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Escalante Canyon

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Escalante Canyon 


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Elevation: 5,800'
Location: 38.68026, -108.31231 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 208,828
Administrators: Jesse Zacher, Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: John Peterson on Jan 21, 2006
Forecast:
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Rapping off after the FA of "El Padre", 5.10 A1.

Description 

Escalante Canyon is Colorado's version of Indian Creek, the way it used to be. The rock isn't as extensive or solid, but the climbs are sweet.

The rock is sandstone, similar to that in Colorado National Monument which is only about 25 miles away. Approaches are short and crowds are minimal. There is climbing on both sides of the canyon but most of the routes are on the south-facing side. Some areas are on private property. The ranch owner has been open to climbing so long as there are not large groups. When in doubt, ask one of the ranch hands.

The only published guide to the area is in Eric Bjornstad's original Desert Rock Book which is out of print. This underlines the fact that the area has great history that precedes many of the bolting ethics in play today that have taken areas such as Indian Creek by storm.

Many of the routes and/or pitches here do not have bolted anchors. In most cases, this was a conscious decision by the first ascentionists to leave no trace. Please respect the wishes of these pioneers when considering installation of fixed hardware.

If the case arises that the climb seems to hard or unlikely to go to the rim, it is always possible to rap in from the top to retrieve gear to avoid bolting. In many areas, there are evidence of bolting and bolt removal where someone assumed a line was unclimbed and set anchors where in fact there were anchors a short distance higher and out of view.

It should be stressed that these are crack climbs, but Escalante is not Indian Creek. Please respect the history of the area.


CAMPING: 

There are many different areas to camp in the canyon. Please do not camp at the public pullout for The Potholes. A few of the main locations are on the left if going up canyon at mileage of 5 and 5.5 from the Cabin at Cabin wall. Take heed to the private property signs. Most camping areas have a manageable road established and do NOT have no camping allowed signs in front of them.


Getting There 

Escalante Canyon is about 20 miles south of Grand Junction. The road is well marked and branches off US 50 between milepost 59 and 60, about 10 miles northwest of Delta. From the junction, it is about 12 miles of dirt road to the climbing area. The road drops down and crosses the Gunnison River and then follows Escalante Creek up to the climbing area. The main area is just after you enter public land, just past the cabin on the right. Free camping is available. There is a popular swimming area just past the climbing. The approaches are 5 - 10 minutes from the road.


A few words about bolting here: 

In many cases, it is hard to see the anchors of routes, and before placing bolts, you should climb as close to the rim as possible. Most of the lines have been climbed, especially in the main areas. Please use caution, and when in doubt, rap down from the top to retrieve gear and/or possibly view where the anchors are. Please respect the routes which were done before and avoid placing bolts on established lines.

If bolting must be done, it is important that you camouflage the anchors. Not only is it an eye sore if you do not camo them, but there has been a long history of cliffs being shot up because there were targets on them (shiny bolts day-glow webbing). It's western out there.


Climbing Season


70 Total Routes


['4 Stars',9],['3 Stars',29],['2 Stars',22],['1 Star',5],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',5],['5.7',0],['5.8',3],['5.9',12],['5.10',20],['5.11',22],['5.12',4],['5.13',2],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Escalante Canyon:
TH Crack   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 40'   Cabin Wall
Leaning Corner (aka Moderation)   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Zappa Wall
Interiors   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Interiors Wall Area
Lieback   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 45'   Interiors Wall Area
Right of Lieback   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 50'   Interiors Wall Area
The Shaft   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Interiors Wall Area
Key Hole   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   Interiors Wall Area
Willy's Hand Jive   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Cabin Wall
S Crack   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 65'   Cabin Wall
Dirty Red Cam Corner   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Zappa Wall
Fred and Barney's Crack   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Cabin Wall
Beside the Pillar   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   Zappa Wall
Rednekk Justus   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   Cabin Wall
Short Corner   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   Zappa Wall
The Curve   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   Zappa Wall
Big Hands Roof   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Zappa Wall
Zig-Zag   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   Zappa Wall
Passion for Pumping aka Corner Pump Station   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   Cabin Wall
Fork It (HVS)   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   Zappa Wall
Calcite Fingers   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   Zappa Wall
Browse More Classics in Escalante Canyon

Featured Route For Escalante Canyon
Stem it.

Fork It (HVS) 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a  CO : Grand Junction area : ... : Zappa Wall
Thin pinky jams from a Chinle band leads to a bigger size. Keep jamming up a widening crack as it gets steeper. You can get a hand in once in a while. When it gets steepest, it gets easier. It can be dirty....[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Escalante Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
This was the most photogenic of the 30 or 40 rattlers we saw on our trip out there.  Why are all rattlesnakes in foul moods?  This guy was about 2 ft long and actually chased me away from the base of this climb, I didn't think they were territorial but this guy was really pissed off that day. A smaller version crawled under my tarp and scared the crap out of me when he came cruising out from under.  A great place for herpetologists.
This was the most photogenic of the 30 or 40 rattl...
Red wall delight.
Red wall delight.
Evening light.
Evening light.
Storm coming into Escalante.
Storm coming into Escalante.
Escalante Canyon.
Escalante Canyon.
Ram in Escalante Spring 08. There was a party of climbers 75 yards left of photo.
Ram in Escalante Spring 08. There was a party of c...
Inside of the cabin. Bed and Gun Nook carved into the side of a big boulder, LUXURY!
Inside of the cabin. Bed and Gun Nook carved into ...
Escalante wolf named Butters....
Escalante wolf named Butters....
Have to love SPLITTERS!  Bloody hands after attempting Passion for Pumping!
Have to love SPLITTERS! Bloody hands after attemp...
Desert rain....
Desert rain....
Comments on Escalante Canyon Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 19, 2013
By phil broscovak
Jan 22, 2006

To the best of my knowledge, the earliest "modern" climbing in Escalante Canyon was done by Rusty Baylie and partners. The route called Easy Crack was done in the Seventies by Rusty and Jenny Goldberg. I believe they called it Pony Express. The route called Cave Route was put up by Chuck Grossman in the Eighties and he named it Interiors. Chuck really helped in establishing Escalante Canyon. In fact, he put it on the map. In the days before camming units and sticky-rubbered shoes, Chuck would push the envelope on the cracks in Escalante Canyon. Leading to the end of his rope with long run outs and minimal pro he would set up anchors by stacking tube chocks, hexes, and Forrest Titons. On occasion, these ad lib anchors would fail once the rap [ropes] got pulled. Chuck would drag any willing or unwitting partners out to what must have seemed to be his own private climbing playground. More than one "wanted to be" would return from an Escalante adventure with Chuck wide eyed and shaken with horrific stories of their own epic experience just trying to follow on top rope what Chuck had just sent.

By John Peterson
Jan 23, 2006

Thanks for sharing this information. I certainly would like to give credit to first ascentionists and use their route names. I added this area hoping that others would come in and contribute more routes for me to climb - all very selfish! There are hundreds of route in this canyon and it would be nice to have at least a few described here.

John

By Jess Wegert
From: Durango, CO
Jan 26, 2006

Is there any information about decents for routes with-in Escalante Canyon? Rap anchors, slung naturals, anything thanks

By John Peterson
Jan 30, 2006

All of the routes in the Interiors area seem to have good rap stations on them. NOLS uses this area - maybe they are the ones keeping the anchors in good shape.

By Kent Pease
From: Littleton, Colorado
Apr 19, 2006

Over the last few years, anchors have appeared below the top of previously established climbs. The parties adding the anchors were probably not aware of the existing route status due to the dearth of readily available information, and as such this is somewhat understandable. However, higher anchors are visible and some information has been published in the original "Desert Rock" guide by Bjornstad, which could have been used to clarify the status of the routes noted. These climbs do not end when the crack gets wide!

Although information has not been published, there has been extensive exploration and climbing in the canyon. I have been surprised on numerous occasions to find evidence of previous ascents even in remote and obscure locations, such as a sling around a chockstone or a tree, a bolt anchor, stray gear, or simply rope grooves in the rock.

The majority of the climbs do not have plaques. Many of the lines top out, sometimes with a nearby tree for a rappel anchor and sometimes not. For the climbs that do not top out, there has been an effort to make the anchors unobtrusive, and they blend in well.

In summary, please be conservative in anchor placement, and assume the line has been done when in doubt. Also, please respect the historic precedent for the routes and avoid adding intermediate anchors.

By Allen Hill
From: FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Apr 19, 2006

I climbed with Chuck a number of times out there and Phil's stories are true. We even named a route the "Blowout Cracks" after the stacked anchors we rappeled off and left fixed for the next day were blown out by the wind leaving the ropes in a pile at the base.

It's sad to hear this area is being developed and bolts are being added. Chuck must have done at least fifty routes and never placed a single bolt or pin. All the routes topped out. Descents were often sketchy to say the least. The overwhelming sense of doom only ended back at the cabin. But even then if Chuck had driven a whole new adventure was awaiting you on the way home. I say leave the bolts at home. Chuck's still alive and kicking as evidence that real adventure climbing in the four corners region can be survived.

By logan johnson
From: West Copper, Co
Oct 25, 2009

I have to agree with Allen.
I just witnessed a group from Denver putting in large silver chain anchors. They are all about half way up routes that could for the most part go to the rim. However, one of the leaders seemed uncomfortable with leading wide cracks, so he just got to where he felt comfortable and blasted in a set of anchors.
After evesdropping for a while I discerned that they have been replacing anchors (nice!) and putting up quite a few other routes.
It's too bad that they are not respecting the history of the area or for that matter, camoing their anchors.

By slim
Administrator
Oct 26, 2009

I imagine those anchors will disappear pretty quickly. I can say, without any doubt, that pretty much anything that looks like a line in Escalante has been done, and if it looks like there is the slightest chance that it can go to the rim, it did.

By phil broscovak
Oct 27, 2009

I think this is an appalling development. I can't believe that real climbers either through ignorance or arrogance would endeavor to diminish the proud tradition of fierce ascents in Escalante. Chuck would eat them for breakfast were he to encounter them. They need to take a good hard look in the mirror and become educated as to the history of the area. There are plenty of obscure choss piles that the weak of head and heart can drag down to there level.
I say hands off the historical areas like Escalante Canyon. Or would you accept adding bolts to Southern Belle so the average Joe could feel safe enough to proceed?

By Allen Hill
From: FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Oct 27, 2009

We always climbed to the rim and never placed a single bolt out there. Same with our big Indian Creek FAs. Chuck has never placed a bolt in over thirty years of climbing. Chuck's getting into shape, watch out bolters! Phil, that's funny about Charles eating these idiots for breakfast.

By Jesse Zacher
Administrator
From: Grand Junction, Co
Nov 2, 2009

Some words have been added to the area's description. Obviously some of the issue is ignorance. This brings up the constant issue of information. Do we then make available information on as many established lines as possible and possibly push the popularity (which is already on the rise). Or do we just rip out bolts and police as much as possible?
-Jesse Zacher

By ChadARobinson
Nov 11, 2009

I go to Escalante almost once a week in spring and fall to beat the crap out of myself and had noticed the shiny new chains. FA controversy aside (I defer to those with more knowledge), at the very least anyone putting up new/replacement gear should take the time to do some camouflaging. Sadly, in several cases the shiny chains have made convenient targets for some folks with more ammunition than good sense. Obviously, this leads to potentially dangerous anchors and permanently disfigured rock, possibly in a place the anchors should have never been placed.

By slim
Administrator
Nov 11, 2009

That's a REALLY good point, Chad. Using anchors for target practice has long been an Escalante tradition. Painting the anchors a brownish color, as well as putting them in more discrete areas is pretty key here.

By Kent Pease
From: Littleton, Colorado
Nov 14, 2009

A good way to make a camouflage anchor is to use rustable chain, not the plated stuff. After it rusts it is permanently the color of the rock, which is better than paint that eventually flakes away. The right chain can be hard to find though my current source is Lowe's. The new chain has manufacturing oil residue which retards the rusting process, but this can be easily removed in a dish washer. Then toss it on the ground for a couple of months and it is ready to use. It may not last 100 years like the plated stuff, but the links are thick and 20 to 50 years is likely in the arid desert environment. Also, please use screw links (with paint) rather than the poundable closure monkey rings they are more expensive but can be removed for anchor maintenance if necessary in the future. The use of rustable chain may not be appropriate for some rock types such as granite or limestone since it could stain the rock, but it is great for desert sandstone. Note that the red of the sandstone comes from naturally occurring iron in the rock, so a color match with rust is expected.
Edit/addition: Direct rap colored hangers by Metolius are also unobtrusive and don't require chains.

By Jesse Zacher
Administrator
From: Grand Junction, Co
Sep 8, 2010

There is a section guide about Escalante Canyon in the new Falcon Colorado Climbing book.

By martinharris
From: Glenwood Springs CO
Nov 29, 2010

I was just wondering about climbing here in the winter months or is it more snowy than it's worth? I am sure it gets lots of sun but not sure how loose and nasty the approaches are or rock fall from freezing and thawing rock?

By adam brink
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 8, 2011

What is the closest camping to the climbing? Thanks!

By martinharris
From: Glenwood Springs CO
Mar 2, 2011

Just to change the convo from Ethics, I have climbed the Interiors mostly today. I hit up the Cabin Wall, be prepared to be humbled, but the routes are dope.

By Jesse Zacher
Administrator
From: Grand Junction, Co
Mar 14, 2011

Adam Brink: I have posted info about camping, see above. Enjoy!

By James Hulett
From: Boulder, Colorado
May 31, 2012

My father, John Hulett, used to climb FAs a lot with Chuck Grossman in this area. I know for sure the route "Boot Camp" was the work of John Hulett, too. Next trip I take there w/ him I'll be sure to have him clarify some routes. He said that Grossman even did a FA before his wedding in the canyon. Such a hidden gem Escalante must have been back in the '80s. John says no addition of bolts on existing trad routes.

By george wilkey
From: travelers rest sc
May 19, 2013

It's still a hidden gem! My son and I spent most of last summer climbing there and rarely did we see other climbers. Hard to believe in a place that sports such excellent routes. I have but one gripe; it seems that half the routes are named "unknown". Could someone name these things? I don't care if Chuck names them all, it's very difficult to keep them straight when they're all called the same thing.