm not a gun person, but if I were a gun person, I would bring my gun to El Rito. As Lee mentioned (in the sport climbing section), best to try not to drive in or out after dark on Fri/Sat nights, as the local riff-raff are often out partying at that time (which often includes alcohol and shootin'). Of course, staying in good graces with the local ranchers is an entirely different matter. We should always be courteous when driving around cattle,and defer to honest working locals. By the way, if you want to have a local experience that makes you feel a bit better about the area, go into El Farolito and order a combination plate. They don't serve alcohol, but are more than happy to let you bring in your own beer or wine.
The recent comments about threatening locals concerns me. As Jason Halladay said above, I've frequented El Rito (mostly the trad area) since 2003, probably been there well over 2 dozen times, and I've never encountered a single problem with threatening locals. We typically show up around 8 or 9am on a Sat or Sun morning and depart around 3-5pm. I haven't been there yet in 2009, so I wonder if this is a newly developing problem. I also wonder exactly where the incidents described above happened (i.e., were they on the way to the sport area, or did some incidents occur past the sport area on the way to the trad area?). Finally, I wonder if the incidents above all happened to people in cars with out-of-state license plates? (I've heard anecdotes about such "profiling" in other parts of northern NM.)
Seems that the incidents occur near the start of the road into the sport area. Haven't you noticed the dumped tires and shot-up bottles and other trash in the little pull-outs just after the dirt road takes off from the end of town? Your posse is not very likely to get into trouble, as you get up there mid-morning and come out well before dark. Out of state plates? C'mon, bro, Santa Fe and Albuquerque are plenty enough "not from here" to get those punks riled up. I work in the E.R. in Albuquerque, and once I saw a patient who was flown in from El Rito after having been stabbed with a bayonet on a rifle used for civil war reinactments (there was no reinactment going on at the time)! They don't mess around....
Went to the trad area today, no run-ins with locals nor falcons, just the typical great solitary day with no other parties on the wall. (Arrived around 9:30am, departed just before 3pm.) I did hear a gunshot off in the distance around 11:30am or noon, though.
Sarah and I climbed at the trad area yesterday (9/8/09). We arrived around 9am and departed around 8pm. We left some booty (a blue #9 BD stopper) 30-ft from the top of the 2nd pitch on Packrat Dihedral. We finished our final climb of the day right at sunset, so it was completely dark by the time we grabbed our dog and gear at the base of the climbs and hiked down to our vehicle. As we approached our vehicle, a guy (male, early 20's) was waiting hidden in the brush at the opposite end of the small parking area. Once he saw us (we had no idea he was there), he startled us as he fired up his ATV and started to head off. I waved to him as his headlights flashed me, and he rode up to our vehicle. He chatted with us for several minutes and was extremely friendly. It turns out that he was waiting for us to return to our vehicle to see if we were "illegal" hunters, but I guess our rock gear indicated otherwise. He claimed to own the land just beyond the gate near the parking area. He had a hunting bow on him, and claimed to have been elk hunting when he crossed paths with three bears. He had followed the bears right through the trad parking area just 15-min before we arrived. We were extremely lucky that the bears didn't mess with our dog while we were climbing.
Locals update....I grew up in northern NM, and I've never met sketchier people in my whole life, myself included. Low riders, heroin, drinkin' in arroyos and shootin' the guns...I'm starting to get homesick just thinking about it.
and PS: you're safe in regards to getting stabbed with a bayonet - we reserve that honor for cousins.
Thank you J.Halladay for the online guide! It was helpful and I loved the climbing!
Update on locals... Aside from trash along the forest roads, the only strange encounter we had (and it was quite strange to me) was a calf head and a cow head just BAM, in the middle of FS road 44. Was really gross and sad. Clearly put there on purpose by some A-hole. Looked pretty fresh. Beautiful area but dang...poor animals!
I went with a group of friends and we went to the wrong one, i.e. the one that comes up by default on Google maps near Taos. Ended up spending over six hours driving to get to the right place. Yes, I know there are directions, and yes, maybe we're just dumb - but, just sayin'. If you've never been before make sure you go to the right one.